In our third installment of ask the farm director, Ross Atkins, the Indians director of player development, answered some of the latest questions about some up-and-coming minor leagues in Cleveland's farm system.
Q) LHP Kelvin De La Cruz had a great start at Kinston, going 2-2 with a 2.91 ERA in six starts, including 28 strikeouts to eight walks after missing last year with an injury. Now, he's been promoted to Double-A Akron. What kind of pitcher do see him becoming as he makes his way to the big leagues and what are his strengths and weaknesses to look for while he's in Akron?
A) Kelvin has the tools and ability to ultimately become a solid average starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Kelvin attacks hitters with a fastball, curveball and change up mix. All three of his pitches project as average to plus major league weapons. In the minor leagues, he has consistently shown the ability to miss bats and strike batters out, using all three offerings as a finishing pitch. We are working with Kelvin to solidify his arm slot and make sure he repeats his delivery from pitch to pitch.
Q) Akron OF Nick Weglarz is off to a solid start batting .284 with eight doubles, five homers and 23 RBI after struggling to play well out of the gate last year. Because he missed a lot of time last year with a leg injury and subsequent off-season surgery, does he need to have a full Double-A season under his belt to move up? If not, what kind of things are you and your staff looking for out of him to know he's ready?
A) Nick has been exceptional this year and is showing us that he is 100% recovered from his injury. He has executed his plan at the plate and is hitting the ball hard all over the field - and out of the park. We will look to move Nick when he shows us that he is no longer being challenged by the pitchers in the league and has established himself as a defender.
Q Kinston LHP T.J. McFarland is off to a great start with the K-Tribe, going 4-0 with a 0.59 ERA in six games. He's started one game, but has come in relief in the rest. What do you see as McFarland's role as he moves through the minor league system and is he a power pitcher as his 19 strikeouts to five walks suggests?
A) T.J is still very young and has some projection and ceiling in his body. Although he pitches with an average fastball now, his physique and youth suggest he may throw harder in the future. Even without added arm strength, we feel McFarland has the ability to grow into a Major League player. He pounds the zone with all of his pitches and induces a lot of ground balls – a great recipe for success for starters in the Major Leagues.
Q) Another Kinston pitcher - left-hander Nick Hagadone, appears to be having mixed results so far. Although he's 0-2, he has a respectable 2.10 ERA. And while he has racked up 29 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings, he has issued 17 walks. Where do you see Hagadone at right now, and what does he need to work on?
A) We feel great about the progress Nick has made thus far this year. His fastball has been clocked up to 97 MPH and he’s also shown us above average secondary pitches with his slider and changeup. Because his stuff is so good, we’d like to see Nick pound the zone and get consistent early count outs.
Q) There have been a lot of recent transactions affecting the Double-A Akron roster, including three pitchers being released. Is this a result of a change in philosophy or simply some younger arms pushing the older ones for their spots? Is this movement also in direct correlation to all the recent major league trades that have put more depth in the Indians system?
A) Last week’s releases in Akron were tough because we felt great about the people we were losing. However, as you alluded to, the 2009 trades infused a ton of upper-level pitching talent into the organization. We simply were at a point where innings were at a premium and we had to make a choice between players.