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Three Up, Three Down: 4/14 - 4/20

Three Up, Three Down: 4/14 - 4/20
April 21, 2010
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Welcome to this week's installment of Three Up, Three Down. On the upside, we will look at a second baseman tearing the cover off the ball for Akron, a Captains OF with a major league name, and a flamethrowing lefty aquired at the trading deadline. On the downside, we have a couple of struggling Aeros and a veteran at AAA who is not making the most of an opportunity. Finally, we'll get an update of Al's Bold Predictions for 2010, one of which is looking really good but the other, not so much.

Three Up:
  • We talked about Kinston 2B and 2nd round draft pick Jason Kipnis and his hot start last week, but there's another 2B in the organization who is on fire to begin the season, and that's Cord Phelps in Akron. Phelps is leading the team in batting average with his .390 mark, and is 2nd on the team in HRs with two. Those two home runs put him halfway to his 2009 season total of four. Phelps has an offensive profile that is very similar to that of Kipnis, as he is a patient hitter with an advanced approach (led the Carolina League in walks last season) with a little pop. At this stage, the 3rd round pick out of Stanford is probably a better defender. It will be interesting to see if Phelps can keep up the hot start. If he does, the Indians will find themselves with some great depth options at 2B throughout the system with Donald at AAA, Phelps at AA and Kipnis at A+.
  • Lake County has had a great start to the 2010 season, jumping out to an 11-2 record in the Midwest League. A big part of that hot start has been outfielder Bo Greenwell. In 13 games played, Greenwell is hitting .451 with 3 HRs and 20 RBIs. His OPS is 1.271, and he has stolen 6 bases in 8 attempts. He has a triple and four doubles, and he's walked more than he has struck out (7/5 ratio). Those are pretty crazy numbers, even in such a small sample size. Greenwell will play the entire 2010 season at age 21 and is still relatively inexperienced as an outfielder (football player and 1B in high school) so the Indians will probably take it slow with Mike Greenwell's kid. But if you look at the K-Tribe outfield, there's not a whole lot blocking him from making an appearance in Kinston this year.
  • Speaking of the K-Tribe, pitcher Nick Hagadone has started three games, thrown 13 innings and has yet to give up an earned run. Hagadone is on a pretty strict pitch count, hence the 4 1/3 innings per start average. He has 15 strikeouts on the year against 6 walks, and has given up just 8 hits (1.08 WHIP). The power lefty had some issues with control after coming over in the Victor Martinez trade from the Red Sox last year, so it is good to see a more than 2/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Hagadone is 24 years old, and look for him to see time in Akron this year once the Indians are convinced that his return from Tommy John surgery is complete.
Three Down:

  • Akron 1B Beau Mills is off to a sluggish start for the 2nd year in a row. Mills has been dealing with some health issues which could explain some of his early-season woes. He's batting just .154 and has struck out 6 times in 10 games. He's also committed two errors in the field. He does have a home run and 5 RBI, but that's about the extent of the good news for Mills. Mills was drafted for his big bat and advanced approach, and he really needs to have a big year in Akron to avoid falling further down the prospect ladder. The Indians had high hopes for the 2008 Carolina League MVP, but he has yet to deliver on those hopes in Akron.
  • Ohio native Connor Graham has also been struggling for the Aeros. Obtained from the Rockies in the Rafael Betancourt trade, the physically imposing Graham has started three games for the Aeros so far and has been the losing pitcher in two of them. Graham's ERA currently sits at 7.07, and he has walked 13 batters while striking out 9 in his 14 innings of work. Making matters worse is that when Graham does get the ball in the strike zone, it has been very hittable as opposing batters are teeing off on him to a tune of a .333 batting average against. Graham has had issues with his command in the past, but he has always struck out more hitters than he has walked so I fully expect him to rebound from this slow start. Everything starts with fastball command for Graham, and once that comes around everything else should fall into place behind it. In Graham's last start, he didn't give up an earned run in 4 2/3 innings, but did walk five batters.
  • With the way the major league club has struggled at the plate, a veteran hitter like Shelly Duncan should be taking care of business at AAA and waiting for a call-up. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Duncan is hitting just .175 on the season and .129 in his last 10 games. Duncan has one home run and 11 RBIs, so he has made the most out of the 7 hits that he does have on the season. Duncan has a golden opportunity to make some noise at AAA and force his way back to The Show, but so far he is not taking advantage of it.
As promised, here's an update of my Bold Predictions for 2010:

  • Zach Putnam is making me look good so far. In three starts for the Aeros, he is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA. He has a K/BB ratio of 10/1 on the young season, which I am told is pretty good. He's given up 11 hits to go along with that single walk, so his WHIP remains under 1 thus far. Again, that's pretty good. I'll get to see the Wolverine Destroyer in person this weekend when the Aeros visit the Bowie Baysox.
  • Abner Abreu is not making me look good. The wiry Dominican is batting just .140 on the young season with no home runs and 3 RBI. Slow starts are nothing new for Abreu, as he hit just .211 for Lake County last April. The Indians really wanted Abreu to work on his plate discipline, and so far that hasn't worked as he has struck out 17 times against just 3 walks.

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