The Indians extended non-roster invitations to major league spring training camp to six minor league players today: shortstop Francisco Lindor, catchers Jake Loweryand Roberto Perez, outfielder Tyler Naquin, second baseman Joe Wendle and catcher/infielder Tony Wolters.
“I don’t want to say it was my idea, but we all were in agreement that we’d much rather bring in our younger kids than a bunch of veteran guys who really didn't have a chance to make the team,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “If you bring in too many guys to compete, but they really aren’t competing, I don’t think that’s fair. So, you bring in younger kids and give them a taste to see how we do things. I will really help as a staff to get to know them and let them see how we want to do things.”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound switch-hitting shortstop led the Indians player development system by hitting a combined .303 with 22 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 34 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 104 games between high Class-A Carolina and Double-A Akron last season. Lindor, 20, was the Tribe’s first-round selection (8th overall) in 2011, and was recently tabbed the organization’s top prospect by Baseball America for the second consecutive season.
Lowery, 23, was the Indians fourth-round pick in 2011. Like Lindor, he also split last season between Carolina and Akron, combining to bat .264 with 23 doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBI in 92 games. The 6-foot, 200-pound catcher retired 28.1% (27-of-96) of attempted base stealers. After the season, Lowery hit .240 in eight games for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League.
Naquin, 22, is coming off of a 27-game AFL stint during which he hit .339 with four doubles, a triple, one home run and 18 RBI in 27 games for the Surprise Saguaros. The Tribe’s first-round selection (15th overall) in 2012 earned an AFL MVP nomination and a spot on the AFL Top Prospects Team after finishing eighth in league in batting average, first in hits (39), second in runs scored (22) and fourth in total bases (48).
Prior to the off season, Naquin batted a combined .269 with 30 doubles, six triples, 10 home runs and 48 RBI in 126 games between Carolina and Akron. Naquin was named to the Carolina League midseason All-Star squad and played the final 18 games of the season at Akron in his first exposure at Double-A. He enters this season ranked by BA as the fourth-best prospect in the Indians organization and was labeled the Indians' Best Defensive Outfielder in the publication’s annual Best Tools survey.
Perez, 25, hit a combined .200 with 18 doubles, two home runs and 34 RBI in 99 games between Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He was named by BA as the Best Defensive Catcher in the Tribe’s farm system after retiring 34.9% of attempted base stealers last year. The Puerto Rican native was selected by the Tribe in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft.
Wendle, 23, was named the Indians 2013 Lou Boudreau Award winner, symbolic of the top position player in the Indians Player Development system. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound left-handing hitting infielder spent the season in Carolina, batting .295 with 32 doubles, five triples, 64 RBI and an .884 OPS. A sixth-round selction in the 2012 draft, Wendle was named to the Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team and enters this season ranked by BA as the 17th-best prospect in the Indians organization. Wendle also hit .311 with seven extra base hits, 12 RBI and had an .863 OPS for Surprise in the AFL following the regular season.
Wolters, 21, enters the season ranked by BA as the 25th-best prospect in the Indians farm system after transitioning to catcher at the suggestion of Francona during spring training last season. Wolters spent the first month of the season at extended spring training, then continued to hone his catching skills at Carolina for the remainder of the season. A third-round draft pick (87th overall) in 2010, Wolters threw out 28% of would-be base stealers, not far off the Carolina League average of 30%.