12 Days of Prospects Day #6: Joey Wendle

By Jason Ruggiero

The Indians have an embarrassment of riches as far as middle infield prospects are concerned and Joey Wendle is no exception.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Chris Antonetti gave to me,

Yet another middle infielder.

Wendle was drafted out of West Chester University in 2012. Coming out of a Division II school Wendle was signed as an under-slot pick but was someone that the Indians scouting department had targeted early in the scouting process and believed had the bat of a Division I player.

Wendle delivered on that belief in 2012 posting a .327/.375/.469 slash line over 267 plate appearances at Mahoning Valley. He backed up that showing with another strong effort at Carolina in 2013 where his average dipped but he displayed more power bashing 16 home runs.

2012 22 Mahoning Valley NYPL A- CLE 61 267 245 32 80 15 4 4 37 4 1 15 25 .327 .375 .469 .844 115 3 5 0 2 1
2013 23 Carolina CARL A+ CLE 107 474 413 73 122 32 5 16 64 10 2 44 79 .295 .372 .513 .885 212 10 10 1 6 1

The Indians scouting department always believed that Wendle had an advanced hit tool, he makes good contact and barrels up the ball extremely well. He profiles as a offensive-first second basemen, who will provide adequate defense with an average arm.

Joe Wendle 12 Days of ProspectsMoving forward he has two obstacles to overcome. First, as an offensive-oriented second basemen he must continue to hit at every level. Wendle’s defense will not be enough to carry him through and if he stops producing offensively he will quickly be passed over. Secondly, he must find a way to stand out in a crowded pack of middle infielders. Unfortunately for Wendle the Indians front office has several options for second base, including Jason Kipnis. That means that Wendle, who was almost strictly a second basemen at West Chester, will need to find a secondary position. The most likely options are third base and a corner outfield spot.

Wendle continued to hit this fall in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a .311/.371/.492 slash line. I expect that next spring Wendle will be assigned to Akron and form the keystone combo with top prospect Francisco Lindor until Lindor is promoted to Columbus later in the season. It will be interesting to see how the Tribe brass handles Wendle. There have been multiple occasions already where it appeared would be difficult for Wendle to get at-bats surrounded by so many middle infield prospects but Wendle has just continued to hit, earn playing time and prove the Indians scouts right in the process.

Noise on the North Coast – Dec. 30

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North Coast

On Christmas Eve in 2012 Cleveland Indians fans found a very special present under their Christmas tree in the form of a 4 yr./$56 million contract with Nick Swisher. This Christmas was much less eventful on the North Coast. The biggest free agent news was that right-hander Trey Haley had cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Columbus. While I am happy to keep the talented but oft-injured Haley in the organization, it certainly does not compare to signing Swisher.

Remembering the Choo Trade

In light of the monster free agent contract that was recently signed by former Indian Shin-Shoo Choo I wanted to offer a link to this Rob Neyer article that looks back at the Choo trade and what the lead broadcaster for the Mariners Triple-A affiliate thought of the Choo-Broussard trade at the time. Check it out here. Shortly after he published that article Neyer heard back from former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, who was responsible for trading Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Adam Jones, you can check out that companion article right here.

*SPOILER ALERT* In retrospect Bavasi regrets those trades.


Santana at Third Base

The regular season in the Dominican Winter League has concluded but Carlos Santana’s team, Leones del Escogido, has qualified for the round-robin playoff. The interesting thing is that in two playoff games Santana has spent time at first base in each game. In the first game Santana started at third and then moved over to first in the 8th inning. In the second playoff game Santana started and spent the entire game at first.

It is unclear right now why exactly Santana has suddenly stopped appearing at third base and moved over to first. The most likely explanation is that the Leones do not want the Santana experiment interfering with their playoff run and would rather continue with Santana at first where he has more experience. At this time it is also unknown whether or not Cleveland will continue to allow Santana to play for Leones if he is not getting reps at third base.

It’s important to remember that Santana’s performance in games for the Leones will not be the determining factor on how successful this experiment has been and whether or not it will continue. Chances in the game are too random and inaccurate. Whether or not the Tribe continues to explore Santana at third base will be entirely based on Santana’s willingness to continue as well as the evaluations of infield coach Mike Sarbaugh and scout Trey Hendricks who are both with Santana in the Dominican.


Tanaka Posted

On Christmas Day it was officially announced that the Rakuten Golden Eagles would post right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. It is widely believed among analysts that the indecision that surrounded Tanaka’s posting was the biggest impediment to teams pursuing free agent starters like Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Personally I think that inconsistent seasons, hefty contract demands and the poison pill of a qualifying offer has more to do with the slow market on Santana and Jimenez. I do believe that Tanaka’s presence has negatively impacted the market on Matt Garza, who was not given a qualifying offer.

Regardless Tanaka has been posted and despite the new posting rules he will most likely still end up with one of the free spending clubs. While the new rules cap the posting fee at $20 million, each team is then free to negotiate a contract with Tanaka. With the crazy contracts that have been given out already and the influx of TV money this offseason I fully expect Tanaka to get a contract in excess of $100 million. I’m sure the Indians will put up the posting fee (it is returned if the player does not sign) and give Tanaka and his agent Casey Close a call, but I would be shocked if Tanaka is not wearing pinstripes this spring.


Free Agent Starters

Speaking of Ubaldo Jimenez, we are finally starting to hear a few whispers on potential landing spots for former Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported this week that several GM’s believe that the Yankees will end up with Jimenez even if they do manage to land Tanaka. One anonymous GM was quoted as saying, “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and has the type of personality that would fit New York.” I’m not sure I agree with any of that but I do know for a fact that New York fans will not show the patience that Cleveland fans showed Ubaldo. Perhaps Ubaldo wold be wise to put in a call to A.J. Burnett before he signs with the Yanks.


In Closing

– Former Indians broadcaster and MLB player Mike Hegan passed away last week. Of course our condolences go out to the Hegan family in this time. If you want to reminisce about listening to Hegan on the radio, check out my trip down memory lane.

– Former Indians infielder Jason Donald was signed to a minor league deal this week by the Kansas City Royals. I will always remember Donald for hustling on the last out of a perfect game and giving Jim Joyce the opportunity to blow the call.

– As I’m sure you know the Cleveland Browns have fired head coach Rob Chudzinski 352 days after hiring him making them the most inept franchise in Cleveland. Coming in second are the Cavaliers who put Andrew Bynum on indefinite suspension last week the day before a schedule Andrew Bynum fathead give away at The Q. I will never understand why these franchises get free passes from Cleveland fans but everyone loves to pile on the Tribe.



12 Days of Prospects Day #5: Tyler Naquin

By Chris Bradley 

Welcome to day 5 of Prospect Christmas, today I will be profiling Cleveland Indians prospect, Tyler Naquin.  Naquin is in the top 5 of most prospect rankings that are done for the Indians farm system.  Baseball America gives him a 55 with high risk on the 20-80 grade scale.  He’s put up some solid numbers thus far in the minors:

2012 21 Mahoning Valley NYPL A- CLE 36 161 137 22 37 11 2 0 13 4 3 17 26 .270 .379 .380 .758 52
2013 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA CLE 126 583 528 78 142 30 6 10 48 15 10 46 134 .269 .334 .405 .739 214
2013 22 Carolina CARL A+ CLE 108 498 448 69 124 27 6 9 42 14 7 41 112 .277 .345 .424 .769 190
2013 22 Akron EL AA CLE 18 85 80 9 18 3 0 1 6 1 3 5 22 .225 .271 .300 .571 24
2 Seasons 162 744 665 100 179 41 8 10 61 19 13 63 160 .269 .344 .400 .744 266

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

An speedy outfielder with a great batting eye.

As I wrote earlier this fall after the Arizona Fall League had concluded, Naquin has a bright future ahead of him.  Scouts love his batting eye and ability to get on base.  When he was at Texas A&M he led the Big 12 consecutive seasons in batting average with a .381 and .380 mark respectively.  He also led Division I with 104 hits in 2011.

While scouts doubt he can ever develop much power, his excellent batting eye and ability to hit to all fields will make him a valuable outfield weapon.  He is still somewhat raw as a prospect, as you can see by his middling batting average across three levels of the minors, but the Indians and their front office staff are confident that he will have a brilliant major league career after getting some more plate appearances.

Tyler Naquin 12 Days of ProspectsAs far as his defense goes, it needs some work. The general consensus is that he has an above-average arm and pretty good speed, which is the reason why the Indians have him profiled as a center fielder.  He played right field in college. However, a few scouts questions his ability to run efficient routes in center.

Naquin will more than likely make his Major League debut in 2015.  He has had a few setbacks as far as injuries go, as he suffered a back injury early on in the minors.  In order to prove that he will be able to stick as a Major League starter in the future, Naquin will need to demonstrate his highly touted tools down on the farm in 2014.

12 Days of Prospects Day #4: Tyler Glasnow

By Andy Burdick

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, Tyler Glasnow!

2013 19 West Virginia SALL A 2.18 24 0 111.1 54 35 27 9 61 164 9 11 1.033 4.4 0.7 4.9 13.3 2.69

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A 6′ 7″ righty

Tyler Glasnow 12 Days of Prospects Glasnow has what is commonly referred to as ‘a frame to dream on’.  At 6′ 7″, 200 lbs, he is a scout’s dream.  His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and touches the upper 90s.  The Pirates organizational philosophy with younger pitchers is to emphasize the change up before the breaking ball, and it seems like that is the path Pittsburgh is taking with Glasnow as well.  Whatever strategy Pittsburgh has been using is working as Glasnow was named the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  While he does not yet go deep into games consistently because of his age, command, and control, his tantalizing upside led to stretches of the 2013 season that made Pirates fans’ hearts go a-flutter.

His projectability, youth, and breakout 2013 coupled with the first winning season in Pittsburgh since 1992 have made the internet speculation run amok.  For right now, however, Glasnow is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.  And for a 5th round pick from 2011, that is not a bad gift at all.

12 Days of Prospects Day #3: Jesus Aguilar

By Jason Ruggiero

On the third day of Christmas, Chris Antonetti gave to me,
A run producing bat.

 If Jesus Aguilar was a Christmas present, I’m pretty sure that he would come with one of those giant “new car” bows that you only ever see in TV commercials. With a 6’3″, 250 lb frame Aguilar is hard to miss when he is standing at first base. Because of that imposing frame and the fact that he plays a corner infield position many scouts are disappointed that Aguilar doesn’t hit more home runs. While home runs are nice, the interesting thing about Aguilar is that he has always been good at driving in runs, even when the homers were few and far between.

Just take a look at his 2013 stat line with the Akron Aeros (courtesy of Baseball Reference)

2013 23 Akron EL AA CLE 130 567 499 66 137 28 0 16 105 0 1 56 107 .275 .349 .427 .776 213 20 5 0 7 1

I don’t know about you but a player that is only 23 years old, with such a solid frame, that can drive in 105 runs (which means that a tasty 89 of those runs were his teammates) is  intriguing to me.

Still not convinced?  You want home runs from first base? Well take a look at his stats from the Venezuelan Winter League this year (courtesy of MiLB.com)

17 HR, 7 2B, 17 HR, 49 RBI, 25 BB, 40 K, .324/.399/.596 (.995 OPS)

Jesus Aguilar 12 Days of ProspectsA whopping 17 home runs in just 213 plate appearances. Add on an OPS hovering near 1.000 and Aguilar has positioned himself as one of the hottest prospects in the Indians system for 2014. Barring injury I would be surprised if he was on the Indians roster before September since he still has not experienced any Triple-A pitching and the Indians do not want to rush his development. After all, he’s still 23 years old. I do believe he will be on the roster in 2015, sharing 1B/DH duties with Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana.

12 Days of Prospects Day #2: Luis Heredia

By Chris Bradley

Welcome to the second day of Prospect Christmas!  Today, I will be profiling RHP Luis Heredia:

2011 16 Pirates GULF Rk PIT 1 2 .333 4.75 12 11 30.1 28 16 16 3 19 23 4 1 135 1.549 5.6 6.8 1.21
2012 17 State College NYPL A- PIT 4 2 .667 2.71 14 14 66.1 53 22 20 2 20 40 1 4 265 1.101 2.7 5.4 2.00
2013 18 West Virginia SALL A PIT 7 3 .700 3.05 14 13 65.0 52 22 22 5 37 55 6 2 276 1.369 5.1 7.6 1.49
3 Seasons 12 7 .632 3.23 40 38 161.2 133 60 58 10 76 118 11 7 676 1.293 4.2 6.6 1.55

In the interest of our 12 Days of Prospects song, I will attempt to create my own verse to add to Andy’s genius take on Gregory Polanco.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

A power righty with three pitches, who’s kind of weighty.

Luis Heredia 12 Days of ProspectsPersonally one of my favorite prospects in the Pirates system, if anyone has a huge upside (and backside) it is Heredia.  He signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2010 for a club record $2.6MM signing bonus.  Right now the consensus across most of the prospect rankings put Heredia in either the top 3 or 5 prospects.  Many believe that he will soon be the top prospect.  The folks over at Baseball America give him a 60 grade with high risk, due mostly to his age.

Heredia has been compared to the great Felix Hernandez.  He is a big righty that throws pretty hard.  His fastball sits between 92-94 and tops out at 96 MPH with a lot of movement.  He also has a decent changeup that will only get better as he learns to throw it with a little less velocity. However, he has struggled with control thus far, leading to a lot of walks.  To help this situation, Heredia has re-tooled his curveball.  Scouts observed that his curve was a slow looping (perhaps an eephus?) pitch when he first came to the states. He has since added more velocity and a sharper bite in the hopes of increasing his strikeout totals.

As you can see from the table above, Heredia had a rough go of it in his first professional year in the GCL, but the Pirates reportedly have praised his excellent work ethic and ability to adapt to changes, which is exemplified by his ever improving stat line in each level of the system.  He will probably start in West Virginia in 2014, but will be promoted quickly barring any major setbacks.

I have been alluding to Heredia’s rather large size throughout this article, but don’t get me wrong, the guy is 6’6″, so he can support the weight.  Many scouts even believe that his velocity will increase as he gets older and grows a bit more, as he is just 19 right now.  The Pirates are watching his weight though, in the hopes that he can maintain his ample size with some athleticism. Think CC Sabathia before he stopped eating Cap’n Crunch; Heredia may be a force to be reckoned with in a couple years.

By 2015 the Pirates rotation should feature Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Heredia as their top three starters, something for all of us to look forward to.

In Memoriam: Mike Hegan

By Jason Ruggiero

Mike Hegan

The Cleveland Indians issued a press release yesterday announcing that longtime broadcaster Mike Hegan passed away Tuesday surrounded by his family in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

The press released distributed by the team read as follows:

On this special day of spending time and appreciating our families, the Cleveland Indians organization is deeply saddened to lose a member of our family with the loss of Mike Hegan this morning down in Hilton Head, SC with family by his side. Mike spent 50 years of his life in the game of baseball with almost half of that covering Cleveland Indians baseball (23 years total) in the TV and Radio booths. He was the son of Indians great catcher Jim Hegan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy and the entire Hegan family. No plans have been set at this time.

I have to admit that the news struck me especially hard. Like many Indians fans I have many fond memories of listening to Mike Hegan team up with Indians play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton during the “Era of Champions”. During that time I was just a young boy and my Dad was the one who taught me how much better a Hammy & Hegan radio broadcast was than anything that could be shown on TV.

As I went off to college I drifted away from baseball, but just a year and half later my father passed away. That shockwave sent me back to baseball and all the memories I had with my Dad at Municipal Stadium and (then) Jacobs Field and back to following the Indians.

When I returned, it felt so comforting to turn on the radio and hear the voices of Hammy & Hegan still describing the action.  Including of course, Hegan’s simple but solid home run call, “Hit high. Hit deep. Track. Wall. GONE!” A nice bookend against Hamilton’s always robust delivery.

When he retired at the end of the 2011 season I was sad, but his sporadic guest appearances always made me smile and remember those summer evenings listening to the Tribe with my Dad. As the Tribe navigated through the 2007 playoffs I often thought of my Dad and how much he would have enjoyed listening to Hammy & Hegan describe that playoff run. Whether it was the focus of Fausto in spite of the Midges or the heartbreak of letting the ALCS slip away, Hegan, like my Dad, always had an interesting observation to add.

I already miss sharing the games with my Dad, now I will miss sharing them with Hegan as well.

12 Days of Prospects Day #1: Gregory Polanco

By Andy Burdick

Prospect Board copy


The Twelve Days of Prospects kicks off today with a look at the gifts that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians organizations will be bestowing upon their fans over the next few seasons.  Much like The Twelve Days of Christmas, some of the presents the organizations give us will be magnificent treats.  There are plenty of prospects that are glitzy and glamorous like the twelve lords a-leaping.  There are also plenty of prospects that are under-appreciated gems that you should be thankful for as well.  (I’m talking about you, French hens of the farm system.)

Today I am going to gift to you the lavish five-tool outfielder who profiles as a center fielder, but will more-than-likely make his way into the Bigs under the cool shadow of the towering 21 foot tall Clemente Wall in right field.  Ladies and gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, Gregory Polanco.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A lefty bat with pop and raw speed

2013 21 Bradenton FLOR A+ 57 241 29 68 17 0 6 30 24 4 16 37 .312 .364 .472 .836
2013 21 Altoona EL AA 68 286 36 64 13 2 6 41 13 7 36 36 .263 .354 .407 .762
2013 21 Indianapolis IL AAA 2 9 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .222 .222 .222 .444

Gregory Polanco 12 Days of Prospects Pittsburgh Pirates OutfielderPolanco can put on quite the show during batting practice, but also has legitimate pop when he is at the plate (30 doubles across three levels in 2013).  He has some of the longest arms and legs that I have ever seen on a ballplayer.  In fact, the first time I saw him in person, I commented how much his frame reminded me of Vladimir Guerrero.  Not surprisingly, he has some tremendous plate coverage and doesn’t strike out a whole lot. Polanco also has a solid approach at the plate, which he demonstrated as he advanced to Triple-A in 2013.  His 14% K-rate last year is nothing that is statistically alarming and his 9% BB-rate demonstrates that he has some patience and an ability to be selective at the plate.

Polanco’s particular set of skills has quite a few people in the industry taking notice this winter.

After the 2013 that he has had in the Dominican and Caribbean Leagues, Pirates fans are going to be keeping a close eye on his progression in 2014.  With Travis Snider, Jose Tabata, Andrew Lambo, and the newly acquired Jaff Decker all on the roster, Pittsburgh does not need to be in any rush to promote Polanco, who will more than likely open 2014 in Triple-A.

One thing is for sure, in the near future the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield is going to feature Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco and there will not be a better gift for Pirates fans out there.

State of the Union: 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates First Base

By Andy Burdick

2013 was not an incredibly productive year for Pittsburgh Pirate first basemen.  Gaby Sanchez and the newest Miami Marlin Garrett Jones took most of the at bats at first (with Brandon Inge and Jordy Mercer peppered in there on occasion). The final line for the Pittsburgh Pirates first basemen last season looked like this:

as 1B 660 58 151 36 2 17 71 3 0 72 117 .264 .346 .422 .768 .299 117 100

sOPS+ is a statistic that shows an OPS adjusted to 100 as league average relative to the league splits.  As you can see, Pittsburgh was just that against the splits in 2013: league average.  A .346 OBP was much higher than the team average of .313 and the .422 SLG was higher than the team average of .396.  However, when last season is compared to the rest of the league, that is when it becomes obvious how much Pittsburgh needed [and still needs] to upgrade at first base.  Jones and Sanchez combined to hit .264/.346/.422 with 17 home runs.  There were 23 first basemen in Major League Baseball last season that hit 17 or more home runs on their own.

All the first basemen across Major League Baseball looked like this at the end of 2013:

as 1B 20583 2356 4758 950 55 714 2638 120 46 2017 4358 .261 .337 .436 .773 .303 116 100

For a frame of reference, Matt Adams, a first baseman for the division rival St. Louis Cardinals, hit .284/.335/.503 with 17 home runs in 319 plate appearances.

Pittsburgh signed free agent first baseman Travis Ishikawa this winter, which does not seem like a realistic possibility to help improve production at first base.  The Pirates have been linked to New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis as well as Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland in trade rumors.

As far as the big names on the open market, Pittsburgh has felt that the free agent options available have not been at the right price for the organization, but they are willing to go three-to-four years in the right deal for the right player.  With the free agent pool incredibly thin at this point of the winter, it looks like Pittsburgh is probably going to move ahead with current and in-house options.

However, there are a few possibilities for how Pittsburgh could approach improving production at first base.  In 2014, first base could look a couple of different ways, but none of them are going to look like 2013.

1. Start the season with what they have already.

Clint Hurdle could be starting the season with Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo sharing at bats at first base.  Sanchez, if utilized properly, can prove to be an effective platoon-mate as he demonstrated last season when he tuned up left handed pitching very effectively.

vs RHP as RHB 96 194 33 9 0 3 22 1 0 23 35 .204 .304 .315 .619
vs LHP as RHB 64 126 34 9 0 4 14 0 0 21 16 .333 .448 .539 .987

Coupled with Andrew Lambo, who could presumably take a portion of the at bats against right handed pitchers, Pittsburgh could hope for another season similar to Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez platoon of 2013.

2. Trade for a first baseman.

If Pittsburgh decides they do not want to enter the season with Sanchez/Lambo at first, or decide that the experiment is not working, they have the prospects to trade for a first baseman during the season.

While Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland would be potential upgrades, giving up controllable assets for a few years of either of those players without an established track record does not seem like Huntington’s M.O.

3. Sign a free agent.

There is still plenty of time left before pitchers and catchers report.  And while the market is not as robust as it was at the start of the winter, Kendrys Morales is still without a first base to cover.  Digging deeper than the best free agent option left on the market, Tyler Colvin also has experience at first base and could make an interesting and cost effective platoon option with Gaby Sanchez as well.  If you only watched the first half of Mark Reynolds‘s season last year… well, he is still currently unemployed.

Basically, hoping the Pirates improve at first via free agency at this point in the off-season is a bit unrealistic.

As the winter continues, it is looking more and more like Pittsburgh is going to maintain the status quo at first.  While that may not be the worst choice considering the market, over-exposing Gaby Sanchez will probably further decrease the production at first base.  And while Andrew Lambo makes an intriguing internal option, at this point, Pittsburgh should probably concern themselves with a contingency plan in case Lambo does not work out as the other half of a Sanchez platoon.

Tri-State at the Plate Episode #38: Pearls of Wisdom With Jeff Pearlman

This week Andy is thrilled to interview New York Times best-selling author, former Sports Illustrated writer, and total heart-throb, Jeff Pearlman. Andy and Jeff spend time discussing Jeff’s book “Love Me, Hate Me”, which chronicled the career of Barry Bonds, including his time as a Pittsburgh Pirate. They also discuss the impact of PEDs on the game, John Rocker, and one of the true “good guys” of the game, TSM favorite, Sal Fasano. You can check out Jeff’s website here where he writes leisurely about his personal life and other topics and conducts a series of interviews known as The Quaz.  You can also subscribe to his podcast, The Quazcast, on iTunes.