Baseball season is officially over for the major leaguers, but baseball never stops. Stateside some of baseball’s top prospects just finished playing in the Arizona Fall League All Star game on Saturday and still have a few weeks and the playoffs to go to showcase their skills and earn some more seasoning.
Down in the Caribbean, the Mexican, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Dominican Leagues are well underway.
Way down under, the Australian Baseball League is going too. Let’s check in on some Indians prospects playing winter baseball, starting in Arizona.
OF Tyler Naquin (.360 1HR 11K/8BB 4SB) Naquin is probably the highest profile prospect the Indians have playing winter ball just for the fact that he’s a former first round pick. After a good showing in Carolina and a rough adjustment at AA Akron, Naquin’s experience in the AFL has been a positive one. While you can’t really judge the stats because complex league starts are often times garbage and inflated, but the positive sign is the K/BB ratio for him. He had a rough year in that department and struggled with pitch selection. He’s still reportedly had some issues with this in Arizona but ended up making the All-Star team and actually had a good showing. He started as the DH, walked, tripled, scored a run.
RHP Trey Haley (1.2 IP, 2H, 2BB, 2K) Haley is also a former first round pick who spent time in the AFL last season as well. He hasn’t pitched in three weeks and he has had some injury issues in the past, so there is some wondering that something happened again. He struggled with control at Akron this year. He has great size and strength for a pitcher as well as a fastball that reaches the triple digits, he’s just had a hard time locating it when he’s been on the mound.
3B/2B Joe Wendle (.300 9 RBI 2 2B, 2 3B) Wendle is probably the best player the Indians have in the AFL and probably the one you don’t know about. He’s a former D2 player and was named a post season All-Star in the Carolina League. Some might argue that his slightly older than normal age for the Carolina League may have been a factor, but he did put up good enough numbers to open some eyes. He might be better suited for second base but has played some third in the past. With Lindor, Paulino, Rodriguez in the minors on the infield as well as Jose Ramirez, Wendle doesn’t get some of the publicity he deserves. He’s a decent left handed hitter with a good swing and some pop. I wouldn’t be stunned if he ends up being part of a trade package this offseason or next to bring the Indians an outfield bat or possibly an arm if they feel they will need to replace the likes of Kazmir and Jimenez. He’s definitely earned some more publicity.
SS/C Tony Wolters (.212 2RBI 8K/8BB) Wolters is listed on the Surprise Saguaros website as a shortstop after making the conversion to catcher in the regular season. He did play a little bit of shortstop throughout the season and reports about his defense were not just good for someone learning the position, but good in terms of being a prospect at catcher. He has good hands and an above average arm. It’s a little surprising to see him play shortstop during the fall season but none the less he is getting experience against top of the line prospect arms, which is only going to be good for his bat going forward.
RHP Shawn Armstrong (2.25 8IP, 12K/8BB) Many felt Armstrong had a chance at finding his way into the bullpen in Cleveland this year whether on an emergency call up or at least a September call up before an injury to his hand. It set him back after having a rough start to the year in Akron after a very nice 2012 campaign. Armstrong always had a chance to be a guy who could pitch in the majors in some sort of role. He might regain that chance in 2013 and it’s good that he’s getting innings in the AFL after missing a lot of the regular season.
RHP Will Roberts (0-1 5.63 16IP, 7K/4BB) Roberts moved out of Lake County in 2012 faster than expected. He posted some solid peripheral numbers in Carolina and had a few decent starts in Akron. He’s piled up a solid number of innings for a college pitcher in the minors. More than likely Roberts winds up as a backend starter maybe with ceiling of Zach McAllister. He might very well just wind up as depth but as I said with most, getting experience in the AFL can’t be a bad thing.
RHP Tyler Sturdivent 1IP – Sturdivent was throwing in the near 100s pre-injury and is down to the low 90s now. He’s likely getting some work in the AFL because of the time missed this season. He was very solid in Akron in 2011 and ’12 but turns 29 this December.
C Jake Lowery (.267 3RBI) Lowery is the only Indians prospect in the AFL not playing with his teammates, instead serving as a ‘taxi squad’ player for Peoria two days a week. Lowery cut down on his strikeouts in a more limited role this season at Akron. There is still some work to do defensively but offense was always Lowery’s upside, so cutting back the swings and misses is at least a step in the right direction.
Dominican Winter League
SS/2B Ronny Rodriguez (.059 1 2B 3K/3BB) The Indians have always been aggressive when it comes to Rodriguez’s development. He was one of the youngest played in the Midwest League, Carolina League as well as the Eastern League and now in the Dominican League. I expect the Indians at some point to try and use Rodriguez’s name in trade talks this off-season or in the 2014 season. He’s has a good arm and some pop for a middle infielder and could be a decent piece in a package. He doesn’t likely have the tools to keep up with the development of Lindor or Paulino and is already blocked by Jose Ramirez now too. That being said, he’s only 21 and has just three seasons of full pro ball. The ceiling could still be a bit higher for Ronny but just harder for him to reach what it could be because of a lack of plate discipline.
RHP Enosil Tejada (1.2 IP 1K/0BB 10.80 ERA) Tejada does boast some decent velocity for a pitcher of his stature (6’0 175) and a bit of a funky throwing motion. He posted a great K/9 rate in the minors this year but I’m still unsure if he has enough to be a legit backend bullpen arm.
SS Erik Gonzalez (.340 1 HR 7 RBI 15K/0BB) Gonzalez put himself on the map a bit in Lake County with nine home runs and playing all over the diamond when needed. He has some pop and a decent glove. His plate discipline seems bad in the winter leagues and had some issues in the 2013 regular season but it qualified as a bit of a breakout for the 22 year old who should start at Carolina next year probably at shortstop.
INF Jose Ramirez (.245 4 RBI 11K/1BB) Ramirez climbed all the way to starting a game in September for the Indians in a playoff race. Exactly a year ago he was a 20 year old starting for the Dominican team in the Caribbean World Series. I remember writing about him in these updates last year being excited about the skill set he possesses. His experience and success in this league in 2012 certainly helped him and it can again.
Puerto Rican Winter Baseball League
RHP Brett Brach (1-0 1.2 IP 1K) Playing for Edwin Rodriguez, his manager at Akron in the league. Part of the 2010 Lake County Captains Championship club. Great organizational guy.
OF Carlos Moncrief (.143 1 RBI 1K/1BB) After a breakout year, Moncrief will get the intense baseball experience that is the Caribbean Winter League’s. While numbers don’t mean a lot in these leagues, Moncrief’s tools are prevalent and he just needs some further polish. That’s not to say he a sure thing but his breakout happening at an advanced level like AA bodes well for possible further development and sustainment of his tools. He also gets the benefit of playing for Edwin Rodriguez, many in the Indians organization like Edwin’s coaching style and presence.
Venezuelan Winter League
LHP Elvis Araujo (3.38 ERA 2.2 IP 1K) It’s mostly good to see Elvis get some time out on the mound after missing almost another entire full season schedule due to injury. He missed all of 2010 and didn’t make it to a full season affiliate much in 2013. The size (6’6 215) and stuff (shows good velocity on the fastball and a tantalizing slider as well as a possibly average changeup) is all there. He just needs to stay on the mound consistently and work on development rather than rehab.
RHP Bryan Price (9G 11.2 IP, 0-1 12K/3BB) Price is the last piece of the Victor Martinez deal and has dealt with injuries in the past. He posted a brilliant 2013 and continues to get work in the winter league, hopefully positioning himself for a chance to be a depth reliever in AAA this season when a bullpen arm needs swapped out for rest. He was a first round pick and still offers some upside despite his age (27 this month) as a reliever.
C Alex Monsalve (.250 1RBI) Monsalve, like Araujo, missed a lot of time in 2013 from a full season affiliate and could be looking for playing time to catch up on development time he missed out on. With Yan Gomes looking like the catcher of the future, at least splitting them, Monsalve won’t have to be moved up any time soon as he represents the Indians best minor league catching prospect at least in terms of total development (Roberto Perez is probably better defensively) although the lack of playing time this year probably sets Monsalve back as of now.
RHP Paolo Espino (1-2 7.71 18.2 IP 23K/5BB) His K/BB ratio and K/9 are up compared to the regular season. Espino has decent stuff and is participating in a winter league yet again but likely is at best depth with a chance to be a decent middle reliever. I like his grit and ability to locate his pitches but his fastball and overall stuff won’t allow him to be a starter as he moves up.
1B Jesus Aguilar (.357 8HR 24RBI 16K/9BB 3 2B) The biggest story in the winter leagues among Indians prospects is with Aguilar. He struggled last season with Leones and wound up playing a lot with the Venezuelan winter instructional camp. When he came back from camp he hit the ball well last year in the winter league. This year he came out with a vengeance. The Indians might be looking for a right handed power bat still and with a very impressive showing this winter, Aguilar could finally get some consideration at some point in 2014 if things go well for Aguilar all year. He has the power, cut down on the strikeouts and actually plays a very athletic first base for a big man his size. The tools are there if he can just work on picking and choosing about breaking stuff. Whatever they are throwing in the Winter League is enough for him to handle or he isn’t being challenged.
RHP Jose Flores (11.25 ERA 4IP 4K/2BB) Flores put good numbers up as a backend reliever for the Captains and put up good numbers in Akron this year and had his arm slow a lot lower than I had remembered. He’s likely just an interesting depth arm at this point.