Prospects to watch: Columbus Clippers
The Indians are off to a good start after a nice 2-0 win over Oakland on Monday night. Their top farm team, Triple-A Columbus, hopes to do the same when they start their season on Thursday at home against Indianapolis.
This season marks already the sixth season the Indians have had Columbus as their Triple-A affiliate, a natural in-state move made after the 2008 season when the Indians left Buffalo for the state capitol. Columbus fell below .500 for the first time last season (71-73) since their debut season with the Indians in 2009, and finished in second place in the International League’s West Division nine games behind division champion Indianapolis.
Last season the Indians had few Major League options stuffed away at Columbus. The roster was filled mostly with depth players in the upper levels of the minors and low impact options for the Cleveland roster, but things are much different this season as the Indians have several options in the lineup and on the pitching staff who can impact the parent club at some point this season.
Here is an overview of the roster and who to keep an eye on…
WHO TO WATCH
Austin Adams (RHP): Adams has a big arm and should light up the radar gun in Columbus on a regular basis with a fastball that consistently touches 97-99 MPH. He has a very good curveball and has a nice compact, strong frame with a solid delivery. He has struggled with walks over his career, so the main area of focus will be to develop his fastball command. If you love power bullpen guys, this guy is going to be worth the price of admission this year at Huntington Park.
Jesus Aguilar (1B): Aguilar is a guy who impresses from the moment you see him just with his massive size and strength. He is coming off a record 105-RBI season at Double-A Akron last season, a big winter ball showing where he clubbed 22 homers in 68 games, and is one of the Indians best prospects. He should hit cleanup in what should be a good Clippers lineup and might end up a solid solution to the Indians middle of the order woes later in the season.
Trevor Bauer (RHP): Bauer struggled in his organization debut last season with the Indians both in Cleveland and Columbus. His biggest problem lies in the command of all of his pitches, namely his fastball, and the Indians hope a significant change to his delivery that started midseason at Columbus last year will be what gets him back on track. His warmup routine where he throws long toss from foul pole to foul pole always attracts crowds, so hopefully his performance on the mound starts doing so as well.
CC Lee (RHP): Lee is the Indians top relief pitching prospect and has a deceptive sidearm delivery to go along with a good low to mid 90s fastball and very good slider. He just missed making the Opening Day roster in Cleveland, but he should be one of the first options called upon when the Indians need to call someone up the I-71 corridor to fill a bullpen need this season. He has the stuff to impact the bullpen and be a Major League setup man.
Carlos Moncrief (OF): Moncrief is maybe the most toolsy prospect in the entire Indians system and a guy who came into the organization as a strong-armed pitcher but transitioned to the outfield after two injury filled seasons on the mound. He is the prototype right fielder with good raw power from the left side of the plate and a howitzer for an arm, and he also runs well and plays good defense. The bat always held him back but last season he put it together to hit .284 with a .824 OPS at Akron.
Jose Ramirez (IF): Cleveland fans actually got a small taste of Ramirez late last season as a September callup. He had minimal opportunities to play, but when he did he showcased his helter shelter play style to go along with his plus defense and running skills. He should primarily play second base for Columbus, but will probably move around the diamond in order to have him ready to fill a utility need in Cleveland when needed. He’s a tough out and is exciting to watch when he gets on base.
Josh Tomlin (RHP): Tomlin is hardly a prospect as he has pitched in 343 innings and made 60 appearances at the Major League level, but he is a must-see starter for Clippers and Indians fans as he will be the first option the Indians call upon to fill a starting pitching need in Cleveland. He narrowly missed winning the Indians fifth starter spot this spring and will remain "on call" in Columbus if Carlos Carrasco stumbles or an injury to another starter arises.
T.J. House (LHP): House is often overlooked, but he is on the Indians 40-man roster, had a strong finish to his season last year at Columbus, has a nice 90-93 MPH fastball and solid average secondary stuff from the left side and he just continues to get incrementally better every season. He is legit starting pitching depth for the Indians this season.
Bryan LaHair (1B/OF): LaHair played in Japan last season and is looking to reestablish himself. He brings some value as a potential platoon option and left-handed power bat off the bench in Cleveland, but will first need to prove he is healthy as he is recovering from left wrist surgery.
David Cooper (1B): Cooper is another player on the mend as he missed almost all of last season recovering from an innovative spinal procedure. Before the injury he was a player the Blue Jays liked and someone with a solid left-handed bat and solid defender at first base. He is another potential left-handed platoon bat and depth guy for the Indians.
Travis Banwart (RHP), Scott Barnes (LHP), Brett Brach (RHP), Luke Carlin (C), Matt Carson (OF), Audy Ciriaco (INF), Tyler Cloyd (RHP), Tim Fedroff (OF), Preston Guilmet (RHP), Nick Hagadone (LHP), Colt Hynes (LHP), Mark Lowe (RHP), Roberto Perez (C), Ryan Rohlinger (INF), Justin Sellers (SS), Mike Zagurski (LHP)