The Indians will be represented by one and a half teams in the Dominican Summer League, the creatively named DSL Indians and DSL Indians/Brewers. Both teams began play on June 2nd in similar fashion to their 2017 seasons as they both lost their openers.
Last year, both teams played in the DSL North and finished a combined 55-85, taking two of the bottom three places in the division. From those teams, the majority of players have been promoted to the 2018 AZL squads, although a few do remain. Most notably Mike Garcia, Luis D. Garcia and Nehemias Celesten (now with the Indians/Brewers) from the 2017 DSL Indians as well as Jahir Varela and Derian Perez (now with the DSL Indians) from the 2017 Indians/Brewers.
Luis D. Garcia (not to be confused with Luis C. Garcia of both DSL teams in 2017) had a fairly incredible season last year, with a 2.36 ERA in 66.1 innings at just 17 years old. He won’t turn 18 until the third week in June and stands to be a big part of the DSL Indians pitching staff this year with Yeffersson Yannuzzi, Deritzon Feliz and others heading to Arizona. While a few years older (this is his age 20 season), Varela is an interesting arm from the left side. He’s in his third and likely final season in the DSL after posting a 2.05 ERA last year with 35 strike outs to 18 walks in 48.1 innings.
Of greatest interest on either team are three middle infielders signed in 2017 who were expected to debut in Arizona, but will instead all play for the DSL Indians. This is in contrast to last season where the Indians top two position player prospects in the DSL were both short stops, Makesiondon Kelkboon and Marcos Gonzalez, and were split up so each could start on one team. Now, Aaron Bracho, Jose Tena and Brayan Rocchio (pictured at top) are all slated to play for the Indians, with Celeston, Moises De La Cruz, Jesus Maestre, Joseph Paulino and Wilfri Peralta as infielders on the Indians/Brewers squad.
Bracho, the top prospect among the infielders, is still recovering from an arm injury and that could simplify the situation. From watching these players in practice and during extended spring training (I saw Bracho, Tena, Rocchio and Peralta, but not the other four) it appears Tena could be a pure 2B, Bracho a pure SS and Rocchio a mix of the two, although all three are listed at short. De La Cruz and Peralta are also listed at short, but when I saw Peralta it was at second base. With so many middle infielders, it is very likely that there will be position changes early on in the season. In addition, it’s possible there will be a few promotions early in the season when the AZL schedule gets started later this month.
Burning River Baseball will be providing bi-weekly coverage of both teams with recaps for one team coming out each Tuesday throughout the season. Games are generally played at 10:30 AM when rain allows and run through August 25th. The two teams play each other 10 times, so they are guaranteed at least 10 wins this year combined.