Minor Happenings” covers
the important developments and news in the Indians farm system over
the course of the past week. 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.
On Kouzmanoff: Farrell
mentioned that Kouzmanoff has been impressive early at Buffalo and hasn't
missed a beat, as in his first two games he hit 2 HRs and had 4 RBIs.
He was ready for a promotion to Buffalo months ago, but was delayed
because of his nagging injuries and because of Andy Marte being at Buffalo.
He is now viewed as a legit 3B prospect at the major league level, and
will create competition at the 3B position in Cleveland with Marte.
There is potential for a move to 1B, and the organization is considering
it. A permanent move to 1B is not likely, but he could be played
at 1B some to create versatility. Ultimately, his performance at the
major league level (when he gets there) will dictate what the Indians
do with him, be it leaving him at 3B or making a permanent move to 1B
(or even LF).
On Rafael Perez: Since
being optioned to Buffalo, he has improved his fastball command.
Also, the Indians have worked with him in developing a more regimented
routine in getting prepared for game action coming out of the bullpen
so he warms up quicker. Things were speeding up on him some during
his brief stay in Cleveland, and some of his problems in Cleveland were
a result of mechanical breakdowns, and a lack of getting proper leverage
on hitters with his pitches. His ball was not on the required
downhill plane and was being left out arm side.
On Scott Lewis: The
organization is monitoring his innings pitched very closely. Coming
off injury and surgery, they want to control the innings which is why
he is on such a strict 70-75 pitch count. Since he has pitched
a minimal amount of innings the past few years, they don't want to have
him jump up this year to 150-160 IP. Right now, the
goal for him is 110 IP. To date, the biggest key has been that
he has made 20 starts and has not suffered any setbacks. Because
of his strict pitch count and a smaller pitching roster at Akron, Lewis
probably won't be in line for a promotion to Akron this year and likely
pitches all year at Kinston. Since he can only pitch 4-5 innings
a start, it would be too taxing on the Akron bullpen.
On Stephen Head: Even
though he has struggled this year, he still profiles as a good 1B.
He is a smooth defender, and has above average power. Right now,
he is being challenged at Kinston to show some consistency in re-creating
his hitting stroke in each at bat. One of his better qualities
as a hitter is he is not pull oriented, and can handle pitches on the
outside part of the plate.
Crowe Down, But Not Out
Official word came out over
a week ago that hot outfield prospect Trevor Crowe could probably miss
at least a month after an MRI diagnosed him with a more serious grade-2
ankle sprain. Well, so much for that. Crowe
was activated this past Thursday and was in the Akron lineup hitting
leadoff (he DHed). In the end, he only missed about 2 weeks rather than
the initial 4 - 6 weeks it was thought he’d miss. According
to Tribe Assistant GM Chris Antonetti, Crowe was running bases at full
speed earlier this week and the ankle showed no signs of any lingering
effects from the injury.
Position Change All But
In an interview in the Akron
Beacon Journal last week, Crowe did verify that the Indians have told
him his future in the organization might be at 2B. He also mentioned
that the Indians told him he would start taking ground balls at 2B to
get him ready for full-time work at 2B in the Arizona Fall League.
Crowe is advancing quickly through the Indians' farm system, and the
Indians need to find a position for him. A move to 2B for Crowe
wouldn’t be anything new for him since he played both outfield and
second base during his time at the University of Arizona. Crowe
is open to the change, although he has hinted he feels he is much more
of an impact player defensively in CF.
Crowe once was a serious racquetball
player as a kid, and was so good he became nationally ranked in the
sport and even competed on the Junior National Team in 1998. He
credits his time playing racquetball with helping develop his hand-eye
coordination. Also, recently a National League scout commented
on Crowe being “fun to watch” and that he “brings a whole new
level of energy to the field.” Indians GM Mark Shapiro admits
that Crowe is on the fast-track to the major leagues because of his
“very mature and polished approach to hitting.” Shapiro also
commented that Crowe “plays with a lot of energy and a little bit
of an edge, and he is a prototypical leadoff hitter.” The Indians
believe that his performance to date is enough to believe that he could
be in the minor leagues this time next year.'
With Crowe's injury, outfield
prospect Brian Barton got an opportunity to move up and get extended
action in the Akron outfield. Barton was called up to Akron from
Kinston when Crowe was put on the disabled list, and in 14 games at
Akron is hitting .429/.491/.755 with 5 HRs and 11 RBIs, along with 8
stolen bases. Maybe it is time to give the 24-year old undrafted
free agent signing out of the University of Miami, FL some prospect
love, as Barton quickly is becoming a very intriguing prospect with
his blend of speed and power. In a combined 96 games at Akron
and Kinston, Barton is hitting .326/.424/.553 with 18 HRs and 68 RBIs,
along with 34 stolen bases in 38 attempts. He definitely is a
Top 5 candidate for Indians Minor League Player of the Year.
Wow. After a very lackluster
2005 season where he went 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA in 15 starts at Mahoning
Valley and Kinston, Miller has bounced back in a big way. The
Indians #1 prospect is back to form after a dominating July, and now
seems to be 100% recovered from the strained elbow ligament that pretty
much washed away his 2005 season. For the 2006 season to date,
Miller is 12-5 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and has 128 strikeouts in
125.2 IP. Even more impressive, since July 1st he has
made six starts, and in those six starts he is 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA and
has allowed only 25 hits, walked 11, and struckout 41 in 36.2 IP.
Also, in each of his last two starts he has racked up 11-strikeouts.
The confidence is flowing once again with this kid, and reportedly the
difference has been the command and confidence in his secondary pitches
(slider and changeup). With Miller Rule 5 Draft eligible this
offseason, he’ll be added to the 40-man roster. Being on the
40-man roster, he’ll likely be one of the first starters the Indians
turn to in 2007 if an injury or two befalls a starter at the major league
Hot pitching prospect Chuck
Lofgren won’t be leaving Kinston anytime soon. Normally, a player
who is 14-5 on the season with a 2.17 ERA should be well on his way
to the next level. But, according to Indians officials, he’ll
likely stay put in Kinston the rest of the season. The Indians
recently had a sit down with Lofgren to discuss his progress and the
slider he has been working on since Spring Training, and they came to
the conclusion that there is no rush to promote him too soon.
Lofgren will use the remainder of the season to work on his fastball
command and continue to develop the slider.
In the midst of all the young
pitching call-ups to Cleveland the past few months, one name has been
passed over repeatedly: Andrew Brown. It has been a mystery to
some fans why he has been passed over by so many pitchers, especially
after the hardthrowing right-hander went into Spring Training as one
of the three finalists for the final bullpen spot with Danny Graves
and Jason Davis. According to Buffalo Bison’s manager Torey Luvullo
(BS Alert), the Indians are looking for Brown to throw strikes more
consistently and be dependable out of the bullpen. Yes, Brown
did struggle early in the year with walks, but the last month or so
has settled in and cut down on the walks significantly. One has
to wonder what the Indians are doing here, as Brown is out of options
after this season. With the 2006 season a loss, there is no better
time than now to find out if he is part of your future. It definitely
is puzzling why the likes of Guillermo Mota and Brian Sikorski are pitching
in Cleveland and even still on the team, and not Andrew Brown. On the
year, Brown is 5-4 with 3 saves and a 2.73 ERA in 35 appearances out
of the Buffalo bullpen.
Guthrie’s Comeback Season
Continues to Roll Along
Jeremy Guthrie was masterful
last Wednesday July 26th in a 3-1 Buffalo win. It was probably his most
dominant performance in his minor league career, as he fired a 1-hit
complete game. Guthrie’s only blemish came in the 1st inning,
where with one out he walked a batter, sent him to 2nd with a wild pitch,
and the next batter doubled him home. After that, Guthrie retired
25 of the next 26 batters, and he ended the game with 7 strikeouts,
2 walks, and 13 groundball outs, and threw 109 pitches (76 were strikes).
Guthrie followed up his 1-hitter with a good outing this past Monday,
going 6 innings and allowing only 2 runs on 4 hits to go with four strikeouts
and three walks. Guthrie got the win, and is now 7-3 on the year,
and also has 24 career wins at Buffalo, good for 4th all-time in Bisons
history. Only Rick Reed (35), Dorn Taylor (34) and Joe Roa
(28) are ahead of him on the list. Guthrie is 3-0 with a 1.23
ERA in his last three starts, and has struckout 14 batters and allowed
only 8 hits in 22 IP.
Since being acquired on July
21st from Atlanta for famed Indians closer Bob Wickman, catcher Maximiliano
(Max) Ramirez has been dynamite. Ramirez is a 21-year old native
of Venezuela, and a solid 5’11” and 170 pounds. In his first
12 games at Lake County, he is hitting .308/.491/.641 with 3 HRs and
9 RBIs. On the season, he is hitting .288/.420/.474 with 12 HRs and
46 RBIs in 92 games combined at Lake County and Atlanta Low-A affiliate
Rome. Ramirez has come as advertised, as not only is he a hitting
machine, but his patience at the plate is excellent (68 walks and a
.420 OBP). Ramirez made his presence felt quickly, as he slammed
a solo home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat at Lake County.
Head-ing In the Right Direction
For fans that glance through
the box scores and stats for the Indians minor leaguers, Top 10 prospect
1B Stephen Head’s numbers to date may be a cause for concern.
On the season, he is currently only hitting .224/.307/.364 with 10 HRs
and 58 RBIs at Kinston, but the organization is not worried at this
point. Of note, he has a healthy 43:53 walk to strikeout ratio.
The main reason for his struggles with his average and slugging is a
byproduct of his swing mechanics getting overhauled. Farrell recently
mentioned that Head’s hand position and setup were causing inconsistencies
with his swing path, so the organization made some adjustments.
With the new revamped approach to hitting, Head has been slow to adapt
to the adjustments and at times has been overly aggressive trying to
do too much too soon. Even with the down year average-wise, Head
is having a good year in the HR and RBI department.
Coco Crisp Deal Completed
This main cogs of this deal
were completed a long time ago, but in the deal the Indians also received
the infamous player to be named later (PTBNL). Well, the Indians
finally received that player: 24-year old right-handed, sidearming pitcher
Randy Newsom. Not much is known of Newsom, other than he was signed
as an undrafted free agent by the Red Sox in 2004 out of Tufts University.
Also, in 36 relief appearances over the span of 2004 and 2005, Newsom
compiled a 3-3 record with a 3.76 ERA in the lower levels of the Red
Sox farm system. Before being acquired by the Indians, in 2006 he was
2-1 in 20 relief appearances with a 3.59 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Newsom
was assigned to Lake County, but was recently moved up to Kinston.
Since joining the Indians organization, he is 0-0 with 4.50 ERA in 4
combined appearances at Lake County and Kinston. Not much of a
worthy prospect, and just roster filler at this point.
Top Pick Signed
The Indians signed their top
pick from the 2006 June draft, 21-year old UCLA left-hander David Huff.
Huff has reported to short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley, but since
Huff logged so many innings at UCLA this year, the Indians are expected
to be careful with him. He has been out of action for over 6 weeks,
so he will be ramped up on a pitching program before he sees any game
action likely in a week or two at the Valley. Huff was a supplemental
1st round pick taken 39th overall in the draft, and was compensation
for losing Bob Howry to the Cubs. This year at UCLA, Huff compiled
a 7-4 record and a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts, while striking out 100 in
129.2 IP. The Indians feel Huff, who is often compared to Barry
Zito, has a chance to advance through the farm system rapidly like Jeremy
Sowers did, and is expected to start the year at Kinston in 2007.
Huff received a $900,000 bonus to sign.
The Indians also inked their
2nd round pick (69th overall), Georgia Tech 3B
Wes Hodges. Hodges has a stress fracture in his left leg that
he played with this season, but won’t play this season. He signed
for $1,000,000. 17th-round pick Kyle Harper, a right-handed pitcher,
was signed as well. Like with Hodges, the Indians gambled with Harper
since he is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
Both Hodges and Harper were signed to 2007 contracts so they can be
held out of action the rest of this season and give them more time to
mend. Both will go to the Florida Instructional League this fall.
Also, right-handed pitcher
Paul Espino (10th round from Pendleton HS, Bradenton, FL) and left-handed
pitcher John Gaub (21st round, University of Minnesota) were signed
this week. With the signing of Hodges, Huff and Espino, all 15
of the Indians top 15 picks from the 2006 June Amateur Draft have signed.
In addition, 21 of their top 24 picks have signed. The Indians
did not have a first round pick this year as it was sent to the Angels
as compensation for signing free agent Paul Byrd. Having so many
players at the top part of the draft signed is tough to do, and the
Indians apparently didn’t hold anything back to sign these kids.
Let’s hope they pan out.
In the last two weeks, the
Indians have had three players in Buffalo, Akron, and Lake County receive
Player of the Week honors. At Akron, 1B Ryan Mulhern earned Eastern
League Player of the Week honors by hitting .423 (11-for-26) with 3
2Bs, 1 3B, 5 HRs, and 13 RBIs. At Buffalo, OF Jason Dubois received
International League Player of the Week honors after he hit .417 (10-for-24)
with 3 2Bs, 1 3B, 4 HRs, and 10 RBIs. Finally, at Lake County
newly acquired catcher Max Ramirez received South Atlantic League Player
of the Week honors after he hit a combined .727 (8-for-11) with
2 2Bs, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, and 7 walks. For the week, he had an .842
on-base percentage and a 1.182 slugging percentage.
On Sunday, Ryan Garko was scratched
from the lineup because he experienced some tightness in his lower back
during batting practice. He missed three games and returned Thursday
night and went 0 for 3 while playing 1B….Akron 1B Ryan Mulhern left
the game in the third inning Wednesday after injuring his right knee
sliding into home plate, and was supposedly only removed as a precaution.
He has not returned to the lineup since, missing Thursday and Friday
night’s games…. Oft-injured 1B Michael Aubrey may actually have
a small chance of returning and playing some this season. This
past week, Farrell said they still had hopes Aubrey could return before
the end of this season.
Eddie Mujica gave up his first
runs in the minors this past week, ending his scoreless streak at 24
games and 38.2 IP at Buffalo and Akron….Lake County Captains C/DH
Chris Gimenez recently put together a 14-game hitting streak, but saw
it all end when he hit into a game-ending 5-4-3 triple play with the
bases loaded in the ninth inning….Outfielder Nathan Panther was assigned
to Kinston this past week. Panther is in the midst of a lost season,
as he was hitting .231 with 0 HRs and 23 RBIs in 66 games at Akron.….Akron
left-handed reliever Juan Lara was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
In 40 appearances with Akron, Lara was 4-2 with 7 saves and a 2.70 ERA
and had 48 strikeouts in 46.2 IP....Kinston reliever Scott Roehl was
called up to Akron. In 30 appearances with Kinston, Roehl was
3-5 with three saves and a 3.30 ERA…..When utility infielder Ramon
Vazquez was optioned out to Buffalo, outfielder Jonathan Van Every was
sent back down to Akron to make room for him…. ….. C Omar Casillas
was placed on Lake County disabled list with left calf strain…Right-handed
pitcher Matt Loberg was transferred from Lake County to Mahoning Valley…..
Kyle Collina was promoted from Burlington to Mahoning Valley….2B Jose
Chavez was moved up from Burlington to Lake County.