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Indians Indians Archive April Farmer's Almanac: Part 2
Written by Al Ciammiachella

Al Ciammiachella

Holt_628x800Now we have our exciting conclusion to our April edition of The Farmer’s Almanac, focusing on Kinston and Lake County. If you missed Part One, you can find it here. In addition to looking at the Indians' A ball affiliates, I'll name my minor league pitcher and hitter for the month of April at the end of the article. Most of your 2010 draftees will be found here in part two, including 1st round pick Drew Pomeranz who is dominating the Carolina League for Kinston.

Kinston Indians (A+)

Kinston scuffled into May with an 8-14 record, and has had a little trouble generating runs so far this year. The Carolina League has always been more of a pitcher’s league, but Kinston’s bats are disappointing no matter how you look at it. A slow start won’t doom the K-Tribe though, as there are two halves to the season so everything starts over after the Carolina League all-star break. Still, they need to get the bats going to support the pitching staff at some point this year.

Kinston’s outfield has been carrying the load for the offense in the early going, starting with 2010 draftee Tyler Holt. Holt has primarily played CF and hit leadoff for the K-Tribe, and after a slow start his bat has really been heating up these past couple of weeks. Batting in the leadoff spot, Holt hit .288/.374/.375 in April with a HR and 9 SB. He’s a solid defender, and is really similar to Akron’s Jordan Henry.

Kinston’s LF Bo Greenwell started off 2011 the same way he started 2010; hot at the plate. Greenwell was the only Kinston player to finish April with an average over .300, and he finished the month with a .304/.360/.367 line with a HR and 9 RBI. He stole 5 bases and was caught 3 times. Greenwell has great speed for a LF, and despite a below average arm is a solid defender simply because he gets to balls that most LF don’t.

Playing RF for Kinston is the toolsy Abner Abreu. Abreu is finally healthy after struggling with shoulder injuries, but his production still isn’t quite up to the level of a top prospect. He’s repeating high A, and so far has a .262/.308/.393 line with a HR and 5 RBI. He stole 4 bases without being caught. Abreu’s problem continues to be plate discipline and pitch recognition, and he struck out 24 times against just 5 walks.

Second baseman Justin Toole has been the most consistent hitter in the K-Tribe infield. Toole hasn’t shown much pop with just 5 2B and no other XBH, but he still put up a solid .295/.358/.377 line. Those are pretty nice numbers for a second baseman. He’s 24 years old, so should be in line for a promotion at some point this season.

Perez_578x800Defensive superstar Roberto Perez has been as advertised for Kinston so far this season. He’s been great behind the plate, but hasn’t been able to do much at it. Perez sports a line of .160/.323/.200. His approach has been solid with 12 BB in 16 games, but that’s about the only good news when it comes to Perez’s offensive performance. He definitely has the defensive skills to play in the major leagues, but is going to have to do more with the bat to ever get that shot.

Shortstop Casey Frawley closed April on a 6-game hitting streak. The streak raised his season line to .266/.333/.418, with a HR and 8 RBI. For the month, Frawley stole 2 bases in 3 attempts, and struck out 23 times against just 6 walks.

Chase Burnette showed some power last year after being chosen in the 18th round out of Georgia Tech. The first baseman hit 8 HR for Mahoning Valley, and added one for Lake County. He’s gotten off to a slow start in 2011, posting a line of .247/.317/.329 in April, with no HR and 9 RBI. Just 6 of his 18 hits have been for extra bases, all of them doubles.

The highlight of the season so far for Kinston has been 2010 1st round pick Drew Pomeranz. Pomz has yet to record a decision, but was flat-out dominating in three of his four April starts. He finished the month with a 2.00 ERA and 27 K and just 5 BB in 18 innings. He gave up a total of 4 ER for the month. Pomeranz can dominate the Carolina League with two pitches, but before he has success in AA and higher he will need to continue to develop and refine his changeup. He’s clearly overmatching Carolina League hitters, and should be in line for a promotion to Akron in late-May or early June.

In addition to Pomeranz, 19-year old lefty Gio Soto had a great month to start the season. Soto was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Jhonny Peralta, and went 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA and struck out 20 hitters while walking 7 in 20 2/3 IP. He allowed just 22 baserunners, barely over one per inning. Soto sits in the high 80’s to low 90’s with his fastball, but should continue to fill out and pick up a couple of MPH as he adds strength.

Righty Clayton Cook was off to a great start this season. He went 1-1 in his first three starts, giving up just 4 ER in 16 IP. In his final start inClayton_Cook_2_544x800 April however, the wheels fell off the wagon and he gave up 9 ER in a single inning. Cook’s ERA is going to look pretty ugly for a little while as a result of that one disastrous outing, but he should be able to rebound and be OK for the rest of the season. He posted a solid 1.92 GO/AO rate, and struck out 14 in 17 IP. He did walk 9, which is of concern and something to keep an eye on.

A 10th round pick in 2009, righthander Brett Brach has had a strong start to his 2011 campaign. He went 2-1 with a 1.17 ERA (2 ER in 15 1/3 IP), striking out 11 and walking 6. Those numbers don’t include a spot start in Akron where he picked up a victory, going 6 shutout innings and striking out 4. Brach has been a pleasant surprise so far this year, and will be a guy to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

T.J. House is repeating high A, as he spent all of 2010 at Kinston as well. The 21-year old lefty has struggled to open the season, going 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA in 15 2/3 IP. House struck out 17 and walked 6, but opposing hitters batted .323 against him. House had a 3.91 ERA last year for Kinston, so I fully expect him to rebound from the slow start.

Former 1st round pick and top prospect Adam Miller returned to the pitchers mound on April 30 for the first time since throwing 28 2/3 innings for Buffalo in 2008. Miller threw one inning for the K-Tribe, giving up 4 R (3 ER) on 4 hits including a HR. He walked one and struck out one, and ended up taking the loss in the game for Kinston.  Regardless of the result, it's great to see Miller back on the pitchers mound and throwing in live game action. It will be a long, uphill road for Miller in his attempt to finally realize his dream and pitch in the major leagues, but he's taken an important first step down that road.

Japanese import Toru Muratu exhibited the ability to miss bats here in the states. In three appearances spanning 9 innings, Muratu struck out 17 hitters. He also gave up 5 earned runs. Four of the five runs were in one bad appearance. He’s a little old for the Carolina League at age 25, but all he can do is pitch where the club assigns him and try and take care of business as best as possible.

Last year’s closer in Lake County, Preston Guilmet hasn’t missed a beat in the jump to Kinston. He has 2 saves in 2 opportunities, has struck out 7 and not allowed an earned run in 8 1/3 IP. Guilmet has a deceptive delivery and misses plenty of bats despite not having overwhelming stuff.

Lake County Captains (A-)

Lake County finished the opening month of the season with a 12-11 record, 3.5 games out of first in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. The Midwest League has some of the coldest gametime temperatures in all of baseball during the month of April across the league, and hitters generally start a little slower than pitchers. Lake County started the season without two players who were expected to be big contributors, CF LeVon Washington and SS Tony Wolters. Both were injured in spring training and spent the month of April recovering in sunny AZ rather than freezing in northeastern Ohio.

Drafted in the 12th round in 2010 after his senior season at the University of Virginia, Tyler Cannon wasn’t seen as an elite prospect. He hit just .201 for short season Mahoning Valley in 129 at bats after he was drafted, and didn’t hit a home run. In April alone for Lake County, Cannon hit 3 HR this season, and posted an incredible .382/.430/.632 line. He drove in 13 runs, and walked 8 times against 14 strikeouts. Cannon is 23 years old and a little old for the level, but he’s doing everything he can to get himself noticed and earn a promotion to Kinston.

Smit1_588x800Australian-born OF Jason Smit has struggled with injuries early in his career, playing in a career-high 86 games last year for Lake County. He’s still just 21, and finally appears to be healthy here in 2011. He opened the season with a bang, posting a .372/.468/.538 line for the month of April. He also popped 2 HR and drove in 11 runs. Like Cannon, Smit wasn’t really high on the prospect radar entering 2011, but is making waves early on as he tries to work his way up the ladder.

Local product Anthony Gallas was signed as a UDFA out of Kent State in June of 2010, and saw lots of action in Arizona for the complex leagues. Gallas grew up in Cleveland, and is getting a chance to perform in front of friends and family. The 23 year old OF is making the most of his chance, hitting .309/.382/.515 for the Captains during the first month of the season. Gallas should be used to the cold weather, so the near-freezing April temps have done little to slow down his offensive onslaught on the Midwest League. He hit 2 HR, drove in 8 runs, and has walked 7 times against 14 K’s.

Converted pitcher and speedy OF Carlos Moncrief got off to a slow start in 2011, but started heating up as April wore on. He was under the Mendoza Line for most of the month, but used a surge over the past two weeks to get his season line up to .238/.361/.500. He’s showing solid power potential for a guy who could stick in CF, hitting 3 HR, 8 2B, 2 3B and driving in 15 runs in 80 at bats. Moncrief will slide out of CF to make room for 2nd round pick LeVon Washington once he returns from injury, and the Captains will have a LOT of speed at the top of their lineup.

Big, Bad Jesus Aguilar is listed at 6’3, 241 on the Captains website, but looks bigger than that in person. I saw Aguilar absolutely crush a Aguilar1_621x800couple of home runs in spring training, and made a mental note to keep a close eye on him as the season progressed. Aguilar had an impressive first month of the season, putting up a .253/.341/.532 line with a team-leading 6 HR and 20 RBI. For his size, Aguilar moves pretty well around 1B, and is even a perfect 1-1 in his stolen base attempts this year. Kinston is hurting for power at the 1B position, and the 20-year old Aguilar could be launching his HR in the Carolina League by the end of this year.

Defensive superstar Gio Urshela started out 2011 white-hot with the bat, hitting over .400 for the first couple weeks of the season. He has cooled off considerably, but still finished the month with a .291/.323/.430 line to go with 2 HR and 11 RBI. Urshela is just 19 years old, and has shown a solid hit tool at this stage of his career to go with plus-plus defense at the hot corner. If he can keep hitting in the .280+ range and develop some power as he gets older, he’s a real prospect at third base.

Selected in the 6th round in 2010 out of Chabot College, shortstop Nick “Rango” Bartolone is getting a chance to be the everyday SS for the Captains while Tony Wolters recovers from his wrist injury. He’s listed at 5’10”, 153 and actually looks smaller than that. He’s extremely fast, and is a good defender at short with great baseball instincts. He hasn’t exactly seized the opportunity at the plate though, as he put up a .183/.290/.233 line in April. He stole two bases, getting caught once. He had a solid approach at the plate, walking 9 times and striking out 14 in 60 at bats.

Lavisky_6_800x748One of the highest ranking prospects on the Captains squad, local boy Alex Lavisky was aggressively assigned to low A ball straight out of high school. Most HS catchers start their careers in the complex leagues or short season ball, but the Indians felt that the 20-year old St. Ed’s product was mature and skilled enough to debut in a full season league less than a year after being drafted. Lavisky is off to a slow start in his pro career, hitting just .211/.263/.394 with 3 HR and 13 RBI. He’s struggled a little with pitch selection/recognition, striking out 26 times and walking 4 in 71 AB. Lavisky will be fine long-term, and should pick up the batting line as he continues to adjust to wood bats and pro ball. All the physical tools are there for Lavisky to have be an impact player both at and behind the plate as he matures and works his way up the organizational ladder.

In contrast to Lavisky’s struggles, Lake County’s other catcher Alex Monsalve is off to a good start this season. Monsalve is actually a year younger than Lavisky, and opened the year with a .302/.358/.407 line with a HR and 12 RBI. Monsalve has shown a better hit tool so far than his more highly-regarded teammate, but not as much power. It will be interesting to watch these two develop throughout their careers, as despite being younger Monsalve has a leg up in experience as he was signed a year before Lavisky graduated from high school.

Starting pitching has been a strength pretty much across the board for the Captains. Selected in the 13th round of the 2010 draft and signed to an overslot bonus, big righthander Michael Goodnight went 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in April. He struck out 19 and walked 7 in 25 2/3 innings of work. Goodnight started 4 games for the Scrappers in 2010 and struggled with his control, walking 10 in 13 1/3 innings. So it’s good to see him improve his control after the offseason.

The Indians 4th round pick in 2010 was polished righthander Kyle Blair out of the University of San Diego. Blair doesn’t have front of the rotation upside, but is a talented kid who should move quickly through the organization. He went 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 24 IP, striking out 18 and walking 6. Blair will be one of the 1st pitchers called up to Kinston once the dominos start falling and players start moving up through the organization.

Lefty Mike Rayl started 5 games for Lake County in April, going 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 20 and walked 9 in 23 1/3 innings of work. Rayl was a 15th round pick in 2009 out of Palm Beach Community College, and posted a 2.81 ERA in 14 starts for Mahoning Valley last year.

Selected in the 2nd round out of the University of Hawaii back in 2006, righthander Steven Wright worked his way up the organizational ladderWright2_800x533 all the way to AAA Columbus. However, he struggled at the upper levels of the minors, and he decided to spend the offseason learning a knuckleball and basically started his career over in spring training this year. Wright started two games in April, not recording a decision. He put up a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 IP striking out 3 and walking 3. I expected more walks and more strikeouts with the new pitch, and it will be an interesting situation to monitor as the season develops. According to team president Mark Shapiro, none other than Tom Candiotti himself helped Wright with the knuckler in spring training, and blessed it as a quality pitch. If there’s one guy who knows how to throw a good knuckleball, it’s the Candyman.

Rounding out the rotation is big 6’6” righty Cole Cook. Cook went 0-2 in April with a 4.67 ERA in 17 1/3 IP. He struck out 14 and walked just 4, showing excellent control. Cook was a 5th round pick last year out of Pepperdine, and was originally drafted by Seattle out of high school but didn’t sign. His best start was on April 20 at home against Lansing, where he went 5 innings without allowing an earned run, striking out 5, giving up 3 hits and walking one.

Captains closer Clayton Ehlert had big shoes to fill with the departure of last year’s closer Preston Guilmet. So far so good, as Ehlert recorded 6 saves in 6 chances in the month of April with a 1.00 ERA. Ehlert threw 9 innings, striking out 8 and walking just one batter. He allowed a total of 5 baserunners in his 9 IP.

Lefty reliever Francisco Jiminez was solid out of the Captains bullpen before being called up to Kinston. He posted a 2.37 ERA in 19 IP, striking out 16 and walking 4. From the right side, Owen Dew went 1-3 with a 5.93 ERA, 13 K and 3 BB in 13 2/3 innings.

So now without further ado, let’s hand out some hardware. Figuratively, of course. Unless someone wants to donate a trophy that could be passed around the system from month to month, which would be pretty cool. Preferably a championship belt of some sort (you listening STO???)

The Farmer’s Almanac Minor League Pitcher of the Month, April Edition

There was some stiff competition, but in the end the winner had to be none other than 2009 first round draft pick and former UNC Tarheel Alex White. White went 1-0 for the Clippers in April, with a 1.90 ERA, 28 K and 5 BB in 23 2/3 IP. He held opposing hitters to a .211 average, and posted a 1.39 GO/AO ratio. White made his major league debut last Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers, going 6 strong innings and recording a no decision in a game the Indians eventually won in 13 innings. Depending on the health of Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco, White may never be eligible for this award again.

Honorable mentions:

Drew Pomeranz (0-0, 2.00 ERA, 27 K, 5 BB, 18 IP)

Zach McAllister (4-0, 3.38 ERA, 16 K, 4 BB, 24 IP)

Kelvin De La Cruz (1-3, 2.88 ERA, 32 K, 16 BB, 25 IP)

Nick Hagadone (1-0, 18 K, 1 BB, 13 2/3 IP)

Cory Burns (7 SV, 1.35 ERA, 15 K, 0 BB, 6 2/3 IP)

The Farmer’s Almanac Minor League Hitter of the Month, April Edition

After careful deliberation, the committee of one just couldn’t ignore the 1.063 OPS put up by middle infielder Tyler Cannon. Cannon still isn’t an elite prospect, but it’s not his fault that the Indians have him playing down in low A Lake County, and he’s certainly taking care of business on his end. He’s old for the level and needs to be challenged against better competition before I am willing to call it a breakout performance, but he’s getting himself noticed by putting up premium offensive numbers while playing defensive positions not known for 1.000+ OPS.

Honorable mentions:

Cord Phelps (.303/.443/.447, 2 HR/10 RBI, 21 BB)

Jesus Aguilar (.253/.341/.532, 6/20)

Jason Smit (.372/.468/.538, 2/11)

Chad Huffman (.301/.435/.562, 5/18)



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