While there is no official break for the Arizona or Dominican Summer Leagues, we are currently a little past the half way point for the DSL, about at the mark in the AZL and the break for Mahoning Valley isn’t until the season is almost over. That makes this as good of a time as any to look at the top performers for each team during the first half of the season.
SS Mahoning Valley
Top Hitter – Tyler Freeman
Richard Palacios has been hitting the cover off the ball, both in Arizona for the week he was there and since for the Scrappers, but Freeman has been hot since day one. He leads the team with 12 doubles and two triples while holding a line of .359/.404/.484. His average and OBP are second to Palacios while he ranks fourth in slugging. Freeman is only 19 and has already vastly eclipsed his numbers from his first professional season in a couple fewer games.
Top Pitcher – Luis Oviedo
Oviedo not only has been far and away the best pitcher on the Scrappers, but should be considered the top pitcher in the New York-Penn League and is a strong candidate for the Bob Feller award for top minor league pitcher in the Indians organization. He leads the NYP in strike outs (50) and has only eight walks, the second fewest among pitchers with at least 33 IP. His 0.92 ERA leads the league as well as he’s allowed just four earned runs in seven starts.
Surprise Performer – Hosea Nelson
Nelson has an argument for top offensive player overall, but loses points since this is his second season in Mahoning Valley and third overall. While his base running numbers have taken a large step back, Nelson is showing power well beyond that ever considered for the skinny outfielder. He raised his slugging percent from .341 last year to .519 this year thanks to four home runs after hitting three combined in his first two seasons. He’s also had seven doubles and severely decreased his strike out rate. He’s still far from being a true prospect, but he’s done more than enough to deserve an extended look in Lake County next year.
AZL Indians 1
Top Hitter – Miguel Jerez
Again, Palacios gets the snub here despite hitting two home runs and a double and stealing two bases in five games in the AZL simply because he didn’t stick around long enough. Had he played in either league for the full season, he’d likely be the MVP of either team.
Instead, it is Jerez, who leads the team in doubles (6), home runs (5) and slugging percent. The converted catcher has been especially hot of late as he has become more comfortable in his new positions of corner outfielder and first base.
Top Pitcher – Eli Lingos
There have been a few really good pitchers on this staff, including ace Yeffersson Yannuzzi, but Lingos has been incredibly dominant in relief. He has 24 strike outs to just one walk this season (14.2 IP) and a 2.45 ERA that ranks second on the team. His 0.95 WHIP also leads the team and his strange delivery keeps the runners he does allow in place. The left hander begins his pitch looking near second and doesn’t appear to look to the batter until he has already begun his throw. It is strange to see, but has obviously been effective.
Surprise Performer – Richard Palacios
The negative surprise this year has been that Michael Cooper hasn’t taken off as expected while participating in his second season in the AZL. The positive surprise is how Palacios took off after being drafted in the third round earlier this year and hasn’t slowed down.
Often it takes awhile for newly drafted players to adjust to Arizona, but the 21 year old New Yorker hit a home run in his first game, then another two games later before his promotion after just five games in the AZL. It would be awhile before his next home run, but Palacios just kept on hitting and now holds a line of .402/.479/.598 between the two levels.
AZL Indians 2
Top Hitter – Billy Wilson
I jokingly said that Wilson was going for the Rickey Henderson cycle the other day when he lead off the game with a home run, then bunted for a single in his next at bat, but this kid can really do it all (the rest of the Henderson cycle is walking and stealing second, then talking about yourself in the third person in the post game press conference). From highlight reel catches to stealing bases (6 for 6 so far), getting on base (.341) and hitting for power (team high six home runs), Wilson has been everything for the Indians 1 team. He even strikes out like Rickey with 31, second to the all or nothing Henderson De Oleo. You can’t expect a player fresh out of the draft to have zero flaws, but Wilson is as close to a complete player that you will see in Arizona.
Top Pitcher – Ignacio Feliz
There are two starting pitchers named Feliz on the Indians 1, but there’s no question as to who the team’s top pitcher was in the first half. The right handed Feliz looks nothing like his numbers in the DSL last year projected as he holds a 2.17 ERA with 29 strike outs in 29 innings. His best start of the year came on July 13th with one hit and no runs allowed to the Royals, but this has been the norm as he has went at least five and allowed two or fewer runs in four of his six starts.
Surprise Performer – Raynel Delgado
A sixth round pick earlier this year, Delgado has essentially the opposite situation of teammate George Valera as he was born in Cuba, but moved to America early in life and was drafted as a high school player out of Florida (Valera was born in New York, but signed as an international free agent after moving to the Dominican Republic). Delgado was taken as a third baseman, but has been a solid defensive short stop and has hit well beyond the expectations for an 18 year old. He’s currently batting .392/.484/.532 and is right up there with Wilson as a top performer on the team.
Top Hitter – Jhonkensy Noel
Again, there is a deserving player who will be left off here as Brayan Rocchio jumped to the AZL mid-season, but ultimately didn’t have the numbers in either league to deserve first half MVP. Noel, however, has played the whole season in the DSL and at just 17 years old, has outperformed the incumbents to earn a regular spot in the line-up at first and third. He has five home runs and eight doubles, leading the team in the former and second in the latter. He also leads in slugging percent and is second in OBP, giving some brightness to an otherwise dull offensive team.
Top Pitcher – Jose Oca
Oca was such a good pitcher for the DSL Indians in the first half that he’s now on the AZL Indians 1. As a reliever, he struck out 24 in 27.1 innings and walked just six. Despite being used mostly in relief, he has thrown more innings than three of the regular DSL Indians starters and has done so in only 9 appearances. His 1.98 ERA is second best among pitchers with at least 15 IP and sustained by his low walk rate and just 17 hits allowed.
Top Hitter – Jesus Maestre
Maestre began his career in 2017, but was ultimately a disappointment. This year, he’s one of the only reasons to watch the last place Indians/Brewers (the other being Victor Planchart). He’s hitting .349/.500/.524 with seven extra base hits and six steals (never caught) in 21 games. He has improved both his K and BB rates since last year and should be ready for Arizona by next season.
Top Pitcher – Jhon Vergara
I hate to end on a down note, but the absolute best Indians pitcher on the coop team is Vergara, who has a 4.06 ERA in 31 innings with just 15 strike outs, 10 walks and 5 hit batters.