Diamonds in Single A: The Revisit
Karexon Sanchez was a prospect that some people thought might be able to break out last year and really move up in peoples’ eyes. The combo of speed and power potential was very intriguing for a middle infielder. While he still had problems putting the bat on the ball, it should be noted his walk total doubled last year while the rest of his numbers stayed consistent. He was average age for the league and with the issues there it seems that Sanchez’s future would be as a utility player, and the Indians seem to agree as already this year he has played 2B, 3B, SS, and DH. He is off to an excellent start and is still doing a great job of taking walks. While he will never be a starter for the Indians, Sanchez is still an intriguing name to watch as the future utility man for the Tribe.
Alexander Perez was a name that really jumped up the ranks last year, and a lot of this had to do with him holding his own in Kinston and Lake County while only 19 years of age. Sadly, not long after my column on him last year Perez was hurt and did not play for the rest of the year, so it stalled his momentum and really hurt his chances at being considered a top ten pick in the Indians deep system. Going forward it will be fun to see him rise in this system; his excellent strike out to walk rates show that at worst he will one day be a back of the rotation starter for the Tribe, with an upside that should be much higher.
Connor Graham was a player who barely made the requirements to be in this column. While he never played for an Indians Single A affiliate, he had been yet to make an appearance above A level. So it was too hard to pass on the chance to review the newest member of the Tribe. As I stated at the end of that article, it seemed to me that Graham with his live arm had a future in the pen, and thus far he has done little to disprove it. The control issues are what hold Graham back, and if he could learn to command his pitches I think he could be a middle of the rotation starter for the Tribe, but at this point expecting him to gain that much control might not be possible. The hope is that his control will improve and that he will move into the pen as a 7th or 8th inning pitcher who can blow his fastball by opponents.
This is the stretch where this article was focused solely on the young arms the Tribe had acquired. The next player was Bryan Price, who was the third player in the Victor Martinez deal. Price was moved back to the pen this year thanks to the depth in the system. He was a closer in college before Boston took him in the supplemental first round and tried to make him a starter. He has noticeably struggled this year, which leads me to worry about his health. The jump to AA is a weeding out point, but for a pitcher like Price the few appearances he has made have been way out of line with his historical stats. Price is a player I am very interested to watch pitch and progress this year, so much so I mentioned him in the Indians round table discussion for the site at the seasons start. I think the pen is his natural role, and with his experience and pitches he could be a boon to the pen by next season. He has a great draft pedigree and has shown the ability to make players miss, and as long as he can progress he might be the first player from this article to make it to the bigs.
In my opinion, Nick Hagadone was the most important piece the Indians received in the Victor Martinez deal. Big lefties who throw as hard as he does are very rare to find. His numbers in the minors have been dominating and show everything you would want to find in a pitcher. The only concern is the age factor—he is currently 24 and in high A. He basically lost a year and a half to injury and recovery, and the Indians are still taking it slow with him. In some respects I think the Indians are being even more cautious than need to be because they might be afraid of an Adam Miller situation occurring. Hagadone to me is the best minor league pitcher this organization has had since Miller, who would have been starting his 3rd season in the bigs if he could have stayed healthy. I know there is talk to accelerate Hagadone’s schedule by making him a reliever, but I would hate to rush that transition when he has legit ace potential as a starter. We should see him at AA this year, and the hope is that maybe next August he could be in Cleveland. As long as he stays healthy I expect big things from Hagadone.
Next up is the last of the trade pieces the Indians got at last year’s trade deadline, which was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal where we got Jason Knapp. Knapp has yet to pitch this season and the injury concerns are the reason why. As with Hagadone, I wonder if the specter of Adam Miller doesn’t haunt this organization when it comes to the handling of young pitchers. Knapp has the advantage that he is still only 19 and could end up finishing the year in High A this season if he gets healthy quickly enough, and at that point he would have lost little in terms of developmental time. The concern has to be that he isn’t with a team right now, and the Indians still make his injury seem like it’s not major, which makes one wonder what exactly is wrong with Knapp and when will we see him.
The last player this column looked at last year was a personal favorite of mine, Clayton Cook. The Indians drafts have been rightfully maligned over the past decade, but if there is one thing the Indians do well it’s mining the later rounds for talent that other teams overlooked. Cook is a prime example of the Tribe’s ability to find such players. Cook was the picture of consistency last year for Mahoning Valley, and while never dominating, he was a one of the best pitchers on a very good team. Cook has struggled a little this year, and this seems to be mostly due to a spike in his walks, but it is early on and I expect him to balance out and have another solid year for the Tribe. He is still very young, and should be a player to watch steadily advance through the system over the next 2-3 years.