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2012 AZL Indians Notebook: 7/14-7/21

2012 AZL Indians Notebook: 7/14-7/21
July 22, 2012
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AZL Indians Week 4 Notebook

Record: 12-11, 2nd in AZL Central

This Week’s Transactions:

  1. Arizona League Indians - RHP Nick Pasquale assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers
  2. Arizona League Indians - RHP Benny Suarez assigned
  3. Arizona League Indians - C Nelson Rodriguez assigned
  4. Arizona League Indians - RHP Trey Haley received on Minor League Rehab Assignment
  5. Arizona League Indians - LHP Danny Jimenez received on Minor League Rehab Assignment
  6. Arizona League Indians - OF Andrew Campbell assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers
  7. Arizona League Indians - OF D'vone MCClure assigned

Debuts for the week of 7/14-7/21:

  • Mitch Brown
  • Kieran Lovegrove
  • D’vone McClure
  • Kieran Lovegrove
  • Nelson Rodriguez
  • Benny Suarez
  • Danny Jimenez
  • Trey Haley
  • Matt Packer

AZL Rehab Players:

  • Danny Jimenez
  • Trey Haley
  • Matt Packer

The Headliner…

It was a busy week in the AZL with a series of pro debuts and a season-high four game win streak that would put the AZL Indians over .500 for the first time this season. The AZL Indians went 5-1 for the week dating back to 7/14 that included two postponed games due to a rare Arizona rain and the summer monsoon season.  Let’s go through the rundown, reports and happenings of the desert valley Tribe:

Player of the Week: Joshua McAdams. 

McAdams had a fantastic week starting last Saturday, July 14th, when he came in to pinch run late in a ball game that would go extras against the AZL Reds.  McAdams’ mother had just driven down all the way from Georgia and she truly got her money’s worth as her son plated in the game winning RBI hit in the 11th off of the Reds’ Robert Lewis-Walker.  McAdams was the Indians 7th round pick selected in this year’s draft.  A few scouts I’ve spoken with were surprised he’s only a HS kid as he both looks and plays like a college kid; at 6’4, 210 lbs, you can see why he mirrors a college bat physically.  McAdams plays baseball the right way and has a high baseball IQ.  He has also shown a plus arm in rightfield and he’s shown it off on numerous occasions this season—he gunned a runner down at third, gunned down a runner at home (though the umpire clearly missed the call) and locked up runners on third base contemplating running home several times this week alone.  McAdams has put up quality AB’s this entire season as evidenced by his .389 OBP despite just a .246 batting average thus far.  He went 8-19 this past week with four walks and four RBIs in five games.

Pitcher of the Week Honors: AZL Bullpen

The ‘pen was the team’s biggest asset this past week, a major change from weeks past.  As I wrote on Wednesday about rehabbing Trey Haley: Haley, making his second appearance in the AZL as he gets closer to returning to Carolina, was throwing his typical gas and reached 99 MPH on the radar gun; however, Haley was overthrowing at the near-triple digits velocity.  He was getting big time swings and misses against the young league with a very good moving fastball that sat at 94-95 MPH.  Haley got the win on Wednesday going two shutout-hitless innings allowing one walk and piling up four strikeouts.  The Texas native and Indians 2nd round pick in 2008 was more effective sitting in the low to mid-90’s than he actually was at 98-99 MPH since his pitches really had more sinking action in the 93-95 range.  I was told Haley will pitch two to three more outings before being promoted sometime next week.  He’s surely one of the best arms in the Cleveland system.

Joshua Nervis, the Indians 38th rounder from this year’s draft, has not given up a run in the month of July.  The righty out of Sonoma State University went 5 IP this week and put on just a single base runner.  Nervis threw his fastball between 87-89 MPH and it topped out at 90 MPH this week, though I had seen him clocked at 90-92 MPH in his late June innings.  He went two or more innings in both his games this week, so naturally he’s throwing a little harder in games where he’s going just an inning or so.  He has somewhat a long arm and shows signs of a plus fastball, though the breaking stuff is inconsistent at this point.  He possesses a slider around 76 MPH and curveball around 71 MPH, as well as a changeup.  I thought his curveball was really pretty flat and he typically threw it as just a show-me pitch in the outings this week. Though he was a starter at Sonomoa State, he’s pitched in a long relief/bullpen role thus far in the AZL.  His go to pitch is consistently the fastball as it’s much further along than his other stuff.  He has shown a really solid changeup right around 79 MPH, a pretty solid differential to his fastball, and been primarily getting guys out with that fastball-changeup combination.     

Alexis Paredes, Benny Suarez and Breily Puerta all contributed incredibly well out of the bullpen this week, too, throwing a combined 10.2 IP, giving up 2 ER and whiffing 11. 

It was a tough week for… The 2011 2nd rounder, Dillon Howard, who struggled on the mound again this week, as I wrote about his outing on Wednesday: After a less than stellar 3.1 innings where he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks he was pulled from the game.  Howard was throwing his heater right between 88-90 MPH, but really had no feel for the pitch all night.  In fact, this season he has struggled commanding his fastball despite throwing at the lower than advertised velocities from his high school days.  One scout went as far to say he almost looks more advanced with his offspeed and secondary stuff than his fastball.  Howard was getting his curveball over better than anything else he threw on Wednesday, though he flipped a few changeups in the mix.  All in all, Howard was unable to command his fastball at any point on Wednesday night. 

Howard led off the game by walking the first batter he faced on six pitches, then walked the next two batters on eight straight balls. Another issue in Howard’s line was his excrutiating pace; he’s very slow from pitch to pitch, to the point where you can visibly see his defense getting sticky in the field as Howard labored.   Howard was not only issuing the free passes, but he was also giving up hard hits and just not missing any bats.  His night concluded on his 70th pitch that beaned the Dodgers’ no. 8 hitter.  Of Howard’s 70 pitches, 31 went for strikes and 39 for balls. Howard has a 6.75 ERA and the young league is hitting .292 off of him in his *first full season with the organization.

Howard will look to rebound later this week and I think he will.  He’s been loose and uptempo in games he’s not pitching in and so I think, sooner than later, he’ll put the pieces together, though it’s obviously been a rough AZL season for him thus far.

Debuts for the Week:

Mitch Brown made his pro debut on July 16th , going two innings and giving up three runs (one earned) and struck out one. From Tuesday: 

Brown showed sharp stuff on his debut night displaying his entire four pitch repertoire; a fastball that sat around 91 MPH topping out at 93, a changeup at 83, a breaking ball between 74-77 and a slider.  Brown threw 24 pitches (16 strikes, 8 balls) and gave up three runs, just one earned, in his two inning pro debut.  His secondary stuff was really impressive.  In fact, Brown is really impressive—he’s a very mature kid and has poise on the mound.  Brown is a strong kid.  He looks more like a centerfielder or even a catcher than he does a pitcher at 6’1, 195 lbs—at just 18 years old.  He has smooth, consistent mechanics, smoother than both his fellow Class of ’12 draftees Kieran Lovegrove and Dylan Baker and, in my opinion, looks like a real keeper, perhaps even more so than the highly touted Dillon Howard—though it’s incredibly early in their careers. While he lacks the prototypical pitcher’s frame, he sure does have a great variety and confidence on the mound. 

His slider was around 84-85 MPH and it looks to be one of his best pitches.  Brown will make his second pro start on Tuesday against the AZL Angels.

Kieran Lovegrove, this year’s 3rd round draftee, began his professional career last Saturday throwing two innings and surrendering three runs on five hits and a walk.  From his start last week:

Lovegrove offered a fastball sitting between 89-91, and reached 92 MPH.  He also provided a changeup that sat at 82 MPH that he used nearly as much as the fastball (threw quite a few first pitch changeups).  The SoCal native has somewhat of a compact windup and delivery, though he was pretty slow to home plate; the Reds stole three bases in Lovegrove’s two innings of work.  The Reds’ hitters were all over his first pitch, so it was tough to get ahead of hitters so to speak because they were making contact with his fastball.  Lovegrove didn’t throw any breaking balls on Saturday night.  The South African born pitcher threw 28 pitches, 17 of those for strikes.  The knock on him—as is the case with a great amount of HS arms drafted coming into the pros—was his poor command.  Purely from a mechanical standpoint, Lovegrove did not look as sharpened a starter as fellow ’12 draftee Mitch Brown did, from my perspective.  However, at 6’4, 180, and still just 17 years old, there’s a lot to like about the starter. 

Lovegrove is far from maxed out in size and as he begins to put on some weight, and grow into his size, you’d imagine that his fastball may even hit a few ticks faster. He’ll start tonight against the AZL Cubs. 

D’vone McClure was selected in the 4th round of the 2012 draft.  He was picked by the IPI’s Jeff Ellis as the best athlete in the Indians’ 2012 draft class in his Best Tools of the’12 Draft article and I don’t think anyone would question that.  Here’s a look at his lone game this week and of the season on Thursday night:

D’Vone McClure led off the game and his pro career with a single lined up the middle.   McClure ran well and looked fine in centerfield.  The recent high school graduate really showed patience at the plate in his at-bats and a great two strike approach tonight; his first AB was a 2-2 count and McClure shortened up his swing—which is compact and quick enough—and also drew a full count walk after an eight pitch AB.  One scout praised his good bat speed and advanced hitting approach for a high school draftee to go along with a real live body with good size, indicators for a bright future. 

McClure looks to have a good arm especially for a centerfielder and incredible bat speed. I’m not sure he projects to stay in centerfield, but Tyler Booth is the only other centerfielder on the squad so he’ll remain in center for the AZL and potentially going forward.  As mentioned, his bat speed is really there: the first hit of his career almost looked like he had taken the ball out of the catcher’s mitt because he was that quick to the zone.  Speed wise, his times out of the box were really just average (4.3), but once he’s on bases and mowing, he’s speedy—just accelerating out of the box you don’t quite see the speed. 

Nelson Rodriguez was drafted in the 15th round this year out of the same high school that produced Manny Ramirez.  He played catcher in high school, though he’s played first baseman in his first four games for the youthful Tribe.  The New York native looks like a football star at 6’3, 230 lbs, but he actually moves surprisingly well for a player of his size.  He has a high maintenance type body so he will have to be sure to keep in fit form, but Rodriguez has played exclusively first base in the four games he’s played thus far and he looks like the most natural first baseman on the club that I’ve seen.  He made several tough picks, saving third baseman Jorge Martinez’s fielding percentage, on Saturday night’s game and looks like he could legitimately play first base, though it has been a very petite sample size.  With that said, Rodriguez possesses massive raw power and he showed some of that on Thursday night popping a 400+ foot man home run out of the Goodyear complex.  His first week looked a lot like an Adam Dunn type week: a homer, 2 XBH, 4 BB’s, 7 K’s.  It’ll be interesting to see more of Rodriguez since the system is thin on power hitting first baseman.

Benny Suarez, a 20 year old JUCO product selected in the 36th round of the ’12 draft, had two scoreless relief appearances this week.  Suarez has somewhat pitching machine mechanics where it seems you can almost time him well on the mound if you’re a hitter.  His fastball is a quality pitch coming in around 91-92 MPH and he was really able to get hitters to roll over the pitch in his first few appearances.  The curveball looked a little flat out of his hand, sat between 75-78 MPH, though it may have been a byproduct of not pitching to live batters in over a month.

Scouting Report: Luis Lugo

Luis Lugo is one of the better young lefthanders in Cleveland’s organization.  Lugo, a Venezuelan native, was taught English in a bilingual program in VZ so he communicates very well with catcher Eric Haase and Martin Cervenka.  Here’s a brief recap and scouting report from his start this week: 

Lugo, the big bodied lefty started for the Tribe and turned in a good performance on Thursday.  Lugo went 4.1 IP, gave up 3 R (2 ER), struck out four and walked two.  Lugo is 6’5 at age 18, so his weight has not quite caught up with his size.  When it’s all said and done, Lugo is likely going to be an ideal sized left hander with several quality pitches.  Lugo had some swing and miss stuff on Thursday night, though he did not have the best command we’ve seen this season.  Lugo was missing high in the zone, throwing his fastball between 87-89 MPH.  Lugo’s fastball is really pretty straight, but at 6’5, he throws on a true downhill plane which can compensate for his fastball being real straight.  However, he’ll have to keep the ball down in the zone going forward if he’s going to continue to be effective.  Lugo also offered a big “Mickey Mouse” lefty-type curveball that came in around 73 MPH.  He fooled Diamondbacks hitters with it, but you could tell he’d have to be more consistent with it, avoiding the hangers that would be hit hard in the upper minors.  Talking with one scout, he believed Lugo will have to throw more changeups going forward to really offset his fastball—he sparingly threw the change on Thursday evening.  With that said, there’s a lot to like about Lugo going forward. 

Begging for a promotion

...would be third baseman Jorge Martinez and shortstop Dorssys Paulino.  These guys have separated themselves from the pack on a weekly basis.  Martinez is still getting adjusted to third base, though he’s made improvements with his footwork since the mid-June games.  Paulino looks like he will rise through the system as a shortstop, though I’d eventually expect him to move to second base or third based on the way he fills out.  His arm can play anywhere.  Martinez is hitting a robust .400/.422/.632 and though he hasn’t been walking at the rates some savor for, who needs to draw walks when you’re hitting .400?  Paulino his hitting to the soothing tune of .337/.406/.596.  I’ve been praising the play of Paulino and Martinez, hitting no. 3and 4 in the lineup, since the start of the season. Get this kids up…and now.

Useless Knowledge:

  • John McDonald played for the AZL Diamondbacks on Thursday night in a rehab assignment.  McDonald, 37, made his major league debut for the Indians in 1999. I asked him if the AZL made him feel old, to which he grinned and snickered, “age… it’s only a number.” 
  • Orel Hershiser, former Cleveland Indians pitcher and member of the ’95 World Series team, has a 23 year old son, Jordan, who pitched for the AZL Dodgers on Tuesday.  At 6’8, he’s a more physical pitcher than his dad and had an excellent delivery and arm action, though Tommy John surgeries and an inconsistent curveball may keep him as a reliever.  Former White Sox shortstop Jose Valentine’s son Jesmuel also stars for the AZL Dodgers.
  • The Indians personnel were in Arizona this week which included VP of Player Development Ross Atkins and Assistant Director of Player Development Carter Hawkins.  Seeing them and an entire Indians staff hierarchy definitely looked like a scene from Moneyball
  • Speaking of movies--Kieran Lovegrove’s favorite film is 21 Jump Street, Luis Lugo’s is The Avengers, Walker White’s is Bull Durham, while Dillon Howard’s is For the Love of the Game. To get to know the AZL Indians a little better, be sure to check out “20 Questions with Rookie League Indians” later this week.

User Comments

July 23, 2012 - 7:22 PM EDT
Sean, this is your best effort to date. Nice job. I wish I could be out in Arizona right now watching these guys....first time in a long time the Indians have had this talented of a group in rookie ball. Can't wait for Instructs!!!
July 23, 2012 - 4:38 PM EDT
Thanks for the positive feedback--appreciate it.
July 23, 2012 - 1:45 AM EDT
Echo---this is outstanding reporting.
I agree with moving kids up on time.
Aguilar, Weglarz & Lindor have been hurt by being kept too long on one level.
Pitchers pitch around them, the kids get frustrated and start swinging at bad pitches, and stats go down taking a career with them if the player is not promoted.
July 22, 2012 - 8:21 PM EDT
Thanks for writing these reports. They are terrific.
July 22, 2012 - 7:23 PM EDT
good stuff here. wish they had this throughout the entire AZL for all teams.

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