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Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: Brantley Centers In On Callup
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria

Michael Brantley"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.

A little bit different format this week with the Happenings.  With the holiday weekend and also yours truly about to pull my hair out with the car shopping process which has engulfed my life over the past few days, I decided to go with a more notes style approach this week.

As a reminder, a pre-recorded interview with Triple-A Columbus third baseman Jared Goedert was aired on my Smoke Signals show I do with co-host Paul Cousineau every Thursday 9:30-10:30 PM.  To listen to the show and the interview, click here.  Also, the International Signing Period just kicked off, so for some background on how that works, click here as well.

Last, an article on Double-A Akron second baseman Jason Kipnis, a conversation with Low-A Lake County pitching coach Mickey Callaway, and the 411 on the Russell Branyan trade posted this week.

Everyone have a safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Onto the Happenings

(By the way, if you see any typos this week, cut me some slack this week as I didn’t have a chance to do my usual second and third looks through this piece...thanks!)

Indians Minor League Player of the Week
(for games from June 24 to June 30)

Michael Brantley (Outfielder – Columbus)
.462 AVG (14-31), 9 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 4 SB, 1.034 OPS

Triple-A Columbus outfielder Michael Brantley is not long for the minor leagues.  The speedy table-setter at the top of the Michael BrantleyColumbus lineup looks to be back in top form in all phases of his game be it offensively, defensively, or running the bases.  With that, his days in Columbus appear to be numbered, and he will likely be back in Cleveland sometime this month, possibly for good.

Brantley just finished off a very good month of June where in 21 games he hit .352 (31-for-88) with 2 HR, 13 RBI and a .903 OPS, and on top of that retained his excellent walk to strikeout ratio with 10 walks and 8 strikeouts.  Currently, he is squaring the ball up well and using the entire field and just looks so much more comfortable at the plate than he did in spring training and the first two weeks of the season where in nine games with the Indians he hit .156 (5-for-32) with 0 HR, 3 RBI and a .416 OPS.

In addition to the offense, Brantley’s defense has been better than ever.  He remains under control and glides to balls in the gaps like a gazelle and makes it look easier than it really is out there.  He goes back or in on balls with such ease, which may be why so many casual observers tend to think less of his defense as compared to a maximum effort guy like Trevor Crowe who really works hard going back and in on balls in the outfield.  The Indians could certainly use an upgrade defensively in center field because Crowe is not cutting it as an everyday guy there, so Brantley could be the answer in the short term, and perhaps the long term if the injured Grady Sizemore is moved to left field next year.

Brantley has handled his assignment to Columbus like a trooper even though he knows he probably should have been in Cleveland all year.  His focus to handle the task at hand and not get caught up in the day-to-day roster decisions has been incredible.  He never sulked or lost his confidence when he was sent down to Columbus in April, he instead used it as an opportunity to get better and attack some of the things the Indians challenged him with to get even better.  The result today is he feels like a better player overall where his swing at the plate has improved, he is getting better reads on the balls in the outfield, and physically he feels as good as he has ever felt.

Honorable Mentions:

Jordan Brown (OF – COL): .375 (9-24), 1 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .907 OPS
Jared Goedert (3B – COL): .241 (7-29), 8 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 12 K, .979 OPS
Jerad Head (OF – AKR): .588 (10-17), 3 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1.650 OPS
John Drennen (OF – AKR): .393 (11-28), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, .933 OPS
Roberto Perez (C – LC): .412 (7-17), 3 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .971 OPS
Adam Abraham (1B – LC): .364 (8-22), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 1.091 OPS
Alex Monsalve (C – AZL): .438 (7-16), 2 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1.033 OPS
Alex Kaminsky (RHP – MV): 1-1, 2 G, 2.70 ERA, 10.0 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 9 K, .297 BAA
Matt Packer (LHP – LC): 1-0, 1G, 0.00 ERA, 8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K, .185 BAA
Clayton Cook (RHP – LC): 1-0, 2 G, 1.64 ERA, 11.0 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 13 K, .220 BAA
Alex White (RHP – AKR): 1-1, 2 G, 0.73 ERA, 12.1 IP, 12 H, 1 BB, 7 K, .255 BAA

Previous Winners:

06/17 to 06/23: Jason Kipnis (2B – Akron)
06/10 to 06/16: Jared Goedert (3B – Columbus)
06/03 to 06/09: Josh Rodriguez (INF – Columbus)
05/27 to 06/02: Paolo Espino (RHP – Akron)
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 was in Columbus to see his Triple-A affiliate in action, and one player of interest who appears to be on the verge of a callup is right-handed starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco.  Here is what he had to say about him:Ross Atkins

On Carlos Carrasco:  "He has been consistent all year.  He is easily the most talented pitcher in the rotation [in Columbus], and arguably the most talented pitcher in any of our minor league rotations.  I think as we have talked about on many players, the time is valuable being in the minor leagues and making sure [he does] everything [he] can to make sure it is the last time in the minor leagues and there is not the up and down transition.”

On what Carrasco is working on:  “The things that we are challenging Carlos to do are controlling the running game, to be more consistent with his fastball, and pitch in more to right-handers better.  We think he has been more consistent with his fastball, particularly down in the zone.  It is really easy to miss up with the fastball and you have to work really hard to keep it down at 100% intensity.  That's something that at his young age he is pretty good at, he could just be better at it.  It is easier to challenge these guys with these adjustments when 1.) you have the carrot of the major leagues ahead of them and 2.) you have the lower caliber of play."

On Carrasco’s room for growth: "Yeah, he can because of the body and what he has already accomplished in Triple-A and he has already been in the big leagues.  Most people his age are just coming out of college.  He has been extremely durable, and there has been a lot of physical and fundamental progress.  As you know the mental part of the game is a huge part of it.  He is by no means limited there, but the natural maturation that occurs in professional baseball and the ups and downs dealing with soreness, failure, and success, those are all things that affect each pitch and each outing and things he is going through the growing pains with.  There is no question he is a major league pitcher.  Really we are just walking the balance of making sure we maximize his time in player development."

Manager’s Minute: Mike Sarbaugh

As many know, I was in Triple-A Columbus last weekend, and during my time there I had the chance to sit down with manager Mike Sarbaugh to get caught up on how several of his players have looked.

On Michael Brantley: "He has been very consistent all year long.  When he first got here there were some things that he and Mike Sarbaugh[hitting coach] Lee [May Jr.] worked on with his swing and he has made some really good strides.  He is hitting the ball the other way and really hitting the ball well.  [With the stolen bases] I think it is a combination where the pitchers really know what he did here last year so they have done a very good job of controlling the running game with him.  They will throw over three or four times in an bat, they hold the ball, and they slide step.  I think Michael maybe has not been as aggressive as he probably was last year, but he can steal bags when he needs to."

On Matt LaPorta: "He looks okay [health-wise].  He is not the fastest guy in the world.  I think offensively he has down a good job here, and done a good job laying off pitches out of the zone.  I think the big thing was when he did come down he got hot right away, so that was a good sign.  I think the everyday at bats have helped him out a lot as I think he was playing maybe three or four days a week up there.  So I think just to get that and get the feel for his swing has helped him out."

On Jared Goedert: "I think that's what it is (past injuries), because I have never seen him do what he has done here.  The power that he has displayed it has been really good.  Defensively he has also played very well too.  I think it is confidence which has helped, and his spring training was unbelievable and then he just continued it.  Sometimes you have to get that to get it going again.  I am happy for him.  He has a solid approach and fits right in with this club and has done a nice job for us."

On Jordan Brown: "He came back from the knee and was getting into a little bit of a groove, and then his back went on him and he missed about 10-12 days.  He has been working hard trying to get a feel for it and has been good.  Recently he kind of went into a slide where he was getting a little bit quick and jumping at the ball, but Jordan knows how to hit.  I think it has been a tough year overall for him as he has not been able to get into a groove.  He has played some first base and done well there and in the outfield as well.  With LaPorta here he has also played some right, so the more versatility he has will help him out."

On Vinnie Pestano: "Vinnie did a great job as a closer last year, and then he has come here in a different role and we have him at two innings now.  It is like how I saw him last year when he was on.  The other day he got second and third with no out in a 5-3 game in the 9th, and got a pop up and two strikeouts to get out of it.  The one thing about Vinnie is it seems like when he has his back up against the wall he really steps up and makes his pitches."

On Josh Judy: "I think when he first got here he was a little tentative [coming back from the injury].  It took about a good two weeks to get settled in.  He has been throwing the ball really well downhill, and his slider has been really good.  It took him a little bit to get there, but he has been throwing the ball well and I think he is right where he should be right now."

On Nick Weglarz: "Nick has swung the bat well.  The power hasn't really been there and he missed about six games with tendonitis with his knee.  But overall his approach has been good and he has played well in the outfield."

On Luis Valbuena: "Right now he is going to play short, second and a little bit of third.  So he will move around just to get in more games, especially at shortstop."

More All Stars

Lonnie ChisenhallThe mid-season All Star teams at the Double-A and Triple-A level were announced this week, and the Indians had several of their players selected to their respective league’s All Star games.  For Triple-A Columbus, outfielders Michael Brantley and Jose Constanza were named to the team.  Brantley was named to the team as a starter by the fans while Constanza will be a reserve.  The game will be held in Allentown, PA on July 14th.

At Double-A Akron, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder John Drennen, and right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell were named to the team.  Chisenhall and Stowell were fan selections for the game while Drennen was voted in by the managers.  The Eastern League All Start game is on July 14th and is in Harrisburg, PA.

Upper Level Random Notes

Triple-A Columbus infielder Brian Buscher was released earlier this week.  Since the arrival of third baseman Jared Goedert earlier in June he had been inactive for about three weeks and on the Mahoning Valley roster (paper move).  Having not played since June 10th and with Goedert playing well along with lots of other options at third base and the rest of the infield, the Indians parted ways with him.  In 47 games he hit .265 with 4 HR, 26 RBI, and a .749 OPS and had a nice 17 walk to 10 strikeout ratio.Wes Hodges

Triple-A Columbus third baseman Wes Hodges has to be elated that the month of June is over.  His June swoon saw his overall numbers take a significant dive as in 23 games he hit .202 with 1 HR, 7 RBI and a .568 OPS for the month.  Since a hot start in April where in 22 games he hit .321 with 2 HR, 15 RBI and an .887 OPS, he has been on the decline as in May he hit .265 with 3 HR, 12 RBI and a .702 OPS, and then fell off the table in June.  He started July off with a bang on Thursday going 2-for-4 with 2 2B and 3 RBI, so maybe he is on the road to recovery.  He recently made a minor adjustment with his hands as he was dropping them when he swung which caused his swing to get long, so he raised them and is a little more fluid in his swing to shorten it up.

Triple-A Columbus outfielder Jose Constanza is often overlooked because of the presence of so many high profile prospects on the Columbus roster.  Even still, he is doing his best to be noticed and judging by his performance to date and his selection in the Triple-A All Star Game, he has been noticed.  He has rotated in the outfield and is playing about four to five games a week because of the presence of so many outfielders on the team throughout the season, but it has not affected his play as in 59 games he is hitting .312 with 1 HR, 17 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .764 OPS.

Double-A Akron left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone has had an up and down season.  His numbers are solid as in 15 combined starts between Akron and High-A Kinston he is 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA (56.2 IP, 48 H, 45 BB, 66 K).  Batters are only hitting .226 off of him, he is striking out more than a hitter an inning, and the ERA is good; however, the walks are a big concern.  His outings have been inconsistent just like his numbers, and really inning to inning he has not been consistent.  He will have some very good innings or games, and then follow it up with a rough inning or game.  The Indians are working very hard with him to repeat his delivery in order to help improve his command, and they are also working to get him to control his emotions a little better on the mound since he is so competitive on the mound that sometimes he is his own worst enemy.Bryce Stowell

Double-A Akron right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell continues to be the talk of the Indians minor league system this year as far as relief pitchers go.  He was promoted to Akron from High-A Kinston in the middle of May, and since arriving has yet to yield a run.  In his 13 Akron appearances he is 1-0 with 7 saves and a 0.00 ERA (21.1 IP, 15 H, 9 BB, 30 K).  He was 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 11 appearances for Kinston, and in 24 combined appearances between the two stops he is 2-0 with 7 saves and a 0.77 ERA (46.2 IP, 31 H, 17 BB, 71 K).  Batters are only hitting .193 off him this year and his 13.7 K/9 rate is very impressive.  He is coming quick and could be in the Indians big league bullpen plans for sometime next season.

Double-A Akron right-handed reliever Bryan Price really started to settle in the past two months.  After an awful April where he was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA (9.0 IP, 14 H, 3 BB, 10 K) in five games before going on the disabled list with an injury, he has come back looking like the high level relief prospect many consider him to be where in 15 appearances since he is 2-0 with a 3.81 ERA (26.0 IP, 26 H, 3 BB, 26 K).  Most impressive is the low walk rate this year, which is a byproduct of the work he and Akron pitching coach Greg Hibbard have done in getting to consistently command the ball down in the zone.  They also adjusted his placement on the rubber from the far third base side to more the middle to have him work where he starts over the plate a little more (similar with what they did with right-hander Erik Stiller last year).

Double-A Akron right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino is quietly having a very good season this year.  In 16 appearances (11 starts) he is 7-3 with a 3.86 ERA (77.0 IP, 67 H, 27 BB, 64 K), and has really done well in whatever role the Indians have used him in.  His versatility is a big plus, and he just continues to put up solid numbers.  He has been working on the command of his fastball to keep it down in the zone, and his curveball continues to be a deadly weapon for the hitters he faces.

Lower Level Random Notes

Here are two quick injury updates:  Low-A Lake County right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar is not having arm surgery, but his return is also not imminent.  Indians’ doctors were expected to evaluate him this week and determine a timeframe for his return, though the results of that evaluation are not known at this time.  In the case of High-A Kinston right-handed pitcher Rob Bryson has some right shoulder soreness and was placed on the disabled list this week.  Considering his injury history, the Indians are being conservative with the injury and he should be back soon.Juan Diaz

High-A Kinston is likely to see a change of the guard at shortstop with the newly acquired Juan Diaz (Branyan trade) replacing Ron Rivas as the everyday shortstop.  Rivas has been a disaster defensively as he has committed a Carolina League-high 23 errors, so a change seems necessary.  Diaz is a switch-hitting shortstop who has a little pop in his bat who also is good defensively showing good hands and a strong arm.   Prior to the trade, Diaz was hitting .295 with 7 HR, 41 RBI, 8 stolen bases and a .779 OPS for High Desert in the High-A California League.  In three games for Kinston so far he is hitless in eleven at bats.

High-A Kinston right-handed pitcher Joe Gardner has proved to be mortal in his last two outings.  In his first 15 outings of the season, six of them were in Low-A Lake County where he was 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA (25.0 IP, 17 H, 11 BB, 38 K) and the other nine with Kinston where he was 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA (53.1 IP, 28 H, 18 BB, 49 K).  In his last two outing though he has gone 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA (12.0 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 12 K).  His peripheral stats have been good in the last two outings, and though he has not been as sharp of late it is likely just a result of the law of averages working against him with teams putting up an unusually high success rate of plating runners in scoring position off of him.  Overall this season he is still 7-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 combined starts between Lake County and Kinston (88.1 IP, 56 H, 33 BB, 99 K).

High-A Kinston right-handed reliever Cory Burns has been on quite the roll this year closing out games for both Kinston and Low-A Lake County.  He is now an amazing 26-for-26 in save situations, and in 31 appearances this year is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA (32.2 IP, 28 H, 9 BB, 50 K).  Interestingly, he has only retired the side in order once in all of his save opportunities.  Also, in the five games he has pitched without a save opportunity he has pitched six total innings and allowed five runs (7.50 ERA).  In his 26 save situations he has allowed just two runs in 26.2 innings (0.67 ERA).

High-A Kinston right-handed pitcher Austin Adams will continue to be in a piggyback situation where he starts one game and Austin Adamsgoes four to five innings and then the next game comes in relief in the fifth or sixth inning and finished the game.  He will piggyback with right-hander Marty Popham, his piggyback partner that he opened the season up with in Low-A Lake County before Popham was called up to Kinston.  In his Kinston debut last Sunday he went four innings and allowed two runs on three hits, two walks and had seven strikeouts.  In 13 appearances at Lake County he was 2-4 with a 3.54 ERA (53.1 IP, 40 H, 21 BB, 61 K).

High-A Kinston catcher Richard Martinez recently ended an unfathomable 1-for-56 slide at the plate when he went 2-for-4 at the plate last Friday.  He was on an 0-for-16 skid, which his only hit in the slide had broken up an 0-for-39 skid, and as a part-time player the slide lasted for over a month as it originally started back on May 22nd.  In 45 games he is hitting .136 with 0 HR, 15 RBI and a .389 OPS.  Ouch.

Low-A Lake County left-hander Matt Packer had a career night last Saturday when he went eight shutout innings and allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out nine.  Overall this year he is 6-4 with a 1.86 ERA (63.0 IP, 51 H, 8 BB, 61 K), and though he was very effective in the bullpen this year (2.37 ERA, .203 BAA) and is where he ultimately projects, he has been sensational since moving into the starting rotation where in eight starts he is 4-3 with a 1.64 ERA (44.0 IP, 37 H, 6 BB, 44 K).  He has also been very effective in getting hitters to pound the ball into the ground (2.20 GO/AO).

Short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley outfielder Chase Burnette is probably the early season offensive MVP through the club’s first 15 games.  In the 14 games he has played he is hitting .286 (16-for-56) with 3 HR, 9 RBI and an .858 OPS.  Excluding catcher Wyatt Toregas from consideration, Burnette leads the Scrappers in batting average, doubles (5), home runs, RBI, slugging percentage (.536), OPS, total bases (30), strikeouts (12), runs (9), at bats (56) and is third in on-base percentage (.322).  This is no surprise really, as considering the makeup of the roster he has a very advanced swing and approach at the plate.  He is off to a good start, and will split time in left field and first base.Mike Rayl

On Wednesday, short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley left-handed starter Mike Rayl put up his best outing of the season when he went five innings and allowed one run on three hits, no walks, and had six strikeouts.  He was the Indians’ 15th round pick in the 2009 Draft, and is a guy to keep tabs on and someone the organization really likes.  He is the ace of the Scrappers staff so far this year where in three starts he is now 0-1 with a 1.84 ERA (14.2 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 12 K).

On Friday night, short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley left-handed starter Jordan Cooper put forth his best outing in his short professional career.  He earned his first professional win and had a dozy of a start going six innings and allowing just one run on four hits, no walks, and had four strikeouts.  In three starts this year he is now 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA (14.1 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 10 K).

Short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley right-handed pitcher Owen Dew is off to a great start to his professional career.  In his first two outings he has yet to allow a run as he has thrown ten shutout innings and allowed just four hits, no walks, and has five strikeouts.  He won’t blow anyone away with his stuff, but he is a strike thrower who shows good composure on the mound.

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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