The Akron Aeros have gone through some growing pains in 2013. A young team with a lot of new faces has thus far meant inconsistency for Akron. There have been ups and there have been downs but one point of positive production for the club has been right fielder Carlos Moncrief.
Playing in his first season in Double-A, the 24-year old Moncrief is quietly having a very solid year. His .250 batting average on the season would be the highest of his minor league career. He displays good patience at the plate with an 11% walk rate and he is striking out less than ever. Last season at Carolina he struck out in 31% of his plate appearances, an awful number; this season he has nearly cut that in half to 19%. His defense has also come on strong, and he has a cannon of an arm in right field. Moncrief has cut down three runners already on the bases; at Lake County in 2011 he racked up 18 outfield assists.
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.
So far, 2013 isn’t going as Mitch Brown had hoped, but there is certainly still reason for optimism surrounding the Lake County Captains young right hander.
At just 19 years old, Brown is just about to turn the calendar on his first year as a professional baseball player. He has had some mixed results thus far, but overall, his attitude is upbeat and optimistic.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” Brown said. “(The Captains) give you everything you need to be successful and kind of put you in the right position. It’s awesome.”
Coming into his 2013 season, Levon Washington was ready to start out strong. Having had hip surgery just over a year ago, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound center fielder from Gainesville, FL, was looking forward to a season of smoother sailing, unmarred by injury.
Unfortunately, Washington found himself with a pulled right hamstring during his first game of the season.
Going into a situation surrounded by hype and expectation can be a daunting task for anyone. It can be especially challenging for a professional athlete that is yet to reach his 20th birthday.
So far, shortstop Francisco Lindor is pulling it off with aplomb.
The Cleveland Indians’ top rated prospect is having a sensational season so far for the Carolina Mudcats. On Monday, Lindor was named as the Carolina League Hitter of the Week. Wednesday, the Indians named him their Minor League Player of the Week. The native of Puerto Rico batted a smooth .500 between April 29 and May 5 (13-for-26) and also hit his first home run of the season.
Giovanny Urshela is one of the youngest players on the Akron Aeros’ roster. Only top prospects Ronny Rodriguez and Jose Ramirez are younger than the 21 year old Urshela on the Akron Aeros. He stands as one of six Aeros players on the Indians top 20 prospect list. The Cartagena, Columbia native signed with the Indians as a free agent at the age of 17. He spent all of last season playing for a Carolina Mudcats team that was skippered by current Aeros Manager Edwin Rodriguez. For the Mudcats he batted .279 with 14 home runs in 113 games. He plays third base, but can play up the middle as well, in fact, with Jose Ramirez out of the lineup on Sunday for the Aeros, Urshela made the start at shortstop.
Urshela has been a steady hitter for the Aeros as of late. On April 30 he hit a solo home run, a single, and scored two runs. On May 3 he singled, doubled, scored a run and drew a walk. He then hit three singles over the next two games to give him a total of five hits in three games. He raised his batting average from .244 to .271 in one week. He earned Cleveland Indians Minor League Player of the Week honors in the third week of April on the strength of 10 hits, seven RBI, and a .333 batting average. He is making a strong case for another Player of the Week award.
For a while, it looked as though the Lake County Captains had fallen into a rut. The young team was losing more games than they were winning, giving up leads in late innings and producing plays marred by numerous errors. Fans weren’t the only ones discouraged by the games, however – Captains’ players noticed the slump just as vividly.
“I know we had been struggling and it seemed like we couldn’t win any games,” left fielder Logan Vick said of his team’s performance throughout the month of April. “We were giving up leads and just not putting hits together to get big wins.”
The absence of big wins, however, changed on Monday night, April 29, at Classic Park, where Vick played a vital role in reversing the Captains’ string of losses. The Captains won both of their games during a double header with the Kane County Cougars, restoring faith in both fans and players alike.
First base has long been a weak point for the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe has suffered through some more than questionable characters over the last few years. Casey Kotchman, Matt LaPorta, and Andy Marte bring up some horrifying memories. Long has the farm system been filled with sub-par first base talent like Beau Mills, Lars Anderson, Russ Canzler, and Michael Aubrey. It seems an endless string of poor decisions has plagued the Indians with less than mediocrity at a high offensive position.
All is not lost however, as a new first base candidate has emerged from the ranks. Jesus Aguilar is just 22 years old starting the season at first base for the Akron Aeros. He has a solid bat, power, and an ever improving glove. This season he ranks at the Indians number nine prospect according to Baseball America. He proves to be the best the Tribe has to offer at first base in their minor league system.
Aguilar has played very well for the Aeros thus far. Through 21 games he holds a nice batting line of .280/.355/.390. His batting average is at a good level for a power hitting first baseman in Double-A. His on-base percentage is very good, showing plate discipline to go along with his power. With all this talk of power, it seems odd that he holds a slugging percentage of .390. This number is well below his .443 career average, and even further below his last season’s total of .461.
The first time he was on the mound in Lake County, the 6-foot-3, 173-pound, right-hander Luis DeJesus was pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his life.
While it’s not unusual for players to be moved around to different positions in order to satisfy roster needs, DeJesus’ move during the 2012 season from starter to reliever threw a wrench in the young pitcher’s routine.
Before the season started, there was quite a bit of hype within the Cleveland organization over the several top prospects that would be starting the season with the Tribe’s Class A affiliate Carolina Mudcats.
With high draft picks like Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin beginning the year in Zebulon, plenty of eyes were certain to be fixed on Five County Stadium over the summer.
One player that did not receive the fanfare of Cleveland’s higher profile minor league stars but is excelling and climbing up the ladder within the Indians’ organization with equal success is Mudcats’ infielder Jerrud Sabourin.
It’s only 23 miles from Sugar Land, Texas, to Houston, but when Scott Kazmir takes the mound this evening at Minute Maid Park in his hometown, in front of friends and family, it will be quite the milestone in a long, tough journey back to the big leagues.
Tonight will be Kazmir’s first start in more than two years. His last appearance, allowing five runs in one and two-third innings, on April 3, 2011, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was one of the several low points in the decline of a two-time All-Star. Now, he’s hoping the journey finally has found smoother roads.
“It’s very exciting,” Kazmir said. “I’m proud of myself to be able to come this far over the last couple years. It’s been great.”
Before he was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Eric Haase had made a decision that will shock Ohioans – the Michigan native from right outside Ann Arbor had committed to playing baseball at the Ohio State University.
“I know almost half the baseball team at Michigan,” Haase said of his almost-traitorous departure. “That would have been a rough Big Ten match-up there.” Haase said that Michigan had recruited him “a little bit,” but OSU had, “a good staff put together, so I thought that would be a better choice for me.”
Instead of alienating himself, though, and becoming an unheard of Wolverine in a sea of Buckeyes, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound Haase found himself headed for Arizona to catch for the Indians Arizona League.