Aviles finally showing why the Indians took a chance on him in Minor League Roundup
Todd Paquette | On 24, May 2014
Lake County Captains right handed pitcher Robbie Aviles continued his impressive season to date as he made two starts this past week earning one win while throwing 13 innings, allowing just six hits, three runs, zero walks and striking out seven. Aviles—originally projected to be a first or second round pick out of Suffern High School in Suffern, New York—partially tore the elbow ligament in his right arm a week before the draft, undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Indians took a chance on Aviles by drafting him in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft, not knowing if he would come back as the first or second round pick he was projected to be. Aviles was able to make his professional debut near the end of the 2011 season after a long rehab. It had to be wondered if Aviles would ever return to pre-Tommy John form that the Indians had gambled on, as he would struggle sporting a 5.22 ERA in the two and a half years after making his professional debut. Still only 22 years of age, Aviles seems to finally be back, as his 2014 season has been nothing less than spectacular ranking second in the Midwest League in both ERA 1.65 and WHIP 0.85 along with only allowing 32 hits and five walks in 43.2 innings of work. Indians fans are hoping that Aviles has regained the form that had him so highly touted before his injury.
The Columbus Clippers started the week winning two of their first three games before ending on a down note losing three straight to close it out. Columbus is now 22-23 on the season, currently in second place in the International League Western division and four and a half games behind the Indianapolis Indians.
My hitting star of the week is outfielder Carlos Moncrief. Moncrief, making his debut in Triple A this year, struggled early in the season but turned it on this week. Moncrief hit .300 for the week with six runs scored, six hits, one double, one triple, two home runs and three runs batted in. Moncrief was a 14th round pick in 2008 as a pitcher out of Chipola Junior College. After struggling on the mound, the Indians converted him to an outfielder before the 2010 season. Moncrief continued to make some nice strides each year in his conversion to the field and really broke out last year with Double A Akron. With Akron, he hit .284 with 17 home runs and 75 runs batted in 129 games. Moncrief possesses some speed and has a terrific outfield arm which would be figured as a former pitcher. Coming into the season Moncrief was rated the Indians 10th best prospect by MLB.com and could possibly make his Major League debut at some point this season.
My pitching star of the week is left-handed relief pitcher Nick Hagadone. Hagadone threw three and one-third shutout innings, giving up only one hit, walking none and striking out eight of the 10 batters he faced. Hagadone has been up and down with the Indians since 2011 finding varying success. Blessed with an electric arm that hits the mid-90’s, no one questions Hagadone’s stuff. The only thing holding him back is his control or lack thereof. Hagadone allows too many runners on base and frequently finds himself in trouble trying to dig out of self-created holes. Hagadone came over from the Red Sox along with Justin Masterson and Bryan Price in the Victor Martinez trade back in 2009. Hagadone was the number 55 overall pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2007 out of the University of Washington.
By the Akron RubberDucks standard, going four and three could be classified as a down week. Going into this week the team had won 16 of their last 18 games played. The RubberDucks are now (30-16) on the season in first place leading the Bowie Baysoxs by four games.
My hitting star of the week is outfielder Tyler Naquin. Naquin only hit .250 for the week but drove in seven runs on eight hits including a double and a home run. Naquin was the 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Indians. In college for Texas A&M, Naquin won back to back batting titles and was considered to be one of the most polished collegiate hitters in the draft. For the Aggies, Naquin was primarily a left fielder but the Indians have transitioned him to a centerfielder. Naquin possesses a spectacular arm and has some decent speed as well. Naquin got off to a slow start at Double A Akron to start the year but has picked it up big time raising his average up to .285 and ranking second out of all Indians minor league players with 49 hits. Coming into the year Naquin was ranked as the Indians firth best prospect by MLB.com.
My pitching star of the week is right handed starting pitcher Cody Anderson. Anderson made one start this week throwing five innings giving up five hits, one unearned run, and one walk while striking out seven. Anderson came into the year with high expectations after being named as the Indians minor league pitcher of the year in 2013. Anderson made 23 starts last year for the high-A Carolina Mudcats and three more starts for Double A Akron at the end of the season. In his 26 starts of 2013, Anderson went 9-4 struck out 122 batters in 136 innings and finished with a 2.65 earned run average. Anderson was the Indians 14th round pick in 2011 out of Feather River College as a relief pitcher. With his size, strength and delivery, the Indians felt he could make the transition to be a starter. Anderson has not let them down by turning himself into one of their best pitching prospects—number four by MLB.com. While Anderson has struggled some at Double A this year he still possess great stuff; routinely hitting mid 90’s with his fastball with a nice curveball and pretty good control.
The Carolina Mudcats have to be glad the week is done. The Mudcats played eight games in seven days due to making up a postponed game and came out with just two victories. On a positive note, the Mudcats play their next seven games in a row at home. The Mudcats are now 21-23 on the season and currently sit in third place in their division seven and a half games out of first.
My hitting star of the week is infielder/outfielder Todd Hankins. Hankins hit .318 on seven hits, three doubles, four runs batted in and added a stolen base. Hankins, a 15th round pick out of Seminole Community College in 2011, is more known for his speed than bat. Hankins led all of the Indians minor leagues in 2012 with 33 stolen bases. Last year Hankins stole 31 bags and already has eight in 2014. Hankins is very versatile as he is able to play multiple infield positions and the outfield as well. Hankins has already made two trips up to Triple A Columbus this year when the Clippers needed some extra depth off the bench.
My pitching star of the week is left handed starting pitcher Shawn Morimando. Morimando made one start, earning one of the team’s two wins on the week. Morimando went six innings giving up just three hits, one run and one walk while striking out four. Both left-handed starting pitchers Ryan Merritt and Morimando make for a nice one two punch for the Mudcats. While Merritt hasn’t received most of the accolades this year, Morimando has been no slouch. Morimando is currently 5-2 with a 3.38 earned run average which would be a lot lower if not for one bad start. Morimando was a 19th round selection in 2011 by the Indians out of Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Morimando pitched all of last year with the Mudcats holding his own as a 20 year old. Now only 21, it shouldn’t be too long before Morimando climbs his way up the ladder up to Double A Akron if he has continued success.
Injury note for the Mudcats: star shortstop Erik Gonzalez went on the seven day disabled list with a left middle finger strain.
Lake County put together their best week of the season in winning five of the seven games they played. Coming into the week the Captains had lost five straight games. Still sitting in last place with a record of 16-31 and 12.5 games back, hopefully the team can keep the momentum going to climb out of the cellar.
With too hard of a choice to decide, I went with two hitting stars of the week second baseman Claudio Bautista and third baseman Grant Fink. Bautista came into the week with his average below .200 on the season and had been struggling all season at the plate. The light must have come on, however, because Bautista had 12 hits in just 27 at bats on the week, good for an outstanding .444 average. Bautista added five runs batted in with four doubles and a home run. Bautista signed with the Indians as a 17 year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. Bautista made his debut with the Captains as a 19 year old at the tail end of last season after spending most of the time at Mahoning Valley. Bautista was able to raise his batting average over 30 points just in this week alone.
Fink, not to be outdone, didn’t have the robust average that Bautista did during the week hitting by only batting .250, but he more than made up for it with seven runs batted in on seven hits with two doubles and a grand slam. Fink also scored seven times and added five walks. Fink, drafted just last year in the 23rd round out of Missouri Western State University, is making his Captains debut this year. Fink leads the team in both runs batted in with 23 on the year as well as in walks with 30. Not having played a full year yet professionally, it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Fink can produce in a full season for the Captains.
My pitching star of the week is right handed starting pitcher Adam Plutko. Plutko made one start in which he received a no-decision, going seven innings with just three hits, one run, one walk and striking out seven batters. Plutko was drafted just last year in 2013 in the 11th round out of UCLA. Unlike most players making their professional debut in the same year that they were picked, the Indians held Plutko out until the 2014 season as they were concerned over the amount of innings he had already thrown for the Bruins in the 2013 collegiate season. Plutko has been a strikeout machine so far for the Captains. Though his earned run average sits at 4.08 based mostly on one bad start, Plutko has been dominant by striking out 58 batters in only 46.1 innings pitched. Plutko ranks second in the Midwest league with those 58 strikeouts, only trailing first place by five punch-out’s. Plutko already has struck out 10 or more batters twice in his nine professional starts including a high of 13 on the eighth of May. Being a college pitcher and probably even a little advanced for the Low A Midwest League, Plutko should advance quickly through the Indians minor leagues if he shows continued success.
One other piece of news to note from Lake County is that former shortstop Dorssys Paulino, who was sent back to extended spring training two weeks ago to work on a position change to the outfield, made his return this week and has been starting in left field. So far, so good for Paulino in the field and it seems to have taken some pressure of his bat as he is 6-18 in his return, good enough for a .333 average.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer