By Mike Brandyberry
After a successful college career right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong still has many adjustments to make on his road to the big leagues. While the road seems to be progressing quickly, adjusting to professional baseball is taking time.
“I think the biggest thing to get used to is the long season,” Armstrong said. “Throwing every day, you don’t have those random days off when you don’t pick up a baseball and stuff like that. You never know when you are going to throw either.”
Armstrong was 18th round selection by the Indians in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. As a draft eligible sophomore, Armstrong signed right at the August 15 deadline and thus delayed the start of his professional career. He made up for his delayed start by pitching in both the Arizona and Dominican Instructional Leagues over the winter.
Then Indians named Jordan Smith of the Lake County Captains (A) as this week’s Indians Minor League Player of the Week. Smith has hit safely in eight of his last nine games with a .459 AVG, (17-37), two home runs, and 10 RBI’s. He has a hit in 15 of his last 17 games with a .492 AVG., (29-59), three doubles, two home runs, and 15 RBI’s.
Smith was drafted by the Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 amateur draft out of St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN. The outfielder just celebrated his 22nd birthday on July 5.
Smith began his career in Mahoning Valley last season, where he appeared in 65 games. During his time with the Scrappers, he batted .300, recorded 73 hits, accounted for 36 runs, and produced 47 RBI’s. He had 20 doubles, one triple, and stole three of four bases successfully. Smith was hit by pitchers nine times and intentionally walked once. Smith finished tied for second in the New York-Penn League in RBIs, third in on-base percentage (.403) and tied for fifth in doubles.
This season, Smith is in Lake County where he is batting .322, 95 hits, accounting for 41 runs, and 44 RBI’s in 73 games. He has hit 16 doubles, five triples, five home runs, and stolen five out of eight bases successfully. He has been hit by pitchers three times, and intentionally walked three times.
By Steve Eby
They say you can never have enough pitching. But for the Indians organization, the saying should state that you can never have enough middle infielders.
The Indians system is loaded with talent at the second base and shortstop positions. At the big league level, two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and All-Star snub Jason Kipnis are cogs in the Indians lineup and Jason Donald has shown some promise in his backup role and during his limited starting time last season.
Down on the farm, the Columbus Clippers play former third round pick Cord Phelps, who Tribe fans saw hit a walk-off homerun last season. At Akron, the Aeros have Juan Diaz who surprised most people by getting a call up to Cleveland in late May this year, two seasons after being acquired in the Russell Branyan trade with Seattle. The Advanced-A Carolina Mudcats have an impressive duo with another third round pick Tony Wolters and Ronny Rodriguez splitting time between short and second, and the 2011 first round pick Francisco Lindor is tearing the cover off the ball in Lake County for the Captains.
By Sean Tuttle
This week’s Indians Minor League Player of the Week is rookie infielder, Joseph Wendle. Wendle was drafted in this year’s June amateur draft in the sixth round out of West Chester University.
In his first 16 games with the Single-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Wendle is batting .356, accounting for 10 runs and producing 10 RBI’s. He has five doubles and two triples while drawing seven walks and only striking out three times. Wendle is two for three on stolen base attempts.
Wendle is originally from Lincoln University, PA. and attended Avon Grove High School before furthering his education at West Chester University.
The 6-1 ft. tall 190 lbs. infielder was a four year starter at second base, and captain of the team. He was named to Tino Martinez Watch List (DII player of the year) for the third straight year in 2011. Wendle was ranked among the top 10 prospects in DII by Baseball America and ranked among the top 10 all-time in 11 offensive categories at West Chester. He was named to the Coastal Plains League All-Star squad in the summer of 2011 where he batted .377 average and was the team MVP.
By Steve Eby
Everyone has big life decisions to make. But for the Tribe’s top second base prospect Tony Wolters, his decision was separated by over 2,400 miles.
“After I got drafted I didn’t know if I was going to go to school or not,” Wolters said.
Wolters attended Rancho Buena Vista High School, about 40 miles from downtown San Diego, California. He was given a full scholarship from the University of San Diego, but before he was able to attend a class, he was drafted in the third round of the 2010 Amateur Draft by the Indians.
“I waited to sign and it gave me a lot of time to weigh my pros and cons,” Wolters said. “I was really comfortable with USD because that’s where my sister went and it’s only about 45 minutes from where I live.”
The lure of playing professional baseball can also be a bit misleading. Most players that play professionally never make it to “The Show.” Playing in the minor leagues is a grind and the patience that it takes can take its toll on a lot of players. “I had a lot of friends that got drafted too,” Wolters said. “I got to talk to them and pick their brains about what pro ball is all about. I knew what I was getting myself into.”
By Steve Eby
The All-Star Futures Game made its debut in 1999 when the Midsummer Classic was held in Boston. Most of the who’s-who in baseball today played for either the World Team or the USA Team before the start of their Major League career. Big names like Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutcheon, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Verlander, Joey Votto and David Wright all represented their organizations and became All-Stars for their big league club at some point during their careers.
The Indians have had success in the game also, sending players like Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez), Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore to play in the game that is played the Sunday prior to the All-Star Game. In fact, in 2003, Sizemore stood out among the rest as the MVP of the game held at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Hoping to add his name to the list of big time sluggers and Tribe All-Stars is Indians prospect Jesus Aguilar, who played in the game Sunday night in Kansas City.
Aguilar, a six-foot, three-inch 250 pound monster of a man, is the first baseman for the Indians Advanced Class-A affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats. The honor of being selected to the Futures Game is an honor that is well deserved for the slugger, as Aguilar is currently batting .305 with 11 homeruns, 45 RBIs and a .908 OPS for the Mudcats. Aguilar was excited to take part in the All-Star festivities along with Lake County Captains prospect Francisco Lindor. “I’m really excited because it’s my first Future’s Game,” Aguilar said. “I’ve tried to work hard.”
By Christian Petrila
The 2012 Futures Game was a showcase of the brightest young talent the Major Leagues have to offer. In this case, the USA used a nine-run sixth to dominate the World Team to win, 17-5.
Aguilar was the starting first baseman for the World Team. His first at bat came in the top of the second against Pittsburgh’s flame throwing pitcher Gerrit Cole. After falling behind 1-2 and seeing some pitches between 98 and 100 MPH, Aguilar drew a seven-pitch walk. He came around to score when Cubs prospect Jae-Hoon Ha hit a two-out home run to give the World a 3-0 lead.
By Mike Brandyberry
For a player who focuses on his weaknesses and ways to improve, he sure has had a lot of success.
“I have to understand that this game should be called ‘failure,’ because you’re going to fail a whole lot more than you’re going to succeed,” Indians minor leaguer Tyler Holt said.
While Holt has suffered failures and setbacks like any professional baseball player, his success is quite noteworthy. Holt was promoted to Double-A Akron on July 5 in only his second full season as a professional.
Holt was a 10th round draft pick in the 2010 Amateur Draft by the Indians from Florida State. In 2009, he played for Team USA, hitting .371, with 28 runs scored and 24 walks. Last season at Single-A Kinston he was first in walks (78), third in stolen bases (34) and second in on-base percentage (.365).
By Sean Tuttle
Thomas Neal was named the Eastern League Player of the Week and Indians Minor League Player of the Week for June 25 – July 1st during which time he batted .500 AVG., 14-28, with six doubles, three Home runs, and 10 RBI’s.
The Inglewood, California native was first drafted in the 36th round of the 2005 Amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants out of Poway High School. In 2011, Neal was acquired by the Tribe in a trade for infielder Orlando Cabrera.
Upon joining the Indians in 2011, Neal was optioned to Triple-A Columbus where he appeared in 10 games. In 38 appearances at the plate, he had nine hits for a .250 average, one RBI, walked once, struck out seven times, and was hit by a pitch once.
Neal has spent the entire 2012 season in Double-A Akron. He has appeared in 66 games of the 85 and is batting .309 average. He has 72 hits, produced 31 RBI’s, and accounted for 44 runs. He has 17 doubles, one triple, and six home runs. Neal has stolen four bases while getting caught six times. He has drawn 22 walks while striking out 46 times. He has also been hit by pitchers seven times this season.
By Steve Eby
Imagine a little boy walking into a Major League stadium for the first time. He’s wearing a baseball glove on one hand and holding his father’s hand with the other. As he crosses the turnstile, his eyes light up by how big the ballpark is. Never before had he been in a building so massive. He enters the stands and sees thousands of excited people just waiting to cheer on their team. Then he looks out onto the field and sees the greenest grass he has ever seen. On that grass are the heroes that until this point, he has only watched on television playing the game that he loves so much.
“Dad, one day I’m going to play on this field,” he says with confidence, “as a big leaguer.”
It’s not difficult to imagine. It happens every day at every stadium across the country. A similar or exact scenario has occurred to most people. Unfortunately for them, most peoples dream of playing in the Major Leagues for their favorite team remains a dream forever.
For Tribe prospect Anthony Gallas, however, that dream is a real possibility.
“I don’t think it could get any better than that,” Gallas said, “I feel like that is the ultimate dream and the ultimate goal. I’m working towards it every day.”
Gallas grew up in Strongsville, Ohio, a suburb less than 25 miles from Progressive Field, the home of his favorite boyhood team, the Cleveland Indians. When Anthony wasn’t playing baseball, he spent his time as a child watching or listening to his Tribe. “Those ’95 Indians and ’97 Indians, Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome, those guys were awesome.” Gallas remembers that, “the summers (in Cleveland) are pretty much summed up by (Tom) Hamilton’s voice and Rick Manning’s voice.”
By Sean Tuttle
Russ Canzler was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round of the 2004 amateur draft out of Hazleton High School in Hazleton, PA. He was granted free agency in November of 2010, and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays later that month. He was later purchased by the Indians on January 31, 2012.
Canzler was named to the Northwest League postseason All-Star Team in 2005 and given the MiLB.com Short-Season Round Tripper award after leading the league in homers, RBIs and doubles. He batted .342 (38-for-111) against lefties and .237 (51-for-215) against righties in 2008.
Canzler started the 2009 season with a 15-game hitting streak at Single-A Daytona and promoted to Double-A Tennessee on May 1st. He finished second in the Southern League with 21 HRs for Tennessee in 2010 while batting .287 (102-for-355) with 66 RBIs in 112 games played at third, first, right and left fields.
By Sean Tuttle
Carolina Mudcats outfielder, Anthony Gallas, was named Minor League Player of the Week by the Indians. Gallas was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an undrafted free agent on June 19, 2010. He attended Kent State University, where he hit 49 home runs over four seasons.
In his first season as a member of the Indians’ organization, Gallas saw 50 games in the Arizona Rookie League and four with Single-A short season Mahoning Valley.
While in Arizona, Gallas batted.276 with 10 doubles, three triples, two home runs, and 23 RBI’s. He drew 11 walks, was caught stealing once on three attempts, and struck out 40 times. In the four games he spent with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Gallas had four hits in 17 appearances for a .235 average. He hit one double, one home run, knocked in three runners, and struck out six times.