IL Preview: Indianapolis Indians
Continuing the International League preview with the Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Indians finished an outstanding season, going 80-64 and coasting to a West Division title. However, they were swept in the first round of the IL playoffs by the Durham Bulls.
Last season, catcher Tony Sanchez and hurlers Vic Black and Kris Johnson led the charge. The Il All-Stars have moved on, as Black and Johnson were traded and Sanchez will spend most of the 2014 campaign at the big league level.
Do not be discouraged as the Indians feature a roster that has the talent to repeat as West Division Champion for the third straight season.
Pitching: It all starts with pitching and Indians may have the best pitching prospect in the IL with James Taillon. Taillon made a brief appearance with the Indians in 2013, going 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA in six starts for Indianapolis. Taillon is close to the big leagues, but needs to develop a third pitch to reach his full ceiling as a potential No.2 starter. Taillon has a mid-90’s fastball and a sharp breaking curveball, which leave the opposition baffled. However, he has to develop better feel for his changeup and slider. He will try to develop both pitches as a member of the Indians.
The rest of the staff will be rounded out by talented prospects Stolmy Pimentel and Brandon Cumpton. Both Pimentel and Cumpton got a taste of Triple-A and the big leagues last year. Cumpton impressed in 21 games (19 starts) for the Indians, going 6-7 with a 3.32 ERA. He made six starts for the Pirates, going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA. Cumpton is a grinder, pounding the zone with low-90’s fastball and plethora of off-speed pitches, but doesn’t overpower hitters.
On the other hand, Pimentel has electric stuff, featuring a mid-90s fastball and mid-80’s split finger. His slider and curveball show flashes of excellence and could keep him in the rotation at the big league level, but he may be destined to be a reliever with his fastball-split combo.
Infield: Sanchez will likely start the season with the Indians, as the crowded backstop of the Pirates will keep him from playing in the majors to start the season. However, he will be the first to get the call from Pittsburgh. Last season, he hit .288 (75-for-260) with 26 doubles, 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 76 games with the Indians. He has the defensive prowess to succeed at the big league level, but may need to get his bat straight to be a full-timer at the MLB level.
Matt Hague and Brent Morel will be added to the fold, as the Triple-A veterans will be great players for the Indians. Hague enters his fourth season with the Indians, while Morel comes from the White Sox organization. Last season, Hague hit .285 (153-for-536) with 37 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 69 RBIs and Morel hit .266 (105-for-395) with 30 doubles, three triples, six homers and 54 RBIs.
Outfield: Gregory Polanco and Andrew Lambo will add thump to the middle of the Indians order. Polanco, the No.1 prospect in the Pirates organization according to Baseball America, has all the tools to succeed at the big league level but will need to refine his tools with Indianapolis. Last season, Polanco started the season in High-A Bradenton before jumping all the way to Triple-A for the IL playoffs. Polanco wasn’t the only one to have a big year in the system, as Lambo clubbed 33 homers and drove 99 runs in 2013 across three different levels. Lambo has great power potential and could be an asset to the Pirates but will start with the Indians. Jaff Decker will fill out the outfield, as the former Padres farmhand is rated the No.22 prospect in the Pirates organization according to Baseball America.
Schedule: Indianapolis will visit Coolray Field on May 17 through 20, while the G-Braves visit the Indians from June 15-18.
Projected Depth Chart: