On the surface, baseball fans could be forgiven for seeing the Indians most recent moves as simply trading Trevor Bauer for Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. In actuality, the Indians also added three minor leaguers in that deal as well as two more in the Ruben Cardenas deal to Tampa and another the week prior when they brought in Andrew Velazquez from Tampa as well. This huge influx of minor league talent late in the season forced many moves within the system and lead to a large number of cuts as well.
Starting from the bottom, the AZL Indians Blue have a nearly completely new look. Victor Nova has been added from San Diego as part of the Bauer trade, but the subtractions are much more substantial. The two top hitters with the team, Julian Escobedo and Will Brennan, have each been promoted to Mahoning Valley. Both are 21 year old college draft picks and are very advanced hitters who should be well served by the promotion. In particular, their strike out rates stuck out as interesting as they ranked first and fourth in the AZL, both with strike outs in fewer than 10% of plate appearances. Shane McCarthy has also been added on rehab assignment.
Also moving up will be starting pitcher Hunter Gaddis. Another 21 year old college selection, Gaddis had 26 strike outs to three walks in his first 17.1 innings and will benefit from a higher caliber of competition. To balance the rosters a bit, Jothson Flores and Gaspar Palacio have been moved from team Red to team Blue, but will remain in Arizona.
To make room on Mahoning Valley, two players went up and one went down. Pedro Alfonseca and Jhonneyver Gutierrez have been sent back to Arizona while Billy Wilson has been sent back to Lake County. Wilson was a short term injury fill in with the Captains earlier this season and has greatly struggled this season after having one of the best offensive seasons in the entire Arizona League last year. Since his recent demotion, he has played better in Mahoning Valley, hitting .226/.368/.452.
Following in line, Cody Farhat has been promoted from Lake County to the Hillcats. Farhat was Wilson’s teammate in 2018, but has since remained a level ahead. While he hasn’t been particularly dominant at the plate with the Captains, Farhat hit safely in 6 of 22 at bats in his last five games with a double, triple and home run.
Continuing the train of outfield promotions, the incredibly powerful Oscar Gonzalez has finally made his way to Akron. After making the Carolina League All-Star team, he was surprisingly left behind while Nolan Jones and others moved up. While his .319 average is largely BABIP driven, his .455 slugging percent and 22 doubles are legitimate.
Also added to Akron was Scott Moss, the left handed starting pitcher from the Reds that rounded out their side of the Bauer deal. Moss had a 3.44 ERA and 123 strike outs in 102 innings with AA Chattanooga prior to the trade. To make room for Gonzalez, Jose Medina has been released from Akron. Medina has missed most of the season with injury, but recently had been rehabbing with the AZL Indians. A first baseman/outfielder, Medina showed good power during his first two seasons with Lake County, but was never able to make the leap to success in advanced A or AA.
The biggest moves have been in Columbus, however, as that is where most of the new prospects have landed. From Tampa, right handed reliever Hunter Wood has already made his first appearance. He has bounced back and forth between AAA and the big leagues for the Rays, fighting off injuries as well. He had greater success in the Majors than in AAA, although it has been a fairly small sample size in both locations. Also from the Cardenas deal, Christian Arroyo is expected to miss a couple more weeks with his injury, but should be sent to Columbus once healthy.
Also initially from Tampa, although from another deal, Andrew Velazquez has completed his rehab and been promoted to Columbus. He was nearly unstoppable in the Arizona League as should be expected of a player with some MLB experience. Velazquez is a super utility man of sorts with most of his time spent at short stop, but with significant time spent in center field, second and third.
Another recentish acquisition, Jordan Stephens, will also be heading to AAA. Claimed off waivers from the White Sox on June 15th, Stephens had a 1.96 ERA with 29 strike outs and five walks in 23 innings with the Rubberducks. He had previously been in AAA with the Sox and had struggled there over the last two seasons.
Left handed reliever Kyle Nelson also got the call up to Columbus. The 23 year old has a 13.1 K/9 in the minors and a 2.11 ERA and has dominated at every level so far. This is his first trip to AAA.
Wrapping up the new guys is Logan Allen, a 22 year old left hander coming from San Diego for Bauer. Allen has always been a starter in the minors, but could be moved to the bullpen in Cleveland after pitching some in relief for the Padres earlier this year.
Joining the promotions in AAA were a pair of demotions as well as Jake Bauers and Greg Allen were sent down from Cleveland to make room for Reyes and Puig. To make room for them and others in AAA, Brandon Barnes has been traded to Minnesota while Neil Ramirez and Trayce Thompson have been released. Thompson was added as a minor league invitee to MLB camp this spring, but hasn’t played particularly well in Columbus and now would sit so far down the depth chart of Indians outfielders that he’d essentially have zero chance of breaking into the big leagues now.
Technically, Barnes was brought in the same way as Thompson, but he has been with the team since 2018. Barnes has some MLB experience, but was essentially just a roster filler for Columbus, a role that is no longer needed. Ramirez was striking out a ton of batters in AAA, but never had great success in Cleveland and with so many other options now, including Wood, Logan and James Karinchak, there was no longer a reason to keep Ramirez around.