After last season’s DSL disaster, the headline of this report in 2016 was “There’s Always Next Year.” While that’s true, it didn’t really help this time. Despite switching out the international scouting team, the Indians are still behind the rest of the league in signing international players (although there are high hopes for a couple players signed this summer who haven’t debuted yet). They finished the season 29-41, 6th in the 8 team DSL North.
While it was a rough year for pitchers as a whole on the DSL Indians, Luis D. Garcia stood out. The 17 year old Venezuelan born player pitched in his first professional season this year, posting a 2.31 ERA with 52 strike outs in 66.1 innings. Unlike Yeffersson Yannuzzi, who had the top ERA on the team for most of the season, Garcia walked just 19.
We should take this with a grain of salt as Luis Araujo put up an even better season last year and has struggled greatly in both the AZL and Mahoning Valley this year. Garcia could be huge in the future, but he will face many tests before we know what kind of pitcher he really is.
Yannuzzi was a close second to Garcia as the team’s best player, but he missed a large chunk of the season with injury. In addition, he had major control problems in a place where the unofficial slogan is “you can’t walk off the island.” He was good last year as a 17 year old in the DSL and did increase his K-rate and decrease his average allowed, but still walked 53 in 55.1 innings, a number that should be expected to increase as he faces hitters with a more established strike zone in Arizona next year.
Offensively, there were two starters who are considered highly, Cristopher Cespedes and Marcos Gonzalez. I was lucky enough to see both play within the last year during the off-season leagues in Goodyear and their numbers from the DSL confirm the eye test. Cespedes is a power hitting corner outfielder who lead the team with 13 doubles and was second on the team with four triples and five home runs (stats combined from DSL Indians and Indians-Brewers). This is Cespedes’ third season, but he’s still only 19 and has neared his expected production level. He should spend the full season in Arizona next year (he also spent part of 2016 in the AZL) and if these trends continue, he could definitely have potential.
Gonzalez is a defense first short stop who has a great base running profile and a decent bat. At 17, this was his first season in the DSL and he hit like it was his third. His OBP of .371 was fourth best on the team as were his 31 walks, making him the only player on the team to walk more than he struck out. While he was caught stealing four times in 17 attempts, it is his ability to reach base, then aggressively keep moving that makes him so interesting.
To be honest, the DSL as a league is under appreciated, but we’ll specifically look at a few players here who are worth noting, but didn’t quite stand out. Henderson de Oleo lead the team with six home runs and a .415 OBP, but struck out 37 times and hit below .270. With few interesting first basemen within the minors, he could quickly move up the depth chart and could be within the top 5 Indians first basemen by the end of next year.
Jean Montero is already a bit of a super utility player, starting off as a second baseman last year and moving to outfield this season, playing games in all three outfield positions as well as short stop. He’s improved slightly offensively over last season, hitting nine doubles and stealing 14 bases.
Finally, right handed reliever Wilton Sanchez had a solid season, striking out 39 in 35.1 innings with just 13 walks. He’s 18 and in his first season in the DSL and was already essentially the third best pitcher on the staff behind the two starters already noted.
Cause for Concern
Baseball runs on batteries and those in the DSL this year were absolutely dreadful. The DSL Indians tried out four different catchers (one being de Oleo for just one game) and the three regulars combined for 18 errors and 19 passed balls with pretty poor caught stealing rates down the line. Each of Yainer Diaz, Roger Marmol and Christopher De Jesus were among the worst hitters on the team as well.
Given the state of the pitching staff, they probably weren’t great framers or game callers either. Of the regular starters, Diarlin Jimenez, Ignacio Feliz and Daritzon Feliz all had an ERA above 4.30. In addition, of the six most used relievers, only Luis C. Garcia and Sanchez had an ERA below 3.70. In particular, Orlando Cedeno walked 35 batters to just 17 K’s, Eric Perez walked 42 to 27 and Guillermo Paulino walked 22 to 11. All three had an ERA over 7.50.
With the addition of a second DSL team, the Indians had more players in the DSL than any year since 2005 when they had two full teams, so it is to be expected that many of these players would not be very good and will never see action in the US. Of those who do, few will ever make the upper minors and even less, possibly none, will make the Majors. The last superstar to come out of the Indians DSL teams was Danny Salazar in 2007 and, at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be another player like that from the 2017 team.
Most Power: Cristopher Cespedes
Best Bat: Cristopher Cespedes
Best Wheels: Marcos Gonzalez
Best Glove: Marcos Gonzalez
Worst Glove: Roger Marmol
Best Control: Luis D. Garcia
Best Stuff: Yeffersson Yannuzzi
Most Likely to be an MLB Pitcher: Yeffersson Yannuzzi
Most Likely to be an MLB Hitter: Marcos Gonzalez