What’s better than Thanksgiving? Food, family, football — does it really get any better than that?
I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday yesterday, and I also hope that everyone has a great time during the rest of this holiday weekend. May all your travels be safe, and let’s all hope that we have some positive Indians news in the coming days.
Speaking of the Indians, the winter ball season continues to be in full swing. We saw the Arizona Fall League close shop last week, but there are still a handful of Indians players competing in the various leagues.
So, with that be said, here are some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to Indians players competing this past week in the various winter leagues…
— Many had been wondering what happened to first baseman Jesus Aguilar over the past two weeks. Well, that question was answered on Monday when Aguilar made his return to Leones del Caracas of the Venezuelan Winter League and proceeded to go 0-for-3. Aguilar had actually been playing in the parallel league of Leones del Caracas where he managed to hit .480 with two home runs, two doubles and eight RBI. The numbers are encouraging and it’s good to know that Aguilar was getting experience while he was off the main squad for those two weeks, but it’s also important to note that the level of competition is not as high as the competition that Aguilar faces as a member of Leones del Caracas’ main roster. Overall, in 14 games with the main team, Aguilar has gone 8-for-39 with five doubles and one home run. In a press release issued this week, Aguilar said, “I was not me. Things were not coming well since the season opener, because I felt a little pressure. I was sent to the parallel league to make the necessary adjustments, and now I have more confidence.” Hopefully, Aguilar’s performances illustrate that renewed confidence over the next few weeks.
— Last week, I ranked my top three performances by Indians players on the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. I made the decision to exclude left-handed pitcher T.J. House from the list, primarily because of his one performance on Nov. 7 where he allowed four earned runs in five innings of work. The exclusion of House seemed to generate a small amount of controversy, so while I am not going to alter my list, I did want to take the time to highlight House’s performance in the AFL this fall. Overall, House went 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts and 27 innings of work. He walked only nine batters and struck out 26. Beyond his accomplishments in the AFL, House notched an even bigger accomplishment this past week when the Indians added him to their 40-man roster. Clearly, the Major League club believes that he could have a future in Cleveland, or he never would have been rostered. His performance in Arizona was not the primary reason that House was rostered, but it certainly had to only have a positive impact in regard to his standing with the team.
— It was known that Nick Hagadone would hopefully be pitching in the Dominican Winter League this winter, but it was not known when that time would come. That question was answered earlier this week when Hagadone made his debut Tuesday with Aguilas Cibaenas. Hagadone’s 2012 season prematurely came to an end after he punched an object in the dugout and broke his left wrist following a bad outing. His debut on Tuesday was by no means spectacular: he allowed a two-RBI single and walked a batter. However, Hagadone remains a high-upside reliever, and it’s great to see him pitching once again. Given the circumstances, it’s understandable that Hagadone might be somewhat rusty, and I believe he’s only going to get better from this point on.
— Jose Ramirez is human. He proved that on Saturday after his five-game hit streak was snapped. The five-game streak followed an eight-game hit streak that Ramirez had set earlier in the winter season. Overall, the switch-hitting second baseman has gone 20-for-59 in 18 games. He has also walked 11 times and struck out only eight times. It’s redundant to talk about how well he is performing considering his age and level of competition, but I just can’t help myself. Prior to the season, there was only limited information on Ramirez and what type of prospect/player he may become. His ceiling was not thought to be all too high, and while that may still be true to an extent, it’s absolutely impossible not to be incredibly excited over what he did during the 2012 season and this current winter stretch. Plain and simple, he has been the most enjoyable player to follow in these numerous winter leagues.
— Ezequiel Carrera has been a regular with Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League over the past week and a half. In seven games, Carrera has gone 12-for-33 with four stolen bases. The numbers are certainly quite good, but it’s hard to get too excited since Carrera has spent time with the Major League club during the past two seasons. Whether it’s with one of the team’s minor league affiliates or in the VWL, Carrera always seems to put together some pretty impressive lines. However, while he does possess desirable traits of a Major League fourth outfielder, he also has underwhelmed somewhat in his past two tours with the Tribe. For that, I refrain from buying too much into his winter ball performance.
— Left-handed pitcher Eric Berger has done a nice job in five games with Bravos de Margarita of the VWL. In 24 2/3 innings of work, Berger has posted a 2.92 ERA to go along with just four walks and 21 strikeouts. While Berger has carved out a pretty decent minor league career for himself, he is unfortunately almost 27 years old, and probably considered nothing more than organizational depth at this point. However, you have to like that he is playing winter ball, and he is a left-hander, so there could always be a chance for him.
— Left-handed hitting outfielder Andrew Campbell is playing quite well in the Australian Baseball League. He has gone 5-for-15 with one double in five games. The Ipswich, Queensland, Australia native has been a part of the Indians system for a couple of years now. His minor league numbers leave a lot to be desired (.241/.328/.296 career line), but he is only 20 years old, so there could be some room for growth. It’s at least nice to see him getting consistent playing time in the ABL, which seems to show that he is committed to improving his baseball craft.
— Much has been said about infielder Luis Hernandez, who was signed by the Indians to a minor league deal earlier in the month. The 28-year-old spent the majority of the 2012 season with the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, and he was likely signed as organizational depth, in particular at Triple-A Columbus. However, Hernandez seems to be doing his best to turn some heads as the switch-hitter’s performance so far in the VWL has been a good one. In eight games with Tigres de Aragua, Hernandez has gone 11-for-31 with four doubles, so maybe there is more than meets the eye.
Stats as of 11/23/12