2013 Tony Awards: Biggest Breakthrough
Today we continue the IBI postseason awards with the announcement of the Biggest Breakthrough in the minors. This award goes to the player who may not have been as highly touted coming into the season on prospect lists, but by the end of the season is definitely on the prospect map going into next season.
Here are the 2013 Tony Awards so far:
With the Biggest Disappointment award out of the way we can finally get back to talking about the good in the Indians minor league system.
Note that the nominees listed below are players that have taken a significant jump in their prospect standing. What this means for example is a 30-50 ranked guy in the 2013 IBI Top 100 moving into Top 10 territory for 2014, a lower ranked guy near the bottom of the 2013 IBI Top 100 moving into the middle of the Top 100 for 2014, or a guy that was not even in the 2013 IBI Top 100 that is now firmly in it for 2014.
Also, while players such as Joe Wendle, Bryson Myles, Bryan Price, Jeff Johnson and Joseph Colon were considered for this listing and have surely moved up for next season, they just missed this list because the other players should see more significant jumps in their rankings for next season.
In the coming days the Reliever of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced. Again, these awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year. Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.
Onto the nominees…
Biggest Breakthrough Nominees
(in alphabetical order)
Cody Anderson (RHP)
26 GS, 9-4, 2.65 ERA, 136.0 IP, 121 H, 42 R (40 ER), 8 HR, 40 BB, 122 K, .244 BAA
Anderson began the season as the IBI’s #41 ranked prospect and he surely will make a sizable jump in the rankings for 2014 after his stellar season in 2013. He finished 7th in the Carolina League in wins (9), 1st in ERA (2.34), 10th in games started (23), 11th in innings pitched (123.1), 8th in strikeouts (112), 2nd in WHIP (1.10), 4th in batting average against (.236), 3rd in K/9 (8.17) and 3rd in BB/9 (2.26). For all of that he was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, and he achieved a lot of those rankings even while making his final three starts of the season at Double-A Akron.
Dylan Baker (RHP)
27 G, 7-6, 3.63 ERA, 143.2 IP, 124 H, 68 R (58 ER), 3 HR, 62 BB, 117 K, .232 BAA
Baker opened the season as the IBI’s #42 ranked prospect. There were glowing reports about his year at the end of the season and he has turned into one of the Indians best starting pitching prospects, so he’s going to jump into the Top 20 for next season. Pitching coordinator Ruben Niebla had nothing but high praise for him, which I will soon share in a site Q&A. He finished 13th in the Midwest League in ERA (3.63), 4th in games started (25), 4th in innings pitched (143.2), 5th in walks (62), 4th in strikeouts (117), 12th in WHIP (1.29), 4th in batting average against (.232) and 3rd in K/9 among starters (7.37).
Erik Gonzalez (INF)
132 G, .254 AVG, 75 R, 32 2B, 12 3B, 9 HR, 76 RBI, 29 BB, 109 K, 11 SB, .710 OPS
Gonzalez was not ranked in the Top 100 before the season and will no doubt be somewhere in the middle area of the Top 100 next year. He was one of the biggest surprises this season as he has turned himself into a viable shortstop prospect that the Indians plan to give regular playing to at High-A Carolina next season. The production with the 53 extra base hits and 76 RBI is intriguing, though that plate discipline is a concern. Even so, he can run a little, is versatile, and has some bat where he might be at least an interesting utility prospect.
Caleb Hamrick (RHP)
15 GS, 3-6, 3.20 ERA, 76.0 IP, 73 H, 38 R (27 ER), 9 HR, 23 BB, 47 K, .247 BAA
Hamrick opened the season as the IBI’s 84th ranked prospect and will make a large leap up the rankings going into 2014. He showed an ability to haul innings, a good arsenal and delivery, and a strong body and mindset where he is no doubt a priority starting pitching prospect for the Indians. He finished 17th in the NY-Penn League in ERA (3.20), 2nd in losses (6), 3rd in games started (15), 7th in innings pitched (76.0) and 1st in home runs allowed (9).
Francisco Mejia (C)
30 G, .305 AVG, 16 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 5 BB, 18 K, 3 SB, .872 OPS
I had a little trouble with placing Mejia here as while he was not ranked in the IBI Top 100 this year and will place significantly in the rankings for next year, he was ranked as my #2 International prospect coming into the season. In any case, I included him here because expectations or not, as a high profile Latin American signing, he proved to be the real deal. That arm and bat are both special and he is no doubt one of the Indians top prospects in the entire system. He did not qualify because he did not have enough at bats, but he would have ranked 4th in the Arizona League in OPS (.872) had he qualified.
Ryan Merritt (LHP)
26 G, 6-9, 3.52 ERA, 135.1 IP, 149 H, 67 R (53 ER), 11 BB, 19 BB, 97 K, .282 BAA
Merritt opened the season as the IBI’s 91st ranked prospect and will make a big move up the rankings for next year. He’s not a big stuff guy and is actually small for a starter, but his pitchability is very high, he commands all of his pitches so well and he has such high aptitude that he has turned himself into a solid middle-to-backend of the rotation pitching prospect. He ranked 10th in the Midwest League in ERA (3.42), 12th in starts (23), 12th in innings pitched (126.1), 11th in WHIP (1.27) and 2nd in BB/9 (1.35).
Carlos Moncrief (OF)
129 G, .284 AVG, 77 R, 26 2B, 7 3B, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 55 BB, 98 K, 15 SB, .824 OPS
Moncrief began the season as the IBI’s 29th ranked prospect and is going to find himself very high in the ranking for 2014. Some may wonder how a 29th ranked prospect can breakout, but anyone who has followed his career will see why….plus the numbers speak for themselves. He finished 11th in the Eastern League in batting average (.284), 9th in at bats (489), 6th in runs scored (77), 6th in hits (139), 6th in triples (7), 11th in home runs (17), 7th in RBI (75), 4th in total bases (230), 8th in slugging percentage (.470), and 7th in OPS (.824).
Nellie Rodriguez (1B)
120 G, .250 AVG, 50 R, 23 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 55 BB, 114 K, 0 SB, .720 OPS
Rodriguez began the season as the IBI’s 82nd ranked prospect and will place much higher before next season. After a two month struggle at Low-A Lake County he regrouped and had a very good season as a 19-year old at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley. He ranked 12th in the NY-Penn League in batting average (.287), 3rd in games played (73), 8th in at bats (261), 6th in hits (75), 6th in home runs (9), 7th in RBI (37), 2nd in total bases (118), 10th in walks (29), 12th in on-base percentage (.366), 6th in slugging percentage (.452) and 6th in OPS (.818).
Logan Vick (OF)
128 G, .271 AVG, 70 R, 26 BB, 4 3B, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 95 BB, 100 K, 26 SB, .807 OPS
Vick opened the season as the IBI’s 81st ranked prospect and will no doubt climb several spots in next year’s listing. His ability to be a tablesetter by getting on base, putting up professional at bats, stealing some bases and displaying some pop makes him an interesting leadoff hitting prospect for the Indians. He ranked 19th in batting average in the Midwest League (.281), 3rd in walks (81), 1st in on-base percentage (.413) and 11th in OPS (.820).
And the 2013 Tony Award goes to….Carlos Moncrief
This one could have easily gone to Francisco Mejia just by the extremely large jump in standing he has taken, but if these awards are based on stats it is hard to give him the nudge over others after just 30 games in the Arizona League. Also, Cody Anderson was a top pitcher for the Indians with his performance and will probably win the Bob Feller Award, so it should be important to note that he was strongly considered and just missed with my reasoning.
But in the end I chose Moncrief as the biggest breakout. For years I have been high on him because of his wide tool base and ranked him in the Top 40 the last two years because of that, but that potential met reality this season as he transformed himself into a complete player and his offense took off. The power and ability to get on-base has been there the last few seasons, but it is the rather large improvement with his bat-to-ball and his strikeout rate which made the difference. You just don’t often see players make that kind of improvement in those two key areas in Double-A.
Now, the question is whether Moncrief can keep this up next season and maintain that improved approach and consistency with the bat when he is likely assigned to Triple-A Columbus to start the season. If he does, then he is going to be a viable major league option by June or July. With his good defense, power arm and now a very promising left-handed bat, he might be a very good internal option to fill the starting right field position in Cleveland in the not-to-distant future…..but he has to maintain what he has done and continue to get better with his approach and work on his body both in the weight room and with proper nutrition.
A lot of people will point to the big RBI numbers that Jesus Aguilar put up at Double-A Akron as exciting for the Indians future, and indeed they do excite me. But to me, I see a player in Moncrief who has much more impact potential in so many areas and could blossom into a solid long-time fan favorite if he transitions well to the big league game.
Up Next: Reliever of the Year
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
Where did Luis Lugo fall regarding break through prospect? If I remember correctly he dominated at Mahoning Valley short season and near the end he was promoted to Lake County. With the lack of left hand starters in Indians organization it looks like he could be a promising prospect.
He does need to hit the weight room though. I remember seeing him at LC and he was short and stocky. I saw video from him this year and hes, well, short and stockier.