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.
Indians Farm Director John
Farrell was in Myrtle Beach this week to take in action at Kinston.
He had some comments on current and former Kinston players:
On Chuck Lofgren:
He is a physical starting pitcher at 6’3” 220 pounds. As a
20-year old he has great composure on the mound, and has a good three-pitch
mix lead by a 91-93 MPH fastball. Farrell has been most impressed
with Lofgren’s consistency from start to start, and feels this is
a direct result of Lofgren’s commitment to routine and being very
mature for his age. Lofgren still needs some refinement with his
delivery, and he needs to work on being more efficient with his pitches
since his pitch counts get high by the middle innings of games.
Also, he needs to work more on finishing off hitters. (Note: these reasons
are why he will finish the year in Kinston.)
On Trevor Crowe:
He was activated from the Akron disabled list this past week.
He is a very energetic and explosive player who has an engine that never
stops. He is a prototypical top of the order hitter in that he
gets on base and steals bases. He hasn’t gone more than two
games without reaching base, and has more walks (54) than strikeouts
(53). After taking him with the 1st pick in the 2005
draft, he has been as advertised and will move very quickly to the major
On Wyatt Toregas:
Toregas is the best defensive catcher in the Indians system (Baseball
America ranked him the best defensive catcher in the Carolina League).
Since he is up for roster protection at season’s end, the Indians
wanted to give him a full half season of game activity at the AA level
to help in their evaluations of him. He is very good at shutting
down a running game as his throws to 2B clock at 1.85 seconds, which
is well above average for a catcher. He has a compact build and
is quick twitched (whatever that means).
On Eider Torres: He
is a top of the order hitter that the Indians are working on developing
more patience at the plate so he can get on base more. One of
his main problems at the plate is he expands his zone too much.
He is a burner and has very good range at 2B, and is versatile enough
to play SS. Currently, he projects as a utility player in the
On Javi Herrera: With
the progression of catcher Wyatt Toregas, Herrera was sent down to Kinston.
Since his return, he has regained confidence with his bat and become
more aggressive at the plate. The Indians have simplified his
approach at the plate and let him work more to his strength as a pull
The Indians Savior?
For the Indians ever to become
a serious post-season threat, they will probably need to find a front
of the rotation starter. The likelihood of that happening via
free agency is pretty much a pipedream, so such a pitcher will have
to come from the farm system. 21-year old fireballer Adam Miller
might be the guy, and he may be ready to join the Indians rotation sometime
next year (2007). Miller continued to sizzle this week, throwing
a complete game 4-hit shutout , and struckout 11 batters for the third
straight game. In his last 7 starts, he is 6-0 with a ridiculous
0.40 ERA (2 ER in 45.2 IP), and in those 45.2 IP has only allowed 29
hits and surrendered 12 walks while striking out 52. Reportedly,
the reason for Miller’s resurgence is the development of his changeup,
which is making his 95-97 MPH fastball and hard-biting 87 MPH slider
practically un-hittable. On the season, he is now 13-5 with a
2.81 ERA, along with a healthy 1.12 WHIP and 139 strikeouts in 134.2
IP. Also, he ranks #1 in the Eastern League in wins and strikeouts,
and #5 in ERA and #8 in WHIP. He arguably is the best pitcher
in the league.
of the Crop
The Indians have some dynamite
pitching on the way. Two of their best pitching prospects are
right-hander Adam Miller and left-hander Chuck Lofgren, and both are
probably 1-2 in the ranking of pitching prospects at this point after
the graduation of Jeremy Sowers. As noted above, Miller has simply
dominated AA. As for Lofgren, he continues to roll along as well.
On the year he is 15-5 with a 2.35 ERA, and has a 1.15 WHIP with 115
strikeouts in 122.1 IP. Like Miller, he has dominated his league
as he ranks #1 in the Carolina League in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and
is #2 in WHIP. Heck, had Sowers remained in Buffalo (where he
was dominating), the Indians would have had the best pitcher in the
league for each of their top three farm teams. That’s impressive,
and (knock on wood) a sign of good things to come with the starting
Way To Go, Chuck!
Speaking of Lofgren, in picking
up his 15th victory the other night, he is now tied for the
modern-day Kinston record of 15 victories. Brian Slocum had held
the modern day record after he put up 15 wins in 2004. The overall
franchise record for victories is 19, which was set by Frank Bork in
1962 for the Kinston Eagles. Unless Lofgren were to win all of
his remaining starts, it is not likely he’ll eclipse that mark.
In any case, Lofgren’s win total is the most since Kinston became
affiliated with Kinston in 1987
Former University of Arizona
Wildcat outfielder Trevor Crowe gets most of the pub these days, but
another former Wildcat teammate and fellow outfielder Jordan Brown might
be having one of the quietest, good seasons in the Indians system.
While Crowe was drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 Amateur
Draft, Brown was selected a few rounds later in the 4th round
of the same draft. After a very slow start, Brown is hitting .283/.345/.460
with 12 HRs and 73 RBIs. With Crowe, Brian Barton, Ryan Goleski,
Ben Francisco, John Drennen and Brown all playing well in the outfield
this year, this position has become the strength of the organization,
even after a subpar season from top OF prospect Brad Snyder.
Baseball America Tools Rankings
Baseball America just completed
their annual “tools” rankings, a ranked list of players considered
the best in the league at certain aspects of the game. The players
were selected after a polling of league managers and speaking with scouts.
Here are the Indians that made it:
International League (AAA):
Best Pitching Prospect: Jeremy Sowers
Best Control: Jeremy Sowers
Best Defensive Third Baseman: Andy Marte
Best Manager Prospect: Torey Lovullo
Eastern League (AA):
Best Defensive Second Baseman:
Best Manager Prospect: Tim
Carolina League (A+):
Best Batting Prospect: Trevor
Best Strike Zone Judgement: Tevor Crowe
Most Exciting Player: Trevor Crowe
Best Pitching Prospect: Chuck
Best Control: Scott Lewis
Best Defensive Catcher: Wyatt Toregas
The Forgotten Man
In the midst of all the callups
from Buffalo the past month, one player most fans (and the Indians themselves)
may have forgotten about is OF Jason Dubois. On the year at Buffalo,
Dubois is hitting .265/.333/.496 with 20 HRs and 80 RBIs. Dubois
is out of options after the season, and pretty much has no shot of making
the team next year which means he’ll have to be traded or be released
by the end of Spring Training next year. He will be a September
callup when rosters expand from 25 to 40 players, and might get a decent
amount of playing time in order to showcase him for a potential deal.
Low-market teams like the Royals, Pirates, Devil Rays, etc are teams
that may be willing to give Dubois a shot as an everyday player, especially
with his proven power and run producing abilities in the minors.
After being demoted from Akron
to Kinston, catcher Javi Herrera seems to have found his stroke.
In 34 games at Kinston, the 6'1" 200 pound receiver is hitting
.364/.481/.505 with 1 HR and 22 RBIs. Herrera
struggled earlier in the year
at Akron, hitting only .207/.274/.313 before being sent down on June
22nd. At that point, the Indians had seen enough and felt a move
was necessary to move the cold-hitting Herrera down to Kinston and promote
hot-hitting catcher Wyatt Toregas from Kinston to Akron. Herrera
took the demotion in stride, and has started to play like the 2003 2nd
round draft pick the Indians envisioned him to be. His recent
hot streak at Kinston is the best he has hit over an extended period
of games in the four years he has been in the Indians system
Not only are the Indians experimenting
with players like Fausto Carmona and Jason Davis at closer at the big
league level, but several players in the minors are now being tested
in the high-pressure relief role. At Buffalo, right-handed reliever
Andrew Brown has been moved to closer, and at Akron left-handed pitcher
Tony Sipp is closing out games. Since being installed as the everyday
closer at the end of July in Buffalo, in his last 6 appearances Brown
is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 3 for 3 in save opportunities, and has only
given up 3 hits and walked 1 batter while striking out 5 in 6 IP.
As for Sipp, he has recently moved into the role and shared it with
right-hander Jim Ed Warden. On the season, Sipp is 3-2 with 2
saves and a 3.35 ERA with an impressive 64 strikeouts in 48.1 IP.
Sipp should get many more closer opportunities as the Aeros season winds
down and they move into the playoffs.
On The Mend
1B Michael Aubrey has started
rehabbing from the right knee strain he suffered at the end of May.
The fact he couldn’t start any weight bearing exercises on a knee
strain for over two-months is all you need to know about Aubrey these
days. The man has been a china doll since being drafted by the
Indians in the 1st round of the 2003 draft, and probably
most resembles the character Samuel Jackson played in M. Night Shyamalan’s
“Unbreakable.” In any case, if all goes well he is expected
to start seeing game action again this fall in the Florida Instructional
League and Arizona Fall League…. Akron 1B Ryan Mulhern was placed
on the disabled list a week ago with a bruised right knee, but was activated
this past Friday.
A Change for Slocum
The Indians recently abandoned
experimenting with Slocum as a reliever, at least for the time being,
and moved him back into the Buffalo starting rotation after the All-Star
break. Since returning to the starting rotation he has been outstanding,
as in his 6 starts since the break he is 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA, and only
allowed 27 hits and 10 walks in 32.1 IP while striking out 26 batters.
The move of Slocum back to the starting rotation may be a result of
a need in 2007 for starting depth at Buffalo for the Indians.
With pitchers like Jason Stanford and Jeremy Guthrie out of options
and not likely to stick with the team, Slocum and Adam Miller could
become two of the top three starting pitching options the Indians turn
to next year in the event an injury befalls a starter.
Keeping It Real
Right-handed pitcher Jensen
Lewis, drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft, was promoted
to Akron this past week. Lewis was 7-6 with a 3.99 ERA at Kinston,
and made a spot start for Akron a month ago. Lewis was quoted
in the Kinston Free Press after the callup as saying: “It’s been
a whirlwind, living out of a suitcase, per se. But I wouldn’t trade
it. I’ve talked to a lot of friends who have jobs and have sent out
resumes and are looking for apartments everywhere. I’m looking at
my situation like, ‘I play a game every day. I get to sleep in. I
get a couple of days off in between to sit in the stands and chart some
games. I get to travel to a lot of places and play ball.’ It’s a
dream. It’s fantastic.” Hopefully Lewis remembers this
if he ever makes the major leagues, as a lot of players forget this
once the $$$ starts rolling in.
With roughly three weeks to
go, several Indians affiliates are battling for playoff berths:
- Buffalo, at 62-57, is 6 games
out of first place in the North Division of the International League,
and also 6 games in back of the wildcard
- At Akron, barring a late
season collapse, they should make the Eastern League playoffs and have
a chance to defend their 2005 League Championship. At 72-45, they
lead the Southern Division by 5.5 games.
- Kinston already qualified
for the Carolina League playoffs with their first half title in the
Southern Division, but it should be noted in the second half season
they are 26-21 and 3 games out of 1st.
- The Lake County Captains
have a decent shot at making the playoffs in the South Atlantic League.
Currently, they are 26-19 and 4 games out of 1st.
- Mahoning Valley (28-23) is
in 1st place of the NY-Penn League’s Pinckney Division
by 1.5 games.
- Burlington (26-24) is two
games out of 1st in the Appalachian League’s East Division.
2006 Supplemental 1st
round draft pick David Huff made his debut with Mahoning Valley on Friday
night, only pitching 1.1 innings. The rust showed as he walked
3 and gave up 1 hit and allowed 1 run….Prior to blowing a save on
Wednesday night, side-arming Akron Jim Ed Warden had put together an
impressive string of outings. In 32 previous appearances, Warden
was 3-1 with 7 saves and a 1.88 ERA….Adam Miller was named Eastern
League Player of the Month….Buffalo made an improbably comeback Tuesday
night, scoring 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win 12-9.
It was the biggest 9th inning comeback in Dunn Tire Park
history…. Left-hander Tom Cowley was promoted from Lake County to
fill Jensen Lewis’s spot in the rotation….Infielder Jake Gautreau
was activated off the disabled list when 1B Ryan Garko was called up
to Cleveland. Gautreau had been on the disabled list since July 20th
with a left calf strain….Outfielder Jon Van Every was promoted to
Buffalo…..Outfielder Ryan Goleski is hitting .314 with 23 HRs and
92 RBIs on the season….Outfielder Brian Barton is hitting .323 with
18 HRs, 71 RBIs and 37 stolen bases on the year.