It’s been an up and down week for the Cleveland Indians, just like the rest of the season. After a disappointing road trip to start the second half and losing two out of three to the Seattle Mariners at home, the Indians traded veterans Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera for Triple-A players. While Indians manager Terry Francona insists they aren’t waving the white flag, clearly there is an eye toward next season as the Tribe has just 50 games remaining.
Then the Indians sweep the Texas Rangers and find themselves just three games back of the final Wild Card spot by this morning. It’s been that kind of strange year for the Indians, and like a lot of people, I’m full of frustration, remaining guarded optimism and a dose of reality.
I couldn’t possibly put all my thoughts into one column at this point, so instead I welcomed our readers to fire questions and topics my way. I like this from time to time because I get a feel for the things readers have the most concern about and it’s a great way to fill one column full of links that might give you even more insight to your questions. Hopefully, you enjoy.
Leading off, @boomhauertjs asks, “Is it safe to say 2017 is the next realistic year of contention since the Swisher/Bourn contracts are off the books?”
“Some people hope for a miracle cure; Some people just accept the world as it is.”
The next line of the previously quoted song, which is titled An Innocent Man, is “But I’m not willing to lay down and die.” In the Indians case, I’m not so sure that that should be their approach.
Just about one year ago, I examined the Indians chances of making the playoffs and correctly called ESPN’s 38.5% chance “embarrassingly low”. Currently, ESPN.com lists the Indians chances of playing meaningful October baseball at 20.6%; a number that is probably too high.
Fans, players, coaches, family, and friends. A lot of people were excited when they found out Indians’ top prospect Franciso Lindor was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. But one person was arguably more excited than anyone else about the news. Columbus Clippers third baseman Giovanny Urshela.
“Yeah, very excited to see him here at the next level,” Urshela said. “I’m very excited for him and happy for me and the team that we have a guy like him on the team.”
Friday night’s game between the Columbus Clippers and Norfolk Tide was circled on a lot of calendars. Justin Masterson was making his second rehab start and Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor made his Huntington Park debut after being promoted from Akron to Columbus on Monday. The Clippers took an early 1-0 lead but the Tide scored two in the fourth and three more in the seventh to defeat the Clippers 5-2.
After 1-2-3 first, Masterson returned to the mound in the second and quickly had Christian Walker in a 0-2 hole. But his next four pitches were balls and Walker found himself on first base. Walker would be left stranded at first as Masterson battled back to retire the next three Tide hitters. This was the start of a pattern that would later get the best of Masterson.
The Clippers struck first in the bottom half of the second. After back-to-back one-out singles by Carlos Moncreif and Matt Carson, Ryan Rohlinger roped a two-out single to left to score Moncreif and put the home team up 1-0.
Last Wednesday afternoon, Francisco Lindor finished batting practice in Altoona, Pa. and looked out across the field as the best players in the Eastern League prepared for their All-Star Game. While he might not admit it, he was the best player on the field.
Lindor, the highest rated prospect in the game, has been an All-Star at every level of the minor leagues he has played in and a three-time selection for the SiriusXM Future’s Game. Since being drafted as the eighth overall selection in the 2011 First Year Player Draft, Lindor has been the Indians’ highest rated prospect—and possibly the most humble and grounded. Lindor was promoted from Double-A Akron after last night’s game to Triple-A Columbus. Now, the switch-hitting shortstop has just one step left in his progression.
“I hope so, we’ll see,” Lindor said when he was asked if he thought this would be his last minor league All-Star game. “I just have to continue to play and be me. I continue to enjoy every single second of the minor leagues. Every time I put on the uniform, I just want to enjoy it. Every time you put on the uniform is one less day that I’ve got.”
It’s a column I crafted a year ago as the Indians closed in on the trade deadline, but now that the Tribe has taken three of four from the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the trade talk will begin again with fans wanting the organization to be buyers for a second-half push. Considering the injuries and inconsistent starting pitching in the first 97 games, a starting pitcher or right-handed hitting outfielder could certainly help the roster. With 10 days until the non-waiver trade deadline, rumors will begin to swirl concerning players on the trade block and if they are adequate fits for the Tribe’s hopeful return to the postseason.
Before putting on your at-home general manager hat, calling sports talk radio shows or Tweeting your favorite baseball blogger or analyst, consider a couple of rules in making trades (especially for the Cleveland Indians).
1. Your Trash is Not Another Team’s Treasure
In the days of the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff runs, this could have been called the “Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble” clause, but the idea still holds true. Now, it’s the Cavs attempt to land Kevin Love, without trading Andrew Wiggins. You can’t trade guys you no longer want, yet bring back players who make a substantial difference in a pennant race.
Adam Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft out of UCLA. Unlike most players making their professional debut in the same year that they were picked, the Indians held Plutko out until the 2014 season as they were concerned over the amount of innings he had already thrown for the Bruins in the 2013 collegiate season.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter, Gerrit Cole, and the Indians own, Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer, with a fastball that sat around 95 m.p.h. as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 m.p.h. over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013, Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series because he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.
Some of the best and brightest prospects at the Double-A level shined Wednesday evening in the Eastern League All-Star Game at People’s Natural Gas Field in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The difference was a grand slam home run from Detroit Tigers’ prospect Steven Moya that was so big it took a roller coaster to knock it down. The fifth inning slam gave the Western Division a 5-2 victory over the Eastern Division in front of 6,055 spectators.
This year’s Eastern League All-Star Game rosters featured four former first-round picks, five of the top-100 prospects according to MLB.com (entering 2014) and a total of eight players that were selected to participate in this year’s SiriusXM Futures Game in Minnesota. Celebrating a strong first half, the Akron RubberDucks had three players selected for the game; Francisco Lindor, Shawn Armstrong and Joseph Colon.
With the All-Star break closing in this week, it’s time to take a moment to look over what has been nothing less than an awesome first half for the Akron RubberDucks. After changing the name from the Akron Aeros to the RubberDucks prior to this season, owner Ken Babby along with manager Dave Wallace were looking to bring some new life to this Akron team. Aside from all the new renovations that had been added to Canal Park, a team full of young competitors were experiencing their first time in Double-A baseball.
Going into this season, a good portion of the team had never played a game in Double-A baseball as they had spent their previous season with High-A Carolina. These players included Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor, converted catcher Tony Wolters, second basemen Joe Wendle, and outfielders Jordan Smith and Bryson Myles. Along with them came a plethora of fresh pitchers including Joseph Colon, Will Roberts, Gabriel Arias, and Duke von Schamann. Von Schammann did not start the season with the Indians organization, but was received from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Colt Hynes trade. These guys joined the team along with some more promising players who had already spent some time up here including Tyler Naquin, Tyler Holt, Shawn Armstrong, Ronny Rodriguez, and Cody Anderson.
Three days, that’s all it took for the RubberDucks to lose arguably their three best players.
Wednesday June 25, Indians top prospect and current RubberDuck shortstop Francisco Lindor took a bad hop on the infield directly to his face and suffered a small non-displaced nasal fracture. The good news on Lindor is he should only be out for 7-10 days. Thursday June 26, second baseman Joe Wendle, suffered a right hamate fracture which will most likely require surgery and is a couple month process to return. The hamate bone is a small bone located in the wrist and it is usually fractured while a player is hitting. Friday June 27, Tyler Naquin, the top outfield prospect in the Indians farm system, was hit-by-pitch fracturing his right hand.
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.