Winter Ball Notebook: Moncrief is healthy

It may be getting colder outside, but Indians prospects in winter ball are just starting to heat up.

Ah yes, that was a rather cheesy introduction, but also an applicable one. Things are about to get quite busy because in less than a week, the Puerto Rican League will begin. Plus, while it is not technically defined as a winter ball league, the Australian Baseball League also began play just two days ago.

Among the Indians participants in the ABL are catcher/first baseman Mitch Nilsson, catcher/first baseman Ryan Battaglia and outfielder Andrew Campbell.

Scheduled to compete in the PRL for the Indians are right-handed pitcher Rob Bryson, catcher Roberto Perez, right-handed pitcher Matt Langwell, right-handed pitcher Joseph Colon and left-handed pitcher Giovanni Soto.

As those seasons are set to begin, another league will actually be winding down shortly. The Arizona Fall League is now more than halfway through its season and will close shop by mid-November.

Thankfully, Tribe fans will still be able to get their fix for awhile as the Dominican Winter League and Venezuelan Winter League will play deep into the month of December.

With that being said, some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to last week and some of the fall and winter ball participants…

— Outfielder Carlos Moncrief came off of the taxi squad this week, and actually played back-to-back days for the first time since August before he underwent hamate surgery. So far in four games, Moncrief is 5-for-17 with two runs, a home run and an RBI. However, in those four games, Moncrief has also struck out eight times, including a scary four strikeout game, which ironically occurred on Halloween. Many are excited about Moncrief because of some of the tools he possesses, and I share that excitement. He’s healthy now, and it will be great to see what he can do before the AFL closes shop midway through the month. Still, the high strikeout totals, which were also evident during the past two seasons, must go down. It’s good that he’s playing in the AFL because it allows him another opportunity to get better.

— First baseman Jesus Aguilar has not played in over a week in the VWL. Perhaps a nagging injury is bugging Aguilar, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been no reports of anything in that department. He could just be sitting because his performance has been somewhat underwhelming. In 11 games, Aguilar has gone 7-for-34 with 18 strikeouts. I caught some heat last week in regard to my comments about Aguilar. Let me clarify: Aguilar is one of if not my overall favorite prospect in the Indians system. No one wants to see him succeed more than me, and that is evidenced by the fact that I have said that I could see his ceiling being similar to a player like Los Angeles Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo. Unfortunately, even that may be a long shot. Aguilar dominated the VWL last year when he was a year younger, but his play in winter ball has really regressed from last season. If he is indeed healthy and not playing, one has to believe that his 18 strikeouts might have something to do with it.

— Catcher Alex Monsalve had a very nice week in the AFL. He has recorded a hit in each of his past three games and has gone 5-for-10 in that span. It’s a big difference from his first six games in which he went 3-for-22. Hopefully this stretch means that Monsalve is beginning to settle in. Monsalve had somewhat of an underrated season in 2012 with the Captains and Mudcats, especially when you consider the way he cut down on his strikeouts. In 2011, Monsalve struck out 96 times and walked just 31 times, but this season he recorded 30 walks against 52 strikeouts. That kind of a decrease is more than just luck; it’s evidence that he is quietly becoming a much more patient hitter at the plate. Hopefully he finishes the AFL season on a high note as it would be really nice to see a right-handed hitting catcher with some pop become a legitimate impact prospect.

— Shortstop Juan Diaz has had his fair share of struggles so far in the DWL. It’s unfortunate too because he really was coming off of a breakout 2012 campaign. So far, in eight games, Diaz has gone 4-for-19, and he recorded his first extra-base hit in Thursday’s contest. If, and this is a colossal if, the Indians decide to trade Asdrubal Cabrera this offseason, it would be interesting to see if Diaz would get a shot to be the Tribe’s everyday shortstop in 2013. Because of his lack of power and limited offensive abilities, he is likely nothing more than a stopgap option, but his defensive prowess cannot be denied. As long as the Indians improved other facets of the team and other positions, I would not be opposed to seeing Diaz in Cleveland at least as a one-year fix.

— Gregorio Petit has now gone 4-for-29 in nine games in the VWL. He’s nothing more than organizational depth, but his performance in winter ball will probably also factor into what role he will have with the Indians next season. That is of course assuming that he’ll have a role in the organization.

— Because of injuries, Matt Packer only pitched 65 2/3 innings at the minor league level the past season. It was a significant change for the left-hander, especially considering he was coming off a 2011 season in which he pitched 169 1/3 innings. So far in 10 2/3 innings in the AFL, Packer has a 2.53 ERA with seven strikeouts and a groundball rate of 3.40. If things continue at this rate, Packer could find himself spending a significant amount of time in 2013 season at Triple-A Columbus and if he succeeds, he could even find himself on the radar of the Major League club. Though as far as Tribe left-handing pitching prospects in the upper levels of the minors go, I would still place him behind Giovanni Soto, T.J. House and T.J. McFarland.

— In 11 games in the DWL, outfielder Tim Fedroff has gone 10-for-39. The numbers are by no means sexy, and may leave something to be desired on the surface, but Fedroff has actually played better than the numbers indicate. Out of the 11 games he has played, he has only gone hitless in two of them. Just like during the regular season, Fedroff is still getting his hits. The only difference is that he has not been recording a bunch of multi-hit games like he did during the regular season. Though that could change at any time, and I would not be surprised to see Fedroff start to light up the batter’s box very soon.

— Things seem to be progressing nicely for right-hander Hector Rondon in the VWL. After a very difficult start, Rondon has now put together three-straight scoreless appearances. His last appearance was somewhat of a tightrope act (Two hits allowed, 20 pitches in one inning), but he got the job done and allowed no damage. While it’s easy to be critical of Rondon, there is one thing that we all must remind ourselves: The guy has barely pitched over the last three years. He really should get some leniency in regard to performances because it’d be impossible to expect him to pick off right where he left off.

Stats as of 11/02/12

Aguilar, Jesus VWL 11 34 2 7 4 0 1 3 2 18 0 .206 .289 .412 .701
Diaz, Juan DWL 8 19 2 4 1 0 0 2 1 5 0 .211 .250 .263 .513
Fedroff, Tim DWL 11 39 3 10 0 0 0 2 5 10 0 .256 .341 .256 .597
Holt, Tyler AFL 13 45 7 13 0 0 0 4 5 8 4 .289 .373 .289 .661
Moncrief, Carlos AFL 4 17 2 5 1 0 1 1 1 8 1 .294 .333 .529 .863
Monsalve, Alex AFL 9 32 5 8 2 0 0 3 2 7 1 .250 .294 .313 .607
Petit, Gregorio VWL 9 29 3 4 1 0 0 0 3 6 0 .138 .242 .172 .415
Ramirez, Jose DWL 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .750 .500 1.250
Rodriguez, Ronny AFL 11 44 5 12 3 2 0 6 0 11 3 .273 .267 .432 .698


PITCHERS LGE   W    L   G   GS   SV     IP    H   ER   HR   BB   SO    ERA  GO/AO    WHIP    AVG
Armstrong, Shawn AFL 0 0 5 0 0 5.2 2 0 0 4 3 0.00 0.27 1.06 .105
Berger, Eric VWL 0 2 3 3 0 13.2 16 5 1 1 11 3.29 0.86 1.24 .291
Haley, Trey AFL 0 0 7 0 0 9 2 2 0 3 2 2.00 3.20 0.56 .077
House, T.J. AFL 2 0 4 4 0 17 10 3 0 6 18 1.59 1.64 1.08 .175
Murata, Toru VWL 0 0 3 3 0 12 17 7 1 2 7 5.25 1.09 1.58 .327
Packer, Matt AFL 0 1 6 0 0 10.2 12 3 1 2 7 2.53 3.40 1.38 .308
Puerta, Breily VWL 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0.00 0.50 3.00 .250
Rondon, Hector VWL 0 0 7 0 0 5.2 8 6 0 3 2 9.53 0.36 1.93 .320
Salazar, Danny DWL 0 2 3 1 0 8.2 8 3 0 3 11 3.12 1.00 1.25 .242

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