Indianapolis built up a huge lead at the beginning of the season in the standings, but struggled toward the middle of the season with call-ups and players adjusting to the level. However, once the first-time players at the level adjusted, the team improved. After sweeping Scranton in the first round of the playoffs, Indianapolis took Columbus to a deciding fifth game in the Governors’ Cup final before falling. The playoff run allowed some of the more green players at the level to get some added experience in postseason play and more meaningful games. Many of these good young players who gained this experience will return to the level in 2016.
TOP 10 INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS PROSPECTS
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. This excluded mid-season call-ups Josh Bell, Dan Gamache, Gift Ngoepe, and Chad Kuhl. We also didn’t include prospects who were traded away, such as Adrian Sampson and Yhonathan Barrios. Unlike the lower-level lists, this list factors in actual results a bit more than potential and upside. The latter is still factored in, but this is the level where we want to see players producing on the field and showing their tools in games.
1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP – After being called up on August 1st, Glasnow never really was able to get adjusted to Triple-A. However, the numbers were not always reflective of the work that Glasnow had to endure on the mound. He boasted a 2.20 ERA at the level, but pitched around a lot of base runners with 33 hits allowed and 22 walks in just 41 innings. He did a nice job of getting out a lot of those jams, but really struggled to show the dominance that he had with Altoona. However, there were times where Glasnow really showed the stuff that allows him to be on the top of the list when it comes to upside. His fastball was in the low 90s much of his time at the level, but did reach as high as 96 when he was pitching confidently. He also showed a hammer breaking ball that he struggled to command at times, but when he did, it served as his put away pitch. The changeup will need some work going into the 2016 season, and will likely be an emphasis before he is big league ready.
The lack of command was alarming with Glasnow at the end of the season, but it appears to come and go based on his previous seasons. Glasnow walked five, allowed six runs, and got just one out in his next-to-last regular season start. The strikeouts were there his entire time with Indianapolis, which allowed him to pitch out of some of those jams. The key moving forward is avoiding some of those jams and coming up with that second off-speed pitch.
2. Alen Hanson, 2B – It was a year of ups and downs for Hanson, who started the season slow, got hot in the middle and struggled at the end. Much of the slow finish to the season was credited to not getting much of a rest and the work that he put in over the All-Star break. However, a strong May, where he hit .362 with a .998 OPS, was enough to earn him league player of the month honors. For the season, Hanson picked up 17 doubles, 12 triples, and six home runs. He also added 35 stolen bases and 66 runs scored from the lead-off spot. Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor was open in admitting that Hanson was a catalyst for the offense. When he was going well, the team played well. There were times where Hanson looked a bit undisciplined at the plate, attacking too much early in the count and getting himself out. He is also a much stronger hitter from the left side of the plate than the right. The average only showed a 24-point difference, but the OPS was nearly a 120-point gap.
Hanson made the move to second base last year, and moved there full time this year, with strong defensive results. In 111 games, Hanson committed just nine errors at second. More importantly, he showed the range of a shortstop, cutting down on the holes on the right side of the infield. While he did log some time at shortstop and third toward the end of the season, his future looks to be at second defensively. The only question is when that future starts in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates have Neil Walker under team control for one more season.
3. Elias Diaz, C – At the beginning of the year, Diaz was the sole starting catcher in Indianapolis. However, when Tony Sanchez was optioned back, the two backstops shared time behind the plate. With most of the International League having American League affiliates, the other catcher was able to act as the DH and get needed at-bats. Getting a September call up when the rosters expanded was the next huge step for Diaz, who has clearly passed Sanchez on the depth chart. Diaz had a solid approach at the plate, but would tend to get into trouble when he was trying to do too much in the power department. Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar admitted that he was trying to get noticed in Pittsburgh and was a much better hitter when he was relaxed with that out of his mind.
Diaz also showed off the tools that make him one of the strongest defensive catchers in the organization. He certainly has one of the strongest arms coming from behind the plate and he is agile enough to combine that with a quick release and good blocking skills.
Similar to Hanson, Diaz got off to a slow start to the season, hitting just .203 in April. However, he hit no lower than .262 in any month the remainder of the season. Also, similar to Hanson, May was his strongest month, hitting .325 with a .782 OPS — both season highs. Diaz is getting an opportunity to learn what goes into the position in the big leagues in September, which is something that he can certainly take into 2016.
4. Willy Garcia, RF – The adjustment to Triple-A took some time for Garcia, and the strikeouts followed. In June, his first month at the level, Garcia hit just .163 with 13 strikeouts in 43 at-bats. He looked overpowered at the time with breaking balls and the way that he was pitched at the new level. However, when it sunk in, Garcia was one of the strongest hitters on the team. This included the August power surge down the stretch run, where Garcia hit six doubles, a triple, eight home runs. He posted an .884 OPS for the month. While he still struck out 30 times in 114 at bats, it is much more acceptable when the power numbers follow. While he no doubt has the power to succeed, and a lot of upside in that department, Garcia will always strikeout a lot and have low walk numbers. He walked just 12 times in 71 games with Indianapolis.
To go along with the huge power upside, Garcia is also a well above average defender. He has good range for a right fielder and an extraordinary throwing arm there. In 61 games in the outfield, Garcia had ten outfield assists. Many of those were at the plate to preserve runs for his pitchers.
5. Casey Sadler, RHP – Sadler got off to a strong start with Indianapolis, but saw a forearm injury derail that and ultimately end his season. Sadler admitted that he had been pitching in pain most of the season, but still worked 81 innings to a 4.22 ERA with Indianapolis, and made one start in Pittsburgh. Much of the ERA spike came in June, when the injury was wearing on him. In four June starts, Sadler allowed 30 hits and 11 walks, with the league hitting .316 against him. In the two months prior, he gave up a .209 and .199 BAA, respectively. Sadler also showed that he is still a strong innings eater as well, going into the sixth inning in all but three of his starts, with two of those starts coming in his final two outings.
Sadler has been consistent with Indianapolis and has provided nice starting pitching depth for the organization over the past two seasons. He also has the ability to work out of the bullpen, making him a nice asset. With this, getting back healthy in 2016 is a paramount for the right-hander, and he should be able to pick up where he left off.
6. Keon Broxton, CF – Broxton hit a home run in his first at-bat with Indianapolis, and then the bottom dropped out for about a month. The slow adjustment to Triple-A for Broxton was similar to Garcia. However, when he figured it out, Broxton became an on-base machine. In the final three months of the minor league season, Broxton posted monthly OBP numbers of .382, .403, and .280 in six September games. Getting on base that much allowed him to showcase his base stealing ability, swiping 28 bases in 37 attempts with Indianapolis.
The 2015 season was finally the year when Broxton put all of his talents together on the field, and the results showed. Broxton showed some power with 15 doubles, eight triples, and seven home runs in Triple-A. He also showed strong range in each direction in the outfield, playing mostly left field. Broxton showed that he has all of the tools to succeed, and the Pirates promoted him in September to keep him in the organization. Otherwise, he would have been a free agent at year’s end.
7. Angel Sanchez, RHP – Similar to Sadler, Sanchez’s season was ended by injury, as the right-hander had Tommy John surgery in September. Prior to the injury, Sanchez was one of the better starters in the Indianapolis rotation. Sanchez never had overpowering stuff, he just located the ball well and played into the ground ball philosophy of the Pirates organization perfectly. He posted a 2.55 ERA in ten starts at the level, striking out 50 and walking just 15, with the league hitting just .215 against him. Sanchez saw only three starts where he allowed three or more runs, with two of those coming in his first two starts at the level. Of the ten starts, he worked into the seventh on four occasions.
Prior to the injury, Sanchez looked to be an option for upper level pitching depth for the rotation. While the surgery certainly derails that, Sanchez proved in his July run, with a 2.18 ERA, that he can get hitters out consistently at the Triple-A level. He’ll likely miss all of 2016, but could get a shot at the majors at some point during the 2017 season.
8. John Holdzkom, RHP – Holdzkom was another pitcher that had his season ruined by injury issues, as he had a nagging shoulder ailment all season. After losing out to a numbers game in the Pirates’ bullpen, Holdzkom was never right in Indianapolis. His noted control issues of the past returned at the beginning of the season, as only about half of his pitches crossed the plate for strikes before he went on the DL in May with shoulder fatigue. Holdzkom returned in June for eight appearance, but yet again found himself on the DL with the same shoulder hurting. When he returned in July, the command was better and the movement was back, but the velocity was down tremendously. Holdzkom only had three appearances before going back on the DL for a third time, and he never returned. He was tossing bullpen sessions until September, but was eventually shut down from game action.
The key for Holdzkom is clearly health. He was not feeling good for most of the season and followed his dream season in 2014 with a nightmare in 2015. He still has the ability to get hitters out with overpowering stuff when healthy. It was just never there in 2015.
9. Jaff Decker, OF – Decker changed his approach last off-season after not joining the Pirates last September. Being more patient at the plate and cutting down his swing allowed him to join Pittsburgh when the rosters expanded this season. The approach allowed Decker to improve his OBP by 15 points and his batting average by nine points from last season with Indianapolis. The home run totals were cut in half, but he was a much more valuable hitter this year than last for the team, and a couple of call-ups followed. Decker was still strong defensively, a staple of his game with his strong throwing arm and range in the outfield. Being a more complete hitter has made him into more of an option in Pittsburgh, but not likely more than just a depth option.
10. Bobby LaFromboise, LHP – LaFromboise earned a few call-ups this season in spot duty. While his overall numbers at Triple-A are not completely a reflection of his strong season, he was a consistent option all season for Treanor out of the bullpen in key situations. Command still was an issue at times for the lefty, as he walked 21 hitters in 54.1 innings with Indianapolis. However, the deception and the delivery that leads to some of the command troubles for LaFromboise, also have led to his success and the 52 strikeouts. He was also strong in generating ground balls. The interesting topic was that LaFromboise was actually better against right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters. Righties hit just .188, while lefties hit. 232 against him. After another strong season, LaFromboise solidified himself as a nice bullpen option toward the top of the organization. However, his ceiling is limited to a depth option with the command issues and the numbers.
Other Notable Players: Deolis Guerra was extremely strong out of the Indianapolis bullpen before his call-up to Pittsburgh. Guerra had allowed runs in just three of his 25 appearances out of the Indianapolis bullpen prior to the promotion. Wilfredo Boscan earned three promotions to the majors, but didn’t actually make any appearances. Boscan posted a 3.07 ERA in 126 innings of work. A.J. Morris also put together his second straight strong season with Indianapolis as a workhorse out of the bullpen and occasional spot starter. Morris worked 84.2 innings, allowing just 23 earned runs. He also walked just 22, compared to his 72 strikeouts.