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Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: Changes Coming For Indians
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria

Paolo Espino"Minor Happenings" is a weekly column which covers the important developments and news in the Indians farm system. While most of the information in this report is from my own research and through interviews I have conducted with organizational personnel, some information in this report is collected and summarized from the various news outlets that cover each team.

Change is coming.  Now that the calendar has flipped to June, we are going to start to see several changes begin to occur as the Indians 25-man roster is reshaped to where it probably will undergo a complete transformation by the end of the season.  Over the course of the next month or two several Indians’ minor leaguers are going to be called up and make their major league debuts.

The next first domino has fallen as right-handed reliever Frank Herrmann has been called up by the team and will join his new teammates in Chicago today.  It may not be the only move as another pitcher may also be coming with him, though I cannot confirm that.  Interestingly enough, Herrmann announced the move on our radio show “Smoke Signals” last night, a weekly program Paul Cousineau and I run on-line every Thursday from 9:30-10:30 PM EST.  Right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin was also our guest.

There is talk left-hander David Huff may need to go back to Triple-A Columbus in order to get his mechanics straightened and his confidence back up, so you may see right-hander Carlos Carrasco very soon.  Left-hander Aaron Laffey makes his first start tonight for Columbus and will be limited to 65-70 pitches, so he will need at least two starts in Columbus before he is an option to replace Huff (or Masterson) in the rotation.

Anyway, the 2010 MLB Draft is around the corner as it kicks off this Monday night June 7th with the first round.  Rounds 2-30 will be on Tuesday June 8th and rounds 31-50 will be on Wednesday June 9th.  I will be updating each pick as it happens all three days with lots of news, scouting reports, articles, and so on for every player taken, so be sure to check out my site throughout the day all three days of the draft and for the many days after it for the post-draft coverage.  You won’t get any better coverage anywhere.

As an FYI, this week’s Minor Happenings has been split in two due to the length of content this week.  I will post part two tomorrow.  Also, I’ll be visiting Low-A Lake County tonight to see right-hander Trey Haley pitch, so I am very much looking forward to that.  Haley has been one of the better surprises this year and shown a lot of improvement.

Onto the Happenings

Indians Minor League Player of the Week
(for games from May 27 to June 2)

Paolo Espino (Right-handed Pitcher – Akron)
2-0, 2 games, 0.84 ERA, 10.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 0.47 WHIP, .103 BAA

What a week for the Indians’ farmhands as there were several great performances up and down the system, performances which in other weeks would likely have earned Player of the Week honors.  While it was tough to choose, this week the one Paolo Espinoperformance which stood out above the rest was that of Double-A Akron right-hander Paolo Espino.

Espino, 23, is having another good season as he is now 6-2 in 11 games (9 starts) with a 3.45 ERA, and in 57.1 IP has allowed 46 hits, 23 walks, and has 48 strikeouts.  Last year in 28 combined appearances (23 starts) between Low-A Lake County, High-A Kinston and Akron he had a stellar season going 11-8 with a 3.01 ERA (134.2 IP, 110 H, 36 BB, 117 K).  He is a versatile pitcher who won’t overpower hitters, but has an exceptional curveball that is very effective for him and is arguably one of the best in the system.

Espino is showing his versatility this year as he pitched in the starting rotation for most of the season until left-hander Nick Hagadone arrived from High-A Kinston earlier this week.  With Hagadone now in the rotation, the plan is to have Espino piggyback the starts of Hagadone since he typically only goes four to five innings an outing because he throws a lot of pitches and has a limited pitch count of 80 pitches an outing.  In Hagadone’s first start on Tuesday night, Espino came in relief in the fifth inning and threw five shutout one-hit innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.  Because of his versatility and plus curveball to go along with good command, he could factor into the big league bullpen mix down the road as soon as next season and may get some roster consideration this upcoming offseason.

Honorable Mentions:

Lonnie Chisenhall (3B – AKR): .421 (8-19), 7 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K
Jared Goedert (3B/OF – AKR): .320 (8-25), 6 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 SB
Jordan Brown (OF/1B – COL): .440 (11-25), 5 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K
Carlos Santana (C – COL): .333 (8-24), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 5 K, 1 SB
Jordan Henry (OF – KIN): .375 (9-24), 4 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
Matt Packer (LHP – LC): 1-1, 2 G, 1.69 ERA, 10.2 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
TJ McFarland (LHP – KIN): 1-0, 1 G, 1.04 ERA, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Alex White (RHP – AKR): 1-1, 2 G, 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
Justin Germano (RHP – COL): 1-0, 1 G, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Previous Winners:

05/20 to 05/26: Kyle Bellows (3B – Kinston)
05/13 to 05/19: Carlos Santana (C – Columbus)
05/06 to 05/12: T.J. McFarland (LHP – Kinston)
04/29 to 05/05: Trey Haley (RHP – Lake County)
04/22 to 04/28: Jason Donald (INF – Columbus)
04/15 to 04/21: Bo Greenwell (OF – Lake County)
04/08 to 04/14: Carlos Santana (C – Columbus)

Director’s Cuts

Indians’ Farm Director Ross Atkins chimed in this week on a few of the Triple-A Columbus arms who are on the cusp of being called to the big leagues, or just called up as is the case with Frank Herrmann :

On Carlos Carrasco:  "He has really been great as of late.  He had a little hiccup with his ankle and threw well that day where heRoss Atkins did not have the best results but threw the ball well.  There has been power to his pitches and he is effectively getting deeper into games.  He feels strong and is using all of his weapons and has been better controlling the running game.  We are very optimistic that we have a middle-to-front of the rotation starter with Carlos because of the weapons he has and the discipline.  The last thing to come with these guys is what it means to truly be a competitor, and he couldn't be in better hands with that than with Charlie Nagy."

On Josh Tomlin:  "Throughout his career with us he has pretty much been every pitching coach and manager’s favorite player.  He has been flying a little bit under the radar as he was not in Major League spring training and he wasn't put on the roster, but it is amazing as every year he continues to improve and every year he is a little bit better.  He is arguably one of the fiercest competitors that we have.  He does not have quite the arsenal that Hector Rondon and Carlos Carrasco have, but he is as aggressive as anyone we have.  He is a former shortstop and that comes out I think with his athleticism and his respect with how hard it is to hit.  He is an interesting pitcher with a four pitch mix with not a lot of power to him, but he will pitch in the Major Leagues."

On Frank Herrmann:  "He pretty much couldn't possibly be better.  We currently have so many options in the bullpen that it is working against him right now.  We have been consistent in the Major Leagues and have been consistent in Triple-A as we have several guys throwing the ball well there.  Frank has been exceptional as I think he has given up one or two runs, has kept the ball in the ballpark, he is getting the ball on the ground more often, is striking out more guys than in years past, and is consistently touching 95 MPH.  Frank is a great athlete who is extremely hard working and intelligent.  He is a Harvard grad and really an easy guy to pull for.  He is a lot like Josh Tomlin in that we are confident that he will help us or a major league team, it just really depends on the timing."

Smoking Joe

High-A Kinston right-hander Joe Gardner has not skipped a beat since moving up to the more advanced Carolina League.  In fact, he may even be pitching better.  After making six starts for Low-A Lake County where he went 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA with Joe Gardnera .185 average against and 38 strikeouts in 25.0 innings, he has now made five starts in Kinston and is 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA with a .175 average against and has 25 strikeouts in 27.2 innings.  The only thing that has really changed is a drop in his strikeout rate from 13.68 K/9 in Lake County to 8.13 K/9 in Kinston.  While this is a pretty significant drop, it is not unexpected as his power sinker and advanced pitch ability dominated the Low-A circuit which is filled with a lot of inexperienced hitters whereas in the High-A circuit there are many more polished and older hitters who will not chase nearly as much.

What has made Gardner so effective so far this season is he is mixing his pitches well and his slider and changeup have both been effective for him in complementing his sinker.  In fact, hitters are so geared up for his sinker with two strikes that a lot of times he has gone to his slider and rung up hitters with it.  The changeup has been effective in helping neutralize lefties and the slider has been very tough on the righties.  He was not considered a strikeout pitcher coming into the season as he relies more on a pitch to contact approach as a sinker-baller, but the strikeouts are encouraging.  Bottom line, he has been throwing strikes and consistently been filling up the bottom of the strike zone with all three pitches which has kept hitters off balance.

Gardner has been a pleasant surprise this season.  Of course, as a third round pick last year a lot was expected of him, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the kind of start to the season he has had so far and the dominating stuff he has shown.  The season is long and there are still many hurdles to clear, so it will be interesting to see how he finishes the season.

Role Change Helps Graham

Double-A Akron right-handed pitcher Connor Graham is slowly starting to come into his own since he was recently moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen.  Since the Indians acquired him from Colorado last July for right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, the Indians have kept him in the starting rotation even though he projects more as a reliever, but by working out of Connor Grahamthe rotation he was able to continue to develop his pitches and command.

The results to date speak for themselves.  In four starts this year Graham was 1-2 with a 6.16 ERA and in 19.0 innings allowed 25 hits, 16 walks and had 12 strikeouts.  He also had a 2.21 groundball to fly ball rate and opposing hitters were hitting .309 off him.  He went on the disabled list for a short bit, but when he returned a few weeks ago he was inserted into the Akron bullpen and in seven relief appearances he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and in 11.2 innings has allowed 12 hits, 4 walks, and has 4 strikeouts.  Opposing batters are hitting .261 off of him and his groundball to fly ball ratio has spiked to 3.83.

Graham's success of late has a lot to do with not only him moving into a role he may be more comfortable in, but also because the Indians have really simplified things for him on the mound.  What they have done is thrown out the windup as he is now throwing exclusively from the stretch.  He is also now throwing two-seam fastballs as his main pitch rather than a four-seam fastball.  As a result, his strikeout numbers have suffered since the four-seamer was his strikeout pitch, but his command has improved using the two-seamer and he is getting a lot more groundball outs as evidenced by the spike in his groundball to fly ball ratio.

McFarland Keeps Rolling

High-A Kinston left-hander T.J. McFarland continued his mastery of the Carolina League this past week as on Monday he came within one out of a complete game shutout.  With a runner on third and two outs in the ninth inning, a 50-some foot infield single T.J. McFarlandon a full count ended the shutout bid and he later had to be removed because he had reached his pitch limit.  What made his performance so incredible is nine-inning complete game shutouts are a rarity in Single-A mostly because pitchers only have an 80 to 90 pitch count to work with.   The last nine inning shutout for Kinston was when Keith Ramsey threw a perfect game in Myrtle Beach on the last day of the season in September 2004.

Looking at the box score and game report, McFarland was at his best as his excellent command and efficiency allowed him to pitch deep into the game.  He threw 82 pitches with 61 of them going for strikes.  He was able to pitch deep into the game thanks to eight first pitch outs and two double plays.  He also did not walk a batter and only reached three balls on three hitters.  He only recorded three strikeouts, but piled up 15 groundball outs.  His quick work and deception with his pitches kept hitters at bay all night, and it resulted in arguably his most impressive outing of the season if not in his three year professional career. 

McFarland opened the season in a piggyback situation with left-hander Nick Hagadone where he would pitch the last four to five innings of Hagadone's starts.  Once left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz was promoted to Double-A Akron the first week of May, he was moved into the rotation and has been very good in all five outings by going at least five innings in every start.  In ten appearances this season he is 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA and in 55.2 innings has allowed 46 hits, 10 walks, and has 34 strikeouts.  His 1.78 ERA leads the Carolina League.

Have Gun, Will Travel

Triple-A Columbus outfielder Nick Weglarz and High-A Kinston outfielder Lucas Montero showed off their arms this past week with some impressive throws which helped lead their teams to victory.

Last Thursday, in just his fifth game with Columbus, Weglarz turned in one of the most impressive defensive plays of the seasonNick Weglarz as he threw a strike from the middle of left field all the way to home without bouncing to cut down a runner at the plate.  It was an accurate, strong, and perfect throw, and what made it even more impressive is the game was in extra innings in the 11th inning and his throw preserved the tie.  As it so often seems to happen, after making the great defensive play in the top of the inning he came to bat in the bottom half of the inning and drilled a two-out single up the middle to score infielder Brian Bixler from second base with the game winning run.  Earlier in the game he also threw out a runner at second base in the fifth inning when the batter tried to stretch a single into a double.  After hitting .285 with 7 HR, 27 RBI and an .897 OPS in 37 games for Double-A Akron, he was called up to Columbus a few weeks ago where in 11 games he is hitting .200 with 0 HR, 5 RBI and a .655 OPS.

On Wednesday night Montero had a game for the ages in the outfield as he tied a single-game Carolina League record with three outfield assists in one game.  He threw out two runners at second in the first inning when they tried to stretch a single into a double, but the play of the game came in the fifth inning when he came in on a ball to his left, caught it, and then fired a seed to home that never hit the ground to throw out a runner who was tagging up from third base.  He is the first Kinston outfielder to record three assists in a game since Ron Woods in (1965) and Mike Huelsmann (1997).  In 49 games he is hitting .248 with 2 HR, 14 RBI, 9 stolen bases and has a .709 OPS.

Cid Switches Things Up

One of the bigger disappointments this year in the Indians system has been Low-A Lake County outfielder Delvi Cid.  As a 19-year old last season at Lake County he played in 93 games and hit .271 with 2 HR, 27 RBI, 33 stolen bases, and a .673 OPS.  Delvi CidHe displayed all the raw tools and talent that had many shooting him up the Indians' prospect rankings where coming into this season some big things were expected.  He returned to Lake County to open the season and in 47 games has really struggled at the plate hitting .205 with 0 HR, 8 RBI, 22 stolen bases, and a .500 OPS.  Bottom line, considering he is repeating a level he experienced some success at last year, his numbers this season at the plate have been a disappointment.

Cid, 20, is just not making enough consistent contact and when he does is not driving the ball as he has just five extra base hits all year (.233 SLG).  To counteract some of his troubles at the plate, on Tuesday the Indians decided that the switch hitting experiment would be put on hold for at least the immediate future and now are having him hit exclusively from the right side of the plate.  Down the road he could go back to switch hitting and hit from the left side, but for now they want him to concentrate on hitting from the right side, his natural hitting side.

Desperate times call for desperate measures as at the time of the change Cid was hitting .188, but in the three games since the change he is 5-for-11 with a double.  Even though it is a small sample size to date, he looks a lot more comfortable hitting only right-handed and his confidence has improved.  With his excellent speed he needs to more consistently get on base, and he needs to begin to turn things around offensively and become more consistent with his at bats.  Otherwise, his prospect stock will continue to fall and he could end up along the lines of former Tribe farmhand Juan Valdes, a former Lake County outfielder with blazing speed who built up a lot of hype only to plateau and falter at the Low-A level.

Brown Back To Familiar Role

Triple-A Columbus outfielder and first baseman Jordan Brown has been playing a little first base of late.  After the Indians seemingly abandoned him at the position early in the year last year, he has started to play his old position and work out there more often.  He is not viewed as a very good defensive first baseman, but if used in a game or two a week at first base he Jordan Brownwould fine.  With him playing some first base it may also be to get him up to speed at the position and that he is being considered for a callup to Cleveland soon.

Brown's work at first base is not that much of a surprise as going into the season he was told he would play there about once every four to five games.  Had he not injured his knee early in spring training he likely would have played there a considerable amount of time in spring training and already logged several games there in Columbus this year; however, the Indians chose to be cautious and ensure his knee was healthy enough to play both first base and outfield on a regular basis.  Coincidentally, he hit his first home run of the season in his first start at first base over last weekend.  He also flashed some leather with two diving stops to take away hits.

Catcher Carlos Santana gets a lot of attention and likely will be part of the first group of players called up from Columbus to Cleveland once the front office decides it is time to add another layer of young players to the big league roster this year.  Brown should be included on that short list of callups when that time comes.  He is now in his third year at Triple-A and has nothing left to prove and he offers a bat in the lineup with extraordinary bat-to-ball ability (something the Indians lineup really needs).  He is going to get his well deserved shot in Cleveland at some point this season provided his health holds up, and while he may ultimately be nothing more than a role player at the big league level, time will tell on how effective he truly is as a big leaguer.

Award Winners

Speaking of Brown, he was named the International League Player of the Week for May 24-30. During his monster week he hit .417 (10-for-24) with a 1 HR and 11RBI. His big RBI total was helped by big games on 5/28 (5 RBI) and 5/24 (4 RBI), and he Austin Adamspiled up four multiple hit games and added his first home run of the season Saturday.  Last year he was the International League batting champion and posted the second best average in Columbus franchise history (.336). In 19 games this season he is hitting .328 (21-64) with 1 HR, 21 RBI and a .901 OPS.

Low-A Lake County right-handed pitcher Austin Adams was named the Midwest League's Pitcher of the Week for the period ending May 24-30. During that time he pitched in two games and went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and in 9.0 innings allowed no runs, three hits, no walks and had 11 strikeouts.  Last Monday, he shutdown the South Bend Silver Hawks for four shutout one-hit innings, and then this past Saturday he came into the game in the fifth inning and proceeded to throw five shutout two-hit innings. He was actually working on a combined no-hitter with left-hander Vidal Nuno who started the game and went four innings before giving way to Adams because of his pitch count, and Adams carried the no-hitter until he allowed a two-out single in the eighth inning.  On the season he is now 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 10 appearances (6 starts), and in 40.1 innings pitched he has allowed 30 hits, 17 walks, and has 43 strikeouts.

Infirmary Report

Here are some injury updates on several players in the system:

Right-handed pitcher Jason Knapp is still making his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.  He is still in Goodyear, Arizona rehabbing though has been throwing bullpens for about two weeks now.  The Indians are still erring on the side of Jason Knaoocaution due to his youth and projection, as if he were on a normal return to throw program he would likely already be pitching for a team.  He is currently up to 60 pitches in the bullpen, and in the next few weeks will start to implement changeups and live batting practice into his program.

Triple-A right-handed pitcher Hector Rondon is in Goodyear, Arizona rehabbing his right elbow strain.  He likely is out until at least the All Star break.

Triple-A Columbus first baseman Wes Hodges had a minor setback earlier in the week as he missed two games after suffering a foot injury when he fouled a pitch off his foot.  He is back in the lineup.

Double-A Akron right-handed pitcher Zach Putnam was put on the disabled list retroactive to May 29th with right rhomboid tightness.  For those wondering what a “rhomboid” is, it is a muscle in the back which connects the scapula to the vertebrae of the spinal column.  No word on how long Putnam will be out, but considering it is just tightness he should only be out for a little bit.

High-A Kinston first baseman Nate Recknagel was flown to Cleveland recently to get a second opinion on his right knee strain.  He has been out since May 18th, and is expected to be out for at least another one to two months.

High-A Kinston first baseman and outfielder Roman Pena recently had surgery to repair his torn ACL in his right knee and is out for the rest of the season.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @tlastoria.  His new book the 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is also available for purchase on or his site.

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