Washington ready to rebound
If you point to one player in the Cleveland Indians minor league system that is probably the most important to get back on track, that player is arguably outfielder LeVon Washington.
It is not because Washington was a high round draft pick taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 Draft. It is also not about the Indians getting a return on their $1.2 million investment in him. It simply is because outside of shortstop Francisco Lindor, there is not a position player prospect in the Indians’ system that has the ability to impact the game and become a star at the Major League level like he can.
Washington, 20, had a disappointing season last year. He was limited to just 79 games because he was recovering from offseason hip surgery and also had a knee injury that cropped up during spring training that affected him all season. On top of that he was also incorporating a new stance and swing which took some time to get used to. With all of that going on, he finished the year with some subpar numbers as he hit .218 with 4 HR, 20 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and .647 OPS.
With a little under two weeks left until the start of the 2012 season, Washington feels he is ready to go, or as he might say on Twitter, “It’s Wash Time.”
“I feel good and healthy,” Washington said. “I’m excited to get going. I feel a lot different from last year and feel more comfortable in the outfield moving around. I also know a lot more.”
Nothing better shows that Washington may in fact be back than what he did in the Indians’ first minor league instrasquad game last week. In the first unofficial at bat of the Indians’ minor league season he led off the game by ripping a line drive to the right center field gap. He raced around the bases and without hesitation sprinted around third base and went full bore toward third base and did a Pete Rose into the base just ahead of the tag.
Last season Washington’s knee injury slowed him down and mostly affected his aggression on the basepaths. He looked timid. Had he ripped that triple last season he probably would have settled for the double without a thought of going to third base. But that was not the case last week as he rounded second base with the confidence that his extra gear would be there.
Washington spent the entire offseason working out to get healthier, stronger, and improve his game. So far it appears to be paying off.
“I was here in the offseason most of the time,” Washington said. “I went to Instructs, then the Dominican Republic for two weeks [in November], then I went home for maybe a month and I came straight out here in January and started working. It was just baseball and trying to get focused for the season. I think I put in a lot of good work as I have been out here since January and I think I am ready to go.”
The way things look at the moment, Washington looks like a lock to open the season at Lake County. He has unfinished business there and starting the season by repeating at the same level as last year is the right decision.
Washington is still viewed as a center fielder, but he may play a lot of left field in Lake County because outfielders Luigi Rodriguez and Bryson Myles are expected to get a lot of time in center field. A lot of people have projected him as more of a left fielder because of his below average throwing arm. His arm strength has just never returned after shoulder surgery in 2009, but according to Washington it is starting to come back after he did some rehab on it this offseason.
“I can play center field,” Washington said. “A lot of people think I should move to left, but I believe I can play center field. My arm feels good compared to what it has been. I have been doing a lot of work on it with a shoulder program two or three times a week. I did not think it would be a big deal, but it has helped my arm.”
No matter what position Washington plays or what level he plays at, this season is all about improving and getting back on his development path as a prospect.
“I just want to play hard and show what I can do,” Washington said. “I am still in the minor leagues, so I need to work on everything.”
First cuts announced
Yesterday the Indians officially released LHP Kirk Wetmore, INF Kevin Fontanez, RHP Joey Mahalic, RHP Ramon Cespedes, RHP Matt Curtis, RHP Moisses Ramirez, CA Doug Pickens.
While none of the releases came as a surprise, it is always a tough day to see the dreams of several young men come to an end. I wish all of them well. Sadly, probably another 10-15 releases are still to come between now and next weekend.
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his new book the 2012 Cleveland Indians Prospect Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
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.
I hope that isn't the case. His BA last year gives me pause. But, his surprising plate discipline gives me hope.