Three Indians prospects I’m watching at each level
AAA Columbus Clippers
OF Carlos Moncrief: Added to the 40 man roster this off-season, the outfielder dropped his strikeout rate nearly in half (31% to 17%) despite moving up to a very advanced level. With his new plate discipline didn’t cut into his power, going from 15 to 17. A nice mix of speed (15 steals) and that cannon arm from the outfield, make him a rising prospect that could help the Indians in 2014.
1B Jesus Aguilar: Aguilar was also added to the 40 man roster in the offseason. At the end of the 2012 season, Aguilar went to play in his native Venezuela and struggled. This offseason he was one of the league’s best hitters and was coming off an Eastern League record in RBIs in 2013 (105). He too dropped his strikeout rate, 27.6% to 18.9% despite a drop in his walk rate, 14.9 to 9.9. He might provide a tempting bat in Columbus, as he could rack up home runs quick in a very small ballpark. Moncrief is the better option to help the Indians in 2014 but the right handed power Aguilar can provide is something the Indians have failed to develop for years.
RHP Austin Adams: Coming off of a nearly career threatening shoulder surgery, Adams’ power arm re-emerged in the bullpen in 2013. He posted a 2.26 ERA in 55 innings, striking out 76 and walked just 26. While he’s no longer a starter, he is also on the 40 man roster and given Vinnie Pestano’s struggles, there’s a chance Adams could find his way to Cleveland this year with that plus fastball and a nice three pitch mix overall. C.C. Lee is higher on the chain than Adams right now but doesn’t light the radar gun up the way Adams can.
AA Akron RubberDucks
RHP Enosil Tejada: Instead of going for the obvious core of the team (Francisco Lindor, Cody Anderson, Ronny Rodriguez, Tyler Naquin), I wanted to showcase a few other names to keep an eye on. The 6’0 righty from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic posted a ridiculous 1.23 ERA over two levels, 66 strikeouts in 58.1 innings of work. He should be Akron’s closer this year and has closed in the past.
OF Bryson Myles: This could be a big year for the well-built outfielder from Tyler, Texas. Despite growing up playing football and nearly committing TCU, Myles is glad he chose baseball. He slugged .427 in a tough Carolina league and now graduates to a tougher pitching league and a ballpark in Akron that loves to kill slugging percentages. His eight home runs and 20 doubles last year proved his power might be on the upswing. Mentally, it seems like he’s starting to put things together, noting that he’s able to let the ball get deeper on him and learning to put some backspin on the ball. Myles might have a little Michael Brantley in him, a solid mix of decent defensive skills, playing all three outfield spots, some speed and power. He’ll need to watch his pitch selection in AA however, his 84/32 K/BB ratio from last year could hold him back if the same pattern continues in Akron.
OF Jordan Smith: Speaking of Brantley, Smith has a similar approach at the plate as Dr. Smooth. While that’s high praise for an outfielder who is just starting AA, Smith makes a lot of contact, walks a lot and doesn’t strike out a lot. Some people are still waiting for Brantley to come into more power and the Indians are too with the 6’6 Smith. He plays a nice right field and has some speed too. His patience at the plate should serve him well in a league where the pitching gets very advanced. Much like Myles, this is a big year developmentally for Smith, who again, is looking to create a little more power.
RHP Cole Sulser: A 25th round out of Dartmouth, Sulser fits the sort of mold the Indians have developed a bit lately, plucking pitchers from small schools with limited starting experience and developing them. While Sulser isn’t as big as previous prototypes like this (Cody Anderson and currently, Jordan Milbrath), he posted a ridiculous 60/9 K/BB ratio in short season Mahoning Valley. That showcase of control made Sulser skip Low-A Lake County for the close-knit confines of the Carolina League. He went five strong in his first start, allowing a hit and struck out seven.
INF Yandy Diaz: Diaz is a 22 year old infielder with an uncertain future defensively (listed as a shortstop but playing third and most think outfield is his future home) but can find his way into the lineup because of his bat. Despite never playing stateside, the 6’2 Cuban had a great spring and heads to Carolina. Though currently on the DL, the Indians hope Diaz is the next talented bat in the wave of Cuban hitters.
OF LeVon Washington: Despite a bout with the flu in 2013 and ensuing dehydration issues after, Washington posted some ridiculous numbers in Lake County. He stole 16 bags in just 61 games and slashed .321/.425/.477 with 19 doubles and four triples. It appears that Washington is slated for left field, which should keep him in the lineup more, which should mean a breakout for the finally healthy WASHTIME.
Low-A Lake County Captains
LHP Wander Beras: The 25 year old left hander struck out 95 in 77 innings in the Dominican League for the Dodgers in 2012. He threw four innings when the Indians picked him up last year in Arizona. A decent fastball and a possibly plus slider, Beras could open some eyes and develop into a bit of a Rafael Perez for the Indians. He’s been solid in his first two outings for the Captains thus far.
RHP Jordan Milbrath: Milbrath made the front page of MiLB.com in his first professional start on Saturday. He needed just 73 pitches to throw a seven inning complete game in the second half of a double header. Another big build, small school right hander, Milbrath wasn’t afraid to pitch to contact. It will be interesting to see how the Indians handle his innings, given that he played just one collegiate season after transferring out of St. Cloud State and had to sit out a year due to transfer rules. Anderson came to Lake County with a similar background and finished that year throwing just three innings per start.
RHP Adam Plutko: Dorssys Paulino, Nellie Rodriguez and Anthony Santander are big names with the bat in Lake County, but Plutko comes from a high-profile school (UCLA) and with big accolades in the College World Series (MVP for the 2013 champion Bruins). He doesn’t run the fastball up high like fellow Bruin, Trevor Bauer did in college, sitting between 88-92 at the top end. His slow, sweeping slider and solid changeup are his bread and butter along with fastball command. He won’t put up big strikeout numbers but has already pitched a number of pressure packed innings in a quality program. There’s a chance he could move fast in the system if his command translates to the pros.