Posts By Todd Paquette
Adam Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft 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.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter, Gerrit Cole, and the Indians own, Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer, with a fastball that sat around 95 m.p.h. as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 m.p.h. over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013, Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series because he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.
Nellie Rodriguez has been on an absolute tear lately. Rodriguez has been the hottest hitter out of all of the Indians minor league affiliates. Rodriguez for the week had 11 hits in 26 at bats hitting .423 while scoring eight runs, with two doubles, five homeruns and 12 runs batted in. Rodriguez is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak in which he scored 12 runs and added three doubles, six homeruns, 16 runs batted in with a .372 batting average. During the streak Rodriguez has seen his average go from the low .224 up to .249 and is now second in all of the Midwest League in homeruns with 15, which is also the most in all of the Indians minor leagues.
Rodriguez started out in Low-A ball for Lake County in as an 18-year old in 2013, which proved to be a tough task as he struggled out of the gate hitting only .194 with one homerun in 160 at bats. The Indians transferred him down to their Short-Season team the Mahoning Valley Scrappers during the middle of the season last year. Still only 18-years old, Rodriguez found success and regained his confidence, finishing the season leading the Scrappers in hits (75), home runs (9), doubles (16), RBIs (37), total bases (118), walks (29) and OPS (.818) and was named the New York-Penn League’s Player of the Week for July 22.This year as a 19-year old, Rodriguez found himself starting the 2014 season in a familiar place back in Lake County with the Captains. Rodriguez had a strong start to his 2014 season but has struggled since until the past week and a half.
The Columbus Clippers will be represented by two players this year at the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game. Both first baseman Jesus Aguilar and catcher Roberto Perez were selected to be on the International League roster, and will be taking on …
Three days, that’s all it took for the RubberDucks to lose arguably their three best players.
Wednesday June 25, Indians top prospect and current RubberDuck shortstop Francisco Lindor took a bad hop on the infield directly to his face and suffered a small non-displaced nasal fracture. The good news on Lindor is he should only be out for 7-10 days. Thursday June 26, second baseman Joe Wendle, suffered a right hamate fracture which will most likely require surgery and is a couple month process to return. The hamate bone is a small bone located in the wrist and it is usually fractured while a player is hitting. Friday June 27, Tyler Naquin, the top outfield prospect in the Indians farm system, was hit-by-pitch fracturing his right hand.
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
To say that Akron RubberDucks centerfielder Tyler Naquin has been hot at the plate lately would be an understatement. Scorching, sizzling, scalding, searing might be a better way to describe his bat of late. Naquin the Indians first pick from the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft hit .485 for the week with 16 hits in 33 at bats. Naquin scored eight runs, added a double, triple, two homeruns, four runs batted in and two stolen bases. Naquin is currently on a 15-game hitting streak, which he has maintained an unbelievable .453 average with 29 hits in 64 at bats.
Naquin’s hot hitting started before the 15-game streak, however. In his last 48 games Naquin has amassed 72 hits, leading to a .365 batting average while scoring 44 runs and adding 12 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter in the RubberDucks lineup. Interesting enough it took the first 16 games of the season for Naquin’s bat to get started. In his first 16 games he hit only .200 with 22 strikeouts, leading some to wonder if Naquin was indeed ready for the jump to Double-A to start the year. Naquin, sporting a robust .327 average on the season, has put that talk to rest and then some.
This week the All-Star rosters were named for both the Carolina League and Midwest League. The Carolina Mudcats had three players named to the Carolina League team in LHP Ryan Merritt, SS Erik Gonzalez and OF Anthony Gallas. Merritt a left-handed starting pitcher is tied for the league lead in wins with fellow teammate Shawn Morimando with six. He leads the league with a 1.71 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who has missed sometime with a finger injury, is sixth in the league with a .309 batting average. Gonzalez has 15 extra base hits, 26 runs batted in along with eight stolen bases and is a tremendous defender. Outfielder Anthony Gallas got off to a tremendous start to the season but has cooled off some lately. Gallas leads the league in doubles with 21 in only 54 games. Gallas sports a .279 average with seven homeruns and 27 runs batted in.
Despite Lake County struggling and sitting in last place, the Captains have three players representing them in the Midwest League All-Star game in RHP Robbie Aviles, RHP Jordan Milbrath and C Eric Haase. Aviles has been in another world leading the league with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. His ERA is so good the next closest pitcher is more than a half a run higher at 2.02. Aviles control has been outstanding giving up only seven walks in 56 innings pitched. Jordan Milbrath has been a pleasant surprise as a 35th round draft pick in last year’s first year player draft. Milbrath has a 2.92 ERA and has only allowed 42 hits in his 52.1 innings pitched. Eric Haase is third in the league in homeruns with 10 despite only playing in 37 games on the year. Haase along with the 10 homeruns has four triples on the year helping him to lead the league with a .522 slugging percentage.
Indians farmhand Adam Plutko may have started his professional career slower than expected, but he’s speeding up quickly.
Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft 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.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole and the Indians own Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer with a fastball that sat around 95 mph as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 mph over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013 Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.
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 Cleveland Indians have called up two of their more intriguing prospects this week in first baseman Jesus Aguilar and left-handed relief pitcher Kyle Crockett. The two couldn’t have taken much more of different paths to the Major Leagues than they did. Aguilar was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela at the ripe old age of 16. Aguilar has already spent six seasons in the minor leagues from the Indians Dominican Summer League team all the way up to Triple-A Columbus this year playing for all six minor league affiliates for the Indians. Kyle Crockett, on the other hand, has spent less than a year in the Indians minor league system. Crockett was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft out of the University of Virginia and has made only 36 appearances for three different teams during his short minor league career. Crockett was pitching for Double-A when he got the call.
With the NFL draft starting on Thursday and running through the weekend I thought I would try to incorporate a draft type feel to this week’s minor league recap. Every player I discuss below I am including the round the player was drafted, the team who drafted the player and the year they were drafted. There was a lot of movement throughout system this week. I’ll touch on a few of the bigger names. Of course, right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin (19th round by the Indians in 2006) got the call up to the big league club from Triple-A Columbus and looked great getting his first win in the majors since 2012. Third Base prospect Giovanny Urshela (non-drafted free agent by the Indians in 2008) was having a huge year for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks was moved up to Columbus.
One of the most surprising moves of the week was the demotion of Lake County Captains shortstop Dorssys Paulino, (non-drafted free agent by the Indians in 2012) thought to be one of the Indians top prospects, getting sent down to Extended Spring Training to work on a position change. Since the start of last season, Paulino has committed 52 errors at shortstop for Lake County. Yes that’s not a typo 52 errors. Paulino is thought to be working on a switch to the outfield. Hopefully the switch on defense will help him at the plate as well where his was also struggling. The Indians are still incredibly high on his bat as he was already repeating at the Low-A level this season as a 19-year old which is still very young for the league. There is still plenty of time for Paulino to turn things around but this is certainly a discouraging development.
No way, Jose!
Jose Ramirez is back after making his debut with the Indians as a 20-year old September call-up last year where he impressed hitting .333 with four hits in 12 at bats scoring five runs. The 21-year old prospect has been called up to Cleveland with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis going on the disabled list with a right oblique injury. Ramirez has had an impressive start to the 2014 season at Triple-A Columbus. In 23 games at Columbus, Ramirez had a .319 average with 12 runs scored, 29 hits, three doubles, four homeruns, 17 runs batted in, eight stolen bases and eight walks.
Ramirez last season had only three homeruns in 482 at bats in the minor leagues. Already this season he has a career high of four homeruns in just 91 at bats. Power is not Ramirez’s game with his 5-foot, 9-inch, 165 lb. frame. He’s a tremendous contact hitter that offers above average speed and has great versatility being able to play many different positions on the field. Ramirez was mostly playing second base for Columbus this year but can also play shortstop, third base and even some outfield. Ramirez started the year by reaching base in the first 21 games that Columbus had played this season. It will be interesting to see how the Indians use him. Will he be the full time replacement for Kipnis at second while he’s out? Will he be in a time share of sorts at second base with Elliot Johnson and Mike Aviles? Finally will the Indians utilize him as a super utility man and play him all over the field? The kid just seems to have that it factor and will be exciting to watch.