The minor league beat rolls on, this time with a stop in Akron to preview what is in store for Aeros fans this season.
Last we saw the Aeros, they were trying to defend their 2005 Eastern League Championship, and came up a game short as they lost the deciding fifth game in the Eastern League Championship series to Portland. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season that saw them go 87-55 in the regular season.
So, what are Aeros fans in store for this year?
How about an even better team. The 2007 Akron roster is loaded with many of the Indians top prospects, and in fact, four of the top five prospects from TheClevelandFan.com Top 35 Prospect Rankings will be showcased in Akron. In all, 13 of the players on that Top 35 List will be in Akron. Yep, Akron is loaded.
Some of the best bats in the system will be on display every night with guys like Trevor Crowe, Brian Barton, Ryan Goleski, and Jordan Brown. The pitching staff boasts the system's top two lefties in Chuck Lofgren and Scott Lewis. And, defensively, the Aeros will have defensive wizard Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop and the strong-armed Wyatt Toregas behind the plate. It should be a fun time down at Canal Park this season watching the players grow, the team play well, and hopefully make it back to the Eastern League Championship Series so they can re-claim that League Championship.
Minor League Affiliates
Buffalo Bisons (AAA)
Akron Aeros (AA)
Kinston Indians (High A)
Lake County Captains (Low A)
Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season A)
GCL Indians (Rookie)
Akron Aeros Coaching Staff
Manager: Tim Bogar
2nd season as Akron manager, 2nd season in Indians organization
Hitting Coach: Lee May Jr.
1st season as Akron hitting coach, 4th season in Indians organization
Pitching Coach: Greg Hibbard
2nd season as Akron pitching coach, 5th season in Indians organization
Starting Lineup & Rotation
(estimated batting order)
1. Trevor Crowe RF
2. Argenis Reyes 2B
3. Brian Barton CF
4. Ryan Goleski LF
5. Jordan Brown 1B
6. John Van Every DH
7. Pat Osborn 3B
8. Wyatt Toregas C
9. Asdrubal Cabrera SS
#1 Starter: Chuck Lofgren
#2 Starter: Scott Lewis
#3 Starter: J.D. Martin
#4 Starter: Aaron Laffey
#5 Starter: Shawn Nottingham
Players to Watch
Ryan Goleski - Outfield
Age: 25 Height: 6'3" Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right
The Indians lost Goleski in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason, but he was recently returned to the Indians after he did not make the Oakland Athletics opening day roster. If the Indians are looking for a prototypical right-fielder, Goleski is the guy. Not only does Goleski bring power to the plate, but he also has a cannon for an arm. The question with Goleski is whether he can stay consistent, as he put up good numbers in 2004 at Lake County hitting .295 with 28 HRs and 104 RBIs, but then followed that up with a lost season in 2005 at Kinston hitting .212 with 17 HRs and 67 RBIs. Goleski bounced back from his disappointing 2005 campaign, and hit .306 with 27 HRs and 106 RBIs in 445 combined at bats between Kinston and Akron in 2006. Goleski was one of the biggest turnarounds in the system last year, with strikeout improvement a big key behind his success. He has become more disciplined and has developed a better two strike approach at the plate. His resurgence last season has put him back on the prospect map for the Indians, and Goleski should fight for an outfield spot in Buffalo sometime this year.
Trevor Crowe - Outfield
Age: 23 Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 Bats: Switch Throws: Right
After taking him with the 1st pick in the 2005 draft out of the University of Arizona, Crowe has been as advertised. Overall in 2006, Crowe hit .286 with 5 HRs, 44 RBIs and 45 stolen bases in 101 games at Kinston and Akron. Crowe was sidelined with an ankle injury a few weeks after being called up to Akron mid-season, and it slowed him down offensively. The Indians also experimented with him at second-base, which was another reason he struggled late in the year with the Aeros. Crowe's bat and above average speed on the bases play right now in the majors, and he not only hits for average with some pop, but he has excellent plate discipline and pitch recognition skills. Defensively, Crowe grades out as an above average center-fielder with an above average arm. Crowe has had trouble staying away from the injury bug in his two years as a pro, as in 2005 he was hampered with a few nagging injuries, and in 2006 he missed parts of the season for a strained oblique and ankle sprain. With Grady Sizemore firmly planted in center field for the Indians the next several years, Crowe will need to make it with the Indians as a corner outfielder. The Indians plan to rotate him at all three outfield positions, with most of his time in right field. For a more detailed scouting report of Crowe, click here.
Brian Barton - Outfield
Age: 24 Height: 6'3" Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Barton is an undrafted free agent signed out of the University of Miami in August 2004. Barton had a breakout performance in 2006, hitting a combined .323 with 19 HRs, 83 RBIs and 41 stolen bases for Kinston and Akron last year. Barton is an extremely versatile player with a speed/power combination that teams dream about. He has the physical tools and the athleticism to make an impact, and has outstanding bat speed with power to all fields. His intelligence as a player goes without saying, as he is a heady player with a very good feel for the game. As a runner, he has very good speed and instincts on the bases and in the field. He also is an excellent defensive outfielder, and has no problem playing center field or right field. His range and arm strength both grade out as above average. Barton does have a tendency to strikeout a lot, as he whiffed 109 times last year in 446 at bats. If Barton can develop more patience at the plate, it will go a long way at helping him provide even more consistent production with his bat. For a more detailed scouting report on Barton, click here.
Jordan Brown - First Base
Age: 23 Height: 6'0" Weight: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left
Brown gets a lot less pub than his former University of Arizona Wildcat teammate Trevor Crowe, but he put up one of the quietest, good seasons in the Indians system last year. While Crowe was drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 Draft, Brown was selected a few rounds later in the 4th round of the same draft. After a very slow start where he hit .232 with 0 HRs and 9 RBIs in Kinston's first 28 games last year, Brown settled in to finish the season hitting .290/.362/.469 with 15 HRs and 87 RBIs. Brown also won the Carolina League MVP award, and was the first Kinston player to win the MVP award since Victor Martinez won it in 2001. Brown has a powerful left-handed bat, and his approach and offensive abilities have been compared to former major leaguer Wally Joyner. Brown is not particularly athletic, but is a hard-worker. Given the depth the Indians farm system has in the outfield, Brown was moved back to first base, which is a position he played in college.
Wyatt Toregas - Catcher
Age: 24 Height: 5'11" Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right
After a disappointing 2005 season at Lake County where he hit .231 with 5 HRs and 42 RBIs, Toregas bounced back in 2006 and established himself as one of the Indians top catching prospects. In 2006, Toregas combined to hit .294 at Kinston and Akron in 309 at bats. Toregas is a player on the rise in the Indians farm system, and improved physically between the 2005 and 2006 seasons. There is no question about Toregas' offensive abilities, but his defense is what has Tribe officials excited. Simply put, Toregas is a very good defensive catcher that can control a running game. Last year, he averaged 1.85 seconds on throws to second base, which is much better than the major league average of 2.0 seconds. Toregas is the best defensive catcher in the Indians system, and he was ranked by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the Carolina League last year.
Asdrubal Cabrera - Shortstop
Age: 21 Height: 6'0" Weight: 170 Bats: Switch Throws: Right
The Indians obtained Cabrera from the Seattle Mariners in a late-June trade last year in exchange for Eduardo Perez. Last year, he hit a combined .249 with 4 HRs, 36 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 112 games in the Mariners and Indians system. Cabrera is a gold-glove caliber shortstop who has excellent hands, footwork and very good accuracy. His throwing arm is only average, but his plus accuracy makes up for it. While the Indians are very excited about Cabrera's defense, his future in the big leagues will ultimately be decided by how he performs with the bat. At 20 years old last year, he was the youngest player in all of Triple-A, so there is still a lot of time to development the bat and his approach at the plate. Cabrera is a switch-hitter with average speed, but he doesn't have any offensive tools that stand out. He has an inside-out swing from the right-side of the plate, and feels for contact from the left-side. At times he can be overly aggressive at the plate, and he need to work on becoming a more disciplined hitter and drawing more walks. Cabrera provides depth at a position of need in the farm system, and will take a step back and start the season in Akron to fine tune his offensive approach. For a more detailed scouting report on Cabrera, click here.
Chuck Lofgren - Left-handed Pitcher
Age: 21 Height: 6'3" Weight: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left
The Indians feel they found a gem in Lofgren. After going 5-5 with a 2.81 ERA at Lake County in 2005, Lofgren cemented his standing as one of the Indians top prospects in 2006. Lofgren's 2006 season was sensational, as he went 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA, held opponents to a .217 BAA, and piled up 125 strikeouts in 139.2 innings pitched. Lofgren set a Kinston modern-day franchise record for victories by a pitcher in a season with 17. He was also named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year. Lofgren is a physical starting pitcher with great composure on the mound, and has a good three-pitch mix lead by a 91-93 MPH fastball. He possesses the best swing-and-miss fastball statistic in the system and follows that up with a hard curve. That swing-and-miss rate is heavily influenced by Lofgren's very good fastball command, velocity and deception in his delivery. Several comparisons have been made of Lofgren to a young Al Leiter as his stuff, presence and approach are nearly identical. Lofgren needs to work more on finishing off hitters, and his changeup is the biggest key for him and he has worked on developing it. Lofgren's aptitude is off the charts, which is why he could move through the Indians system quickly. For a more detailed scouting report of Lofgren, click here.
Scott Lewis - Left-handed Pitcher
Age: 23 Height: 6'0" Weight: 185 Bats: Switch Throws: Left
Last year Lewis went 3-3 with a 1.48 ERA in 27 starts at Kinston, and held opponents to a .203 average and struckout 123 in 115.2 IP. With his 1.48 ERA, Lewis won the Minor League ERA title with the best ERA in all the minors. The Indians handled Lewis with kid gloves last year, and it worked as he managed to stay healthy all year. Lewis didn't figure into very many decisions last year because he was on a strict 70-pitch count all season, which was mandated by the Indians because he was still recovering from the Tommy John surgery in 2003 and bicep tendonitis which had plagued him since 2005. Lewis has a fastball that only tops out in the 87-90 MPH range consistently, but his tremendous command of his secondary pitches makes his fastball play up and look faster. The power and depth he has added to his nasty 12-6 curveball was a key for him last year, and his curveball is now rated as the best in the system. Lewis also has good arm action, and good deception throughout his delivery. His changeup has developed into a plus pitch, and he gets a lot of action on his pitches in the strike zone. The Indians plan to keep him on a strict pitch count to start the season, and ramp him up to a normal pitch count by mid-season. For a more detailed scouting report of Lewis, click here.
J.D. Martin - Right-handed Pitcher
Age: 23 Height: 6'4" Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Martin appeared at several different levels last year on a rehab assignment from Tommy John surgery he underwent the previous year, finishing the year 1-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 14 combined appearances (13 starts) at Mahoning Valley, Lake County and Kinston. He also logged 40 strikeouts in 44.1 inning pitched and held opposing hitters to a .190 average. Martin throws three different fastballs - a cutter, two seamer and four seamer - and he also throws a changeup and curveball. His fastball consistently ranges from 88-91 MPH, and he has outstanding control of it and his other pitches. Before the arrival of Scott Lewis, Martin's true 12-6 curveball was rated as the best curveball in the system. Martin's development of a cut fastball might now be the best pitch in his arsenal. Martin is now starting to grow into his body more and beginning to fill out, which means he has an improved chance to add some more velocity. Also, the added bulk should allow him to maintain his delivery and arm action better, especially through his lower half. Martin has an outstanding work ethic, which has helped in his rehab from Tommy John surgery and also from a strained ligament in 2003.
Aaron Laffey- Left-handed Pitcher
Age: 21 Height: 6'0" Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left
Since his dominant debut at Burlington in 2003 where he went 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA, Laffey had been sort of a disappointment up until last year. He went through a tough season in 2004 at Lake County, and put up a solid year in 2005 splitting time in Lake County and Kinston. Laffey jumped back onto the prospect scene last year after he combined to go 12-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 29 appearances (23 starts) at Kinston and Akron in 2006. Laffey's fastball tops out at 87-88 MPH, and he also throws an above average slider and a changeup. Laffey has had problems improving his mechanics and developing a changeup, which have held him back and may make him a lefty specialist down the road. For now, he will be in the backedn of the Akron starting rotation.
John Van Every (Outfield): A left-handed hitter, Van Every will most likely be the designated hitter often, but could rotate in and out of the outfield. Van Every has very good power, hitting 21 HRs in 2004 and 27 HRs in 2005, although he slipped to 15 HRs last year in combined time at Akron and Buffalo.
Argenis Reyes (Second Base): Former Indians Farm Director John Farrell considered Reyes a potential super utility player with his ability to play anywhere in the outfield, and also at second base and shortstop. Reyes hit .266 with 2 HRs and 58 RBIs with 24 stolen bases for Kinston last year.
Pat Osborn (Third Base): Osborn is no stranger to Akron, as this will be the third straight year he starts there. Last year, Osborn hit .250 with 1 HR and 37 RBIs in 114 games for the Aeros, which was a disappointment after his .287/10/63 campaign in 2005.
Rodney Choy Foo (Infielder): Choy Foo begins his seventh season in the Indians organization, and his second stint in Double-A. He is a do-everything utility player who can virtually play anywhere in the infield, and has shown good pop in his bat. Last year in Kinston, he hit .293 with 12 HRs and 60 RBIs in 314 at bats.
Javi Hererra (Catcher): Herrera is a defensive catcher, but hit only .248 with 4 HRs and 35 RBIs last year in 94 combined games in Kinston and Akron. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2003 Draft, he has been a disappointment. Especially when you consider former catcher Ryan Garko was taken in the third round of the same draft.
Shawn Nottingham (Left-handed Pitcher): Nottingham will round out the Aeros starting rotation, and went 5-12 with a 4.12 ERA last year. The Indians acquired Nottingham as the player to be named later in the Ben Broussard trade last year. Nottingham is a local kid drafted out of Jackson High School in Canton, OH, so his assignment to Akron will be a homecoming for him.
Jensen Lewis (Right-handed Pitcher): Last year as a starter, Lewis went 8-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts in Kinston and Akron. Lewis is a very smart pitcher, and has excellent command. While he throws in the 90-92 MPH range, many scouts feel he could add more velocity as he matures or if he is shifted to the bullpen, which is exactly what the Indians did since he will start the year in the Akron bullpen.
Bubbie Buzachero (Right-handed Pitcher): Buzachero went 8-3 with 4 saves and a 2.72 ERA in Akron last year. A late season scuffle in the clubhouse that lead to a broken jaw for former Aeros second baseman Eider Torres potentially cost the Aeros a championship last year. Also, a job in the Indians organization for Buzachero. Needless to say, Bubbie is back, and looks like he will start the year as the Akron closer.
Jake Dittler (Right-handed Pitcher): In Buffalo last year, Dittler went 5-12 with a 4.70 ERA in 24 starts. The Indians drafted Dittler in the 2nd round of the 2001 Draft out of high school, and he was once one of the prized pitching prospects in the organization. Now, he has been reduced to pretty much an organizational player, and has been moved to the bullpen.
Joe Ness (Right-handed Pitcher): In Ness's first full season with the Indians last year, Ness went 9-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 26 starts at Kinston. At 6'5" and 230 lbs, Ness is a big, physical pitcher with a strong arm that gets his fastball in the low to mid 90s. No word yet on the Indians plans for Ness (starter or reliever), but it looks like he will start the year in the Akron bullpen.
And the rest: Armando Camacaro (Catcher), Brandon Pinckney (Infielder), Kyle Collins (Right-handed Pitcher), Reid Santos (Left-handed Pitcher), and Mariano Gomez (Left-handed Pitcher.
Previews for the two Single-A full-season minor league affiliates Kinston and Lake County, which will post on Friday and Saturday this week.