To this point, all my Arizona Fall League coverage has focused on the Glendale Desert Dogs as a team rather than specifically the Indians as is usual on Burning River Baseball. Now that the season is over, let’s take a look and see how those participants from the Cleveland minor league system performed and how that effects their 2019 outlook.
The Stats: Marabell lead the league with seven doubles and was second on the team with two triples. His .294/.307/.424 batting line showed that he was one of the top producers on the Desert Dogs although he only walked once in 85 at bats.
Evaluation: Marabell hit well in Akron last year, but struggled in Columbus and was in Arizona to get more at bats against advanced pitching. He was obviously very successful against some of the best in baseball including four pitchers included in Pipeline’s top 100 prospects. Marabell missed about a week after being hit by a pitch, but came back as strong as ever and ended up playing in 22 games, second most on the team. He ended the season on a nine game hitting streak that included six doubles and five multi-hit games.
Defensively, he didn’t commit an error while playing both right and left field. The biggest knock on Marabell’s game could be his speed, which makes it difficult for him to make difficult plays in the outfield, but he has good instincts and that helps make up for it somewhat. His arm is accurate and strong enough to play either right or left field, but not elite.
What’s Next?: Marabell will almost certainly start the 2019 season back in Columbus (he played there some in both 2017 and 2018), but this time he should be ready for the challenge. If the Indians don’t make any major outfield additions before then, expect Marabell to be in MLB spring training camp and in the bench outfield discussion. If things go as poorly in the outfield as they did in 2017, he should be one of the first names mentioned as a MLB option.
The Stats: Chang lead the Desert Dogs with four home runs and 17 RBI and was second on the team and seventh in the league with a .523 slugging percent. In fact, he followed only Ryan McKenna for second on the team in all three slash stats. He added four doubles in addition to the home runs while playing more games (23) than anyone else on the team.
Evaluation: Chang was in Glendale to work mostly on his defense at second and third after exclusively primarily short stop from 2015 through 2017. His offensive exploits weren’t a big surprise after hitting 28 doubles and 13 home runs in Columbus earlier this year and 24 of each in Akron in 2017. With that in mind, he has a very strong and accurate arm that allows him to fit even better at third base than short. When considering range, however, he reminds me of Jhonny Peralta or Jason Kipnis, the kind of middle infielder who makes the majority of the plays hit right to him, but almost none of the more difficult ones.
While he is not afraid to dive, he rarely comes up with the ball on dives and even more rarely makes the play. His reaction time is not great, something that he overcomes with the strong arm, but keeps him from making outstanding plays. He isn’t going to hurt a team when playing second or third, but he won’t be winning any Gold Gloves either.
What’s Next?: Chang will likely begin 2019 in MLB spring training camp and should compete for a bench role on the Indians. If he can’t win a utility man spot outright, it will likely have more to do with roster situations than any of his own failings. The only reason that Chang should’t be on the Cleveland Indians by mid-June is if he is traded before then.
The Stats: Chu only hit safely eight times this fall in 37 at bats, but five of those hits went for doubles and he walked four times as well, making him a surprisingly productive hitter. Like Chang, he is a right handed power bat who has real gap power, although he lacks the consistent results of Chang at the plate.
Evaluation: While his low average was a surprise, Chu’s power was not as he has always been a doubles hitter with 74 already in his five year career. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough playing time to make any of his fall numbers significant, but in his limited time he was able to show off the strength of his bat in addition to the strength of his arm. Tommy John surgery made it so he could only play in 90 games during his first three seasons, but he is at full strength now and should be considered a plus defender on steal attempts and balls in play.
What’s Next?: Chu and Eric Haase are the only catchers from the 2018 Clippers who are expected to remain in the system in 2019 although the Rubberducks ended the season with four backstops who could be promoted. Haase should compete for a spot on the MLB squad, leaving Chu as either the starter or reserve with the Clippers. Given that he played all of 2017 in Lake County, this is a very positive movement. Considering the Indians current catching situation and Chu’s level of development, his estimated time of arrival in the big leagues could be anywhere between September 2019 and never.
The Stats: The Indians only starting pitcher on the Desert Dogs made six starts allowing three earned runs (four total) in his first 17.1 innings and nine in his last 2.0 IP. This gave him an unremarkable 5.59 ERA for the season after starting out with a 1.56 mark prior to his last two innings. Overall, he struck out 15 and walked 14 with 19 hits although seven walks, ten hits, his only home run allowed and just one strike out came in his last two appearances.
Evaluation: Garza has never thrown over 100 innings in a season as he has constantly dealt with arm injuries and it appears his 68 prior to starting the AFL may have taxed him enough that he completely ran out of steam by the end of the season. He seemed a completely different pitcher over his last two starts compared to his first four and he should be judged more on his 16 starts in Lynchburg this year as well as those first four rather than his final two appearances of 2018.
With that in mind, he has some good stuff that allows him to miss bats and is generally consistent within the strike zone although when he loses it, he can have major issues trying to find it again. There is no question that he isn’t up to the caliber of the Indians elite starting pitching prospects, but it would be interesting to see what he could do out of the bullpen since he can hit 94 when he knows he has to stick around for five or more innings.
What’s Next?: Playing in the AFL will likely allow Garza to go straight to AA rather than starting another season in Lynchburg, but he is still a long way from the Major Leagues if he remains a starter. Since he’ll be 25 before next season starts, the Indians will likely be trying to push him along faster and, if he moves to the bullpen, he could be considered an MLB option by 2020. As a starter, there is essentially no chance that he could break into even the Indians rotation that will be replacing the current set after 2020.
The Stats: Used exclusively in relief, Robinson pitched 11 innings in 10 games with a 8.18 ERA and another pair of runs that went unearned. He walked five and struck out just eight while allowing 16 hits.
Evaluation: It was not a good fall for Robinson, although he did end the campaign with his only two perfect innings during the season. Multiple appearances where he allowed four runs in a game destroyed his ERA, but there was never a time where he looked dominant and he only had four scoreless outings in his ten appearances.
What’s Next?: While many players use the AFL to jump to the next level, it may have been a last chance effort for Robinson. He pitched poorly in 2017 and, while he was much improved in Lynchburg in 2018, this seems like a big step back. He has two more seasons before becoming a minor league free agent, so he will likely hang around Akron in 2019, but unless he can completely turn things around, he will quickly be surpassed by the younger relievers on the depth chart.
The Stats: Kaminsky was second among Desert Dog relievers with a 1.64 as well as a 1.09 WHIP. He struck out 13 in 11 innings and walked just three with only nine hits allowed.
Evaluation: Kaminsky was selected for the Fall Stars game based on his dynamic first half performance, but was pulled from the roster and missed ten games altogether for an undisclosed reason. This is nothing new for Kaminsky who only pitched five innings in 2017 thanks to undisclosed left shoulder problems. The good news for Cleveland is that he came back and finished the fall strong with just one run and four hits (one walk) in his last four innings. He is much more dynamic out of the bullpen than he ever was as a starter. Thanks to his multiple offerings and likely due to his experience as a starter, he doesn’t seem destined to be a LOOGY as he can retire batters of either hand with equal ease.
What’s Next?: Kaminsky is 24 and will be a minor league free agent following the 2019 season, so the time is now to figure out if the Indians want to keep him. He should move straight to Columbus to start the year and could potentially get an invite to MLB spring training. While he isn’t ready for the Indians bullpen, he is in a similar situation to Josh Martin and Kieran Lovegrove from 2018 and, if they don’t try him out by next September, they will likely lose him. Given all the time and effort they have put into rehabbing him and making him into the best pitcher they could over the last few years and that he is the only remaining memory of Joey Wendle (who was worth 4.3 WAR as a rookie in 2018), the Indians have plenty of motivation to get him into the Major League bullpen by the end of 2019.
The Stats: Siri pitched 10.1 innings across 11 relief appearances, striking out ten and walking three. His two home runs allowed were third most on the team and lead to a 7.84 ERA. Despite this, four of his six runs allowed came in the same game and the other two came on solo home runs giving him seven scoreless appearances of his 11 and a team high three holds.
Evaluation: Removing Siri’s one bad game against Surprise where he allowed four runs in 0.2 innings changes that 7.84 ERA to 2.07 in 8.2 innings. While generally picking and choosing appearance to count and discount doesn’t mean much, these total numbers are such a small sample size that the entire season load of stats doesn’t mean much. As it is, the 2.07 ERA is much closer to his 2018 and career marks from the minors although both his strike out and walk rates were significantly lower in the AFL than they have been in his other MiLB experience. Siri definitely has some dominant offerings, but was at least a little behind the rest of the class having just finished his first season in advanced A.
What’s Next?: He was likely going to start 2019 in Akron and nothing he did in Arizona should hurt that. In our most recent prospect rankings, I mentioned that Siri is the Indians best bet at a future closer in the upper minors and I will stick to that after seeing him pitch multiple times this fall. That time will most likely be the beginning of the 2020 season rather than any point in 2019.