They say big players make big plays in big situations. This past week, we’ve been able to see that from a number of Cleveland Indians players competing in winter league playoffs.
In particular, the performances of Jesus Aguilar and Asdrubal Cabrera for Leones del Caracas have been quite encouraging. The playoffs will be ending before you know it, so hopefully a few more players get a chance to step up their game before that point comes.
It’s just amazing to think of the progress that we’ve seen from players this winter. For months, fans had been voicing their displeasure in Aguilar’s performance, but now, because of an outstanding week, Aguilar’s winter performance has gone from an average showing to a very good one.
So, with that being said, here are some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to the various winter ball participants from this past week…
— Considering the week that he had, I would be remiss if I did not begin this week’s notebook with mentioning Jesus Aguilar. This past week alone, Aguilar has socked three home runs to double his winter total to six. Overall, the right-handed hitter has gone 21-for-74 (.284) with 15 RBI in 25 games. Early on during the winter season, Aguilar publicly stated that he was trying too hard at the plate, but he really seems to be in a groove now as his past three home runs have also been hit in three straight games. The one problem area with Aguilar continues to be plate discipline as he has walked only four times this season while striking out 31 times. Those kind of numbers sound similar to the numbers of one of the newest Cleveland Indians, right? Does the name Mark Reynolds ring a bell? I have always said that Aguilar reminds me of Reynolds because of his impressive power but also his ability to rack up strikeouts at an alarming rate. The ironic thing is that Aguilar could potentially replace Reynolds as the next first baseman on the big league club provided Aguilar continues to develop during the 2013 season. He’s already shown signs of development during this winter season, so hopefully that development continues this year whether it being at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
— Ezequiel Carrera may not be one of the most popular Indians players, but it’s hard to argue with his consistency. So far, Carrera has posted a .288/.369/.396 line in 37 games in the Venezuelan Winter League. The numbers are somewhat similar to the .272/.312/.395 line that Carrera posted in 48 games with the Indians this past year and very similar to the .294/.345/.419 line that Carrera had in 97 games at Columbus. Though there is one key difference in Carrera’s winter league play that an Around the Farm reader pointed out yesterday. The left-handed hitter has managed to drastically improve his plate discipline this winter as evidenced by his 19 walks and 20 strikeouts. Carrera’s SO% was a very high 22.2% this past season in Cleveland, which really hindered his value to the team. If Carrera is indeed developing more patience and becoming a more mature hitter at the plate, then he really does become an ideal fourth outfielder for the Indians. Let’s hope this winter is the start of something.
— Another impressive and consistent performer in the VWL has been Asdrubal Cabrera. In 17 games, Cabrera has now gone 22-for-71 (.310) with four doubles, two home runs and seven RBI. As we all know now, Cabrera will likely be a member of this year’s Indians team, so it’s nice to see him have such a positive performance in winter ball. Cabrera has played winter ball in each of the past two seasons, but his performances were not nearly as impressive as his showing this season. Is that a sign that he could be in good, baseball shape this year? Well, it’s hard to answer that without having seen Cabrera actually play in person this season, but it has to be considered a positive nonetheless.
— This week, the Indians announced the minor league signing of right-handed pitcher Jerry Gil. Gil’s Major League experience is limited as he’s only appeared in a total of 30 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, and all of those appearances were when he was still a shortstop. Gil was converted to a pitcher in 2008, yet he’s never been able to crack the big leagues since. His winter performance has been impressive though as he’s recorded a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings while striking out 22 and walking just six batters. He’s also collected eight saves along the way. Gil is really just a depth signing, but you have to be encouraged by how he’s been throwing this winter.
— Jose Ramirez apparently has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of action for a couple of days. It’s believed to be nothing serious, but still something to watch moving forward. It’s a shame the injury had to come now as Ramirez has essentially been a tank this winter in the Dominican Winter League as he’s gone 57-for-183 in 48 games. The scrappy second baseman also recorded his first home run of the winter this past week too, which was a nice sign. Ramirez is never going to be a power hitter, but that seems to be the only facet of his game that needs work, so take a moment to imagine this dream scenario. What if Ramirez somehow developed the ability to at least hit 10 home runs a year? He is still quite young after all. This is probably wishful thinking but think of how his value would immediately increase. One can hope, right?
— While he’s not currently an Indians player, it’s hard to ignore what Manny Ramirez has done this winter. Ramirez recorded his third home run of the DWL round-robin playoffs on Wednesday, and it was his seventh overall this winter. Ramirez has been especially outstanding in the playoffs where he currently owns a .386 average. It’s only winter league, so we don’t want to buy into these numbers too much, but Ramirez seems to still have a more than capable bat. Consider this for one moment. We know that the Indians financial resources are almost depleted. We also know that the team still has a potential hole/question mark at designated hitter. Finally, we also know that Ramirez would probably be a pretty cheap signing. Am I crazy that I want to see Manny return to Cleveland!?!?!?
— It appears as if Carlos Santana’s winter season is officially over. While the switch-hitting catcher got off to somewhat off a slow start, he did start to heat up down the stretch and put together some solid performances. Overall, Santana went 20-for-85 (.235) in 24 games. He also drove in 10 runs while drawing 18 walks and striking out 22 times. The next time that we see Santana will likely be during spring training, so let’s hope that his winter slump will take the place of the early season slumps that we’ve seen Santana endure in each of the past two seasons.
Stats as of January 10, 2013