Indians Minor League Report: Columbus Clippers

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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The first week of the minor league season is in the books, and to kick off the weekly minor league notebooks this season at Fox SportsTime Ohio we check in with Triple-A Columbus.

Just the Facts

Columbus (1-5) is off to a cold start and sits in fourth place 4.5 games out of first in the International League’s West Division. The Clippers started the season 0-4, just the third time in franchise history that Columbus has been off to such a start, and were the last team in the league to record a win.

The bats have been cold as Columbus ranks 8th out of 14 teams in hitting (.237), 13th in runs scored (15), 9th in doubles (10), tied for 8th in home runs (3), 13th in total bases (63), 12th in walks (16), 13th in strikeouts (40), 14th in stolen bases (1) and 10th in OPS (.641).

Things have not been much better from a team perspective on the pitching front as they rank 13th in ERA (4.24), 11th for most hits allowed (44), 3rd for most home runs allowed (6), 9th for most walks allowed (18), 10th in strikeouts (45) and 4th in WHIP (1.22).

 

Who’s Hot?

Jesus Aguilar (First Baseman)

.500 AVG (10-for-20), 4 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, 1.665 OPS

This is an exciting start for Aguilar and he looks to have continued right where he left off last season at Double-A Akron when he racked up 105 RBIs and this past offseason in Venezuela where he cranked 22 homers in winter ball. The Indians do not have a bona fide run producer in the middle of their lineup and lack right-handed power to balance the lineup, and if Aguilar continues to play anywhere close to this and produce he could get a look in Cleveland as early as June — if not sooner.


Trevor Bauer (Right-handed Pitcher)

0-0, 1.50 ERA, 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R/ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 9 K

Bauer is off to an incredible start this season and at least in the early going looks to have washed the bad taste that was last season out of his system. He was not only great in his first outing with Columbus, he was even better in a spot start in Cleveland on Wednesday going six innings and allowing one earned run on two hits, two walks with eight strikeouts. His year-long delivery adjustment appears to have taken hold and he is back to pitching off his fastball and routinely hitting 95-96 MPH. He is an incredible pitching asset to have on hold at Triple-A.

Who’s Not?

Jose Ramirez (Infielder)

.217 AVG (5-for-23), 2 R, 1 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, .501 OPS

Ramirez has split time at second base (four games) and shortstop (two games), and will probably play some third base as well in the coming days. His primary position is second base, but with Jason Kipnis manning second base in Cleveland for a long time he will need to make his mark as a utility player. There is little doubt he can do that, but he has to hit and at least in the early going the bat is just as cold as the weather. Somewhat of a surprise is the one walk to five strikeout ratio as over his career that is more of a 1:1 ratio, though it might just be an early season small sample size issue.

Carlos Moncrief (Outfielder)

.211 AVG (4-for-19), 1 R, 1 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .474 OPS

Moncrief is another player that could impact the Cleveland roster at some point this year or next season. He has the goods to be a powerful, productive bat in the lineup but also bring some defense, an exceptional throwing arm and some decent athleticism and speed on the field and the bases. The big key is for him to show some consistency with the bat, and even though he has struck out just two times in 19 at bats he has to show he can get on base at a good clip. This is a big year for him as he has to prove that the strides he made last season are for real.

 

Parting Shots

– Left-handed starting pitcher T.J. House was on his A-game on Wednesday throwing six shutout innings before running into trouble in the seventh inning loading the bases with no outs. Lefty Scott Barnes was called in from the bullpen and promptly allowed a grand slam which closed the book on House’s line in what was an otherwise very good outing up until the seventh inning. He is another solid starting pitching option that Cleveland fans may see at some point this season.

– Right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Cloyd had a rough organizational and season debut on Sunday allowing seven runs (six earned) in 3.1 innings and allowed 11 hits, one walk and had three strikeouts. His outing is a prime example of how pitching is handled differently in the minor leagues. In the big leagues he would have been out of the game much earlier, but in the minors it is about development and protecting the arms on the staff where even when a starter is struggling he often stays in until he gets his scheduled work in regardless of the results.

– One pitcher to keep an eye on is right-handed reliever Austin Adams. He has looked good in his first two outings (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) and been up to 98-99 MPH. The most important thing with him is the walks, and no walks in the early going are a good sign. If he maintains command of his fastball and continues to pitch well, he might be the next bullpen arm in line for a call to Cleveland.

– It has been a tough start for first baseman/outfielder Bryan LaHair as he is hitting just .067 (1-for-15) in his first five games. He is recovering from offseason wrist surgery, so some early season struggles were expected. Provided he shows more health and starts hitting, he is a depth bat to keep an eye on as a potential left-handed hitting bat off the bench in Cleveland.

– Catcher George Kottaras made his Columbus debut over the past few days and is 1-for-6 at the plate in two games. He is an interesting case as the Indians clearly signed him as immediate catching depth and a possible bench option. He has an April 30 opt out date in his contract, so he probably will not be in Columbus for long.