I had an opportunity to watch a few games of the double-A Eastern League playoff series between the Akron Aeros (Indians) and Trenton Thunder (Yankees). The series featured some interesting Grade B and C prospects who could possibly see time in the major leagues in the not-too-distant future.
The notes below come from a small-sample size observation so they should be taken with a grain of salt but it’s a great starting point to analyze these prospects, and this is part of my regular off-season practice with prospect ranking season just around the corner.
Today, we’ll look at some of the Indians prospects.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B: Aguilar had the best prospect profile of any player on the Akron squad. He spent the majority of 2012 in high-A ball before moving up to double-A for the final 20 games of the regular season and the playoffs. The Venezuela native has a sloppy body and doesn’t look athletic at all but he surprised me with his solid defensive play during this series. Aguilar almost did the splits to snag one throw. He also regularly showed soft hands but his range was limited. At the plate, Aguilar was too aggressive and was regularly getting himself out by chasing pitches both up and away. He hit two singles in this game but neither were pretty. Aguilar’s danger zone (for the pitcher) appears to be on the inner half of the plate, which makes sense given his pull approach. He showed at least 60 power. Quieting his hands at the plate might help him make better contact.
Chun Chen, C/1B: Chen, 23, rose through the minors as a promising, offensive-minded catcher. His defense has always been a question mark and the Taiwanese catcher played just eight games behind the dish in 2012, making an additional 62 starts at first base and 29 as the designated hitter. Chen, though, is a right-handed hitter and possesses below-average power for the first base position, which significantly limits his future to a platoon player or pinch hitter. When I saw him, he was hitting with a very wide stance that gave him the potential for an excellent base but he was too bent over at the waist. I can only assume he does this to get better plate coverage but it cuts off the inner half and makes him susceptible to inside fastballs. The stance also cuts off his power potential because it keeps him somewhat off balance and keeps him from using his lower half to generate power. After seeing his near .300 career batting average drop to .268 during his first taste of double-A in 2011, Chen saw his average bounce back up to .308 in ’12 but he sacrificed power with his home run output dipping from 16 to five. I would currently grade his power tool as a 40. In the game I watched, I saw him hit two singles. The first was an opposite field hit on a pitch up and away, while the second was also a single to right field on an inside pitch that he fought off. Chen made lots of contact in this game, saw plenty of pitches and did a nice job of recognizing breaking balls. If he was still a catcher, he would be an intriguing prospect.
Jordan Henry, OF: A former seventh rounder out of the University of Mississippi, Henry has spent the past three years in double-A. He fits the profile of a fourth outfielder as a solid defender with good speed. He has almost no power – and has never hit a pro home run – but handles the bat very well and makes above-average contact and works counts well. His 6’3” 175 lbs frame suggests a different type of game and, when I saw him, the left-handed hitter was utilizing more of a pull approach than I expected but he was also being pitched inside regularly. He tracked balls well in the field, and showed his speed on the base paths by moving from second to third base on a wild pitch that eluded the catcher for only a short distance.
Tyler Holt, OF: Like Henry, Holt has a fourth outfielder profile and looks more the part at 5’9” or 5’10”. He hasn’t hit as well as his fellow outfield prospect but he showed solid small-ball skills in the playoff series with a beautifully-placed, first-pitch sacrifice bunt in the first game I saw him play. During a subsequent at-bat, Holt put a solid swing on a ball and took it back up the middle for a single. The 23-year-old outfielder had a very successful college career but he’s likely destined for an up-and-down pro career as a speedy grinder – unless he makes more consistent contact.
Roberto Perez, C: A career .234 hitter, it’s clear why Perez keeps moving up the organizational ladder. He is a very good defender with outstanding receiving skills. He is very quiet behind the plate and appears to call a very good game. He did struggle to block the ball at times and had 25 pass balls during the regular season. At the plate, there was little to nothing to get excited about. Perez, 23, will probably spend his career bouncing around double-A and triple-A, helping to tutor young pitching prospects but could perhaps receive a brief cup of coffee in the majors as a third-string injury fill-in.
Rob Bryson, RHP: Bryson, 24, is a hard-throwing right-hander who utilizes a very slow arm slow – almost sidearm. It makes him incredibly tough on right-handed hitters but he lacks a reliable out-pitch against left-handed hitters. His splits for the year back this up: .281 average vs LHH, .141 vs RHH. His second-best pitch is a slider but I didn’t see too much of it in this game. Bryson pitches with a solid, compact delivery and shows good arm-side run on his fastball. When I saw him, he was pitching inside to right-handed hitters quite effectively.
T.J. House, LHP: A former highly-regarded amateur pitcher out of Mississippi, House’s stuff hasn’t quite developed as hoped and he currently projects as a No. 4/5 starter or long reliever at the big league level. On the mound, he hides the ball very effectively and almost turns his back to the hitter during his wind up and delivery. He comes at the hitters with a high 3/4 arm slot and works quickly. It looked as though he was dropping his arm slot a bit when he threw his changeup – which is supposed to be his out pitch. House broke out some very nice sliders to left-handed hitters, showing 60 grade potential at times, but his changeup and curveball looked no better than 40 or 50 grades. He was very strong for the first two innings of his outing but his stuff dropped off noticeably in his third inning.
Bryce Stowell, RHP: Stowell is a hard-throwing injury magnet. He can be down right dominant at times when his mechanics are in sync. Unfortunately, he has a lot of moving parts so it’s easier said than done for Stowell. His control and command will probably never be better than average. His delivery also has some effort to it, which helps to explain his chequered medical past. Stowell, 26, ends his follow through in a poor fielding position and would definitely be susceptible to come-backers and bunts. His fastball, which can touch the upper 90s, is his ticket to the majors and his slider wasn’t overly impressive in this game.