Wendle Climbs Quickly Through System and Eyes Cleveland
Mike B. | On 20, Feb 2014
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need to answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.
When climbing a mountain, the goal is to reach the top, regardless of how long it takes to get there. But reaching the top a little quicker certainly isn’t a bad thing, right?
That’s the case of Indians minor leaguer and non-roster invitee to big league spring training, Joe Wendle. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft out of West Chester University in Pennsylvania and since then, he’s taken the first several steps up the mountain rather quickly.
“I was an older player when I was drafted,” Wendle said. “I was a senior out of college, so I think that attributed to me moving a little bit faster. I’m thankful at every opportunity.”
The four years at West Chester was just what Wendle needed to start a budding professional career. He signed quickly in June 2012 and was able to play the entire Short Season-A schedule at Mahoning Valley where he hit .327, with four home runs and 37 runs batted in. After the Scrappers’ season ended, Wendle was promoted to the Lake County Captains, where he helped them advance to the Midwest League semifinals. The Captains lost in a decisive third game in the semifinal round.
It would be the only Lake County experience for Wendle, as he broke spring training last season and played the entire season at High-A Carolina where he was the double play partner of Francisco Lindor for the first half of the season. Wendle hit .295, with 16 home runs and 64 runs batted in and a .372 on-base percentage. Wendle’s power numbers are impressive for the Carolina League—a league known for being a pitcher’s league and one without much power from hitters.
After a strong 2013, the 23-year old second baseman was able to advance his game in the Arizona Fall League. A league reserved normally for Double-A and Triple-A talent, Wendle made another notable jump toward the big leagues when he hit .311 in 16 games for the Surprise Saguaros. He was in the starting lineup and helped lead the Saguaros—along with Indians prospect Tyler Naquin—to the Arizona Fall League Championship. The AFL experience is one that every minor leaguer remembers and cherishes.
“That was certainly a really good experience for me and a lot of fun,” Wendle said. “When it’s freezing cold at home and it’s nice and warm in Arizona, it’s always nice. Playing with guys from the Red Sox, Orioles and Brewers, I was able to learn a lot.”
“Getting to play with some of the better prospects in baseball was really a cool experience. Winning it was just icing on the cake.”
Wendle’s play in the last year and a half in the organization has drawn the attention of Indians’ Team President, Mark Shapiro. Shapiro has said as early as Wendle’s first season in the organization that they feel he could be a player that could make a quick climb through the organization. Getting to interact with Shapiro through the Tribe’s Winter Development Program in January, Wendle is impressed and honored by the Tribe’s top man’s comments.
“Any time you hear something like that of Mark Shapiro’s status, it’s definitely exciting,” Wendle said. “Just the attention to detail that those guys have, and that they know who I am and what I do on a daily basis is really encouraging to me.”
It’s likely that Wendle will open the season with Double-A Akron in 2014, where he could be Lindor’s double play partner again. He could also be competing with another Tribe prospect, Ronny Rodriguez for time in the field.
Wendle has always been a second baseman and struggled at third base when the Indians tried to convert him in 2012 at Mahoning Valley. Instead, Wendle will be one of the many Tribe middle infielders—along with Lindor, Rodriguez, Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez—trying to fight their way to the top of the organization. That’s a congested race, especially with Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis playing up the middle for the Indians, currently. Turning 24-years old on April 26, Wendle needs to continue to progress to the big leagues as he could quickly be deemed old by minor league standards in another year or two.
Currently, Wendle doesn’t let the competition with other middle infielders or his quick climb affect his preparation. His goals for the 2014 season and his own development remain simple. Every thing else will take care of itself.
“I just like to set really short term goals. I just like to compete every day and put myself in a good position to win, whether it be mentally or physically or both.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer