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Around the Farm: May 23, 2012: The Deep Thought Edition

Around the Farm: May 23, 2012: The Deep Thought Edition
May 24, 2012
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Around the Farm was originated here at Indians Prospect Insider, and takes a quick look at some of yesterday's performances by Indians prospects throughout the system. The positions listed below are where the player was playing in yesterday's game.
 
T.J. House: SP, Akron Aeros: W (3-1), 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR:
 
The Indians organization has to be just giddy after this start from House, as the big lefty continues to blossom in his fourth professional season. House got rocked on May 13th, his third start at Double A Akron, and while normally you could shrug it off to a move to a different level, with House, it brought back visions seasons prior, where the fireballer would get lit up, and never seem to be able to regain his composure in several starts afterwards. This “new” attitude, discovery, or whatever you want to call it has been sublime. Since that five inning, seven hit, six run performance, House has been magical. He’s gone 13 total innings, giving up only eight hits and a run, while striking out nine. There was a bit of a concert in his last start when House gave up four walks, which again, brought back memories of his two full seasons at Kinston, when he walked 127 batters, and struck out 195. After a six-run game, and a four-walk game, what do we get? An ace. Welcome to professional baseball Mr. House. You’ve more than earned your dues, and come out the other side smiling. It looks like there’s more than one T.J. on this team destined for the bigs, and both happen to be lefties to boot.
 
Tony Wolters: SS, Carolina Mudcats: 2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 BB:
 
Patience is a virtue, that’s what I always say. Okay…okay…I usually say it after a few, “hmmm, maybe they should have skipped a level with this kid.” While Wolters came out of this slump slowly at the start, you can officially call this a break-out. In his past six games, the top five prospect has gone 8-for-20, with five runs, two doubles, a triple and three RBI. He’s also walked four times, and only struck out once. Yeah, sounds like the guy from 2011, doesn’t it. Go back further, and Wolters has a ten-game line of .308/.386/.487, and you have to love that .874 OPS. How drastic has the change been? In April, Wolters hit .130, with two doubles and seven RBI in 18 total games. He looked lost, overmatched, and every other word you can come up with that describes a sub-20 year old playing in his first full season league. Enter May, and Wolters turned himself into a gap-powered top prospect again, hitting .288, with 11 runs, seven doubles, a triple, eight RBI and four stolen bases in 19 games so far, and still has another week before June. Combine that with improving defense at both second and short (primarily at second), and you have a kid who has proven to be every bit as good as everyone thought, maybe even moreso, as he claws himself back to respectability out of this slump. I don’t know what he projects as a big league prospect as a middle infielder with the Indians, with Kipnis at second, Cabrera at short, and Lindor knocking on the door, but he’s certainly proven a valuable commodity.
 
Danny Salazar: SP, Carolina Mudcats: 3 IP, 1 BB, 4 K:
 
The Indians are really taking care of this kid, and it was clear why last night. He’s really good. He spent a month on the DL, and since he’s come back, has been electric in his brief time on the hill. He’s gone five innings, giving up three hits and a walk, while striking out five. He had his UCL reconstructed in 2010, and should just now be getting back to that level where he can control his pitches, and maintain his velocity, if not improve it. He’s not a name that many are familiar with, but he just appears to have the stuff that will make him more than relevant. The only question going forward is whether or not he can stay healthy. If he can, you have to believe he can be a top-end starter, or a big time reliever.
 
  • Tim Fedroff: LF, Akron: 3-for-5, 2 R, 1 3B: There isn’t going to be many stretches of baseball at the Double A level in which Fedroff isn’t going to hit the baseball. Coming into Wednesday Night’s game, the Akron outfielder had gone 0-for-6 in his last two games, and 4-for-29 in his last eight. He broke out of that slump with what’s become the norm for the University of North Carolina product. It’s fairly clear that the Indians have sent Fedroff a message with his demotion to Akron this season, and while I don’t believe Fedroff has long-term starter potential in the bigs, he would be in Triple A in most systems. Unfortunately, right now, Goedert and LaPorta are knocking on the Indians door, while Zeke Carrera holds the fort in center. It could be awhile for Fedroff, unless there is a move coming soon. And even then, it may not be him.
  • Chin-Hsiu Chen: 1B, Akron: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 BB: Chen is just a productive baseball player right now, and that would be an understatement. He has a current six-game hit streak, and during that streak, he has scored five runs, hit two doubles and a triple, and driven in seven baserunner. I still have to wonder why the Indians moved Chen to first base, where one homer just won’t cut it at the big league level. I know there was concern about health, and even defense, but now Chen is only a marginal prospect per position at best, unless he can re-discover that 16-homer-in-113 games that he showed last season. It’s just disappeared, and with it, his chance of playing major league baseball with the Indians.
  • Thomas Neal: RF, Akron: 2-for-3, 1 BB, SB (3): Neal breached the .300 level on Wednesday with another two-hit performance. He’s clearly re-energized after starting off the season behind the eight ball after getting dumped off the 40-man, and demoted. He’s had back-to-back two hit games, and over his past seven has gone 12-for-27, with six runs, a double, a triple, and five RBI. Neal may have the same problem as Chen though. Both are right hand bats, and both could provide exactly what the Indians need in terms of production from that side of the plate, but the two combined have hit exactly one homer. In 2008, Neal hit 15 homers, followed that up with 22, then hit 12 last year. His first year in the notorious offensive PCL, he had only hit two in 60 games in an injury prone season, then followed up with zero homers this season, back in Double A. Without power, Neal is a non-issue, and likely would be behind Fedroff in a call-up. Add the power, and he immediately becomes relevant.
  • Preston Guilmet: Closer, Akron: S (5), 1 IP, 2 K: Guilmet’s consistency in 2012 has been equivalent to toddler food, as the former Carolina League saves leader really hadn’t had two shutout, shut down games in a row in Double A. Now he has with Wednesday Night’s performance that was easily his best since his promotion this season. Guilmet isn’t considered a top relieving prospect, as he really doesn’t have the velocity that most want in a backend reliever. At the same time, he has an incredibly deceptive delivery that could translate if he can sneak through these next levels. I have a feeling that when Guilmet is right, he can produce much like a guy like Joe Smith. We’ll see how that looks going forward.
  • Tyler Holt: CF, Carolina: 1-for-4, 1 2B, 2 K: Holt has a nine-game hitting streak, which I believe is a career record for the Tribe farmhand. He’s just figured things out, and is in a holding pattern for Akron, once things shake out at Columbus, or with a few guys that may bolt after June 1st. It is worth taking note that Holt’s strikeouts have started to creep up again, after Holt had evened out about ten games ago, with 22 walks, and 22 strikeouts. Since then, he’s only walked twice, while striking out 11 times. Still, Holt is doing everything that the Indians are asking him to do at this level, and then some. He has five doubles on the young season, and incredibly, has six triples, which leads the Carolina League by two. He also has 11 stolen bases so far, which is right on his 30 SB projection of last season, although he’s already been caught six times.
  • Delvi Cid: LF, Carolina: 1-for-2, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB: The Indians have believed for years now that Delvi Cid was a hidden home run threat, and he’s proven that this season. Okay, okay, that’s totally not true. Cid has hit a grand total of eight home runs in his entire five-year professional career, so when it happens, jot down the day, because it’s not going to happen again for a long time. Cid still remains a tantalizing prospect from the perspective of his speed. He may be the fastest player in the system, but his OBP consistently has been below the magical .350 mark that could make Cid more than just outfield fill at Double A. He’s only 22, and has been struggling with injuries, so you always hope that things are going to click, but time is running out, and there are plenty of prospects ahead of him that are just good enough to keep him back.
  • Kyle Blair: SP, Carolina: L (1-1), 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 7 R/ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 2 HR: Oh no Kyle Blair…Oh No. Blair had been moved to the bullpen in Lake County after getting shelled in a start, and seemed to have righted the ship in a few one-inning starts at the back-end of meaningless games. They moved him to Carolina, and he looked like a different pitcher, making two brilliant starts bookending a one-hit relief appearance. Since then, he’s made two appearances, and they’ve been ugly. He was piggy-backing with Danny Salazar on Wednesday Night, and provided the exact opposite of Salazar’s brilliance. Over his past two games, the big righty has  gone 5 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and 12 earned runs, while walking seven and striking out three. Of the nine hits he’d given up, four of them were home runs. How bad has it been all season? In 10 games, he’s given up nine homers. Not good at all…
  • Shawn Armstrong: RP, Carolina: 2/3 IP, 1 BB, 2K: Attention K-Mart shoppers, but Shawn Armstrong has given up a walk. The only reason why I said that is because that’s about all he gives up at this point. Armstrong has come flying out of seemingly nowhere and absolutely dominated in the Carolina League. His only flaw may be the walks, as he’s given up 12 in 23 innings, against only eight hits and one earned run. Clearly, there are still command issues, but clearly, he’s figured it out enough to be the best reliever on this team at this point…well…best reliever not named Haley anyways.
  • Todd Hankins: LF/3B, Lake County: 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K, SB (7), CS (2): Hankins isn’t really much of a prospect right now, and he’s struggled for much of the 2012 season. He was selected in the 15th round last year, and is still young, so there’s always hope when you see games like this. Perhaps this move to the top of the lineup will help. There’s clearly some plus speed there, and you can’t teach speed.
  • Luigi Rodriguez: CF, Lake County: 2-for-5, 2 K: Rodriguez has been scuffling at the plate of late, as tends to happen with kids that are only 19 years old. His talent is unquestioned, but maintaining the high level of play that he showcased in April (.349/.402/.542) will keep him at the top of the prospects list, not the level of play in May (.192/.272/.219). He’ll be fine, he just has to find that middle ground.
  • Jordan Smith: DH, Lake County: 3-for-5, 1 RBI: Smith was a hitting machine last season at Mahoning, but hasn’t really found his groove during his first full season at Lake County. He came into this game on an 0-for-9 run, and is hitting only .238 over his last ten. Smith can hit the ball, and he’s only 21-years old, so watch this kid. If he can develop a little more power, he could be a player to watch going forward.
  • Jordan Casas: RF, Lake County: 2-for-5, 1 2B, 1 K: With all the focus on this team on the mega prospects like Lindor and Rodriguez, it’s easy to pass over a kid like Casas. Casas isn’t going to be knocking on the Indians door any time soon, but he’s a solid player that can fill the stat line at these lower levels. I could see a scenario that has Casas move up to Carolina ahead of the more headline-grabbing youngsters because he can flat out play, and buy some time to stretch out the prospects. He’s hitting .283 at Lake County right now.
  • Felix Sterling: SP, Lake County: L (2-3), 2 1/3, 5 H, 12 R/ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 2 HR: tick…tick…tick…BOOM! Sterling got lit up like a Christmas tree for the first time this season, and it was in a big way. His ERA was sub-3.00 prior to Wednesday Night’s game.  Afterwards, it ballooned up to 4.89. Sterling is a top prospect, but the concern will always be if the secondary stuff is good enough to take him to the top level. It would be nice to have two plus-pitches to get him out of jams like last night, but you know what, sometimes it just isn’t your night, and clearly, that’s the case for Sterling, and you have to wonder why manager Dave Wallace left him in for that long.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Tony
May 24, 2012 - 10:33 PM EDT
There is a 35 pitch limit in any one inning where had Sterling reached it he would have been taken out. Since he did not reach it and was not close to his 85 pitch or so limit for the game, he went back out there to "get his work in".
detdawg
May 24, 2012 - 5:48 PM EDT
I had similar concerns about Sterling being left to pitch as long as he did. A young pitcher, in particular, shouldn't be allowed to throw too many pitches in any 1 inning.

What has impressed me more this year about House is his consistency from outing to outing. IMO, that was his biggest flaw coming into this season. This year, he is putting together solid to very good performances almost every time he goes out on the bump.

We've had a previous discussion as to how Lindor rates among MLB's prospects. Keith Law just came out with a revised Top 25 Prospects, and Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy is 1st. Lindor was ranked 17th.

http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story?id=7963607&_slug_=dylan-bundy-baltimore-orioles-new-no-1-prospect-baseball-mlb&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fmlb%2fstory%3fid%3d7963607%26_slug_%3ddylan-bundy-baltimore-orioles-new-no-1-prospect-baseball-mlb

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