All minor league players dream of getting that call up to the majors and getting their chance to shine. However for almost all players that doesn’t happen overnight, and the next most important step is that step from the Double-A to the Triple-A level, moving them one step closer to their final goal. Danny Salazar is a starting pitcher who got that important call up to Triple-A Columbus this season from Double-A Akron and has pitched quite well since moving up. Salazar has allowed 26 hits in 24.1 innings, has only 13 earned runs, walked just nine batters while striking out 29.
By Christian Petrila
The Columbus Clippers currently house the MiLB’s greatest collection of “4-A” players.
Definition: Players who always excel in AAA, but never live up to expectations in the Majors.
In fact, there are so many 4-A guys that had they produced well in Cleveland, the Indians’ struggles of late could be a totally different story.
One June 3, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left the game early after limping his way down the baseline. The next day he was placed on the 15 day disabled list and the Indians called up injury fill-in Juan Diaz from Columbus. The injury seemed to call into question among fans not only his value on the field, but his value in the trade market. Many looked to the Indians Minor Leagues and asked who within the organization could replace Cabrera at short. The Tribe is thick with young talent at shortstop at the Minor League level, and among there is almost certainly a couple future Major League players. Three of the Indians top 20 prospects play short, and four of their top 20 prospects play the position. Among all those young players, six have made themselves worthy of note as possible future Indians.
Francisco Lindor is one of the most recognizable names that have come through the Indians system in the last decade. He has sparked hope and excitement in Cleveland’s future, and the hype is not just smoke and mirrors. Drafted 8th overall by the Tribe in 2011 at the age of 17, Lindor has climbed the ranks to debut this season for the Carolina Mudcats, the Indians High A affiliate. The now 19 year old Lindor currently boasts a .299 batting average, a .367 on-base percentage, and a .416 slugging percentage. He looks like the real deal, excelling both offensively and defensively at every level. His skills have earned him the Indians organization top prospect and Baseball America’s 28th best prospect in baseball. He is certainly on the fast track to the Major League level but is still at the very least a year away.
This season has not gone exactly according to plan for Lonnie Chisenhall. Most saw this as his breakout season where he would hit the ground running for the Tribe but that has not been the case. During his time in Cleveland this season, Chisenhall struggled heavily earning only a .213 batting average with just three home runs and 11 RBIs in 26 games played. While some might see these stats and be willing to pass on Chisenhall, his work this season in Columbus proves that would be a poor decision, as he has a batting average of .371 with five runs, 14 RBIs and 23 hits in only 62 at bats during his 15 games at Triple-A.
When you are trying to build a baseball team you need to find cornerstone players that are not only successful but are also have high quality personality wise. The Columbus Clippers have just that in their closer Preston Guilmet. Guilmet is not just a great baseball player, which he has shown saving 13 out of his 14 chances, but also a great person who his teammates and manager love to be around.
Guilmet grew up in Rosefield California, where he played pitcher and infield. He dominated the high school level, giving up just five runs in 70.1 innings pitch his senior year, along with a 14:1 strikeout to walk ratio. During his junior and senior years he has voted team captain and all-metro pitcher.
The Columbus Clippers have recently been doing their best Bullpen Mafia impressions, as the three best bullpen pieces for the Clippers, Fernando Nieve, Matt Langwell and Preston Guilmet have been nothing short of spectacular this season. Between the three pitchers they have throw a combined 64.1 innings while only allowing 46 hits, 15 earned runs, 21 walks and striking out 68 batters. The bullpen roles seem to have been clearly defined with Nieve coming in as a middle reliever, Langwell as the setup man and Guilmet as the closer for the Clippers.
Carlos Carrasco has struggled in Cleveland with control, not just over the baseball but over his emotions as well. During his only start this season in Cleveland, Carrasco was pitching poorly against New York Yankees when he gave up his second home run in less than four innings. The next batter, Kevin Youkilis, Carrasco intentionally hit and was ejected from the game and suspended for eight games.
After getting suspended for the second time for hitting a batter as an Indian, rather than take a roster spot serving his suspension, Carrasco was sent down to Triple-A Columbus, with the hopes he can pitch well and show that he is worth bringing back. So far he has pitched well, going 23.2 innings over five games, giving up only 14 hits, five runs, four walks and one home run while striking out 24 batters and earning a 1-0 record with one save.
Many fans this spring saw the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka and were optimistic that he could come in and help this Indians rotation. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as he has failed to find success at even the minor league level, pitching 20.2 innings with an ERA near four with 18 walks and an 0-2 record with Triple-A Columbus.
Matsuzaka has had a relatively successful yet short career in the majors, helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2007. In 2008 he posted his best season ever, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 154 strikeouts. After that 2008 season he began to struggle with injuries as his stats became worse with less innings pitched, leading up to having Tommy John surgery in 2011. He attempted to come back in 2012 but posted awful numbers for the Red Sox going 1-7 with an ERA of 8.28.
While much of the country watched closely as their favorite NFL teams stocked up this weekend on new prospects who could pay immediate dividends on their respective football teams, it is easy to lose track of players and drafts in Major League Baseball due to the expansive minor league system utilized in the sport.
It has been five years now since the drafting of the class of 2008. One of the more intriguing players to watch for the Cleveland Indians from that class this season will be Lonnie Chisenhall.
The former first round pick (29th overall) in that 2008 draft, Chisenhall made his first Opening Day roster for the Indians this season, after appearing at the major league level in each of the previous two years. He was given the starting nod after the team parted ways with Jack Hannahan after the completion of the 2012 season. Hannahan had been presumably keeping the seat warm at the hot corner for Chisenhall for the last two years.
Chisenhall is one of several players worthy of note in the Cleveland organization that has ties to the 2008 draft class.
Trevor Bauer has been has been the talk of many Indians fans this season, hoping he could be the missing piece in the rotation. While he struggled in his only start this season for the Tribe, he has been pitching quite well in Columbus, striking out 16 batters in 13 innings while only giving up 10 hits, three runs and four walks.
The Columbus Clippers have started the season well, opening with a 6-5 record. The key so far to the Clippers success has been driving in runs to have very high scoring games. The driving force for the offense has been Jeremy Hermida, who leads the Clippers in home runs, runs batted in, walks and batting average.
So far this season, it seems that Hermida has rebounded from an injury plagued 2012 season to refind his 2011 form. In 11 games this season for the Clippers, his batting average is .297 with an OBP of .409. Hermida however is not just a contact hitter, as he already as driven in 10 RBI’s, placing him third in the International League, and a slugging percentage at .568, which is currently in the top 20 in the International League.
Hermida was the 11th pick in the 2002 First Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins, straight out of high school in Marietta, Georgia. He played right field in high school the majority of the time but has also played left and center field, an ability he carried with him after he was drafted.
The excitement of the new season is not just contained up on the shore of Lake Erie, but is going strong in Columbus as the Clippers start their new season. This season marks their fifth year in their beautiful new ballpark, Huntington Park.
The Clippers ended last year by closely missing the playoffs, finishing with a record of 75-69. Last season was viewed as a disappointment, as their 2011 season was capped off by winning their second consecutive Governors Cup. This season however is viewed with the same sense of strong optimism that follows the Indians into the new season.
The Clippers this season are lead by a new manager Chris Tremie. Tremie played in the majors from 1995 through 2004, being a journeyman moving through six organizations. After his career was over, he started managing for the Tribe through the Gulf Coast Indians, working his way up to the Akron Aeros for the last two seasons and now the Clippers this year.