"Minor Happenings" covers the important developments and news in the Indians farm system. Information in this report is collected from the various news outlets that cover each team, some national news, and in some cases from private sources connected to the Indians organization.
TheClevelandFan.com Minor League Player of the Month
(for the month of April)
Jared Goedert (Third baseman - Lake County)
.357 average(25 for 70), 4 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 21 BB, 14 Ks, 1.263 OPS
Talk about a player breaking onto the prospect scene. I don't think anyone saw this huge breakthrough performance in April coming, not even the Indians themselves nor scouts throughout the minors. Goedert is a shaky defender at third base, which many scouts feel will eventually get him moved to first base, but as a hitter he is sound with a low maintenance swing which creates a nice bat path to the ball. After being drafted last year in the 9th round out of Kansas State, Goedert made his professional debut at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley and hit .269 with 3 HRs and 27 RBIs in 238 at bats.
Goedert only had the three home runs and also only walked 19 times all year, so his eight home runs and 21 walks in April are surely eye-catching. Of note, he did show a good eye at the plate last year and the ability to consistently put the ball in play since he struckout only 28 times. But, the power and plate discipline in April was off the charts good. Can he keep it up? Is he a legit third base prospect? We'll find out in the coming months, but he has continued his torrid start in May. In the first two games in May he has two home runs and six RBIs, and now on the year he is hitting .377 with 10 home runs, 23 RBIs, and a Nintendo-like 1.346 OPS.
I asked around about Goedert, and he has even taken the scouts and national writers by surprise. One source said "he can definitely hit -- though I'm not yet convinced he's THIS good. Defense is way behind the bat." Another source chimed in with "Goedert played in the Big 12, so tearing up low Class A isn't a big surprise, especially considering his plate discipline. His bat is interesting, worth watching, but he doesn't offer much else." It seems that the consensus right now is people want to see him sustain this stretch of good play before they believe it.
Adam Miller: 2-0, 2.88 ERA, 4 games, 25 IP, 23 H, 8 ER, 8 BB, 23 Ks
Jason Stanford: 3-0, 3 games, 1.00 ERA, 18 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 7 BBs, 17 Ks
David Huff: 3-0, 1.73 ERA, 5 games, 26 IP, 20 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 17 Ks
Jeff Stevens: 3-0, 0.45 ERA, 8 games, 20 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 24 Ks
Rodney Choy Foo: .350, 2 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 1.051 OPS
Matt McBride: .338, 6 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, 12 BB, 9 K, .918 OPS
Matt Whitney: .329, 5 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 6 BB, 20 K, 1.002 OPS
TheClevelandFan.com Minor League Player Of The Week
(week of April 26 - May 2)
Adam Miller (Right-handed Pitcher - Buffalo)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 innings pitched, 0 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts
By now, I think it is safe to say just about every Indians fan out there knows who Adam Miller is. What is there left to say? Miller put together two outstanding starts this past week, and just continues to cruise along. His ETA is still probably as a September callup this year as I just do not see him coming up to Cleveland and bumping a starter unless long term injuries or trades of two incumbent starters occur. On the year, in five starts Miller is now 3-0 with a 2.32 ERA and .217 batting average against. He has thrown 31 innings giving up 25 hits, walked 11, and struckout 30.
Honorable Mentions: David Huff (LHP, Kinston), Carlos Rivero (SS, Lake County), Jared Goedert (3B, Lake County), Franklin Gutierrez (OF, Buffalo)
Indians Farm Director Ross Atkins spent some time this week talking about the Indians Single-A affiliate Kinston and some of the players there:
On Kinston: Single-A Advanced level Kinston is the only full-season out of town affiliate for the Indians. With Buffalo, Akron and Lake County all in immediate proximity to Cleveland, we have seen the benefits of having at least one affiliate in a warm weather climate since players like Cliff Lee on rehab assignments can pitch in a much better weather environment early in the season. The relationship with the Indians and Kinston is great, and there is a pure baseball atmosphere there.
On Max Ramirez: Early in the season he has put together some great at bats, and each night has been a part of the run production as a catalyst or driving them in. He is still working on shoring up his game defensively, and each day gets a little more comfortable. He is a tough player, and has a natural confidence as a player.
On David Huff: While he doesn't overpower hitters, he commands his fastball well and can work it to both sides of the plate and to the corners on all four quadrants. He is aggressive and attacks hitters, and he has a great, athletic delivery which deceives hitters and he repeats well.
On Jeff Stevens: Stevens is having a breakthrough season, and is someone who is coming onto the scene and could move quickly to Cleveland. His fastball is consistently up to 95 MPH, and his breaking ball has seen much improvement as Atkins described it as having the drop and movement of a "wiffle ball."
New Hitting Philosophy Taking Hold
There has been some talk recently of how it appears the Indians have adopted a new approach in working counts more and drawing more walks. Specifically, a few people on the Scout.com message boards have made mention to this, which was a good observation because in fact this is the case. Last year, when new hitting coordinator Dave Hudgens came on board from Oakland, he brought a philosophy to draw more walks and be more patient at the plate.
Last year, in an interview with Baseball America's Chris Kline, he touched on this some. Here is an excerpt from that piece:
When Hudgens came over from the A's, he helped implement an organization-wide philosophy of drawing walks 10 percent of the time. It's not 'Moneyball,' it's not some drastic measure to get guys to look for walks like crazy, it's just the implementation of a more patient hitting approach--make pitchers work for it.
Apparently, the new approach is paying off. While Buffalo is only fifth in the International League with 84 walks, Akron is second in the Eastern League in walks with 82, Kinston is second in the Carolina League in walks with 92, and Lake County is first in the South Atlantic League in walks with a whopping 137 (over 30 more walks than the second ranked team).
And, it may be carrying over to the major league team as the hitters there are also consistently working pitchers deep into counts. The Indians are fifth in all of baseball with 116 walks, which is eight behind the leader Philadelphia who have 124 walks as a team. It should be noted the Indians have played four to five less games than everyone else, so they easily could be number one as their walks per game rate is the best in baseball.
Believe The Hype With Hodges
Kinston third baseman Wes Hodges has certainly lived up to the hype as an advanced hitter the first month of the season. After missing seven games with a tweaked hamstring, Hodges is back in action and hasn't skipped a beat. Last Thursday, Hodges had a career night going 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, then followed that up this past Monday by going 2-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs.
As it turns out, the hamstring injury may have been a blessing in disguise. While out with the injury, it gave Hodges time to step back, take a deep breath, and make some early adjustments. This is Hodges first professional season, and he mentioned that while he was out injured he simplified his approach at the plate. He is now more relaxed, has slowed down his approach at the plate and now looks for certain pitches early in the count. To date, Hodges is hitting .274 with four home runs, 14 RBIs, and has a .906 OPS.
Akron Role Reversals
The Indians are so deep in starting pitching talent, three starting pitchers from last year who had pretty good years in the rotation were moved to the Akron bullpen this year. Right-hander Jensen Lewis (8-8, 3.96 ERA) and right-hander Joe Ness (9-6, 3.62 ERA) had very good seasons in Kinston and Akron last year, while right-hander Jake Dittler (5-12, 4.70 ERA) struggled some in Buffalo and had mixed results.
To date, while their early numbers show otherwise, they have all adjusted well to their new roles. Lewis is the most exciting arm of the bunch, as the shift to the bullpen allows him to be much more aggressive and throw harder. He is a bullpen arm to keep an eye on, and he has shown a great ability to bounce back to the daily grind in the bullpen.
Ness was put in the Akron bullpen mostly because there was not a spot in the rotation, and because the Indians wanted to move him up a level. Ness is a strike-thrower, and his pitches tend to lack variation in speed because he has had problems developing a changeup, so a shift to the bullpen should help. Dittler is being used as a swing guy in that he can spot start, be a long man, or pitch in the late innings. He is probably on his last legs in the organization, so the hope is the shift to the bullpen for Dittler can spark him.
By now, hot prospect Trevor Crowe's slow start has permeated even those Indians fans that only pay attention to the minor leagues on a very casual basis. Clearly these are hard times for Crowe, and probably the lowest he has ever been during his three years in the Indians farm system. Crowe is a very confident, high-energy player, but that all took a hit with a horrific April where he hit .177 (14 for 79) with only two stolen bases.
Bottom line, Crowe is pressing. And he realizes it. Coming into the season as the Indians #1 position player prospect has put the spotlight squarely on him, which resulted in him trying to do too much rather than just let his talent and the game come naturally to him. What Crowe is going through is nothing all that uncommon as he is not the first, nor the last high profile prospect to struggle. The question now is, can he make the adjustments necessary to get his game back on track, or risk some serious damage to his prospect standing?
Of course, one of the beautiful things in baseball is you are always one hot week away from getting back on track. Crowe has mentioned in interviews that he has gone back to just focusing on having quality at bats, and the results are starting to be somewhat favorable as in his last five games he is 6-for-22 (.272), so a turnaround could be on the horizon. To date, Crowe is hitting .186 (16 for 89) with six extra base hits, ten RBIs, and two stolen bases.
Lofgren Off To So-So Start
Akron left-handed starter Chuck Lofgren is off to a so-so start in Akron. After putting up a 17-5 record and 2.32 ERA in Kinston last year and winning the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year Award, Lofgren is looking to build on that performance and have a good year at Akron this year. To date, in his four starts he is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA, and in 20 innings pitched has allowed 19 hits, walked 10, and struckout 26.
He has been somewhat inconsistent in his first four starts, and the results have been mixed, but he has adapted well to Double-A so far. It should be noted that it took half a season last year for Adam Miller to catch fire and dominate, as the jump from Single-A to Double-A is arguably the biggest step in the minors.
Lofgren is a competitor on the mound, and likes to attack hitters on the inside part of the plate with his fastball. He has good fastball command and is very good at changing speeds and mixing his pitches. His fastball can vary anywhere from 89 to 95 MPH, and he follows the fastball up with a slow curveball that tops out at around 75 MPH and a changeup and slider which hit in the low 80s. Because of the varying speeds and repertoire, it gives him many weapons to attack hitters and keeps them from zeroing in on one pitch, speed and location.
Francisco Gets A Treat
Buffalo outfielder Ben Francisco was called up to Cleveland this week when the Indians optioned right-hander Fausto Carmona to Buffalo. Francisco has worked hard to get noticed, and his play and persistence paid off for him this past offseason when he was added to the Indians 40-man roster. Last year at Buffalo he finished first or second in just about every offensive category, and he continued his good play into spring training this year and had a very good camp.
Prior to being called up, in 18 games at Buffalo, Francisco was hitting .299 with one home run, nine RBIs, and seven stolen bases. It is unknown how long Francisco will stay with the parent club, but given the need for a right-handed bat to balance out the outfield, it is possible he will stick and instead the left-handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo will be optioned out when Cliff Lee is activated from the disabled list. Although, after the Indians burned through their bullpen on Wednesday night, it is possible both Francisco and Choo could be optioned out for more bullpen help for tonight's game.
Like the rest of the Indians minor league affiliates, Buffalo is off to a hot start. They have won five in a row and are currently 15-6 and a half game out of first place in the North Division of the International League. The key to Buffalo's success early on has been exceptional starting pitching, and on offense timely hitting and speed.
To date, Buffalo starters are a combined 11-2 with a 3.11 ERA. Also, in Tuesday's game Buffalo stole six bases in six attempts. On the year, they now have stolen 34 bases in 39 attempts in only 21 games. They are on pace for well over 200 stolen bases this year, which would be a quantum leap from the 80 they had as a team in 2006 and the 63 in 2005.
Some random notes ... Right-handed starter Brian Slocum pitched six shutout innings this week against Pawtucket, and on the year is currently 2-1 with a 4.95 ERA in four starts. ... Infielder Joe Inglett hit a key grand slam late in Monday's win over Pawtucket. Inglett is finally healthy again, and is yet more depth the Indians have stashed away at Buffalo. To date, in eight games and 34 at bats Inglett is hitting .294 with one home run, seven RBIs, one stolen base, and a .755 OPS. ... Right-handed reliever Eddie Mujica's scoreless inning streak came to an end at ten innings on Wednesday. Mujica has been almost unhittable his first ten innings, but that came to a crashing end yesterday when he allowed four runs on three hits and three walks in 1.2 innings.
Here are some notable up-to-date statistics for some notable prospects:
Franklin Gutierrez (OF): .381 AVG, 3 2Bs, 0 3Bs, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, 4 BBs, 8 Ks, 5 SBs, .950 OPS
Luis Rivas (2B): .300 AVG, 5 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs, 4 BBs, 9 Ks, 2 SBs, .836 OPS
Brad Snyder (OF): .300 AVG, 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs, 8 BBs, 16 Ks, 6 SBs, .857 OPS
Ryan Mulhern (1B): .296 AVG, 3 2Bs, 1 3B, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, 7 BBs, 16 Ks, 1 SB, .936 OPS
Jason Stanford (LHP): 3-0, 2.19 ERA, 24.2 IP, 20 Ks, 1.14 WHIP
Rafael Perez (LHP): 1-1, 3.74 ERA, 21.2 IP, 13 Ks, 1.29 WHIP
It has been awhile since Captains fans have seen exciting baseball down at Classic Park in Eastlake. Not since the inaugural season in 2003 have fans seen such a loaded offense and exciting team, and with several major league potentials up and down the lineup this may be the most talent in the lineup fans in Lake County have seen yet.
The Captains have won eight of their last nine games, including their last four in a row, and are now 14-11 on the year which is good for third place in the North Division of the South Atlantic League. On Tuesday night, the Captains went out and played one of the best games in the history of the franchise winning 16-0 and throwing a 1-hit shutout. Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez led the way going seven one-hit shutout innings.
Offensively, out of 16 teams in the league, the Captains are 2nd in batting average (.280), 2nd in home runs (31), 1st in walks (137), 1st in on-base percentage (.388), and 1st in OPS (.840). Of note, they are 34 walks in front of the second ranked team, 31 points in front of the second ranked team in on-base percentage, and 40 points in front of the second ranked team in OPS.
Here are some notable up-to-date statistics for some notable prospects:
Matt McBride (C) - .348 AVG, 7 2Bs, 1 HR, 18 RBIs, 12 BBs, 9 Ks, .932 OPS
Matt Whitney (3B) - .333 AVG, 6 2Bs, 7 HRs, 20 RBIs, 7 BBs, 23 Ks, 1.031 OPS
Carlos Rivero (SS) - .301 AVG, 6 2Bs, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 4 BBs, 14 Ks, .739 OPS
Roman Pena (OF) - .273 AVG, 1 2B, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs, 18 BBs, 22 Ks, .815 OPS
Nick Weglarz (OF) - .268 AVG, 2 2Bs, 6 HRs, 16 RBIs, 17 BBs, 25 Ks, .924 OPS
Not only has bad April weather affected the parent club with home games in Cleveland, but look at what it has done to Akron and Buffalo. Both have had numerous rain/snowouts, and Akron has already had five home games lost that are being rescheduled and made up at the opponents ballpark. And in Buffalo, they have already lost four home games due to weather, and two of them will be made up in the opposing team's ballpark and the other two will not be made up at all.
Akron first baseman Jordan Brown was named the Eastern League Player of the Week after he hit .520 (13-for-25) with six doubles, seven runs scored, five RBIs, three walks and a .760 slugging percentage. Brown put together four three hit games over the week, and currently he is hitting .304 with two home runs, ten RBIs, and a .857 OPS.
Kinston left-hander David Huff was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week. For the week Huff went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two games, logged 13 innings, gave up seven hits and one walk, and struckout eight batters. Huff was the Indians top draft pick in last year's draft. On the year, in five starts Huff is now 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA. In 26 innings pitched, he has allowed 20 hits, four walks, and struckout 17.
Third baseman Andy Marte was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo on a rehab assignment this past Sunday. Marte is nursing a sore hamstring, and he was pulled from the lineup on Monday just two days into his rehab assignment when he felt a twinge in his hamstring. The setback is not considered serious, but it has been enough to sideline him since. In his two games on Sunday and Monday at Buffalo, he was a combined 0-for-4.
Reliever Matt Miller is currently on the disabled list with a right forearm strain. He has been active in extended spring training pitching in simulated games in Winter Haven the past week or so, and is scheduled to go on a rehab assignment sometime before the week is over. He likely will report to Triple-A Buffalo, or could possibly be activated right away since the Indians need bullpen arms after blowing through their bullpen in Wednesday night's game.
Oops! Kinston outfielder Jose Contanza will switch from uniform No. 5 to No. 7, and left-handed starter David Huff has switched from uniform No. 21 to No. 27. The reason for the change? No. 5 (Lou Boudreau) and No. 21 (Bob Lemon) are retired numbers in Cleveland, and it carries down to the minor leagues. ... The Indians released right-hander Tim Drew last Saturday. Drew had come to camp on a ten day tryout looking to resurrect his career, and was actually signed. The Indians finally cut ties with him. ... Franklin Gutierrez has now hit in 12 straight games. During the streak, he has hit .418 (23-55) with ten multi-hit performances. ... Sung-Wei Tseng was outstanding on Wednesday night, going six innings and allowing three hits and no earned runs, and struckout six while walking only one. ... Baseball America's Chris Kline did a nice Q&A on Indians outfield prospect Brian Barton this week. Click on the link and check it out, some good stuff.