Young Aguilar Still Needs More Time to Grow Before Reaching Cleveland
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the Spring Invitees and their chance to make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster.
By Mike Brandyberry
In recent seasons, Jesus Aguilar has been ahead of the curve. Now, to complete his journey he just needs to keep his hands back and make better contact with the curve.
Aguilar, finds himself in his first Major League Spring Training this year, a Spring Invitee with the Cleveland Indians and a product of the organization’s minor league program. Aguilar has been a member of the Tribe’s organization for five seasons, but is still only 22-years old. He doesn’t turn 23, until June 30 this summer.
Last season Aguilar had his best season as a professional, splitting time between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. In 107 games with the Mudcats, Aguilar hit .277, with 12 home runs and 58 runs batted in while playing in the Carolina League. Aguilar’s numbers should be valued, even higher as the damp air in the Carolina League has been known to give pitcher’s an advantage against hitters.
After advancing to Double-A Akron Aguilar quickly became a middle of the order presence for the Aeros and helped them win the Eastern League Championship. Aguilar hit .292, with three home runs and 13 runs batted in during his 20 games with the Aeros.
The 6-3, 257 lb, bruising, first baseman has quickly climbed through the Tribe’s player development system the last two seasons. Aguilar signed with the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in Nov. 2007 at only 17-years old. After two seasons in the Dominican Summer League in 2008 and 2009, Aguilar came to the United States in 2010, playing in the Arizona League and Short Season-A Mahoning Valley. But, in 2011, Aguilar hit 19 home runs at Low-A Lake County, along with a .292 average, before being promoted to High-A Kinston for the final month.
After the 2011 season, Aguilar played in the Arizona Fall League, a league mostly reserved for Double-A and Triple-A prospects. He excelled, hitting .339, with three home runs and nine runs batted in only 59 at bats.
The 2012 season also brought Aguilar honors ahead of his time. He, and Tribe’s top prospect Francisco Lindor, were selected to play in the MLB Future’s Game in July as part of the All-Star festivities. Aguilar went 1-3, with a walk and run scored for the World Team. His base hit was off Orioles’ top prospect, Dylan Bundy. He played the entire game at first base.
“This is an honor to play in this game,” Aguilar told Paul Hoynes after the Futures Game. “I’m really excited. My family in Venezuela is very happy for me.”
While Aguilar’s future may be very bright, the 22-year old will have a very uphill battle to make the Indians this spring. Aguilar has had success offensively at every level, but still struggles with off-speed pitching. It’s likely he will spend the season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus if he continues to have the same success he has had the last two seasons in the Tribe’s system.
“I don’t try to hit bombs, I just try to make hard contact,” Aguilar said in July. “When you try to hit homeruns (you often) swing under the ball (and pop it up).”
Aguilar will get an opportunity early in the Tribe’s Major League camp to demonstrate his power ability and improved contact, but with Mark Reynolds, Chris McGuiness and Mike McDade all in front of Aguilar, it is unlikely he will be given serious consideration to make the 2013 Indians. However, considering McGuiness and McDade are more of the journeyman-type player and Reynolds is only signed to a one-year contract, a solid 2013 season by Aguilar could lead to a place with the Tribe in 2014.
Aguilar may be the Tribe’s first baseman of the future—a position that has been filled for seasons by journeymen—could eventually be filled by the young, powerful , prospect. His ability to continue to grow and develop in 2013 will determine just how quickly he can assert himself into the role.
Photo: Matthew White/DTTWLN photographer