The 2013 minor league season begins on Thursday. In the days leading up to the opener, I will be previewing the full season affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is a look at the 2013 Indianapolis Indians, who will feature top prospect Gerrit Cole on their Opening Day roster.
C – Tony Sanchez
1B – Matt Hague
2B – Ivan De Jesus Jr.
SS – Jordy Mercer
3B – Jared Goedert
LF – Alex Presley
CF – Felix Pie
RF – Jerry Sands
DH – Oscar Tejeda
Last year the Indianapolis lineup was highlighted by Starling Marte. This year the club doesn’t have that type of impact player. The Indians do have a roster full of guys who could serve as depth in the majors this year.
Tony Sanchez is the top hitting prospect on the team, and has the best shot at being a starter down the line. He’s got strong defense behind the plate, with improved game calling, and excellent blocking skills. The problem with Sanchez the past few years has been his lack of hitting and lack of power. The power returned last year in Triple-A, when Sanchez hit for an AB/HR pace that would equal 19 homers in a full season. He didn’t hit for average, but he could have value as a starter with a power/defense combo and a good walk rate.
Jerry Sands was added in the Joel Hanrahan trade, and could be the top option if the Pirates are looking for a replacement in the outfield at some point this season. Sands has always hit for power in the minors, and hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself in the majors. Alex Presley will be another option if the Pirates need an outfielder. He had a great Spring, but is coming off a down year in 2012. Sands has a chance as a starter, while Presley profiles more as a strong fourth outfielder. Felix Pie also had a good Spring, and Neal Huntington used a Garrett Jones comparison, referencing how Jones had a breakout season in 2009 after a good Spring and a good first half in Triple-A.
Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus Jr. will take the middle infield spots, with Mercer getting more time at shortstop. Mercer has a chance to be an everyday starter at short. De Jesus profiles more as a backup, but there is a chance he could start. He used to be a strong defensive shortstop, but that was derailed when he suffered a broken leg a few years ago. If he can ever get back to that, he could emerge as a replacement option for Clint Barmes in 2014.
Matt Hague and Jared Goedert will handle the corner infield positions. Goedert has always hit for power in the minors, and could be a good bench option as the year goes on. Hague had a good Spring last year, and made the Opening Day roster. He couldn’t repeat his power numbers during the regular season last year, and will look to bounce back this Spring. Hague played a lot of third base in the last year, and looks more comfortable at the position this year than he did last year. However, he’ll be moving back to first base now that Clint Robinson has been lost on waivers to Toronto.
Brett Carroll, Darren Ford, Brian Jeroloman, Jeff Larish
The roster isn’t finalized, so this is my best guess at the bench. Brett Carroll and Darren Ford will backup the outfield spots. Brian Jeroloman was added to be the backup catcher with Ali Solis recovering from an injury. Jeff Larish is the only one I’m not sure about. Alex Valdez would be an option, but he’s currently in extended Spring Training. Oscar Tejeda will also get some time on the bench, with some of these other guys taking over as the DH when that is available.
Gerrit Cole should be in the majors by mid season.
Gerrit Cole, Kyle McPherson, Phil Irwin, Andy Oliver, Kris Johnson
Last year Indianapolis went on to have the best record in the International League due to their pitching and defense. The defense should be strong again this year, and the pitching looks to be a strength as well. The top prospect in the system, Gerrit Cole, will start the season with the Indians. Cole has only made two appearances in Triple-A, and the second one was pretty bad. He should be in Pittsburgh by mid-season, but will need some time in Triple-A before he’s ready for the majors. A big part of that is because of his service time and super two status. The Pirates get an extra year of service time if they keep Cole down for a few weeks, and avoid him being a Super Two player if he stays down until June. There are also issues with Cole that need to be worked on. His control was a problem at the end of last season with Altoona, and he didn’t look ready for a promotion to Indianapolis at the end of the year. That shouldn’t be anything to worry about for the long run, but it’s something that will keep him down in the short-term.
Kyle McPherson just missed the major league rotation, losing out to Jeff Locke for the fifth starter role. He’s got a good three pitch mix, and some of the best control in the system. McPherson doesn’t have a lot of time above Double-A, being limited to three starts in Triple-A last year, and 10 appearances in the majors. Despite the lack of time, the Pirates could turn to him early in the season if they need a starter.
Phil Irwin also has a good mix of pitches. He was a 21st round pick in 2009, but has developed into a potential major league starter. Irwin throws a four seam fastball that works in the low 90s, and also throws a sinker. He uses both fastballs to get ahead in the count, and puts batters away with his curveball, which is one of the best in the system. Irwin made it to Indianapolis briefly last year, and was impressive with 28 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Andy Oliver is a former top prospect who has dealt with control problems the last few years. He looks to be another pitcher that the Detroit Tigers rushed through the system. Detroit moved him right to Double-A, and had him in the majors in his first pro season. After that the control problems started in Triple-A and in the majors. It will be interesting to see whether he can fix those problems now that he’s in a new system.
Kris Johnson was an upper level organizational starter last year, then went on to have a strong season in the Dominican Winter League. He’ll get the chance to prove this year whether that was legit, or just a small sample in an off-season league. At worst, he could serve as left-handed relief depth in the major league bullpen.
Vic Black, Brooks Brown, Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris, Ryan Reid, Kyle Waldrop, Duke Welker, Mike Zagurski
The Indianapolis roster hasn’t been announced yet, and there’s one more pitcher on this list than there are spots. The key guys here are Vic Black, Bryan Morris, and Duke Welker. All three have good fastballs and good breaking pitches, and all three could be late inning relievers.
Black and Welker both have hit triple digits with their fastballs in the past, but struggle with control at times. They both throw sliders which lead to high strikeout rates. Black is the higher rated prospect, and more likely to be a closer option.
Morris was sent down after getting a fourth option year. He doesn’t have much to work on in Triple-A, as he looked pretty dominant in Indianapolis last year. His fastball/cutter combo makes him a strong late inning relief option. The command was off this Spring, but that wasn’t an issue last season. He should be promoted to the majors at some point this year, although the Pirates will get an extra year of control if they wait until after May 8th.