Aguilar, Lindor impressed Tribe in '13

Indians system also produces solid arms in Anderson, Packer

Jesus Aguilar drove in 105 runs to lead all Indians' Minor Leaguers. (Kevin Pataky/

By Danny Wild / | October 18, 2013 6:00 AM

This offseason, is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Indians own one of baseball's elite prospects in Francisco Lindor, a shortstop who highlights a system that helped send farmhands like Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Preston Guilmet to Cleveland this summer. But the real payoff is probably a few years off, with most of the up-and-comers just getting their feet wet this season at the Class A level.

That said, if you're an Indians fan looking for Minor League championships, this wasn't your year. Triple-A Columbus finished 71-73 and missed the playoffs, as did Double-A Akron (68-73), Class A Advanced Carolina (57-83), Class A Lake County (54-83) and short-season Mahoning Valley (30-44). Much like their Wild Card counterparts in Cleveland, the Rookie-level Arizona League Indians were one and done, falling to the Rangers in their one-game first-round playoff series.

That doesn't mean it wasn't a productive season, however. The Indians are high on a few youngsters, including first-round pick Clint Frazier, who did not make this list. Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins helps evaluate who made the most progress in 2013.

Indians Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Eric Haase, Lake County (104 games): The 2011 seventh-round pick showed good power in his first full season at Class A, hitting .250 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs in 376 at-bats. Cleveland loves the 20-year-old's athleticism -- he has some experience at third base and owns a strong arm -- but his talents still need some refining (he struck out 117 times in 104 games).

"Eric Haase is very powerful, very hard working," said Atkins, who pitched in the Minor Leagues from 1995-99. "He's motivated to being a Major League catcher. There's so many physical attributes about him that stand out, but the thing that stands out is his effort and the potential of him being a leader as a decision-maker and game-caller on the field."

Atkins also pointed to Carolina catcher Tony Wolters, who batted .277 with three homers, 33 RBIs and a .369 on-base percentage.

"Tony Wolters deserves to be considered. He's very athletic and has a lot of upside," Atkins said.

First base -- Jesus Aguilar, Akron (130 games): The Indians' top first base prospect played up to that ranking as he hit .275 and led the system with 105 RBIs. His 16 homers ranked second in the organization, helping him earn Eastern League postseason All-Star honors, a year after being named to the World team at the All-Star Futures Game.

"He made a lot of progress this year," Atkins said. "He worked very hard to become a more discplined hitter and had really professional at-bats. He performed well with runners in scoring position, he made a solid effort, he's a solid teammate and so we're obviously excited about the huge raw power."

Second base -- Joe Wendle, Carolina (107 games): Wendle, who's playing in the Arizona Fall League, made the jump from short-season to the Class A Advanced Carolina League and showed no signs of being overwhelmed. The 2012 sixth-round pick hit .295 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs, tying Aguilar for the organizational home run lead. He also stole 10 bases, hit five triples and posted a .372 OBP in 413 at-bats.

"He kind of sets the bar for us in the Minor Leagues for a teammate being open-minded and looking to improve constantly," Atkins said. "He's always, always consistent about his routines and work. He's a great selection and really someone who is raising the bar for others in our system."

Shortstop -- Francisco Lindor, Akron (21 games), Carolina (83): Lindor, the Indians' top prospect, raised his average after two promotions in 2013 but saw his power decline slightly. Considering he's in the middle infield, the switch-hitter produced good numbers, batting .303 with a pair of homers, 34 RBIs, 25 stolen bases and a .380 OBP, including a .407 OBP after a jump to Double-A. He finished with more walks (49) than strikeouts (46) but committed 22 errors in 104 games.

"He's considered one of the best teammates in the organization -- he's right there with Joey Wendle," Atkins said. "The two of them alongside each other is fun to watch, how they motivate each other, similar work ethics, similar desire to improve. He has some exceptional experiences in professional baseball already and he has a chance to be a very dynamic middle infielder."

Third base -- Erik Gonzalez, Lake County (93 games), Carolina (39 games): The 22-year-old ranked second in the system with 76 RBIs while hitting .254 with nine homers and 11 steals at two levels. A right-handed hitter, Gonzalez earned Midwest League Player of the Week honors in July and established career highs in homers and RBIs in his fifth season.

"Three of the the best," Atkins said of Gonzalez, Wendle and Lindor. "They have the mind-set and work ethic; they're all incredible teammates. Erik can play every infield position -- he's also played the outfield and he just has superb athleticism."

Utility -- Bryson Myles, Carolina (92 games): The Indians see Myles as a breakout candidate for 2014 after a stellar second half in which he hit .306 and raised his OBP nearly 100 points, from .287 before the All-Star break to .382. Overall, Myles batted .285 with eight homers, 52 RBIs and 15 steals.

"He's our most improved player for the year," Atkins said. "He's not on anyone's radar, but if you look at those second-half numbers -- he can play all three outfield positions, he's an above-average runner, he's really committed to having a better routine and he's made incredible progress. He was already at a high starting point, but he took it to another level and it showed in his results."

Honorable mention: Chun-Hsiu Chen, Columbus (94 games), Akron (38): The Taiwan native hit .253 with 16 homers, 69 RBIs, 13 steals and 23 doubles in 132 games.


Carlos Moncrief, Akron (129 games): The lefty-swinging right fielder hit .284 with an organization-best 17 homers. His average ranked sixth in the system and his 75 RBIs placed him third behind Gonzalez and Aguilar. An Eastern League All-Star, the 24-year-old finished with 50 extra-base hits and a .354 OBP and showed improved plate discipline as the season wore on, cutting his strikeout total from 73 in the first half to 25 in the second.

"He's another guy, along with Aguilar, who made so much incredible progress and improved professionalism with his at-bats," Atkins said. "It really is almost something we've never seen, how much he cut down his strikeouts -- he cut them in half [in the second half]. It's one of those things that doesn't happen in pro baseball often, and all those stats, you're seeing he has a lot to offer from power and athleticism. And he's above-average with his throws."

Jordan Smith, Carolina (134 games): Smith's .292 average ranked fourth in the system after he hit .290 against right-handers and .296 against lefties in 134 games in the Carolina League. Also a 2012 Organization All-Star, he doubled his stolen base total from last season and saw his numbers go up in hits, doubles, runs scored and OBP. Noted for his defense, he added five homers and 54 RBIs in his third season.

"He's probably one of the most natural and committed defenders we have in the outfield," Atkins said. "He's really a joy to watch defend in the outfield and he also plays all three outfield positions. He's making good progress and some impressive adjustments. We think there's a lot more to come to come from Jordan."

Tyler Naquin, Akron (18 games), Carolina (108 games): The Tribe loves Naquin's approach to the game and thought he flourished alongside Lindor and Wendle in Carolina. Overall, the 2012 first-round pick out of Texas A&M batted .269 with 46 extra-base hits, including 10 homers, 48 RBIs and 15 steals in 126 games. He's also continuing his year in the AFL.

"He's really one of the hardest playing guys we have. He always plays the same way, which is to do anything he can do to help the team win," Atkins said. "He really sets a good example for us, and he's also one of the more talented and committed players. He's as much a professional as guys like Lindor and Erik Gonzalez and Joey Wendle and Tony Wolters -- to have them on the same team, it was really exciting for us because of how they committed to a program and a routine and they all really enjoy working hard."

Honorable mention: Jeremy Hermida, Columbus (132 games): For the first time since 2004, the 29-year-old did not see time at the Major League level. But he proved valuable as a veteran bat in Columbus, hitting .247 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs. Hermida tied Moncrief atop the Indians' leaderboard in homers and ranked fifth in RBIs, but he's likely headed for another organization this winter.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Cody Anderson, Akron (three games), Carolina (23 games): Anderson, the Indians' No. 7 prospect, went 9-4 and led the system with a 2.65 ERA over 136 innings. In 26 starts, mostly with Carolina, he struck out 122 batters and allowed just eight home runs while ranking third in the system in wins.

"Cody was also on that team [with Lindor and Wendle]. He has a vision for himself to be a Major League starter and we share that vision," Atkins said, "He's got all the intangibles to do that -- he also has the commitment."

Honorable mention: Danny Salazar, Akron (seven games), Columbus (14 games), Cleveland (10 games): The organization's sixth-ranked prospect, Salazar went 6-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 21 outings for Columbus and Akron while making 10 starts for Cleveland, including in the Wild Card game against the Rays.

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Matt Packer, Akron (28 games): The University of Virginia product has been a nice surprise for the Indians, who drafted in the 32nd round in 2009. He set a career high in wins this year, going 12-9 with a 3.27 ERA at Double-A. Packer struck out 119 over 154 innings, allowed eight homers and won eight of nine decisions in June and July.

Honorable mention: T.J. House, Akron (4 games), Columbus (24 games): House went 9-11 with a 4.17 ERA between Columbus and Akron, striking out 137 over 164 frames and throwing a pair of complete games while earning International League Pitcher of the Week honors in mid-July.

"[House] really made some impressive changes to his body and to handling the ups and downs of professional baseball," said Atkins, who thought the southpaw should get the edge over Packer. "He really made incredible progress with understanding the benefits and the power of a five-day routine and understands how he can maximize his ability by tapping into resources. We're really encouraged by the raw skills and all the progress he's made."

Relief pitcher -- Preston Guilmet, Columbus (49 games), Cleveland (four games): The Indians took notice of Guilmet's stellar season (which earned him a MiLBY nomination) at Triple-A and called him up in September after he went 5-4 with a 1.68 ERA and led the system with 20 saves in 49 appearances. The 2009 ninth-round pick struck out 72 over 64 1/3 innings, issued only 14 walks and allowed four homers while holding opponents to a .182 average. Things didn't go as smoothly in Cleveland, but the confidence and talent is there.

"He never backs down from a challenge," Atkins said. "He's as aggressive as any pitcher we have and he's benefited from it greatly."

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog, Minoring in Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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