Indians All-Star Futures Game Prospect Aguilar Shows Big Power and Big Potential
By Steve Eby
The All-Star Futures Game made its debut in 1999 when the Midsummer Classic was held in Boston. Most of the who’s-who in baseball today played for either the World Team or the USA Team before the start of their Major League career. Big names like Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutcheon, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Verlander, Joey Votto and David Wright all represented their organizations and became All-Stars for their big league club at some point during their careers.
The Indians have had success in the game also, sending players like Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez), Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore to play in the game that is played the Sunday prior to the All-Star Game. In fact, in 2003, Sizemore stood out among the rest as the MVP of the game held at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Hoping to add his name to the list of big time sluggers and Tribe All-Stars is Indians prospect Jesus Aguilar, who played in the game Sunday night in Kansas City.
Aguilar, a six-foot, three-inch 250 pound monster of a man, is the first baseman for the Indians Advanced Class-A affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats. The honor of being selected to the Futures Game is an honor that is well deserved for the slugger, as Aguilar is currently batting .305 with 11 homeruns, 45 RBIs and a .908 OPS for the Mudcats. Aguilar was excited to take part in the All-Star festivities along with Lake County Captains prospect Francisco Lindor. “I’m really excited because it’s my first Future’s Game,” Aguilar said. “I’ve tried to work hard.”
Aguilar’s hard work has made him known widely as the best power prospect in the Tribe organization. “I don’t try to hit bombs, I just try to make hard contact,” Aguilar said. “When you try to hit homeruns (you often) swing under the ball (and pop it up). “ This hard contact has pushed the 22-year-old first baseman through the Tribe’s minor league system since he signed with the Indians as an undrafted free agent in November, 2007. Aguilar has gotten consistently better and better, having an All-Star season in 2011.
Splitting time last year between Lake County and Kinston, Jesus batted .284. His 82 RBIs led the Indians organization and his 23 homeruns were second most. Aguilar also finished third among Tribe minor leaguers with 131 hits. For his efforts, Jesus was named a Midwestern League All-Star midseason and a MiLB.com Organization All-Star in December.
With his outstanding numbers in 2012, the accolades should keep coming for Aguilar. “You can see him getting better through the season,” Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “He’s showing his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field and that was one of the goals in the offseason. The power is coming when he uses the whole field. He will provide power and average and is an RBI guy. He’s also a very good defender.”
Aguilar is not known for his glove, but Rodriguez is confident that he can improve. “He’s a very good size for a young guy, but he moves around the bag very well. At this point, I would say he’s an above average fielder.”
Aguilar knows that despite his manager’s praise, he needs to improve defensively if he wants to advance in the organization. “I’ve got to work on my glove,” Aguilar said. “I need to work on my footwork.”
The modest Aguilar’s work with the glove was good enough for World Team manager Bernie Williams to start him Sunday night during the Futures Game. Aguilar did not disappoint his temporary skipper. In the bottom of the first inning Aguilar’s glove was tested immediately. Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton, whom ESPN announcer Steve Berthiaume called “the fastest man in America” during the telecast, chopped the second pitch of the inning toward Aguilar at first. Jesus fielded the ball cleanly and made a smooth flip to Royals pitching prospect Yordano Ventura to get the speedy Hamilton on a tough play. Aguilar then showed the baseball world what he was capable of with his bat.
In his first plate appearance, Aguilar faced Pirates prospect and 2011 first overall draft pick Gerrit Cole. Jesus worked the count full and forced a 7 pitch walk. In the at bat, he fouled off some tough pitches from the right hander. Aguilar scored a run on a 2-run homer the next at bat from Cubs outfield prospect Jae-Hoon Ha.
In his second trip to the plate, Aguilar batted against Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy, who many consider to be the top prospect in all of baseball. Unfazed, Jesus scorched a 1-1 low and away 96 mph fastball into centerfield for a leadoff single. Aguilar advanced to second on a single by Ha, but was thrown out at third trying to advance on a wild pitch. What was ruled a caught stealing by Giants catching prospect Tommy Joseph, proved costly to the World Team when Angels prospect Jean Segura singled that would have likely scored Aguilar. The World Team failed to score in the inning.
In Aguilar’s third plate appearance, the USA Team finally was able to retire the big first baseman, but it was a productive out. Aguilar flew out to deep centerfield just in front of the warning track off of Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon. The ball was hit deep enough to advance White Sox prospect Carlos Sanchez from second to third base. Sanchez scored on a base hit during the next at bat. His fourth and final at bat was also a fly out, this time a rocket toward the left field gap off of Mets prospect Zack Wheeler that was chased down and ended the inning.
For the Futures Game, Aguilar finished 1-3 with a walk, a run scored, an assist and a handful of putouts. His performance during the game left an impression on baseball fans, but it was his performance during batting practice that left an impression on ESPN announcer and former Indian Aaron Boone. Boone said during the game’s telecast that Aguilar, “was putting on a show during batting practice. Watching him take batting practice (Sunday)…he was a large human hitting some balls a long way.” Obviously impressed by Aguilar’s thunderous bat, Boone called Jesus a “big power prospect for the Cleveland Indians.”
Through all of the awards, accolades and All-Star appearances, not to mention the positive feedback from his manager (a former big league skipper) and a former Major League All-Star, Aguilar stays humble. “For me, I want to have a good year,” Aguilar said. “I try to play my game. I (just try to) hit the ball hard.”
If he keeps it up, Aguilar could be hitting the ball hard at Progressive Field sooner than later.
Photo by Nikolaus © 2012 Carolina Mudcats