Wahoo Minor League Month in Review (April) 
By Justin Lada

Triple-A Columbus Clippers (International League) (15-7, 1st place West Division)

The name everyone is watching for is Giovanny Urshela. He didn’t notch his first hit until five games in and only reached base once in the first four games. The slick fielding third basemen finished the month with three homers and 11 strikeouts compared to three walks in 21 games played.

Four of Jesus Aguilar’s 15 hits in April were homers (second in the IL) with two doubles, however the Indians former prospect star is fading and he’s posted an OPS of just .678. Encouragingly, he does have a 9:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is fairly high for him.

It doesn’t appear as if the Indians will need any outfield help, barring injury, as Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez, Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis held down the fort nicely until Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall returned. One player who has certainly made a case to keep his 40-man spot just in case a need arises is Joey Butler. The 29 year old outfielder posted a .292/.366/.403 in April and a 22/8 strikeout to walk ratio.

Mike Clevinger hasn’t done anything to dispel the hype that has Indians fans excited about his potential addition to the rotation in the near future. While he did walk 12 in 24 ⅔ innings in April, he did fan 25 and is 3-0 with just one homer allowed. A nice start considering the wonky weather that pushed back so many of the Clippers game this month. The 25 year old is also expecting to be a father for the first time in the coming days.

Lefty Ryan Merritt has a 19-4 strikeout to walk ratio including finishing off his final start of the month fanning seven in 6 ⅓ innings, ramping up to 92 pitches after a pair of six inning, one run outing previously with a 70 pitch mark.

After allowing four runs in 5 ⅓ innings in his first start, WIll Roberts allowed just one run in his final 12 innings over three starts in April.

6-foot-5 right handed reliever Josh Martin was returned to the Indians in April after being selected by the San Diego Padres in the Rule 5 draft and didn’t stick on their 25 man roster. He’s struck out 10 in eight innings and allowed just one run after allowing two in his first outing. He also has three, two-inning outings thus far.

Reliever Shawn Armstrong had a really good shot to make the major league bullpen out of spring training until he got injured. He’s struck out 12 in 7 ⅓ innings but has nine walked

The Clippers ripped of 10 wins straight to end April after having four rainouts in the season's first five days.

Double-A Akron RubberDucks (Eastern League) (14-8, 1st place West)

A lot of eyes and ears are on outfield uber prospects Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. But the player who had a fantastic offense month was catcher Jeremy Lucas. He had four homers and hits in all but two games he played in during April. He’s fourth in the league in slugging percentage (.580). He had four homes all of last year because of an injury and has 12 in 2014. Finally healthy, the 25 year old could be worth keeping an eye on offensively.

The 32 strikeouts in 81 at bats is a little alarming, but first basemen Nellie Rodriguez is tied for third in the league in homers with six.

Clint Frazier has adjusted nicely to Double-A pitching thus far and is 11th in the league in slugging percentage (.488). He’s continued to chop into his K% from his first year in the pros (29.7 in 2014, 21.3 in 2015, 20.4 so far in 2016). He’s played mostly right and some left field while Zimmer has manned center field. Frazier is starting to look like a player who is rounding out his game as opposed to being a three-true outcomes player. How he adjusts to the league once they see him two or three times will be key.
Bradley Zimmer may have raised a red flag with some when he went six games without drawing a walk compared to 10 strikeouts during that stretch. To be fair, he had a four hit game in that stretch and still had a .348 OBP for the month of April. He has seven steals in nine attempts, still showing an aggressive mentality on the bases,
Not much has changed for infielder Yandy Diaz.
 He had 19 walks and just 12 strikeouts through the month of April. He only has three extra base hits but has 14 RBI (11th in the league). He’s also played some games at second base, showing the Indians might want to move him around to find a way to fit him in the lineup going forward.

Bryson Myles had eight hits in the final four games of the month after seeing his playtime vary thanks to the crowded outfield that included rehab stints by both Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall. His .795 OPS is top 20 in the league.

The two most impressive pitchers in Akron so far have been relievers DJ Brown and Ben Heller. Brown has 24 strikeouts in just 13 ⅓ innings (a crazy 16.20 K%). Now a full time reliever, the 6-foot-6 righty has been stellar in all of his outings that have been multi-inning stint so far. He’s 7th in the league in strikeouts despite that the other six pitchers in front of him have more than 20 innings each.

Heller has 11 strikeouts in nine innings and has touched 100 a few times on the radar.
Shawn Morimando has been the best started with a 2.00 ERA despite 19 strikeouts and 13 walks in 27 innings.

Adam Plutko’s stats are thrown off a little by a one inning, five earned run performance in his second start. He also allowed two runs in 1 ⅓ in his last start of the month.

Rob Kaminsky sandwiched two five inning starts where he allowed zero and one run around two starts where he allowed a combined 11 runs in 10 innings. He has 12 walks compared to eight strikeouts on the year.

The RubberDucks have scored six runs or more seven times in April. They’ve scored seven six times. Catcher Eric Haase was hurt in spring training and was added to the roster late in the month and played his first game on the final day of the month where he was a single shy of the cycle and drove in three runs.

Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats (Carolina League) (15-7, 1st place North)

First basemen Bobby Bradley continues to be a terror and notched six homers in the season’s opening month, second in the league. He does have 35 strikeouts in 84 at bats, something to always monitor. His 23 RBI lead the league.
Catcher Daniel Salters hasn’t had a lot of hype around his name but his .417/.482/.500 April might change that. Also impressively seven walks and strikeouts.

Mike Papi hit four homers in April after having a rough year in the league in 2015. His .958 OPS is good for sixth in the league.

Anthony Santander had 10 extra base hits in April and is finally healthy and is a name to remember among Indians outfield prospects.

Greg Allen is tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 16 in 18 attempts. He’s only hitting .247 and only slugging .318 but has a .390 OBP thanks to 17 walks to his 17 strikeouts.

Much like Akron, the Lynchburg bullpen has been the most impressive part of the pitching staff. Left hander David Speer has 17 strikeouts and just three walks in 12 ⅔ innings.

Anderson Polanco has been a piggy back starter and has pitched 17 ⅔ innings in five outings. The lefty has 23 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Julian Merryweather has been the Hillcats best starter, allowing two runs in 23 ⅔ innings over five starts. He had 16 strikeouts and three walks. His 0.76 ERA leads the league.

Justus Sheffield started off fairly well, allowing three runs in 13 ⅓ innings. The 20-year old to be left hander allowed six runs in his last 11 innings over two starts to close out the month. He still has 22 strikeouts in 24 ⅓ innings.

The Hillcats also posted a 10 game winning streak in the middle of the month and scored six runs 12 times in the month. They’ve also posted five shutouts.

Low-A Lake County Captains (Midwest League) (17-7, 1st place East)

Tyler Krieger had a torrid first professional month with 29 hits and posted a .360/.456/.440 line. He’s shown the ability to take the ball to the opposite field from both sides of the plate. A shoulder injury limited him to DH at Clemson his senior year and has him at second base as he recovers and because of Willi Castro at shortstop. He has six errors so far but is still learning the position. His bat looks too advanced for the league but being shutdown last year and Mark Mathias ahead of him at Lynchburg at the moment, keeps him in Lake County.

Speaking of Castro. He has nine errors at shortstop so far, so if Krieger’s arm is ready, maybe he’ll get some reps there. Castro isnt coming out of the lineup however. His .295/.300/.455 line has been solid with two homers coming in the last four games. The one walk compared to 17 strikeouts is a little concerning but he is a confident hitter with talent and has a lot of poise for a 19 year old.

Nathan Lukes has been solid in CF showing good range and speed. He has seven steals even though he’s been caught four times. He posted a .311/.392/.427 line and has 20 strikeouts and 15 walks.

Francisco Mejia has 13 RBI, sixth in the league despite just one extra base hit. He has 10 strikeouts and seven walks.

Despite some control issues, big right hander Casey Shane has been very impressive. He has 10 walks in in 25 ⅓ innings and just 17 strikeouts. He’s shown a lot of maturity and poise in pitching with men on base. He walked five in a start and didn’t allow a run in it and just one hit. In one of the two starts he didn’t walk anyone he allowed four runs in five innings.

21 year old right hander Matt Esparza’s 5.12 ERA on the surface says he’s had a rough start. But that would be singular, as in one rough start. He allowed nine runs on 11 hits in 3 ⅓ innings in that very first outing of the season. Since then he’s allowed two runs in 16 innings and has struck out 19.

Lefty Thomas Pannone’s 26 strikeouts are sixth in the Midwest League. It’s hard to fathom why the Indians ninth round pick in 2013 is back in Lake County after 120 strikeouts and 37 walks in 116 ⅓ innings a year ago. So far he owns a 2.25 ERA in three starts and 24 innings.

The Captains offense has also been prolific, scoring six runs or more nine times. They only lost two in a row in the month and had winning streaks of five and three.

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​POSTED 05/01/2016 17:40
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