Another week. Another Indians Winter Ball Notebook.
Action continued this past week for Indians prospects in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), Dominican Winter League (DWL) and Venezuela Winter League (VWL).
This past week was especially nice because it seemed as if players may be beginning to settle into their groove. In some players’ cases, this can be a good thing (ex. Ronny Rodriguez). But there are other cases where it can be a negative thing (ex. Jesus Aguilar).
It’s tough to necessarily know how important a player’s performance is in winter ball, but it certainly does carry weight to an extent. For example, a strong performance by Rodriguez may be all the Indians’ brass needs to further confirm that he deserves an opening day spot in Double-A Akron next year.
Or, in comparison, a poor performance by Aguilar may also help confirm that some of his negatives seem to outshine the positives.
Regardless, we must remember that these leagues are still in the early going. There is still plenty of time for a player to rebound — or collapse.
With that being said, some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to some of the fall and winter ball participants…
— After really scuffling, Ronny Rodriguez seems to have finally hit his stride in the AFL. In his last three contests, Rodriguez has gone 6-for-12. Prior to that two-game stretch, Rodriguez had collected a total of three hits in five games. With that, his average is now all the way up to .290 in the AFL. There is so much to like about Rodriguez: his power, set of tools and versatility. Speaking of the versatility, it’s been nice to see Rodriguez get more experience at second base during his time in the AFL. He spent his time in High-A Carolina this year at shortstop, and second base is definitely a work in progress for the youngster. Though any experience he grabs there is going to help him as he moves his way up through the system. Plus, it’s nice to see the Indians work him out at second base in the AFL since the overall importance of the games is debatable. If he’s going to make mistakes along the way, then this is the place for him to do it.
— It’s hard not to be impressed with the efforts of left-hander T.J. House so far in the AFL. Overall, House has made three starts and gone a total of 13 innings while allowing just three earned runs. He had arguably his best outing yet on Thursday when he went five innings, allowed two runs and struck out six in the process. So far, he has 14 strikeouts in his 13 innings. I like the potential that House has moving forward. In the past, many were quick to label him as a left-hander in the Jeremy Sowers/Aaron Laffey mold, but I see more from the 23-year-old. His fastball has been clocked at 94 miles this fall in Arizona, which is impressive especially considering he pitched 149 1/3 innings between Carolina and Akron this year. One has to believe that he’ll get a chance to spend significant time at Triple-A Columbus next year, and his numbers certainly warrant the promotion.
— Right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong continues to perform. He has now pitched 5 2/3 innings in the AFL, and he has yet to allow a run. Everyone knows how good Armstrong’s stuff is, but there are still aspects of his game that need fine tuned as he continues to develop. Like any power arm, Armstrong has a tendency to be erratic, which is evidenced by his BB/9 rate this season between Single-A Lake County/Carolina/Akron (4.9). Though of course, it can it be argued that you can live with that kind of walk rate when you consider Armstrong’s K/9 rate on the year (10.4). However, I believe that Armstrong is only going to be able to live dangerously for so long. His erratic pitching style just is not going to fly in the Major Leagues. The inconsistent nature of his game has also been evident in the AFL. Take Thursday’s game for example. Armstrong put together a scoreless inning of relief, but it was not exactly an easy task for him. He began the inning by allowing a leadoff double before he then got the next batter to fly out. He walked the next batter, but then got a fly out and line out to end the inning. Obviously, the end result is all that matters, but it would be nice to see some more consistency moving forward. Yet even with all my complaints… my bet is he pitches in Cleveland sometime next year.
— In 11 games in the VWL, first baseman Jesus Aguilar now has 18 strikeouts. You might think that number may not be all that bad provided Aguilar also has a lot of walks, but that unfortunately is not the case. In those 11 games, the big right-handed slugger has walked only twice. It seems somewhat harsh, but we may be faced with the reality that Aguilar has hit his ceiling as a prospect. He is a good Major League prospect, but it’s hard to guess that he’ll ever turn into a great one. I expected him to dominate this fall/winter in the VWL, and it’s been the exact opposite. It’s even more unfortunate when you consider that his numbers in winter ball were significantly better last season, and he spent much of that time playing in the VWL. While he can flash his power in spurts, the high strikeout totals are just very alarming. The one positive sign over the past week is the fact that Aguilar did hit his first home run of the VWL season, a solo shot in Tuesday’s contest.
— Tyler Holt is having a nice season so far in the AFL. In 11 games, Holt has gone 10-for-36 with four RBI and three stolen bases. I was somewhat down on Holt following his seasons at Carolina and Akron simply because I expected more out of the outfielder given his tool set. Holt essentially has no power, so he relies on his speed often to turn long singles into doubles or doubles into triples. This ability was on display during the 2012 minor league season as Holt recorded nine triples between the two affiliates. Unfortunately for Holt, none of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases in the AFL. So while the average is nice, he has not really been able to display one of his main strengths, which is his speed on the base paths.
— Things are never as bad they seem, right? Hopefully that’s the case with right-handed pitcher Hector Rondon. After having an ERA of 27.00 after three games in the VWL, Rondon had a better go-around in his last few outings. He made two appearances and allowed one earned over two innings since last week’s winter notebook. His second outing was especially impressive as he threw 10 pitches, seven strikes, en route to pitching a perfect inning of relief. Cross your fingers and hope it’s a sign of more positive things to come. Not only would Rondon be a nice possible addition to the big league club, but his comeback story is pretty miraculous given the setbacks he’s had over the past couple years.
— Playing time has been limited for outfielder Carlos Moncrief since he made his AFL debut last Saturday. He’s currently on the team’s taxi squad, which means he can only be eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Moncrief had previously been rehabbing from hamate surgery, which he underwent in August. While he has only played in one game so far, the results were quite positive. Moncrief went 2-for-4 in the game and seemed to show no lingering side effects from the injury. Moncrief is supposed to be removed from the taxi squad before too long, and he could end up being one of the more intriguing players to watch this winter season.
— Shortstop Gregorio Petit has not played well so far in the VWL. In seven games, the right-handed Petit has gone 3-for-22. It’s actually somewhat surprising to see him do so poorly because he really did have a solid, if unspectacular, season this past year at Columbus (.260/.320/.403 in 377 at-bats). Petit is nothing more than organizational depth, but one has to wonder if he’ll even be that come next year, especially given his poor performance in winter ball.
Stats as of 10/26/2012