Minor League Previews: International League West


May 1, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during the game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

In our last of our series previewing which prospects you might be able to see in Triple-A International League action this season, we take a look at the International League West division, home to several highly thought of prospects.

Columbus Clippers

Parent Club: Cleveland Indians

It’s looking like the most prospect-rich club in the high minors for the Indians will be their Double-A affiliate in Akron but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be some interesting players in Columbus.


The biggest name for Clippers’ fans will be the return of 23-year-old righty Trevor Bauer. Though no longer considered the phenom he was coming out of college as the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer still brings some legitimate big-league stuff to the table. He is still trying to find his control as he walked 73 batters in 121 1/3 innings at this level in 2013. If spring training is any indication, Bauer has yet to overcome this challenge, walking five batters in seven innings.

Chen Lee (also known as C.C. Lee) is also expected to be in Columbus but is more likely to be coming out of the bullpen. He’s a 27-year-old, two-pitch, sinker/slider pitcher who posted some excellent numbers in the minors before getting a shot in 4 1/3 big league innings in 2013.


There are a few players with some prospect shine on them heading to Columbus in 2014. Second baseman Jose Ramirez is probably the best of the bunch, being able to play three infield positions but spending most of his time at second base. He won’t strike out much but should make an attempt to walk more and take advantage of his excellent speed that enabled him to steal 38 bases in Double-A Akron last year. While he doesn’t have much power, his defense, speed and contact ability should allow him to reach the majors again in 2014.

Right fielder Carlos Moncrief is looking to follow up a very strong Double-A season in 2013. He’s already 25 and really needs to continue his forward momentum. Last year, his .824 OPS was excellent and showed very good strikeout and walk rates while stealing 15 bases and hitting 17 home runs.

23-year-old Jesus Aguilar is a slugging Venezuelan who probably needs to translate his 16 home runs and 28 doubles from Double-A a year ago into more dingers in Triple-A. Aguilar had a very good OBP of .349 (despite striking out 107 times) and he’s going to need to show that he can hit higher level pitching with more thump before scouts will be convinced that he can make it as a major league first baseman.

Wait long enough and you might see top prospect Francisco Lindor in Triple-A Columbus. While he’s slated to start in Double-A, he had a terrific time in big-league spring training, hitting .316/.350/.579 with two doubles and a home run. He could definitely make it to Columbus quickly if he proves to be beyond Double-A pitching.

Feb 27, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (62) smiles after he hit a solo home run during the first inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Indians

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

If you’re a Pirates fan or just a baseball fan in the mid-west and you’re anywhere close to Indianapolis, you’re going to definitely want to head to the ballpark this summer. There are a plethora of top-ranked players anticipated to start 2014 in Triple-A for the Pirates.


The biggest name from the pitching ranks is Jameson Taillon, the club’s second ranked prospect and top pitching prospect. The second overall pick in 2010, Taillon is a big righty who looks like he’s going to be a top-of-the-rotation starter within a year. While he’s not projected to make a huge MLB impact in 2014, if he dominates Triple-A, he could very well be in Pittsburgh by the second half of the year. He’ll start the season on the DL but look out for him when he comes back.

Another prospect to watch is Brandon Cumpton who’s expected to fit into the rotation in Indianapolis. When Cumpton is on the mound, look for a lot of ground balls: he’s averaged over two ground-outs per air-out in his minor league career and had a solid go in his first major league action last season.

Out of the bullpen, you want to keep an eye on Zach Thornton who reached Triple-A last year by racking up 90 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings over three levels while walking just 12.


The injury to Chris Stewart means that Indy fans probably won’t see catcher Tony Sanchez at the beginning of the year. Expected to take the reins from Russell Martin after Martin’s contract expires after the 2014 season, Sanchez was projected to play every day in Indianapolis until Stewart went down with a knee injury.

The club’s top prospect, Gregory Polanco, is going to start in Triple-A and should give fans plenty to cheer for. Polanco is an elite talent who can do it all and could be one of the game’s biggest stars within a few years. With a combined .791 OPS (split mostly between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona) in 2013, Polanco is looking to feast on Triple-A pitching.

25-year-old power-hitting Andrew Lambo will return to Triple-A after mashing 32 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last year. With a track record of success, Lambo is looking to make an opening for himself in a talented Pittsburgh outfield after a miserable spring that saw him hit just .095 in 46 plate appearances in big league camp.

Feb 20, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher David Holmberg (64) poses for a photo during Photo Day at Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville Bats

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds

Don’t expect a lot of high-level talent in Louisville, at least until mid-season. That said, there are a few prospects who are going to contribute to the Bats in 2014.


David Holmberg is the pitcher who is most expected to make a big contribution. Holmberg had an excellent season in Double-A Mobile with the Diamondbacks’ organization last year and came to the Reds in the three-way trade that also included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Daniel Corcino will also figure into the rotation (or perhaps the bullpen) after being optioned back to Louisville. He struggled quite a bit in Triple-A last year, walking 73 batters in 129 innings and only striking out 90 while maintaining a ground-out to air-out ratio of under 1.00.


There are quite a few hitters who will make Louisville an interesting place including catcher Tucker Barnhart. The 23-year-old backstop had a solid season in Pensacola but hasn’t shown much pop with the bat, slugging only .348 in 2013.

While Neftali Soto is expected to break camp with the Reds, he could be seen in Louisville at some point this season. The 25-year-old infielder hit .271/.313/.414 last season but is blocked at first base, his best position, by a guy named Joey Votto.

There are two outfielders of note who are expected to start in Triple-A. Ryan LaMarre had a decent (although not spectacular) season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos last season and combines decent speed (22 SBs) with some extra base power (33 extra-base hits). Yorman Rodriguez has also been optioned to Triple-A Louisville and the 21-year-old has some very good skills to develop. Being four years younger than LaMarre means that there’s no hurry for Rodriguez despite the fact that he shows excellent gap power that could easily turn into more home-run power after a season that saw him hit 54 extra-base hits including 35 doubles and six triples.

Mar 11, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez (27) forces out Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins (17) and throws the ball to first for a double play during the third inning at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Toledo Mud Hens

Parent Club: Detroit Tigers

The Mud Hens expect to have only a couple of the Tigers’ top prospects but will be led by a young pitcher that the club acquired this offseason.


Robbie Ray, the aforementioned acquisition, will lead the rotation in Toledo. Ray was very good with Double-A Harrisburg for the Nationals’ organization last year is is looking for that success to translate up a level to Triple-A. The 6’2″ lefty throws in the low-90s and has two other pitches that he’s working on developing. That said, Ray could start the season in Double-A if the club feels that he needs a bit more time to develop.

Hard-throwing Melvin Mercedes will likely be in Toledo just a step away from the majors. He’s got a good slider to go with his mid-to-upper-90s heat and could make the jump to the majors at some point this year.


Eugenio Suarez, the 22-year-old shortstop is going to be the leader of the infield for Toledo. With a very strong year offensively (especially for a shortstop) in High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, Suarez is still a bit young for the level and could have some very good offensive upside to go with a solid glove and strong arm.

Catcher James McCann is also expected to play in Toledo after a solid season with the bat in Erie last year. McCann hit 30 doubles but just eight home runs and could improve his walk rate a bit more.

Infielder Hernan Perez is another player who is going to start the season in Toledo. Perez has made very good contact wherever he’s been in the minors and has some pop but should be considered a solid, unspectacular player.

Outfielder Daniel Fields had an excellent season last year in Erie, posting a .791 OPS. He’s got speed (24 SBs) and some power (43 extra-base hits) but still strikes out too much (130 Ks in 2013).