I’ve been meaning to recap Indians’ performance in the Arizona Fall League for a while now. I drug my feet for so long, one of the highlights of my post, Cory Burns, was traded to San Diego for Aaron Cunningham. (By the way, in Cunningham-related news, Josh Judy was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds. He was designated for assignment to make room for Cunningham on the 40-man roster). I figured I’d better not wait much longer for my recap, or more of these players may end up traded!
The way the AFL is set up, teams are comprised of players from a handful of Major League squads. For example, the Phoenix Desert Dogs included prospects from the Indians, Reds, Yankees, Athletics and Blue Jays. The Desert Dogs went 14-22 and finished 12 games back (last place) in the AFL West. The AFL title game was a contest between the Salt River Rafters (Astros, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Tigers) and the Surprise Saguaros (Braves, Marlins, Rays, Rangers, Royals). The Salt River Rafters defeated the Surprise Saguaros 9-3 for the 2011 AFL championship.
The Indians had two pitching prospects that managed to make the roster for the AFL Rising Stars game on the West team – RHP Cory Burns and RHP Preston Guilmet; Burns did not appear in the game though, while Guilmet pitched one scoreless inning, surrendering 2 hits and a walk. On the opposing East squad were some big names – Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Angels prospect Mike Trout. (The West squad won the game 11-2.)
The 24-year-old Guilmet, who profiles as a future closer, had a rough fall with the Desert Dogs as he went 0-0 with a 6.43 ERA and 1.86 WHIP with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched. He was much better this past year with the Class-A Kinston Indians, as he went 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 60 strikeouts. While he likely saw tougher competition in the AFL, the league is also known for its heavy offense. If you’d like to see an interview with Guilmet, as well as some video of his pitching motion, check out this video (Guilmet also discusses the recently traded Burns).
Burns went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 12 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched during AFL action. This season with Akron, the 24-year-old Burns was 2-5 with a 2.11 ERA and 70 strikeouts.
Here’s how the other Indians pitchers fared during the AFL season:
LHP T.J. McFarland went 3-0 with 3.18 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts. The 22-year-old threw 28.1 innings; second most on the team next to David Phelps of the Yankees. Split between Kinston and Akron in 2011, McFarland was 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 115 strikeouts. I saw McFarland start during the Class A California-Carolina All Star Game in 2010, and thought he looked great. He may be a name to watch in the future, depending on how he adjusts to the higher levels of the minor leagues.
RHP Tyler Sturdevant went 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched. The 26-year-old was 7-3 with 2.65 ERA between Kinston, Akron and Columbus with 82 strikeouts.
Here’s how the Indians’ offensive players fared in the 2011 AFL:
Infielder Chad Huffman hit .214/.313/.343 with 1 home run and 11 RBI in the AFL, where he played first base. With Columbus in 2011 the 26-year-old hit .246/.351/.415 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI.
Infielder Jesus Aguilar hit .339/.458/.610 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI in the AFL…here’s a video of an Aguilar at-bat (unfortunately, he flies out against Angels prospect Andrew Taylor). Aguilar also had the distinction of hitting the first home run of the AFL season. The 21-year-old first baseman was pretty impressive and had the probably had the best performance of any Indians prospect. In 2011 he split time between Lake County and Kinston; he hit .284/.359/.506 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI. Aguilar may be a player to watch as he moves to the higher levels of the minor leagues. He’s very young, and has performed well at each level so far. At the moment he is in the Venezuelan Winter League, playing for the same team as Asdrubal Cabrera (and Yorvit Torrealba) – Leones del Caracas. So far in 19 games with Caracas, Aguilar is hitting .310/.391/.552 with 3 home runs and 14 RBI.
Catcher Roberto Perez hit .226/.382/.472 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI. In 2011 with Class-A Kinston, Perez hit .225/.365/.310 with 2 home runs and 30 RBI.
Outfielder Carlos Moncrief hit .174/.367/.217; 0 HR, 0 RBI. In 2011 with Lake County the 23-year-old hit .233/.346/.422 with 16 HR and 53 RBI.
Outfielder Tim Fedroff hit .364/.462/.545 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI in just over a week of action in the AFL. He sustained a minor injury and was deactivated once Chad Huffman joined the Desert Dogs. Split between Akron and Columbus in 2011, Fedroff hit .308/.385/.408 with 3 home runs and 63 RBI.
The Winter League season still has some time left; then a number of teams will enter the playoffs. Just think – it’s already less than 2 months until pitchers and catchers report. The first spring training game is in just over 2 months (March 3).