By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
The Indians added first baseman Jesus Aguilar, right-handed pitchers Austin Adams and Bryan Price, shortstop Erik Gonzalez and outfielder Carlos Moncrief to their 40-man roster on Wednesday.
Four of the five played for the Double-A Aeros at some point last year. Gonzalez played at high Class-A Carolina.
In order to make room on the roster, the Indians designated second baseman Cord Phelps for assignment. Phelps was the team’s third-round selection in the 2008 draft.
Price, 27, is coming off a breakout season split between the Aeros and Triple-A Columbus, where he combined for a 2.04 ERA with four saves and a 92-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75 innings. He is second in the Venezuelan Winter League in saves and has a 1.89 ERA in 15 games.
Originally acquired by the Tribe at the July 2009 trade deadline from the Boston Red Sox along with Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone in the deal that sent catcher Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, Price was a first round sandwich pick (45th overall) in ‘08.
“He’s a guy who really thrived this year at Triple-A and made a lot of progress in how he attacked hitters,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said of Price, noting he could compete for a spot in the Tribe’s bullpen in spring training. “He features a good fastball and two good secondary pitches and was one of the more effective relievers in all of Triple-A.”
Adams, 27, spent last season in the Aeros’ bullpen and was 3-2 with four saves and a 2.62 ERA in 45 appearances. With 76 strikeouts to 29 walks in 55 innings, the Tribe’s fifth-round selection in the 2009 draft averaged 12.44 strikeouts per nine innings and limited right-handed hitters to a .158 average.
“Austin bounced back from his shoulder surgery [that forced him to miss the 2012 season] extraordinarily well and worked really hard to get back to where he was pre-surgery,” Antonetti said.
Adams’ fastball has reached 100 mph.
“He’s got one of the best arms not only in our system, but through the minor leagues,”Antonetti said. “He’s a power arm with really good stuff.”
Aguilar, 23, set the Aeros’ franchise single-season record for RBI with 105 and batted .275 with 28 doubles, 16 home runs and 66 runs scored in 130 games. He is batting .313 in 33 games in his native Venezuela.
Aguilar, who signed with the Tribe as an undrafted minor-league free-agent in 2007, ranks among Venezuelan Winter League leaders in home runs (tied for first with 10), RBI (second with 31), total bases (tied for second with 75) and runs (tied for fourth with 25).
“He’s getting closer [to being a major-league contributor],” Antonetti said. “He made a lot of progress from last year to this year. The Double-A level is always a good test, especially for position players and Jesus did a really good job of anchoring that lineup. He’s got a really bright future.”
Moncrief, 25, batted .284 with 26 doubles, seven triples, 17 home runs, 75 RBI and 77 runs scored in 129 games with the Aeros.
His home runs were tied for first among all Indians farmhands and his RBI total ranked third in the system. Another E.L. All-Star, the Indians 14th-round pick in 2008 also finished among league leaders in OPS (seventh at .824), hits (tied for fourth with 139), runs (tied for sixth) and triples (tied for sixth).
Moncrief was a relief pitcher before converting to the outfield in 2010.
“[Moncrief] was one of the highlights of our development system this year,” Antonetti said. “He’s a guy that’s made a lot of progress as a hitter in cutting down on his strikeout rate and improved his defense in the outfield to the point that he’s now a very good outfielder with a well-above average arm.”
Gonzalez, 22, split last season between low Class-A Lake County and high Class-A Carolina, combining to hit .254 with 32 doubles, 12 triples, nine home runs, 76 RBI and 75 runs scored in 132 games.
A versatile infielder who signed as a nondrafted minor-league free agent in 2008 and just played in his first full pro season in 2013, Gonzalez played 65 games at third base, 55 games at shortstop, 13 games at second base and one game apiece at first base and center field.
Playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, he’s batting .351 with 12 runs scored, two doubles, three triples, a home run and eight RBI in 25 games. In addition to a .839 OPS, he leads the league in hits (33) and is second in batting average and triples.
“Erik’s one of the hardest workers and best teammates in our organization,” Antonetti said. “He did a tremendous job of improving himself as a player. He’s always been a real good defensive player and he’s worked hard at every position he’s played on the field.
“We gave him the opportunity to play some shortstop and he really excelled there. He’s got a chance to be an above-average defender no matter where he plays — whether that’s shortstop, second base, he can play the corners on the infield, he play the outfield — and he’s continued to improve as a hitter.”
The timing of the 40-man roster comes now so that each organization has the opportunity to protect the younger players added from exposed to the upcoming Rule V Draft.
However, the Indians will most likely make another 40-man roster move soon when outfielder David Murphy passes his physical and is soon added to the Tribe’s roster, meaning another player will likely be designated for assignment.