The Surprise Saguaros and Mesa Solar Sox do battle in the Arizona Fall League championship today, meaning you’ll have a chance to see a few Indians prospects on MLB Network and the game is live streaming at MLB.com.
The Game doesn’t start until 3pm ET; long after the Buckeyes have a 30 point lead on the Illini at halftime today, so there’s no excuse not to watch.
OF Tyler Naquin (.339/.400/.417 1 HR 18 RBI 4SB) While a lot of people wonder why the Indians took Naquin in the first round well above his Aggie teammate, Michael Wacha, who already helped the St. Louis Cardinals get to the World Series, Naquin led the AFL in hits (39) and is having a nice fall, really getting the sour taste out of his and others mouths in a largely disappointing performance upon his late season promotion to AA Akron. Naquin is already a plus defender, possess a plus arm and has above average speed, but needed to find a way to cut down on the strikeouts. He’s at an 18K/11BB rate which is a much better pace than his 22/5 at Akron in 18 games. This fall really has raised some stock and awareness to Naquin’s game and hopefully provides a springboard for 2014 at Akron where he takes the next step.
INF Joe Wendle (.311/.371/.492 1 HR 12 RBI 4 2B 2 3B) Wendle built off a breakout 2013 that garnered him a little prospect attention. While some argue he was a little older for the Carolina League and the league tends to favor hitters, Wendle was a tremendous college hitter and that hasn’t changed. If the Indians do try to make a deal this off-season for some pitching help to combat the likely losses of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, expect Wendle’s name to pop up in some trade rumors even though he isn’t a big time prospect (no deal for the Indians would include Salazar or Lindor likely) so Wendle would be a nice fit in a package of players depending on what they bring back. He’s spent time at 2B and 3B and has a chance to be a quality left handed bat, which gives him some value.
C/SS Tony Wolters (.178/.345/.200) After a very solid offensive year while he switched to catcher, Wolters has struggled in the AFL. In February, March, October or November, it’s really best never to take complex league stats seriously; good or bad. Wolters said in an interview at the beginning of the AFL season that his legs were tired, which could be a factor in his offensive drop off. Many scouts felt that Wolters instincts and skills as a catcher were well above average, and not just for someone making the switch. 90% of the players participating in the AFL played a full season as well, so I’m not trying to make excuses for Wolters and I’m sure he isn’t going to either, but again, complex league stats should never be taken too seriously, also the fact that he did just finish a full season converting to catcher for the first time is probably a big factor. His defense, ability to get on base and his speed will always be his biggest assets.
RHP Shawn Armstrong (1-0 1.59 10 GP 16K/10BB) Armstrong also had a nice rebound in the fall from a rough 2013. He suffered a pitching hand injury early after a rough start in Akron. It took him a while to get things turned around once he rehabbed and went back to Akron and did finish the regular season on a high note. He probably had a shot to help the Indians bullpen at some point in 2013 before the injury. A fast start at Akron could earn him a quick promotion to Columbus and depending on how the Indians fill their bullpen holes in the off-season, he could see major league time at some point in 2014.
RHP Tyler Sturdivent (4 GP 0.00 ERA 3K/0BB) Sturdivent, like Armstrong, was well on his way up to getting some consideration as a call up at some point. An injury in 2013 set him back and sapped him of some of the velocity that made him an asset (94-99 before injury, reportedly 90-93 after). He’ll be 28 next month and he’s been used sparingly this fall but still might have a chance to get himself back into favor.
Follow Justin @JL_Baseball