Thursday, April 28, 2016

Minor league impressions so far

I have been following the Indians' minor league teams for over 30 years and I don't think I have ever seen a start like this.   At this writing the combined records of Columbus, Akron, Lynchburg and Lake County is 55-27. 

As far as individuals here are my impressions of how our prospects (guys who have not used up their rookie eligibility) are doing:

Columbus - On the hitting side there are very few true prospects.  Erik Gonzalez is hitting pretty well and Giovanny Urshela's average is starting to rise after a terrible start.   Ronny Rodriguez is not really a prospect any more but is hitting in limited playing time and is a versatile player who might get a cup of coffee some day.   On the pitching side this team is filled with prospects of various upsides. Austin Adams and Jeff Johnson both have a chance to pitch in Cleveland this year and, aside from one poor outing by Johnson yesterday, these guys have been solid.  Josh Martin is just getting his legs under him after his Rule 5 disappointment but is starting to look good.   Speaking of  solid, all of the Columbus starters including prospects Ryan Merritt and Will Roberts, both soft tossers (relatively) and Mike Clevinger have all had success.  

Akron - The hitting prospects, for the most part, have gotten off to luke warm starts.  Guys like Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer and Nellie Rodriguez have shown flashes but are not raking consistently yet.   Yandy Diaz has been a walking machine and Jeremy Lucas (catcher) has been off to a fast start.   As far as pitching, most of the prospects on this team have been solid so far with the exception of Shawn Morimando and DJ Brown, who have been outstanding and the best prospects, Adam Plutko and Rob Kaminsky, who have been shaky so far.  Dace Kime is doing his best Wild Thing impersonation and his 'yips' at throwing the ball over the plate are about to send him to the DL or to extended spring training.  It doesn't take a lot of games where you aren't giving up any hits but still can't get out of the first inning due to walks and HBP for an organization to sour on you. 
Lynchburg - Mike Papi and Mark Mathias have been OK but I expected both to dominate more.  Papi's stats are deceiving as he hit 3 of his 4 HRs in two games.  He still looks overmatched sometimes but has great OB skills and always, when I am watching, seems to get a bat on the ball, but not always with authority...but this is his second year in the league and he SHOULD look good at this point.  Still, he is hitting the ball with much more authority this year which signals he is healthy and his career path may be, as a result, accelerating.   Bobby Bradley is looking real solid and all the other hitters have shown enough that the more questionable ones are on the upswing and the better known prospects are holding their own enough that there is hope they will get hot soon.  Julian Merriweather has been outstanding, Justus Sheffield has shown flashes but, despite the gaudy team record of 16-5, most of the rest of the prospects and suspects have just been mediocre in what is normally a pitcher's league.

Lake County - This has truly been a team effort as there aren't any truly elite prospects on this team.  Willi Castro has been the best of the hitters, mainly because of his youth. Tyler Krieger (seasoned high draft choice college player) and Francisco Mejia (second year in the league) are more of question marks as they SHOULD be hitting in this league.  Nathan Lukes has also been a surprise with great OB skills.  Given his inexperience and lack of track record, for me he has to keep this up all season to truly get on the prospect map.  I think all the starting pitchers have been pitching well so far and are pretty young so there is a chance, by the end of the year, there might be some high end (top 20 prospects in the organization) pitchers that come out of this group.  So, this team is truly intriguing and, for the first time that I can remember at Lake County, there are really no guys that are disappointments and, while there are very few standouts, there are lots of guys who are having intriguing enough starts that, four years down the road, this group could, possibly, turn out to be very special player development success stories.

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