The Indians may not have many All-Stars on the current roster, but thanks to much improved drafting from 2009 through 2014, the minor leagues are finally start to be replenished. Multiple teams have seen great success this season and will look to play into September with play-off runs. Unfortunately, the DSL Indians (R), Mahoning Valley Scrappers (SS) and Carolina Mudcats (A+) will not be entering into the post-season, but the ones who will are detailed further below.
Arizona League Indians
Most teams can only dream of the kind of season that the rookie level AZL Indians had this year. Full of mostly players drafted in 2014 and international free agents within their first two seasons, the Indians have went 20-5, winning the Arizona League Central Division by 8.5 games. The top two teams in each of the three AZL divisions make the play-offs with the best two overall receiving a first round bye. As the best team in the whole league, the Indians will get one of those byes and play their first play-off game on August 31st.
The Indians were lead by their offense this season with the biggest contributor being the Cleveland Indians fifth pick in the 2014 draft, Bobby Bradley. Bradley lead the AZL with a .361 average, 8 home runs, 39 runs and 50 RBI while also stealing three bases in just 39 games. In addition, the Indians short stop, Yu-Cheng Chang (an international signing from Taiwan), is third in average with 25 RBI and has been solid at short stop.
The Indians pitching wasn’t quite at the level of the offense, but one starter really stood out and won’t be with the team for their play-off appearance as he has already been promoted to Mahoning Valley. Casey Shane held a 2.72 ERA (fifth in the league) with a perfect 5-0 record with 40 strike outs in 46.1 innings. In addition, Johan Puello, Yoiber Marquina and Ping-Hsueh Chen all deserve credit for great relief work. Each held an ERA below 3.00 and more strike outs than innings pitched with at least 14 appearances.
Lake County Captains
The Captains had a poor first half (27-43), but in the Midwest League, the top two teams from each half make the play-offs and Lake County’s 37-29 second half has been good enough to take the second half MWL Eastern Wild Card. With that, they will go on to face the South Bend Silver Hawks in a series beginning September 3rd.
The Captains have had a few great players leading the way including first baseman, Nellie Rodriguez, who is third in the league in RBI (85) and second in home runs (21). Five other Captains hit at least 12 home runs, including second baseman Paul Hendrix and future super star Clint Frazier. The top hurler for Lake County was Mitch Brown, a former stand out with the AZL Indians. He went 8-8 with a 3.31 ERA and 127 strike outs in 138.2 innings (second in the league).
Akron Rubber Ducks
The Eastern League is yet to be decided, but the Rubber Ducks are currently the front runners for the the Western Division with a two game lead ahead of the Bowie Baysox. If they can hold on for a few more days, they will be the last team into the play-offs and will begin playing the top team in the Eastern League on September 3rd.
Most of the top hitters from the Ducks are no longer with the team, which could make the postseason difficult. Francisco Lindor and Tyler Holt have both been advanced with the latter making a big difference at the Major League level. Akron’s top starter has been Joseph Colon, who held a 3.39 ERA with 96 in 138 innings, but their real talent has been in the bullpen, where a few players have already been promoted as well. Of the original big three in the back end of Akron’s bullpen, Kyle Crockett has been dominant in the big leagues, Shawn Armstrong has been promoted to AAA and Adam Miller has fallen off a cliff. Taking their place, Enosil Tejada and Louis Head have been great as well, each pitching in at least 28 games with an ERA below 3.30.
The Clip Show is the most relevant team for Indians fans who don’t pay much attention to the minors as it is filled with the most probable future Major Leaguers. Because of this, their success is of great interest and they have been very successful this year. They have already clinched a play-off spot as they will represent the International League West with the second best record in the entire International League.
The stars of the Indians AAA team should be very familiar to Indians fans as many have already made their Major League debuts this season. Jesus Aguilar is the club’s biggest power threat, while Francisco Lindor has been picking up things offensively of late in addition to his always impressive glove work. James Ramsey is a new addition, but has been solid since coming in a trade for Justin Masterson, while Giovanny Urshela has done a better job holding down the hot corner than anyone on the current Major League roster. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Holt and Roberto Perez all made great contributions as well, but are currently making a much bigger difference, trying to get the parent club to the play-offs, as they have already helped the AAA club. Russell Branyan has also been recently added to the Clippers roster to help them in their play-off run as they expect many Clippers to be promoted to Cleveland as September call-ups.
It is no surprise that the Clippers pitching has been fantastic as almost all their starters have Major League experience. Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin have all spent time with both the Indians and Clippers this year and were very helpful, tallying 18 wins between them. Now, the Clippers rotation looks a little different, but Tyler Cloyd, Travis Banwart and Gabriel Arias have really held things down and should be able to provide the base for a deep run in the International League play-offs.