In the midst of a dwindling season, the Indians were holding on to one of their outfielders, who wasn’t exactly needed on the team anymore. In order to capitalize on value, and trade an asset when there was an offer available, the Indians front office jumped on the opportunity. That is how the Indians came to acquire infielder Eric Stamets from the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder David Murphy.
Stamets, 24, was initially drafted by the Angels back in the sixth round of the 2012 amateur draft. He made his debut with the Angels Low-A affiliate in 2012 where he played in 62 games and hit .274/.323/.347. In those games, he had 20 RBI, 13 doubles, one triple, one home run, and seven stolen bases. He then followed up his solid debut season with an even better 2013 at High-A Inland Empire where he hit .281/.335/.375 and had 53 RBI, 28 doubles, four triples, four home runs, and 16 stolen bases in 126 games.
Unfortunately, his offense never seemed to blossom after that season.
He would go on to struggle at the plate in 2014 at Double-A Arkansas. In 106 games, he only hit .235/.293/.314 and had 13 doubles, one triple, four home runs, and only 23 RBI. This started to become the norm for Stamets and his bat never really was able to adjust to the Double-A level. He was then sent there again to start the 2015 season, where his struggles continued at the plate. Prior to his trade to Cleveland, Stamets was hitting .248/.306/.360 with 13 doubles, one triple, three home runs, and 23 RBI. Once he arrived in Akron, he played in 33 games where his bat was was worse – he hit .197/.252/.248 and had one double, one triple, one home run, and 12 RBI.
The 2016 season has been a bit of a different story for Stamets thus far.
Going into the offseason, the Indians knew there was a lot of work to be done with Stamets’ bat. His defense is near gold glove caliber, so he doesn’t need any help there. The goal for Stamets is to find a way to put the barrel on the ball much more often than he has. So far this season, that’s worked out for Stamets.
In ten games with the Double-A RubberDucks, Stamets is hitting .275/.333/.350 with one home run, seven RBI, and two stolen bases.
“I give Eric and our hitting department a lot of credit for working with Eric and giving him a good game plan going into the offseason,” manager Dave Wallace says. “I think we’ve seen what a good offseason can do for a guy who had some things he needed to work out offensively that we saw last year. Really proud, and really happy for him”
Stamets also appeared in a number of big league games during spring training. It’s common for the minor league guys to fill in for the regulars after the first couple of innings, and while Francisco Lindor is the mainstay at shortstop for the foreseeable future, Stamets and infielder Erik Gonzalez seem to be some pretty nice depth options going forward. Stamets even saw some time as a starter for the big league club during spring training this year. He surely made an impression on the guys upstairs, and it’s part of the reason why they traded for him this past summer.
During last season, Stamets was able to live out one of the more memorable moments of his career. Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, only a short two hour drive from Akron, Stamet’s mom was able to come finally watch her son play professional baseball. After struggling at the plate during most of his time in Akron, Stamets was able to do something that not many players are able to do in their career, and that was hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. This was all in front of his mom, who was used to either watching her son play on TV or listening to his games on the radio. In the first game that she got to watch her son play the game he was born to play, he was able to be the hero, if only for just one night. It was a pretty cool moment for everyone involved.
For most of last season, Wallace went with his super utility man Todd Hankins as his leadoff guy. To start off this season though, Wallace has opted to give Stamets some chances in the leadoff spot, and it has paid dividends so far.
“I told both of those guys that they both deserve to be at the top of the order. They’re both top of the order guys. I told them Eric is going to start the first week at the top, and then Hank(ins) going to spend the next week there. It has nothing to do with performance, we want those guys to get at bats and get experience up there,” Wallace said.
Even if it’s only in short spurts, spending some time in the leadoff spot gives you an opportunity to get more plate appearances and show off what you can do to your manager. For Stamets, it’s important that he continues to provide the kind of defense that he always has, but now he needs to make sure he can bring his bat back to how it was in 2012-2013.
We know the type of hitter that Stamets has the potential of being. Now he just needs to find a way to get back to that level, whether it’s a matter of adjusting to a higher level of pitching, or finding a way to keep his head in the game and not get too overwhelmed at the plate. Whatever Stamets is doing right now, hopefully he can keep it up. His defense alone can warrant him a spot on a bench, but if his bat can keep up, he might eventually become a starter for a major league club.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com