Aguilar has chance to impact Indians roster

CLE INF Jesus Aguilar (10) playing for the World team during batting practice prior to the 2012 All Star Futures game between the US Team and the World Team in Kansas City, MO at Kauffman Stadium.  

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One of the Indians biggest weaknesses last season was lack of a middle-of-the-order bat to help stabilize the middle of the Cleveland lineup and provide consistent production.

They have guys like Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley who all have had varying success hitting near the top of the order, and they have some interesting depth to round out the bottom of the order with the likes of Yan Gomes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Raburn, David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall.  

But aside from Carlos Santana, the Indians lack very many alternatives to hit in the middle of the lineup and be a consistent run producer on a daily basis.

This lack of options led to some inconsistency with scoring runs and is still an issue as things stand today. They have attempted to circumvent that lack of a middle of the order bopper by opting for lineup depth and balance from one through nine, an approach which mostly worked last season; however, the addition of an anchor to the middle of the lineup to what already is in place might be the difference in taking their lineup from good to very good or near elite.

Such a solution does not exist in free agency. Players like Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales who would fit well from a production standpoint don’t fit because of the high cost in money and also draft compensation. There are also very few middle-of-the-order bats available in trades unless you want to gut other areas of the team.  

This means that the Indians solution to their middle-of-the-order problem will need to come from within. In years past this would be a frightening proposition, but for the first time in several years the Indians may actually have a good, productive power bat in the minors on the cusp of the majors by the name of Jesus Aguilar.

By now, many Indians fans should know a little about Aguilar.

Even for those fans who follow very little of the minor leaguers, it is hard not to notice the first baseman’s nice showing in 2013 with Double-A Akron hitting .275 with 16 HR, 105 RBI and .776 OPS in 130 games. He carried that into an impressive offseason campaign in the Venezuela Winter League hitting .327 with 18 HR, 50 RBI and 1.000 OPS in 58 games. All told, in 188 combined games between Akron and Venezuela, he hit .291 with 34 HR, 155 RBI and .846 OPS.

The 23-year old Aguilar’s season in Akron was nice, but his showing in Venezuela is what really caught the attention of personnel for the Indians and scouts for other teams. The power numbers for the hulking 6-foot-3, 250-pound slugger finally consistently came together, and with the Indians in search of a big right-handed bat to put into the middle of the lineup, he now potentially could be an option for them at some point this coming season.

The competition in Akron and Venezuela is obviously not major league equivalent, so we do not yet know how Aguilar will translate to the major leagues when he gets an opportunity, but barring injury there is no doubt that he is going to get that major league opportunity sometime this coming season. The question lies in how he gets that opportunity and what he does when he gets it.

Right now the Indians are set to have Nick Swisher be the primary first baseman and Yan Gomes the primary catcher. Both will also probably play some designated hitter, a spot that Carlos Santana is expected to hold when he is not playing first base for Swisher, at catcher for Gomes, and maybe even third base for Lonnie Chisenhall. With that in mind, it does not allow the Indians an opportunity to play Aguilar at the major league level unless an injury to one of Swisher, Santana or Gomes allows it.

That is not a problem as Aguilar could use some time at Triple-A Columbus this coming season to fine tune his approach, swing and defense all while being an immediate major league option for the Indians. If the need is on a short term basis, then newly signed first baseman David Cooper might get the first call because of his major league experience and not wanting to limit Aguilar to a bench role. But if the need is on a long term basis and allows him to start, then Aguilar could get that call to Cleveland.

Aguilar has the chance to impact the Indians roster and lineup much like Gomes did last year. Gomes was slated for Columbus even before spring training began because Lou Marson was on the roster as the backup catcher, but an injury early in the season that put Marson on the shelf for a considerable amount of time opened the door for Gomes and the rest is history.

Even if an injury does not allow Aguilar to come up, if he is really tearing it up in Columbus and the Indians have an injury in the outfield or poor performance, they could conceivably move Swisher to right field and free up a spot at first base and designated hitter to play Aguilar.

Either way, Aguilar is a promising and interesting bat to have on standby in Columbus. If his power and bat translates to the major league level, it would be a big boost to a lineup in need of a legit middle of the order bat.