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 spoke about a few players and topics from the Farm Director
Meetings this week.
On the Farm Director Meetings:
The farm directors from every organization meet every year at this time
to finalize the rosters for the Arizona Fall League (AFL). Also,
the meetings provide an opportunity to address the growth in Latin American
countries and numerous labor laws. Several updates are provided
from the commissioner’s office to keep them abreast of several challenges
with things like steroids, etc. Farrell mentioned the new steroid
policy is working, in that only 0.4% of all players tested have tested
positive, whereas in 2004 under the old policy 8.8% of all players tested
On Tom Mastny: He has
done nothing but win and put up consistent numbers at every stop on
the minor league ladder. Coming into this season, in his two year
minor league career he had a 26-8 record and 2.24 ERA (75 appearances,
55 starts). The Indians acquired him in a December 2004 trade
when they sent utility infielder John McDonald to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians converted him to a reliever during last season, and he has
adapted well to the role. He generates a lot of swing and misses
with his fastball because of the good deception he creates with his
delivery and arm action. He has a somewhat unorthodox delivery,
and is very mature. His length (he is 6’6”) allows him to
get good leverage on hitters, and his pitch selection is very good.
On Ryan Garko: He has
always been a very confident offensive player. He was in the midst
of a bad season at Buffalo this year average-wise (.248), but the HRs
(15) and RBIs (59) were there. He also has a track record of being
a very good hitter, having hit .303 with 19 HRs and 77 RBIs at Buffalo
in 2005, and in his 2 ½ year minor league career coming into this season
owned a career .310 average and 45 HRs with 195 RBIs. His time
in Buffalo the last two years has been dominated by him focusing on
the position change from catcher to first base. A big reason he
had some trouble with the batting average this year at Buffalo is he
was trying to get lift on the ball to hit more home runs, which resulted
in a negative effect on his swing mechanics.
On Andrew Brown:
Right now, it is important to get a good gauge on him since he is out
of options next season (note: then why did they wait so long to call
him up?). He has tremendous velocity on his fastball, but his
breaking ball is average. Earlier in the season, he went through
some delivery adjustments because of some bad habits he had developed
in Spring Training. His poor control and performance early in
the season most likely is a result of getting accustomed to these adjustments.
On September callups:
The organization has yet to determine who will be recalled or added
to the 40-man roster this September. At the beginning of the season
the Indians earmarked several players on who would get a September opportunity.
They will call up a catcher and some pitchers, with some getting a few
starts to get an additional look at them.
On the current callups:
The organization has a strong belief in their young players, and they
know the farm system is going to provide good young players to help
create an impact with the major league team. Even though the Indians
season has turned sour, there is some sense of gratification with the
current situation as it has provided a great opportunity to evaluate
so many young players at the big league level. The insight being
provided for 2007 with these players is something that could not have
happened in a contending season.
Going into this season, it
seemed a forgone conclusion that recently acquired mega-3B prospect
Andy Marte was penciled in as the everyday 3B for the Indians in 2007.
Well, that is why you write these things in with a pencil.
Marte most certainly will still
get strong consideration for the everyday job in 2007, but it now appears
he will have to earn it as hot hitting 3B prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff
likely will battle for the everyday gig in Spring Training. Kouzmanoff
will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from
the Rule 5 Draft, and being on the 40-man and already in AAA and performing
well puts him right in the plans for 2007. Both Marte (1) and
Kouzmanoff (3) will have options remaining next year, so neither should
have a leg up on the other in that regard.
Kouzmanoff has a combined .384
average and .675 slugging percentage at Akron and Buffalo, and both
marks lead all the minors. In only 302 at bats, in addition to
the high average, Kouzmanoff has blasted 20 HRs and has 65 RBIs.
While he doesn’t walk much (30), he also doesn’t strikeout much
either (43). Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo recently commented
that one of his biggest strengths as a hitter is he knows his hitting
lanes and understands how pitchers are working him. He has a smooth,
consistent swing, uses the entire field, and doesn’t get big with
his swing and pull off the ball (could a good comp be Kevin Youkilis
It will be interesting to see
how the Indians handle the Kouzmanoff/Marte situation this winter.
Whether or not they give Kouzmanoff an honest shot to win the job in
Spring Training, or if they use one as trade bait this offseason to
land bullpen help and/or a veteran, big bat in the outfield remains
to be seen.
Indians Tabbed Trade Deadline
At least that is what Baseball
America’s Jim Callis believes. In a recent article, Callis
states the Indians came away as the biggest winners in the recent July
31st trade deadline sweepstakes, and said “for the cost
of a first-base platoon and a declining closer, Cleveland came away
with three possible everyday big leaguers.” On the three prospects
the Indians obtained, Callis considers SS Asdrubal Cabrera a “defensive
wiz”, catcher Max Ramirez a potential “standout offensively and
defensively”, and mentions Shin-Sin Choo could become the everyday
So, He IS Human Afterall
After going a ridiculous 6-0
with a 0.40 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 45.2 IP in his last seven starts,
Miller came back to Earth in his last start Wednesday. Well, somewhat.
Miller struggled early on with his fastball command and ended up pitching
only 6 innings while giving up 3 runs and striking out 3. He also
took the loss in the game, his first since June 26th. Had he won
the game, it would have been his 14th victory on the season
and would have tied him with Paul Byrd (1992) for most victories in
a season in Aeros history. While by Miller’s standards of late
this is a “bad” outing, it still was a quality start.
Also, according to Farrell,
Miller likely will not be called up for a cup of coffee with the Indians
in September. There had been some speculation that since he’ll
be added to the 40-man roster this offseason that he might get a spot
start or two in September with the parent club. Coming off an injury
in 2005, the Indians want to get him through the year healthy while
limiting his innings pitched.
Confirmed: Crowe to 2B
All the speculation the past
two months was confirmed this week as the Indians officially announced
that hot outfield prospect Trevor Crowe will move to 2B. The former
No. 1 pick in 2005 is expected to start playing 2B during Akron’s
next homestand since several roving instructors will be present.
The idea is to expose him some to 2B the last 20 or so games of the
regular season, return him to the outfield and play CF in the playoffs,
and then play full-time at 2B in the AFL.
He’ll likely get 50-60 games
of playing time at 2B in the AFL, which could be enough for the Indians
to make a decision on whether the position change will be permanent
before the start of next season. If Crowe can make the switch,
he would fill a huge void in the system at 2B, and could be an option
at 2B for the Indians sometime in 2007.
Staying At Catcher?
Accordingly to Assistant GM
Chris Antonetti in a report from the Akron Beacon Journal this week,
recently acquired catching prospect Max Ramirez is still being evaluated
at the catching position. Antonetti went on to say that the organization
is using the rest of this season to get a feel for Ramirez’s abilities
as a catcher, and then in upcoming seasons they will continue to evaluate
his arm strength and defense behind the plate. Antonetti feels
Ramirez has an advanced, mature approach at the plate, and because of
his offensive abilities the organization wants to find out what position
may suit him best long-term (he is a converted 3B).
Also, of note, Ramirez left
last Saturday’s game with an injured left wrist after a collision
at home plate. Ramirez had the wrist x-rayed after the game, and
they came back negative. He missed three games and returned to
the Captains lineup as the DH on Wednesday.
The success up and down the
Indians minor leagues this season in the outfield has been outstanding.
While players like Brad Snyder and Trevor Crowe got most of the
pub going into the season, others like Ryan Goleski, Brian Barton and
Jordan Brown have jumped into the outfield scene.
Brown is having a very good,
yet quiet, season. In his first year in the Indians system, Brown
has put together a nice season at High Class-A Kinston. When outfielders
Crowe, Goleski and Barton were promoted to Akron earlier in the year,
the K-Tribe needed someone to take the reigns as the focal point of
the offense, and Brown has delivered. To date, the 22-year old
Brown is hitting .292/.355/.486 with 15 HRs and 83 RBIs.
Also, Goleski bounced back
from a horrendous 2005 season and is hitting a combined .314 with 24
HRs and 98 RBIs in only 389 at bats this year at Kinston and Akron.
Barton is proving that his 2005 campaign was no fluke, as he is hitting
a combined .317 with 18 HRs and 72 RBIs along with 37 steals in only
391 at bats this year at Kinston and Akron.
Head of the Class
Kinston 1B Stephen Head has
not had an impressive season with the batting average (.230), but he
has performed well in the run production department with 14 HRs and
67 RBIs. Also, his plate discipline has been solid, as he boasts
a 49:66 walk to strikeout ratio. Currently, Head is in the midst
of a 37 consecutive game on-base streak. In reaching base in 37
consecutive games, he passed Lynchburg’s Brian Bixler (36-game streak)
as the longest streak in the Carolina League this year.
Buffalo’s recent resurgence
has them in the thick of the International League’s wildcard race.
In going 19-9 in their last 28 games, the Bisons (67-59) have closed
the gap and are only 4 games behind wildcard leading Rochester.
The Bisons have only 17 games left, but a key 4-game series the last
week of the season against Rochester still gives the Bisons a chance.
Amazingly, the Bisons have played well the last month even after key
contributors like Jeremy Sowers, Ryan Garko, Andy Marte, Andrew Brown,
Tom Mastny, Joe Inglett, and Franklin Gutierrez were plucked from the
roster by the parent club.
The Bisons have been paced
by excellent starting pitching performances, namely from Brian Slocum
(6-2, 2.86 ERA) and Jeremy Guthrie (7-5, 3.09 ERA). Last week,
Slocum took a no-hitter into the 7th inning of a game, and
ended up going 6.2 innings giving up 2 hits and 2 unearned runs while
striking out 8. Guthrie followed that performance up with a complete
game, giving up 1 run on 5 hits and striking out 6.
Other Playoff Races
A little over two weeks remain
in the minor league regular season. Here is a quick rundown of
where each of the other affiliates stand:
- Akron (76-48) is in
1st place by 6 games in the Eastern League’s Southern Division.
- Kinston (30-24, 77-47
overall) is in 2nd place and 4 games back in the Carolina
League’s Southern Division.
- Lake County (29-23)
is in 2nd place and 7 games back in the South Atlantic League’s
- Mahoning Valley (30-26)
is in 1st place by 0.5 games in the NY-Penn League’s Pinckney
- Burlington (28-26)
is in 3rd place and 3.5 games back in the Appalachian League’s
Of note, Kinston already qualified
for the playoffs due to their first half title. Kinston is still
playing for something, though, as winning both halves would give Kinston
an all-home series to open the playoffs against a wild-card team.
Brandon Phillips Trade Revisited
Well, maybe Jeff Stevens is
worth more than a bag of balls afterall. The 22-year old right-handed
pitcher acquired as the infamous player to be named later in the Brandon
Phillips trade had been very impressive of late at Lake County before
he was bombed Thursday night. Prior to Thursday night's game,
he carried a string of 21.1 straight shutout innings into the game.
The key to Stevens success has been very good command of his fastball,
which has made his secondary pitches (curve and changeup) more effective.
Stevens ran into trouble Thursday night, getting bombed to the tune
of 7 runs in 4.2 IP. Even after the bad outing, in 12 starts at
Lake County, Stevens is 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.11 WHIP to go along
with 54 strikeouts in 58.1 IP.
B-Pro Talks Tribe
minor league talent guru Kevin Goldstein mentioned a few Tribe prospects
in a recent chat (thanks to colleague Steve Buffum for the heads-up
and for forwarding the chat excerpts). Goldstein considered lefty
reliever Tony Sipp and right-handed reliever Tom Mastny solid relief
prospects. Sipp because he has a good fastball and misses bats,
and Mastny because he throws strikes, has an assortment of pitches in
his arsenal, and his height allows him to get good angles on hitters.
The most notable part of the chat was his comment on outfielder Trevor
Crowe. Currently, he ranks Crowe as one of the top 7 centerfielders
in the minors, but a move to 2B would rank him somewhere between 2nd
and 4th at 2B in all the minors (assuming he handles the
position adequately from a defensive standpoint).
Mahoning Valley All-Stars
Six Mahoning Valley Scrapper
players were selected to the NY-Penn League All-Star game in Aderdeen,
MD this past week. Mahoning sent three pitchers to the game: Josh
Timlin (5-1, 2.39 ERA), Luis Valdez (6-3, 2.21 ERA), and Neil Wagner
(0.75 ERA, 12 saves). Also, infielder Andy Lytle (.302, 0 HR,
17 RBIs, 10 steals), outfielder Jason Denham (.318, 0 HR, 11 RBIs) and
catcher Matthew McBride (.313, 3 HRs, 23 RBIs) made the team.
Lytle went hitless in two at bats, McBride doubled and scored in his
lone at bat, and Denham went hitless in two at bats. On the pitching
front, Valdez started the game and went 2 innings without giving up
an unearned run on 1 hit, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. Wagner pitched
1 inning allowing 1 hit, 1 walk and struckout 2. Timlin did not
Kinston SS Brian Finegan is
currently on the disabled list with a broken bone in his left foot.
He has currently graduated from a hard cast to a walking boot, and is
on a strict rehab program with the training staff at Akron. Unfortunately,
he won’t return to Kinston, even for the playoffs, as his season is
over. But, if things go well, he is expected to report to the
Florida Instructional League in mid-September and see limited action.
Right-handed pitcher Justin
Hoyman, a 2004 2nd round pick from the University of Florida,
will not pitch this season. After a very good start at Lake County
in 2005 where he was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in nine starts, he was shutdown
due to a sore shoulder. He had surgery on the shoulder to fix the problem,
but will not pitch again until Spring Training.
Players of the Week
Congrats to Kinston pitcher
Ryan Knippschild for earning Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors.
In two games last week, Knippschild was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In
7.2 IP he only allowed 2 hits, didn’t walk a batter and struckout
Also, Lake County pitcher Jeff
Stevens was rewarded for his recent hot pitching as he took home South
Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors. In two games last
week, Stevens was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In 12 IP he only allowed
5 hits and 3 walks, and struckout 14.
With the recent callup of Andrew
Brown to Cleveland, Eddie Mujica is now the closer at Buffalo….Akron
1B Ryan Mulhern returned to full-time action at 1B this past week, and
is wearing a brace to protect his bruised right knee….Recently signed
16-year old Australian infielder Jason Smit was named to the Australian
Under-19 team They will compete in the upcoming 2006 IBAF Junior
World Championships….Catcher Armando Camacaro was called up to Buffalo
from Kinston to fill the backup catcher void left after Einar Diaz was
traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash…. Right-handed relief pitcher Dan Eisentrager
was added to the Lake County roster this week. Eisentrager is
recovering from surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow….
When Jensen Lewis joined the Akron starting rotation last week, it pushed
right-hander Dan Denham to the bullpen….Akron right-handed reliever
Scott Roehl was sent back to Kinston in exchange for lefty Reid Santos.