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Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: House Finishing Up Strong
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria

T.J. House"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.

Now that the flurry of trades and roster moves have finally calmed, it is time to get things back to normal with Minor Happenings for the stretch run of the season.  Lots to catch up on, and I (hope) plan to have a follow up piece to this one tomorrow (or Tuesday) with the Player of the Month for July as well as lots of comments from coordinators and coaches throughout the system.

As a quick note, I saw newly acquired left-handed pitcher Giovanni Soto in action this past Thursday so will have some video up of him soon, and I will be going to Akron on Wednesday to see newly acquired right-handed pitcher Corey Kluber in action and will have video up of him soon as well.  Also, in case you missed it I was on “Indians Minor League Magazine” this week and talked about the Indians’ recent drafts in 2008 and 2009.

Also, as I reported on Saturday morning the Indians have signed right-handed pitchers Cole Cook (5th round) and Michael Goodnight (13th round).  These are unofficial signings as the team has not released them yet, but they are in fact signed.

Onto the Happenings

Indians Minor League Player of the Week
(for games from July 29th to August 4th)

T.J. House (Left-handed Pitcher – Kinston)
1-0, 2 G, 0.00 ERA, 13.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, .116 BAA

High-A Kinston left-handed pitcher T.J. House is on quite a roll of late.

House, 20, put up two scoreless outings this past week and in his last three starts is now 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA (19.0 IP, 6 H, 1 T.J. HouseR/ER, 4 BB, 12 K).  His recent turnaround is the complete opposite from the five starts he made before his mini streak where he went 0-4 with a 8.10 ERA  (20.0 IP, 18 ER, 28 H, 10 BB, 13 K).  Overall this season he is 4-8 with a 3.68 ERA, and in 110.0 innings has allowed 104 hits, 49 walks, and has 90 strikeouts in 22 starts for Kinston.

While House has been on top of his game of late, his issues for most of the season has stemmed from him not finishing his pitches this year.  He had been stopping short and not exploding through the zone, which resulted in a lot of his pitches staying up and on the same plane.  When a pitcher doesn't finish his pitches they lose that leg drive and the ball doesn't jump out of their hand like it should.  This is something that has affected House this year as his velocity has been down a little and his fastball has been flat as well as his breaking ball not being as sharp as it normally would be.

After some work with Kinston pitching coach Tony Arnold over the course of the season to right the ship, things finally seem to be taking hold.  Even still, House is not at all satisfied with his season to date.

"For myself personally, I am having an alright season," said House in a recent interview for the IPI.  "I feel like I could have done a lot better throughout the year with a lot of things, but that comes with the learning curve.  I am learning a lot of things with the bad things that are happening to me.  I feel like my walks are a little high this year as I have had a little inconsistency with the strike zone.  I am leaving the ball up a little more than I did last year, which all works back to my mechanical issues I have had a little bit of trouble with.  All around I feel like I have learned a lot and my baseball IQ has jumped tremendously, but on the field I am still trying to get things down pat."

While his fastball command and velocity have been a little off this year, it is the improvement of his changeup which has kept him above water.  He has made strides in the confidence he has in his changeup, and has also recently started working on throwing a curveball.

"My changeup has been great," said House.  "I really love that pitch as this year it has made a major leap for me.  My slider is inconsistent.  Sometimes it is just not there, and sometimes it is good.  I think with me taking so much time from my changeup I think I have kind of neglected it a little bit.  So I am really trying to get that feel back with my slider.  I have started to throw a curveball too.  The curveball is really going to be more of a first strike pitch.  It is not going to be anything that they are looking to be devastating - I mean it if is it is - but the main goal is it gives me something with a little more depth.  So they wanted to give me something that gives hitters a different view with a slower speed and a little bit more break and a downward plane.  I have not thrown it yet in a game, but I have been working on it [since the end of June]."

House is getting a good introduction to the higher levels of the minor leagues in the Carolina League, a league the Indians often consider a separator for prospects.  After experiencing success last year at Low-A Lake County, he is quickly learning that hitters further up the chain get much tougher and tougher.

"I definitely have learned a lot this year," said House.  "Some of the hitters are bigger and stronger.  The strike zone shrinks and you have fewer teams [in the Carolina League], so they know your strengths and weaknesses.  Guys are a lot more patient here and they don't chase outside the zone as much.  If you don't get ahead in the count and expand from there, then you are going to be in a lot of trouble because they are not going to chase if you are not pounding the strike zone.  You can get a lot of guys to chase in Low-A as there are a lot more high school guys and they are more raw."

House is unaware of any inning threshold set for him this year, but he thinks he should end up with around 145-150 innings this season.  That should put him right on line to easily make another six to seven starts before the end of the season in a month.  With his recent three outings, if he can finish strong it would be a big confidence and momentum builder going into the offseason.

"Obviously everybody wants to finish the season strong, but really, legitimately, I want to finish strong," said House.  "That's one of the main focuses I have from last year as I started off real strong in Lake County and I kind of hit a plateau and struggled toward the end as I got real tired and fatigued.  This year my body feels better and my arm feels better.  I now know what is expected for a full season and I know how to handle certain things and I know how to treat myself better and prepare for my next start.  I just want to go out there and have good outings.  You are going to give up runs, but you have to take it in stride and limit the damage, that's what the most important thing is."

And if he doesn't finish strong?

"I am hoping to continue to learn," said House.  "If the season doesn't go the way I wanted it to at the end or my numbers are not where I want them to be, well, then I have next year to take what I have learned here and use it and who knows where you can go from there.  You learn from the tough outings.  I'd rather get them out of the way now than have them in the future."

Honorable Mention:

Josh Rodriguez (INF – COL): .370 (10-27), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, 1.171 OPS
Matt McBride (OF – COL): .360 (9-25), 5 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, .905 OPS
Michael Brantley (OF – COL): .333 (8-24), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K, 2 SB, .991 OPS
Jason Kipnis (2B – AKR): .407 (11-27), 6 R, 1 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 SB, 1.226 OPS
Jordan Henry (OF – AKR): .385 (10-26), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K, 1 SB, .984 OPS
Chun Chen (C – KIN): .400 (8-20), 2 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, .935 OPS
Adam Abraham (3B – LC): .414 (12-29), 5 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 6 BB, 4 K, 1.135 OPS
Greg Folgia (OF – LC): .400 (10-25), 8 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, 1.084 OPS
Roberto Perez (C – LC): .389 (7-18), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 BB, 1 K, 1.355 OPS
Giovanny Urshela (3B – MV): .391 (9-23), 2 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 1.043 OPS
Brett Brach (RHP – LC): 1-1, 2 G, 1.29 ERA, 14.0 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, .204 BAA
Matt Packer (LHP – AKR): 0-0, 2 G, 1.29 ERA, 14.0 IP, 11H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, .220 BAA

Previous Winners:

07/22 to 07/28: Adam Abraham (3B – Lake County)
07/15 to 07/21: Jason Kipnis (2B – Akron)
07/08 to 07/14: Jesus Aguilar (1B – Arizona)
07/01 to 07/07: Matt McBride (OF – Akron)
06/24 to 06/30: Michael Brantley (OF - Columbus)
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’ Director of Player Development Ross Atkins chimed in this week on some of the players the team has acquired in recent trades.  He also provided some insight on how his staff has handled roster issues in the upper levels after so many players have been called up to Cleveland recently.

On managing minor league rosters at this time of the year: "We have had the perfect storm over the last week.  We are at thatRoss Atkins point in the season where your depth is a little bit thinner because you have been playing more games and have had more injuries.  That's the case throughout baseball as there is less of a supply to pick from.  We have recently had a surge of injuries with [Mitch] Talbot, [Carlos] Santana, and [Wyatt] Toregas and a couple of weeks ago with Nick Weglarz and Carlos Carrasco that have made our upper levels thin, which we then have to push up.  You start to run out of options, but we have been able to fill some holes.  It is always about making sure our prospects are not overexposed.  We certainly want to put a winning team on the field at every level, but most importantly make sure we don't have to pitch an individual too much and making sure we can give due rest to certain players.  That is a constant balance."

On the catching situation in the upper levels: "We felt pretty good about our catching depth just a week ago watching Carlos Santana take the field everyday.  Fortunately, he will be back playing for us certainly at some point next year.  There are always going to be injuries, and the catching position especially you have more injuries there because of foul tips, the amount of action, and blocking the plate.  We have recently had a couple [injuries] at the upper levels, so just a week ago we felt very good about that depth and that has changed quickly."

On Corey Kluber:  "We are excited about Corey as he has had some upper level success already.  He is a durable, strong, physical right-handed starting pitcher that has all of the attributes of someone that could start in the major leagues and haul innings.  Those are the things we are looking for.  To have value you have to be stepping on the rubber every five days and contributing.  We feel he is going to be in a position to do that for a long time.  He has an average fastball which is sometimes above average, a great feel for a breaking ball, and a four pitch mix, and has been a strike thrower. He is certainly someone that is going to be competitive in the minor leagues, and there is some development left."

On getting to know Kluber: “You can answer that question a couple of ways.  You will have a real good feel for his ability in probably one inning or two.  It doesn't take long.  You read scouting reports and you know what to look for.  You see the delivery with your own eyes and if that matches up with what you read, and then you see the pitches with your own eyes and does that match up with what you read.  And then you have a pretty good feel for what he can do.  But then comes the second part.  How does he deal with failure?  How does he deal with success?  How does he deal with the rigors of the entire season?  How does he deal with the offseason?  How does he deal with his teammates?  Those are the things that take time.  Is this a person that we are going to be able to depend upon and rely on, we certainly think so or we wouldn't have acquired him.  But we won't have our own assessment of that for at least a month into the season, which we only have that left.  We will spend ample time with Corey this offseason getting to know him."

On Ezequiel Carrera: "He has been absolutely everything that we have expected from our scouting reports.  He has really shown an above average ability as a defender.  As a base-runner he hasn't been effective stealing bases, but it is a short sample size as he only has 55 plate appearances with us as he had a hamstring injury and that set him back.  He [played] for the first time again on [Thursday], and we look forward to getting him back in that Columbus lineup again on a regular basis.  But he is a guy who was one of the best hitters in his league a year ago, and has always been someone who gets on base, and he has shown that already with us at a .400 clip."

On Juan Diaz: "He has gotten off to a slow start offensively and I am sure he is disappointed.  It seems like he is trying to show us he is an offensive player too and might be pressing a little bit.  But he is really, really impressive defensively.  He immediately has probably become our best defender in our system behind Asdrubal Cabrera.   He is a pure shortstop with the ability to be an above average defender.  Every coordinator and evaluator that has been through Kinston thus far has said the exact same thing.  The combination of the increased pressure of the trade and facing a new caliber of talent in the Carolina League he has had a tough run this first month.  We are expecting great things out of him and we have a lot of time to evaluate him as he is very young."

Stowell Rising

One of the biggest movers this year not only in the level he plays at but also his standing as a prospect is that of Triple-A Columbus right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell.  He opened the season at High-A Kinston and in 11 games there went 1-0 with a Bryce Stowell1.42 ERA (25.1 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 41 K).  After the quick start in Kinston he was promoted to Double-A Akron in late-May and in 14 games there he went 1-0 with 7 saves and a 0.00 ERA (22.1 IP, 15 H, 11 BB, 33 K).  The Indians quickly moved him to Columbus around the beginning of July and in 11 games there he is 0-0 with a 3.46 ERA (13.0 IP, 8 H, 13 BB, 19 K).

Stowell, 23, has just dominated every level he has been at this year, mostly the result of a fastball that has seen a huge spike in velocity from the 95 MPH it touched prior to this year to now touching 99 MPH (and unofficially hitting 100 MPH).  He has held hitters this year to a measly .188 batting average against and has a 13.8 K/9, and just about any stat you can pull out - be it traditional or sabermetric - shows his dominance.  His one area of struggle has been the walks, something that has become more of an issue since joining Columbus (13 BB, 13.0 IP), but this is to be expected at least initially in Triple-A and being a power pitcher walks are something that teams can live with.

Stowell struggled last year with his mechanics which was why his numbers suffered.  Last year his delivery was often rushed, and he ended up dragging his arm which resulted in him missing high with his fastball.  Getting him to learn how to make in-game adjustments when his mechanics are off has been something the organization has been working with him on really since they signed him two years ago, and this season he has shown a much better idea of how to make those in-game corrections when his fastball is missing up in the zone.

In addition to his improved velocity Stowell’s success to date is the result of him also doing a good job of repeating his delivery.  He has always been a tenacious competitor on the mound, but an uptick in his confidence and his slider and changeup showing progress this season has also helped.  Going forward, refining his fastball command and finishing off the development of his slider and changeup will be his area of focus as we head into the offseason and go into next season.  He will open next year in the Columbus bullpen, but should be a bullpen option in Cleveland a month or two into next season if things go well.

Golden Graham

The Indians have a lot of very good bullpen prospects in the upper levels of their farm system, and right-hander Connor Graham is one of them.  The massive 6’6” 235-pounder actually began the season in the starting rotation where he made four starts (1-2, 6.16 ERA), but after a blister on his pitching hand sidelined him for a little while he came back and was inserted into the Connor Grahambullpen.  Since joining the bullpen he has taken off where in 28 games he is 2-3 with a 2.03 ERA.  Overall this season, in 32 appearances he is 3-5 with a 3.27 ERA (63.1 IP, 65 H, 38 BB, 48 K).

The switch to the bullpen is something that Graham, 24, knew was coming.  Back when he was with the Colorado Rockies there was talk of eventually moving him to the bullpen, and then when the Indians acquired him last July in the Rafael Betancourt trade the Indians discussed it with him as well that at some point he would likely move to the bullpen.  His performance on the mound has improved a lot since moving to the bullpen, especially recently where in 12 appearances since July 1st he is 1-2 with a 0.49 ERA and in 18.1 innings has allowed 16 hits, 7 walks, and has 21 strikeouts.

The key to Graham’s success and his evolution in the bullpen has been him working through some command issues he has had this season and for really his entire career.  By moving him from the rotation to the bullpen the Indians felt he could be more aggressive on the mound with his fastball-slider combination and more effectively work on the command of those pitches facing hitters once rather than have to worry about flipping the lineup two or three times.  Due to the focus on his command his strikeouts are down this year (6.8 K/9) compared to his career (8.5 K/9), but as a result the walks have gone down where he has just 7 in his last 12 outings covering 18.1 innings, and in his last 8 outings has just 2 walks covering 11.1 innings.

The Indians view Graham as a potential middle-to-backend arm in a big league bullpen.  He is very versatile and durable, so could go short spurts for one inning or provide length if needed and go three to four innings.  His power stuff plays up in the bullpen as his sinking fastball has more life through the zone sitting in the low 90s and touching 93-94 MPH on occasion, and he complements it with a very good slider.  His ability to miss bats and also induce a large amount of groundballs (3.09 GO/AO) are certainly exciting, it just comes back to if he can harness those command issues and continue to repeat his delivery like he has of late.  He’s also up for roster protection this offseason, so it will be interesting to see how he fares there.

An Ordinary Joe No Longer

High-A Kinston right-handed pitcher Joe Gardner has proved to be human of late.  After a superhuman performance at Low-A Lake County (1-0, 3.24 ERA) to start the year where in six starts he had a 6.40 GO/AO and 13.7 K/9, he was promoted to Joe GardnerKinston in mid-May and continued to dominate in his first nine starts with a 6-1 record and 1.58 ERA.  But in a six start stretch from June 26th to July 25th he lost it for a little bit where over that span he went 2-4 with a 5.68 ERA.  The numbers were not terrible by any means, but not what he, the Indians and the fans had become accustomed to this season.

Gardner, 22, is a pitch-to-contact sinkerball pitcher who this season has shown an ability to get huge groundball rates (3.69 GO/AO), limits hits against him (.194 BAA), and rack up strikeouts (9.2 K/9).  Part of the reason for his midseason struggles was because he started to try and be a little bit too fine with his pitches and was having a lot of big misses.  After reviewing some video tape coaches found he was using his secondary pitches in favorable counts rather than going to his bread and butter pitch – his fastball – to put hitters away.  Further study revealed that his delivery was being rushed which caused his front side to fly open a little bit and resulted in his fastball flattening out.  After a few bullpen sessions with Kinston pitching coach Tony Arnold they were able to work things out and slow things down which has been instrumental in getting him back on track.

In two starts since then Gardner is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA (12.0 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 8 K).  In his last outing on Thursday night he went seven innings and allowed one run on four hits, two walks, and had three strikeouts.  Most importantly he recorded 15 groundball outs compared to just two outs in the air.  On the season he is now 10-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts between Lake County and Kinston, and in 120.0 innings has allowed 82 hits, 48 walks, and has 123 strikeouts.

McFarland Promoted

On Thursday the Indians promoted High-A Kinston left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland to Double-A Akron.  He leaves the Carolina League with a 10-3 record and 2.81 ERA in 20 games (15 starts), though had a recent rough spell in Kinston where in his last four starts he was 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA (18.2 IP, 27 H, 14 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 15 K).  Even with his recent cold streak theT.J. McFarland Indians felt his overall body of work was worthy of a promotion, and as Ross Atkins had hinted about a few weeks back, they promoted him to Akron.

McFarland, 21, has been a groundball machine this year (2.35 GO/AO) and has consistently pounded the strike zone with his sinking fastball that has sat at 89-92 and touched 94 MPH.  He has also shown an improved ability to spot his changeup and slider.  His consistency on the mound this year stems from his improved confidence and just trusting his stuff.  He has learned to pitch rather than throw the ball by hitters, and with a more refined pitch to contact approach he is getting hitters to get themselves out by rolling over on balls at a high rate for routine groundball outs.

McFarland made his Double-A debut last night and was rudely welcomed as he lasted only four innings and was pounded for six runs (five earned) on nine hits, two walks, and had five strikeouts.  Now that the first game jitters are gone, it should be interesting to see how he finishes up in his final five to six starts with Akron.

Season To Forget For Toregas

Triple-A Columbus catcher Wyatt Toregas has had a season to forget.  After not making the big league team out of spring Wyatt Toregastraining, he was sent to Double-A Akron to open the season.  He struggled there with his hitting and the Indians felt he was not in the best of shape so they sent him to Goodyear, AZ for about six weeks before bringing him back and assigned him to short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley for about a month before sending him to Columbus.  He finally had a shot to start and play everyday in Columbus when Carlos Santana was injured on Monday night and then Lou Marson was recalled, but three innings into his first start on Tuesday he suffered a severe left groin injury running to first after getting a hit.  He had to be helped off the field, and is more than likely done for the season.  In 38 games this season between Mahoning Valley, Akron, and Columbus he is hitting .227 with 5 HR, 14 RBI and a .694 OPS.

His chance to play and showcase his talents to the Indians and scouts for other teams all went out the window, and now his baseball future is even more of an unknown.  He is a minor league free agent this offseason, so will certainly entertain offers from other teams, though when dangled to other teams this season in a trade no one was interested, even for just cash considerations.  Considering the Indians need for a veteran catcher at Columbus next year, I think even with some of the issues this year surrounding his season that he could return to the Indians.

Quick Notes

Right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin looks to have carved himself a permanent spot in the Indians’ big league rotation for the rest of the season after his three very good starts to be begin his Major League career (1-1, 2.79 ERA).  He’s really had one badJosh Tomlin inning and made one bad pitch, which came this past week in his start against the Red Sox where he lost it a little in the 4th inning and gave up a grand slam home run to Adrian Beltre.  While his stuff is only average at best, his abilities continue to translate as he moves from level to level because he is so focused on the mound.  He does all the intangibles well such as controlling the running game, working from ahead in the count, keeping hitters off balance by mixing his pitches and location, and commanding and spotting his fastball to both sides of the plate.  He pitches, and more times than not it leads to a successful outing for him.

Right-handed pitcher Jeanmar Gomez has made it to Cleveland a little earlier than expected, mostly because of a lack of options in the starting rotation recently at the big league level.  While he has seized the opportunity and in three starts at the big league level is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA, the Indians still prefer not to overexpose him to the big leagues this year.  With that in mind, when right-handed pitcher Mitch Talbot comes off the disabled list in the coming days, Gomez would almost certainly appear destined to return to Columbus, though that could all change if left-hander David Huff does not pitch well today.

Triple-A outfielder Nick Weglarz was placed on the disabled list this week with a sprained ligament in his right thumb.  It is an injury he originally sustained on July 26th while diving for a ball in the outfield, and had been out of the lineup since.  He was actually scheduled to be back in the lineup earlier in the week as the designated hitter, but had to be scratched and was then flown to Cleveland to have his thumb further examined.  The results of that examination and when he will return are still unknown at this point.  The injury is unfortunate because he was really starting to come on with the bat as at Columbus he was hitting .286 with 6 HR, 20 RBI and a .889 OPS in 50 games.  Overall in 87 games between Double-A Akron and Columbus he is hitting .285 with 13 HR, 47 RBI and a .893 OPS.

Triple-A third baseman Jared Goedert has started to cool off as in his last ten games he is hitting just .175 with a .533 OPS.  Even with the recent slump, he is still hitting .281 with 17 HR, 40 RBI and a .955 OPS in 55 games at Columbus.  If his 44 games at Double-A Akron are included, he is hitting .299 with 24 HR, 72 RBI and a .941 OPS in 99 combined games this year between the two stops.  The Indians are still working on his defense at third base to get it up to par by Major League standards.  They also want him to get a few more at bats in Columbus so he will be less exposed when he does eventually get called up to Cleveland, a move likely to happen in September when rosters expand.

Double-A Akron right-handed reliever Chen-Chang (C.C.) Lee has been placed on the disabled list this week with an obliqueC.C. Lee strain.  He has had a very good season so far where in 35 appearances he was 3-5 with a 3.83 ERA with a very good 9.9 K/9 and since June 25th he had not allowed an earned run over 11 appearances (16.1 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 21 K).  He is yet another bullpen prospect for the Indians in the upper levels, and has showcased a mid-90s fastball this year with an above average breaking ball.

Double-A Akron left-handed pitcher Matt Packer looks to have at least temporarily found a home in the Akron rotation.  Called up for a spot start last week after all the roster movement in Cleveland and Columbus, he impressed by going 7.0 strong innings allowing 1 run, 6 hits, 1 walk and had 6 strikeouts.  He has made some big impressions this season, particularly since joining the starting rotation in Low-A Lake County in May.  In 24 games (13 starts) for Lake County he was 8-5 with a 1.60 ERA (95.2 IP, 77 H, 13 BB, 92 K), and ranked 1st in the Midwest League in ERA.  Similar to Josh Tomlin, he just pitches.  He is intelligent and aggressive on the mound with a good plan, and has a nice compact windup with good arm action.  His ability to put the ball on the ground (2.38 GO/AO), limit walks (1.2 BB/9) and get some strikeouts (8.6 K/9) has been the key to his success.  His incredible walk-to-strikeout rate forced the Indians to move him up and see what he could do, and he was unphased in his outing with Akron the other night.  He is slated to start again on Tuesday for the Aeros.

High-A Kinston third baseman Kyle Bellows has had a very solid season so far this year hitting .253 with 8 HR, 44 RBI, and a .718 OPS in the pitching dominated Carolina League.  While the numbers would usually be very pedestrian in any other league, he ranks in the top 20-25 in all four of the stat categories listed.  But, offense aside, his true value this year has shown through as an above average defensive third baseman to where the words “gold glove potential” have been hinted by a few scouts.  He leads the league with a .982 fielding percentage and in 279 total chances this year has committed just five errors.  He has shown an exceptional ability to field and control just about any ball he is able to get to, and he has shown above average arm strength.  He may not be in the same class as Lonnie Chisenhall when it comes to his prospect standing and offensive abilities, but he is a nice third base prospect to see how he finishes this season and plays next year at Double-A Akron.

High-A Kinston catcher Chun Chen continues to put up good numbers since being promoted to Kinston a month back.  In 24 games at Kinston he is hitting .293 with 2 HR, 14 RBI, and a .850 OPS, and overall between Low-A Lake County and Kinston he is hitting .307 with 8 HR, 53 RBI and a .880 OPS.  His success as a hitter this year stems from a small adjustment he made with his swing where he abandoned the traditional high leg kick you see from a lot of players in the Pacific Rim to a much calmer stride so he can better handle off-speed pitches.  His defense has also improved this year, with a big assist in that department coming from his much improved ability to communicate in English and Spanish.  He has shown some intelligence behind the plate picking up tendencies from the hitters and reading swings.

Low-A Lake County left-handed pitcher Giovanni Soto has made a quick impression since coming over from the Detroit Giovanni SotoTigers organization in the Jhonny Peralta trade almost two weeks ago.  In two starts with Lake County he is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, and in 11.0 innings has allowed 3 hits, 5 walks, and has 11 strikeouts.  In 18 starts overall this year he is 8-6 with a 2.50 ERA (93.2 IP, 78 H, 30 BB, 87 K), and he ranks 2nd in the Midwest League in ERA, 6th in wins, 1st in shutouts (2), and 6th in WHIP (1.15).  He just turned 19-years old in May, but is very polished as a pitcher for his age and competes and gives his team a chance to win every time out.  He throws both a two and four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup, with the fastball sitting in the 86-89 MPH range but with arm strength to add more velocity as he matures and his mechanics are refined.  He has good command of all of his pitches and is now a very interesting projectable pitcher in the lower levels of the Indians’ system.

Short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley had three players named to the NY-Penn League All Star game in Staten Island, NY on August 17th.  Infielder Dan DeGeorge and right-handed starting pitchers Alex Kaminsky and Owen Dew have been named to the team.  DeGeorge is hitting .265 with 0 HR, 6 RBI and a .618 OPS and Dew is 1-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 8 starts (42.2 IP, 30 H, 4 BB, 22 K).  Kaminsky has had a very impressive start to his professional career from a numbers standpoint.  In 10 starts this season he is 4-3 with a 2.15 ERA (50.1 IP, 40 H, 15 BB, 41 K), and is ranked 8th in the league in ERA.  He has not allowed more than three runs in any start, and has allowed one run or less six times.  The Indians picked up the 22-year-old as an undrafted free agent this year out of Wright State University. He hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts.

Rookie level Arizona has a lot of very interesting young, raw Latin players sprinkled all over the roster.  One player who has quickly made his mark and shined is right-handed pitcher Felix Sterling.  Only 17 years old, he is a sight to see at 6’3” 200 pounds.  He is a big, string, physical pitcher whose fastball already sits at 90-94 MPH and flashes two good secondary pitches in a slurvy breaking ball and changeup.  As with any young pitcher he is working on improving his command and control, but has shown a good feel for pitching and has the arsenal to remain a starting pitcher as he moves up the minor league ladder.  Like most Latin kids he came into the organization as a thrower rather than a pitcher, but unlike most Latin pitchers he had some secondary pitches in place. He has really made a lot of strides during his time out in Arizona, where in eight games (7 starts) he is 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA (32.1 IP, 26 H, 16 BB, 40 K). He is definitely a guy to keep an eye on, as is his former teammate who was recently promoted to Low-A Lake County right-handed pitcher Ramon Cespedes (2-0, 0.39 ERA, 12 G, 25.0 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 30 K).

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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