Winter Ball Notebook: Naquin is making strides in the AFL
Tyler Naquin's strong showing leads to spot in AFL Rising Stars game
The final winter league started play this week as competition began in the Puerto Rican Winter League on Friday. With all the various leagues now in action, Cleveland Indians fans can just sit back and watch as a number of Tribe players work to hone their skills this fall and winter.
We keep waiting and hoping for a number of players to break out this winter, and there certainly have been numerous candidates. In particular, Jesus Aguilar has left a strong impression, but the exact same thing can also be said for the AFL’s Tyler Naquin and the DWL’s Erik Gonzalez.
With a slew of new players beginning play in the PWL this week, even more players now have an opportunity to make a lasting impression with the Indians. Who will be next to impress? Well, that’s a question that will certainly be answered in the days to come.
With that being said, here are some notes deep and shallow in regard to this past week’s winter ball action…
Player of the Week
Tyler Naquin — Outfielder, Surprise Saguaros
5 G, 7-for-21, 6 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 SB
Everyone has been waiting for 2012 first round pick Tyler Naquin to display some power this fall, and the left-handed hitting outfielder did just that this past week as he collected two doubles and a home run. Overall, Naquin is now hitting .360 (27-for-75) in the Arizona Fall League, and it’s impossible to not be impressed with his progress. Perhaps what is most encouraging is the plate discipline that Naquin has shown as he has struck out just 11 times so far and drawn eight walks. This, of course, comes after a season in which Naquin drew just 46 walks and struck out 134 times. Fall leagues like the AFL are all about players continuing to make positive strides while also working on their weaknesses, and it appears as if Naquin is doing just that. The former Texas A&M outfielder was rewarded for his strong performance this past week by earning a spot in the AFL’s Rising Stars game, which was held Saturday night. Naquin again impressed in that contest as he went 1-for-4, but legged out a triple, which seemed destined to be just a double. Few Tribe minor league players have endured the same level of criticism that Naquin has in the past two seasons, but the bottom line is that there really is nothing negative that can be said about his current fall performance.
News & Notes
— Outfielder Carlos Moncrief made his debut Saturday evening in the PWL and proceeded to go 1-for-3 with an RBI. It was especially nice to see Moncrief elect to play in the PWL as he is certainly a prospect with lots to prove this offseason. The left-handed hitting outfielder is coming off a season in which he hit .284/.354/.470 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI in 129 games with Double-A Akron. Moncrief also made tremendous strides in terms of plate discipline as he drew 55 walks and struck out just 98 times, which was a noticeable decrease from any of his previous seasons. Last winter, we saw Jose Ramirez rapidly rise through the Indians’ system thanks to his stellar winter performances. The end result saw Ramirez actually being added to the Indians’ Major League roster in September. Moncrief is a player who has the ability to make a similar impact this winter. After his stellar 2013 season, he has already raised the eyebrows of many in the Indians’ front office, and that will only continue if his winter performance is in line with what he did at Akron.
— The Indians started their offseason with several moves this past week and one of them was the acquisition of left-hander Colt Hynes in exchange for cash. The 28-year-old Hynes is actually competing for Estrellas de Oriente in the DWL, and he’s already made seven appearances thus far. The thought is that the Indians acquired Hynes for the chance that he could become a LOOGY option for the team in the future, and it appears if Estrellas de Oriente is also content to use him in that manner. In his seven appearances thus far, Hynes has yet to record more than one out. However, he also has allowed just three hits and zero runs, so it’s clear that he’s being used in the proper manner. There is no telling as to whether or not Hynes will have a legitimate shot at making the Indians in 2014, but it is interesting to follow his winter ball stats, simply because he seems to be being used in the exact way that he would likely be used in Cleveland. Also, while we can never buy too much into winter ball statistics, you have to be impressed with the results thus far.
— Elvis Araujo made two appearances during this past week. In the first one, the left-hander recorded one out against the only batter that he faced. Yet, on Saturday, Araujo was allowed to face more than just one batter for the first time this winter. In that appearance, the big lefty allowed two hits and one run in 2 1/3 innings of work while also recording one strikeout, which also happened to be his first strikeout so far. It would be nice to see more outings like this from Araujo and hopefully Aguilas del Zulia decides to loosen his leash a bit more as the winter season progresses. The entire 2013 season was basically lost for Araujo, yet he remains an interesting piece to the puzzle because of his size, stuff and for the simple fact that he is left-handed. Araujo is also now 22 years old, so the clock is really not on his side anymore. Now is the time for him to go out and impress the Indians’ front office, and he has the opportunity to do just that this winter. It will be interesting to see where the Indians decide to start him out in 2014, and there also seems to be a good chance that his winter performance may have some bearing on that.
— For much of this notebook, we’ve talked about some of the good, but now it’s time to turn our attention to one of the more negative Indians stories in winter ball right now. Shortstop Ronny Rodriguez has played in nine games for Estrellas de Oriente thus far, and the results have been just downright awful. After going 1-for-4 in his first contest on October 22, Rodriguez has since gone 0-for-16 in eight games. Perhaps the only positive is that Rodriguez has been able to draw three walks during that eight-game span while striking out just two times. Nonetheless, Rodriguez is a player that has always excited Indians fans with his potential, so a performance like this is a tad underwhelming. Rodriguez is coming off an up-and-down 2013 season where he performed okay at the plate and did limit his strikeouts (76 in 116 games), but he also still has struggled with walks (16 in 2013), and his power basically evaporated as he hit just five home runs this past season after hitting 19 in 2012 and 11 in 2011. Of all the Indians players that are playing in the winter leagues, perhaps none need a productive winter season more than Rodriguez. However, unfortunately he has not gotten off to a good start.
Stats through November 3
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