Posts By Laurel Wilder
One major thing the Cleveland Indians had going for them last season was a strong pitching staff; specifically, their starting rotation was one of the best in the game.
Luckily, that depth doesn’t end with the big league roster. The Indians boast a strong group of pitchers all the way through their minor league system, with some of the strongest having been showcased last season with the Lake County Captains.
The Lake County pitching staff last season became the first staff in the history of the Captains organization to have five pitchers boast 100+ strikeouts on the season. Among these five pitchers was a 21-year-old from Cape Coral, Florida, named Sean Brady.
Claudio Bautista started in the Indians system five years ago, playing in the Dominican Summer League during the summer of 2011. He moved up to the Arizona League Indians for the 2012 season, where he hit .273 in 37 games. Bautista had six home runs during that stretch and eight stolen bases, indicating that he might just be a real threat to opposing teams. A late teenager during those inaugural seasons, Bautista was giving glimmers of hope that he could be a true future star for the Indians ballclub.
However, those early successes began to dull as Bautista moved up into lengthier seasons.
At first glance, Yu-Cheng Chang doesn’t seem like your typical shortstop. The 20-year-old is tall – 6’ 1” – and lanky, physically looking like more of an outfielder or corner infielder than a middle infielder. He played outfield during high school back home in Taiwan, but started his playing career as a youngster at short, a spot the Indians organization has decided he should continue to try.
Playing shortstop for the Lake County Captains last season, Chang demonstrated that he certainly does have some growing into the position to do. His 25 errors were second on the team to third baseman Taylor Murphy’s 32, though the 25 from Chang paled in comparison to the struggles his former teammate Dorssys Paulino had at shortstop in his early days as a Lake County Captain. Having to grow into the position, though, shouldn’t cause alarm for Indians fans. Chang has shown himself to be a quick learner, and has a big arm that will help him wherever he is on the field.
Greg Allen isn’t flashy. If you weren’t paying attention, you may have missed his name last season. The outfielder played under the radar, his impressive performances highly touted but not widely talked about until later in the season. Allen quickly became one of the strongest members of the Indians minor leagues that most people hadn’t heard of. However, all that seems to be changing.
In a style reminiscent of – dare I say it – Michael Brantley, Allen is a smooth outfielder would makes challenging plays look routine. He does not flaunt his successes, instead taking them in stride. He’s unassuming, but fast, strong, and an asset to the organization.
Ah, the new year. A time for past transgressions to be forgiven and/or forgotten, and for better habits to be formed. The time for the essential New Year’s Resolution to take hold and shape the pattern for the coming year. Even the Cleveland Indians cannot go unresolutioned.
While they may have their own personal, private resolutions, I think they can all stand to have some public resolutions thrown their way. How can the Cleveland Indians make 2016 a better year than 2015? Why, maybe some of them can take these words of advice to heart.
Although they haven’t won a World Series since 1948, the Cleveland Indians haven’t gone without recognition. While nothing can replace the prestige of a World Series win, there have been quite a few other awards that have come the Tribe’s way throughout the years. They’re not World Series rings but, in true Cleveland fashion, they are all, of course, major awards.
Along with winning the World Series in 1948, the Indians garnered some individual player recognitions, as well. Lou Boudreau was far and wide recognized as one of the most vital assets to that 1948 team, winning the Most Valuable Player award, The Sporting News Player of the Year, and The Sporting News AL Player of the Year. The Sporting News also recognized teammate Bob Lemon as the AL Pitcher of the Year in 1948, giving the Indians a few extra gloating opportunities.
The Indians had a few more brushes with glory in the 1950s, despite their teams as a whole not being able to make it back to the World Series’ winners’ circle. Al Rosen was named the 1953 MVP, and Herb Score was the Rookie of the Year in 1955. Score also earned the title of Rookie Pitcher of the Year from The Sporting News, where Lemon was again named the AL Pitcher of the Year.
Nellie Rodriguez has always had potential. He has always had the height and strength to make a difference at the plate. Having attended George Washington High School in New York, the same school Manny Ramirez calls his alma mater, Rodriguez has always had to deal with comparisons to the great slugger.
It just hasn’t always materialized.
When Rodriguez started his 2013 campaign in Low-A Lake County, it appeared that his size and power potential weren’t all there. In 47 games with the Lake County Captains in 2013, he hit only one home run and posted a .194 batting average. He was sent down to Mahoning Valley to work on his performance, and the change in scenery seemed to be exactly what the 19-year-old needed. In 73 games with the Scrappers, Rodriguez managed to hit nine homers and amass a .287 average. He was quickly shaping up to be the strong presence at the plate that he was rumored to be. But could he continue that strong showing through the system? Was his success in Mahoning Valley just a product of hitting a lower level of pitching?
Last offseason wasn’t especially easy for Justus Sheffield.
The then-18-year-old pleaded guilty to charges of underage drinking and criminal trespass last February after breaking into a house on January 12, 2015.
With the court case and charges filed against him, Sheffield’s name quickly became known for more than just his stand-out pitching abilities, which he had been drafted in 2014. It easily could have spiraled out of control, and the Indians could have acquired their own Johnny Manziel-esque player.
Sheffield, however, refused to let the offseason snafu define him.
Indians fans who are always be clamoring for the elusive right-handed power bat may not be fans of Bobby Bradley. Yes, the 19-year-old can crush the ball over the fence and drive in numerous runs for his team, but he bats left-handed.
Hopefully, fans can get over that.
Coming into the 2015 season, Bradley was highly lauded for his abilities at the plate. There’s always a chance, of course, that this may just be all talk and his actual performance level could be a bit lower than the expectations set. Bradley, though, lived up to the hype.
A year ago, Indians fans were busy discussing if the team had enough rotation depth to find their fourth and fifth starters. Heck, even their third man was up for debate. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco had strong 2014 seasons, but Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer remained question marks for the team. Carrasco hadn’t even had a full strong season, instead emerging in the second half of 2014 as a dominant starter after having spent time in the bullpen and AAA. Kluber was, arguably, the only starter in whom the team could place extreme confidence.
What a difference a year can make.
This past season, the Indians emerged as having one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar and Bauer cemented themselves as a dominant, fearful starting four. The big question now, however, pertains to the last spot in the rotation – the fifth man.
The last few seasons have turned out to be quite an experience for Josh Tomlin.
He joined the Indians big league club in 2010 as a starter, and stayed in that role for the next three seasons. He was one of the stronger pitchers on the team, cementing himself as a mainstay in the rotation in 2011 when he went 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA. Cleveland fans began to know the Texas native as the Cowboy, and grew to expect strong performances from him on the mound.
However, Tomlin’s pitching took a bit of a turn in 2012, when he went 5-8 with a 6.36 ERA. He pitched in 21 games for the Indians that season, starting in only 16. Something wasn’t quite right, and, in August, Tomlin underwent Tommy John surgery.
A few seasons ago, a young, flame-throwing pitcher emerged onto the scene amidst praise that he could possibly be one of the next big things for the Indians pitching staff. Danny Salazar certainly exceeded expectations during points of his first season – who can forget him striking out Miguel Cabrera three times during his second big league start in 2013? He had such acclaim that he earned the nod to start the 2013 Wild Card game.
Of course, as goes with most pitchers who start out so dominantly, there is a fall from grace. Salazar’s performance bounced around last season, as he struggled to start 2014, rebounded in the middle of the season, and ended again as a question mark for the Tribe.
Coming into 2015, it was essential that Salazar cement himself as the pitcher he truly could be. However, he again showed signs of struggle – so much so, in fact, that he was sent to AAA Columbus late in Spring Training to work on not only his performance, but his work ethic as well.