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2015 IBI Preview Capsules: 1B Jesus Aguilar

Though he's buried on the depth chart, Aguilar could help in Cleveland in 2015

2015 IBI Preview Capsules: 1B Jesus Aguilar
Jesus Aguilar (Photo: IBI)
January 3, 2015
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Welcome to the 2015 IBI preview capsules!

In order to prepare for the upcoming season, IBI will have a preview capsule running for every player on the 40-man roster and selected non-roster invites. To mix things up, we will be running these roughly in alphabetical order. 

Previously-run previews can be found here:

Next up is first baseman Jesus Aguilar.

Jesus Aguilar, 1B

Bats: Right -- Throws: Right -- Entering his age-25 season -- Contract: Pre-arbitration player (under team control through 2020, on track for arbitration eligibility in 2018)

2014 Overview: Many Cleveland fans clamor for a right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup, but despite a .304/.395/.511 line in 118 Triple-A games, Aguilar was only given a handful of plate appearances in Cleveland. Aguilar struggled in that limited time, but given his Triple-A performance and relative youth, the first baseman still has time to establish himself at the major league level.

Versus Right-handers: Aguilar has not shown any issue with platoon splits in the minors, as evidenced by the first baseman’s .911 OPS against righties in Columbus in 2014. Paired with solid strikeout and walk rates (around 22 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively), Aguilar looks to be the kind of player who can handle same-handed pitching, an important characteristic for a right-handed batter to have. The whole combination looks like the Mets’ Lucas Duda’s 2014, and if Aguilar’s performance against right-handers in the majors looks anything like Duda’s overall performance, he will be just fine.

Versus Left-handers: Strangely, Aguilar’s performance in the minors over the past few seasons has been worse while having the platoon advantage, with the first baseman posting a .692 OPS against lefties in Akron in 2013 and a .894 OPS in Columbus in 2014. Given the relatively small number of plate appearances any hitter gets against lefties in a given season, declaring Aguilar as someone with a reverse platoon split is likely aggressive. For as much as Aguilar struggled in 2013 against left-handers, he looked fine in 2014 and should help balance the lineup in 2015 and beyond.

On Defense: Aguilar is a big guy -- listed at 6’3”, 250 pounds -- but during his brief major league tenure, he showed the ability to make the routine plays expected of a first baseman. If he is anything like the White Sox’s Jose Abreu -- who is roughly the same size -- Aguilar will not be someone who adds much value on defense, but he should be someone able to not embarrass himself out there. But without a few steps forward in the field, Aguilar’s value will mostly come at the plate, not with the glove.

Fantasy Impact: Home run power is down in baseball, and given Aguilar’s 19 home runs, 69 runs, and 77 RBI down in Triple-A in 118 games, the first baseman could have some value if he gets plate appearances in 2015. Even with some healthy regression once facing major league pitching, Aguilar could offer some decent stats for a corner infielder, like the Twins’ Trevor Plouffe in 2014. But until Aguilar has a clear role on the Cleveland roster, he will only be someone to keep an eye on while waiting for a callup as opposed to someone to target before the season.

Summary: With the presence of Carlos Santana, Brandon Moss, and Nick Swisher on the major league roster, finding playing time in Cleveland for Aguilar seems impossible. Since Aguilar is really only able to play at first base or DH, he will need some movement on the roster ahead of him to really find an opportunity. It could be injury (Swisher and Moss are both coming off of injury) or trade, but after Aguilar’s struggles in the majors in limited time last year, the front office is not likely going to make moves to hand the first baseman a job. Aguilar will need to force his way onto the major league roster, which is what the first baseman will likely do if he posts another .906 OPS in Columbus in 2015.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

January 6, 2015 - 1:05 AM EST
Just checked out the new Scout sight...
I will miss the "User Comments" feature of this sight.
It's been interesting reading fan comments about specific articles.
Don't get much of that from discussion forums.
January 4, 2015 - 6:35 PM EST
Doesn't matter what anyone thinks of Aguilar because we're stuck with Swisher at the moment. The stupidity of some views regarding prospects does get funny and entertaining though. For example, Jason Jackson's comment that he clearly doesn't see anything worthwhile in Aguilar because Andy Marte and Matt LaPorta didn't work out for the Indians. The same was thought of Brantley, Kluber, and numerous others as well. Hell, Jose Bautista was a rule V pick so he must have been a POS. If you can't see by the numbers, age, and production that Aguilar deserves an opportunity then there is no conversation to be had. Those are cold, hard facts that are indisputable. The results he would have with the major league club can be argued until he is given a real chance to translate his production. If he gets that opportunity and fails, then no one will have an argument to keep him in the lineup or on the roster for that matter, but to this point he has done just about everything a prospect can do. That doesn't mean he can't improve, so don't go there.

The Indians could use a RH'd bat and the available free agent pickings are slim to none and the ones that were available had a price tag well out of the Indians reach. There are already options on the roster if Aguilar would fail. The one thing I don't want to see happen is Aguilar being on the 25 man roster and only getting 200-300 at bats scattered throughout the season. I'd rather he played everyday in Columbus.
January 4, 2015 - 1:48 PM EST
I think we got Marte from Boston, right?

Rich, re: "I can't forget that LaPorta and Marte also put up impressive numbers in AAA. And Chisenhall." Yes, and so did Brantley and Gomes. It's hard to know or say exactly when and how a young player will develop into a ML regular. I agree with your comment about this being an important year for Aguilar, and if at AAA this year he can move into the .950-1.000 OPS range, maybe we've got something...
C L Who
January 4, 2015 - 11:34 AM EST

Marte is still putting up impressive numbers in AAA and in the Winter League. The lesson there is never trade with the Braves for a prospect because the Braves only trade prospects going nowhere.
Joe Chengery
January 4, 2015 - 11:16 AM EST
Santana and Moss have stronger cases of being better options than Aguilar, but Swisher's case isn't as strong for several reasons:

1. He's at that age where injuries and ineffectiveness really can creep in and take their toll. Is that what's happening to Swisher? While he did hit 22 HRs in 2013, his OPS was well under 800, whereas he was well above 800 the prior years before that. Thus, it's debatable if his offense will come back to a respectable level where's he clearly a better option than Aguilar.

2. The large contract necessitates he must be a clearly better option than Aguilar- if he isn't, the Indians really need to find a creative way to trade him because they could probably get comparable production from Aguilar at much less cost, money that can be used elsewhere (such as the bullpen for an established back-end reliever).

With #2 said, though, it's likely Swisher will still be here to start the season and Aguilar will be down at AAA to start 2015. The key, though, more so than Santana or Moss, is if Swisher can stay healthy and produce the way the Indians are expecting him to right away to start the season. If Swisher is struggling into May and Aguilar is tearing the cover off the ball in Columbus, the Indians will be hard-pressed to keep running Swisher out there just because he has a track record when his hitting trend has gone the wrong direction the last few seasons, and especially at that cost.

Of course, by that time, that scenario will make it even harder to trade Swisher and open up a spot for Aguilar, which makes the Swisher contract even more unpalatable. The question is, if the Indians have a legitimate chance to trade Swisher before the season starts, regardless of the package back, should they do it, and trust that Santana, Moss, and Aguilar can provide enough to offset any possible comeback in production by Swisher? I do think Swisher's returning to the form he's shown throughout much of his career is debatable due to the fact he's no longer in his prime, he has struggled with injuries, and the fact he had a considerable dropoff in production in 2013, even with the 22 HRs.
January 4, 2015 - 10:12 AM EST
His OPS at home was .970. On the road it was .832.

I think he's almost there but not quite. I can't forget that LaPorta and Marte also put up impressive numbers in AAA. And Chisenhall.
January 4, 2015 - 10:07 AM EST
The interesting thing about Jesus was how big a jump he took between 2013 and 2014.

Playing for AA Akron in 2013 he hit .276 with an OPS of .776. He was 1.4 years younger than the league average, so he was basically playing against his peers.

Playing for AAA Columbus in 2014 he hit .304 with a .904 OPS, an whopping increase of 128 points while playing at a higher level. And, he was 2.9 years younger than the league average despite being a year older, so he was playing against players who were over four years older on average than the year before.

IOW, his offense improved dramatically despite playing against much older and more advanced players. The question is how much the ballpark affected those numbers.

The question is whether Aguilar can take another step forward this year and raise that OPS to the .950 - 1.000 neighborhood. If he can do that, they have to find a way to give him a real shot in Cleveland, especially if Swisher's career continues to flame out. Or if Bourn gets hurt yet again and they can move Swish to the OF.
January 4, 2015 - 10:04 AM EST
Some have over valued the potential of Aguilar, while other have under valued him. The real Aguilar is probably some where in the middle.

Santana, Swisher and Moss are better options for the Indians than Aguilar at this time.

January 4, 2015 - 7:10 AM EST
My goodness guys, Aguilar has value as a backup option in case of injury, but until he proves otherwise, that's all he is. Don't try to feed me "but he needs a chance!!" It's clear he has limitations to his game, and if he hits like some people think he will, he will force his way into future plans.

But to just say "GIVES HIM THE JOBS" is just short sighted. He looked pretty bad at the plate in his first exposure to major league pitching. If this were 2012's Indians team with Manny Acta or Sandy Alomar running the team, I fully believe Aguilar would be getting 3-400 at bats without question. But the current team is actually in a position to contend for a playoff birth and relying on Aguilar IMO is foolish.

I do believe he can be a productive member for the Indians eventually. But not a game changer by any means. its not enough for me to just give him the job over a proven track record of a Swisher who is fully capable of returning from injuries. If he hits he'll force his way in, and will probably be in the mix regardless due to injury somewhere.

People need to learn to be patient. Always so damn quick to make a change and fight to show why it's the right move. Go ahead and swing at every pitch and try to argue no matter what result that you had a good at bat. Just not always the case.
January 4, 2015 - 2:04 AM EST
That's a stupid and juvenile comment Jason. Sure Jesus has limitations, but all players do. A guy with a .900-plus OPS is not blocking himself.
Jason Jackson
January 4, 2015 - 1:23 AM EST
Aguilar isn't being blocked by Swisher or Santana, but rather by himself. I've seen the kid play at several stops along the minors and i don't see anything that leads me to think he is anything other than at best a 4A player. Even his name scares me; translated into English is means Matt LaPorta.
C L Who
January 4, 2015 - 12:54 AM EST
Chip, I'd say it's more likely that Aguilar will be traded than Swisher. That's probably a bad result for the Tribe, though it does save some immediate out of pocket cash payouts.

I've seen nothing that would suggest Aguilar has a high value to the team going forward, from the FO perspective. Also, I don't see that it's likely he can "force" himself into the lineup. He's always going to be up against the $15 MM guy, unless that guy is traded.
January 3, 2015 - 9:14 PM EST
Aguilar is stuck between Swisher and a hard place. I want to see him get at bats because I firmly believe he is a better RH'd bat than most available via free agency, but where does he play? The only scenarios are Swisher being moved which would allow Aguilar to DH mostly and spell Santana at 1B, or Bourn being dealt which would move Brantley to CF and allow Swisher to play a corner OF spot thus freeing up DH. Neither seem likely at this point, which is unfortunate IMO.

The only other way for Aguilar to slide into a spot would be due to injury and I don't wish that upon anyone. If Aguilar is dealt in a trade then Moss could fill in at 1B and/or DH allowing Murphy more playing time.

If I was a team looking for a young 1B, I would be talking to Antonetti about the big fella. I hate to see it happen, but I believe it is a serious possibility. I just hope the powers that be value Aguilar as much as I do, but I doubt it.
January 3, 2015 - 8:34 PM EST
I would like to see Aguilar take the DH role and keep it. He is younger than Swisher and he can strike out just like Swisher but only difference is that he would be learning and only get better.
Team would be better if it traded Swisher and got something in return that can contribute to team. We do not know if Swisher can come back after knee surgery?
January 3, 2015 - 1:57 PM EST
Thanks Jim! I am appreciating your brief capsule categories and your style of presenting the basic player information without a whole lot of extra stuff, i.e. opinion. I'm really happy about Aguilar's steady, if incremental progress and improvements, and hope it continues. It will have to for him to, as you say, force his way onto the ML team.
C L Who
January 3, 2015 - 1:56 PM EST
With only 38 PA in 2014 in the majors it's hard to know what Aguilar might do with regular playing time. I would like to see him and Carlos regularly trade off between 1B and DH so we can find out.

Once again, Swisher appears in the role of "reason younger players are blocked." That's a problem that can be solved if ownership becomes willing to pay 5 to 6 million during each of the next two years to move Swisher to another team. That seems like a lot of cash, but on the other hand, the Bret Myers fiasco cost 7 million and seems to have caused no lasting harm. Unless Kip has a big bounce back year in 2015 he will be the next Tribe player in the Swisher role.

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