Winter Ball Notebook: Surprise wins AFL title
Tyler Naquin plays key role in leading the Saguaros to the AFL's top prize
Oh what a week it was.
There’s plenty of news coming out of this past week’s winter ball action, but perhaps no news is bigger than the Surprise Saguaros defeating Mesa 2-0 to win the Arizona Fall League title on Saturday.
This news is particularly important for the Indians, simply because the Tribe had eight players (Tyler Naquin, Joe Wendle, Tony Wolters, Shawn Armstrong, Trey Haley, Jeff Johnson, Will Roberts, Tyler Sturdevant) on Surprise’s roster.
The actual importance of an AFL Championship may be debatable, but it’s still nice that a strong contingent of Indians were part of the winning team. At the very least, these players gained valuable experience by playing in games that were weighted in importance.
A handful of these players made some positive strides during their time in the AFL, and that’s really all that an MLB team can ask for.
With that being said, here are some thoughts on deep and shallow on a number of the Indians players currently competing in the various winter leagues…
Player of the Week
Carlos Moncrief — Outfielder, Gigantes de Carolina
5 G, 6-for-21, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K
Moncrief’s numbers weren’t too impressive for the most part, but the reality is that no one Indians player really stood out in terms of performance this past week. However, the one nice thing with Moncrief was that he finally started to display some power for the first time this winter season. His two doubles and one home run were his first extra-base hits of the winter season. While much of the hype this winter has centered around Jesus Aguilar, do not overlook Moncrief. Yes, Aguilar is coming off a strong 2013 campaign, but it could be argued that Moncrief’s season was even stronger. Also, while Aguilar could factor into the Indians’ plans in 2013, the very same thing can be said for Moncrief. Any team is always searching for an athletic player who has the ability to hit for some power, and that is a perfect description for Moncrief. He is only hitting .243 (9-for-37) in 10 games a so far, and his 12 strikeouts are alarming, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn it around and have an Aguilar-esque type winter season. This past week was definitely a step in the right direction.
News & Notes
— You have to be impressed with what Tyler Naquin accomplished this fall in the AFL. Because he was a first round pick (and selected before Michael Wacha), Naquin has found himself to be the subject of much criticism as of late. To an extent, that is fair as Naquin did show that he has some noticeable flaws in 2013, especially in regard to plate discipline (134 strikeouts in 126 games). However, this fall Naquin really was outstanding in almost every facet as he compiled a .339/.400/.417 line with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 18 RBI. He also showed improved plate discipline as he draw 11 walks and struck out 18 times. Now, it’s obviously too early to predict that Naquin will have an impact at the Major League level, but he does seem to be making progress in his development. He played almost every game this fall for Surprise, and that’s a testament to just how hot he was. Coaches usually rotate players in and out in an effort to get every player some quality at-bats, but Naquin was never out of the lineup for much more than a day at a time. That’s a testament to his performance and just how much he meant to Surprise’s AFL title win.
— The IBI’s Jim Pete and Michael Hattery recently started a “campaign” to voice their support for infielder Jose Ramirez. While I fully support that campaign, I propose launching an additional campaign for another budding Indians prospect — Joe Wendle. Wendle completed a strong AFl campaign this past week as he posted .311/.371/.492 line with four doubles, two triples, one home run and 12 RBI. What makes this even more impressive is that all of this production came in a mere 16 games. Unfortunately, Wendle was a casualty of a manager trying to get his players as much time as possible, so he never really got the opportunity to play every day. Nonetheless, his impact was still significant, which is especially impressive when you consider that he likely was never able to get into a rhythm at the plate. There are varying opinions as to what the future holds for Wendle. Some say he’s perhaps a rich man’s Cord Phelps while others think he could have an impact as significant as Jason Kipnis, minus Kipnis’ defense. I’m not sure of where exactly he falls, but his numbers are impressive enough that the Indians may want to experiment with him at some other positions other than second base. Wherever he has gone, he has posted impressive OPS numbers, so it could be that there is more than meets they eye with Wendle.
— Speaking of Jose Ramirez, what exactly is going on with the switch-hitting infielder? In 21 games in the DWL, Ramirez currently has a .267/.308/.384 line. Those numbers are really not all that concerning, but the one other area that could be somewhat worrisome is the fact that he has drawn just three walks while striking out 15 times. Keep in mind that part of Ramirez’s calling card is his ability to get on base and put up quality at-bats. However, he just has really struggled in that area so far this winter, and there does not seem to be any real reason as to why that’s the case. The one positive thing to remember here is that it’s just 21 games and 86 at-bats, so there is time for Ramirez to get it straightened out. Nonetheless, after such a strong 2013 season that ultimately resulted in a promotion with the Major League club, one would hope that Ramirez would have gotten off to a better start in winter ball.
— Joseph Colon made his second start of the winter season this past week for Cangrejeros de Santurce, and he allowed three runs in four innings of work while striking out four. So far, in two starts, Colon has allowed four earned runs in nine innings of work and has an ERA of 4.00. Colon is an interesting player as he’s coming off a strong season with High-A Carolina where he posted a 3.13 ERA in 15 starts and 83 1/3 innings of work. While he does not throw very hard, he could have a future as a potential back-of-the-rotation type starter, so it will be interesting to see how he performs this upcoming season. It would appear as if he’ll get a chance to start out at Double-A Akron, but a lot of that could depend on his performance this winter. So far though, the Indians have to be impressed with his performance in two starts, especially since he’s never pitched up the High-A level as a professional. There are really only a handful of intriguing Indians pitchers competing in winter ball, and Colon may be at the top of that list.
Here are the updated stats through November 17th:
|De La Cruz, Alex||PWL||1||0||4||0||0||4.2||3||0||0||2||3||0.00||0.33||1.07||.188|
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.