It has been quite some time since the Arizona League Indians last played a game going back to when the AZL Indians Blue lost the 2019 championship on August 30th […]
It has been quite some time since the Arizona League Indians last played a game going back to when the AZL Indians Blue lost the 2019 championship on August 30th to Texas and quite a few things have changed since then. First, while everyone has been waiting for the Cleveland baseball club to change their name, the AZL Indians did change theirs as the Arizona Rookie League is now known as the Arizona Complex League and the two teams, Red and Blue, have been consolidated into one, the ACL Indians.
While the Indians did decrease from two squads to one due to the restructuring of the minor leagues in 2021, the entire league didn’t shrink completely as the Giants (Orange and Black), Brewers (Blue and Gold) and Royals (Blue and Gold) will be maintaining two squads. This means that the Padres, Dodgers, Athletics and Cubs have all dropped clubs while the Rockies have added a new one. They previously housed their rookie level team in Grand Junction as part of the now defunct Pioneer League. Another big change is that the draft class of 2021 will stay with their current teams rather than joining the ACL, meaning that most of the new talent will be coming from the Dominican Summer League.
With all that league stuff out of the way, the ACL Indians will restart the franchise on June 29th (their first game on June 28th has already been cancelled due to the Brewers breaking protocol) at home against the Angels at 6:00 PM and the regular season will run through September 18th, a much later date than normal reflecting both the month long delay of the start of the season and an extreme increase in off days. Both the off days and lateness in the year should do much for player wellness in dealing with the extreme Arizona heat.
Despite the lost year, the pitching staff of the 2021 ACL Indians will look very similar to that of the 2019 teams. Interestingly, there are 13 total pitchers and eight have been mostly used as starters over their careers. Given the amount of off days scheduled and the usage of pitchers in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Indians to use a lot of pitchers over three inning spans rather than more traditional 5+ inning starts.
Returning from the 2019 staff are Wardquelin Vasquez (19, spent 2019 with the AZL Indians Red), Samuel Vasquez (21, 2019 AZL Indians Red), Mike Garcia (20, 2018 AZL Indians Blue), Diarlin Jimenez (21, 2019 AZL Indians Blue) and Jhon Vergara (21, 2019 AZL Indians Red). New to Arizona are lefties Steven Perez (20, 2019 DSL Indians) and Tomas Reyes (21, 2019 DSL Indians) as well as righty Hugo Villalobos (19, 2019 DSL Indians).
While some of those pitchers will likely be used more in relief, the other flex pitchers will be Jake Forrester (25, 2019 AZL Indians Red), Dan Figueroa (20, 2019 DSL Indians), Adrian Rodriguez (20, 2019 DSL Indians/Brewers), Elmson Candelario (new international signing) and Juan Mateo (new undrafted free agent). It is an interesting note that of all the pitchers, only Forrester and Mateo were born in the United States. Forrester is also the only pitcher older than 21 years old.
Despite the advancement of Angel Martinez, Gabriel Rodriguez and the rest of the 2018 international free agent class, Goodyear remains short stop city. Starting with the newest one, Alonzo Richardson graduated from Helix Charter High School in California in 2020 and was committed to San Diego State, but instead chose to sign with Cleveland after not being drafted in 2020. He was a two way player as a short stop and relief pitcher, but it is yet to be seen how he will be used with Cleveland.
Also officially making their debuts will Carson Tucker (2020 1st round pick), Milan Tolentino (2020 4th round pick) and Jose Pestrano (2019 international free agent) although all did play in instructional league. While the team has more short stops, I would expect these three to get the majority of the starting time at the position. Jose Devers is another new infielder signed out of the Dominican Republic, but he didn’t play in instructs and it’s not known how he will be used as of yet.
Another trio of short stops coming to Arizona will be Junior Sanquintin (19, 2019 DSL Indians/Brewers), Dayan Frias (19, 2019 DSL Indians) and Jesus Lara (19, DSL Indians). With no players listed at third or first base among the infielders, look for Sanquintin to potentially play both corner spots with Frias and Lara focusing on second. Essentially, any infielder could play anywhere, but Sanquintin’s strong arm and large frame make him a good fit for first and third.
Behind the plate will be Richard Paz (20, 2019 AZL Indians Red), Victor Planchart (20, 2019 DSL Indians) and Micael Ramirez (22, 2019 AZL Indians Red). None of these are really considered prospects at this point, but Ramirez is a solid defensive catcher who can hit and should provide a good foundation for the young, mostly Spanish speaking, pitchers. Paz is an interesting case as he was born in Pennsylvania as the son of a former minor leaguer, Richard Paz. Despite being born in the US, Paz lived outside the country, allowing him to be signed as an international free agent instead of being drafted. He spent most of his first two years with the DSL Indians and struggled upon promotion in 2019. Planchart will be making his US debut after a nice offensive campaign in 2018 and a so-so year in 2019. All three are potential 1B/DH as well with the limited infield options.
Filling out the will be a completely new class. Isaiah Greene is the only true new player after he was taken in the second round of the 2020 draft by the Mets, then traded to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor. Luis Durango was an international signing in 2019 and has also not yet played for Cleveland. From the 2019 Dominican Summer League are Jorge Burgos (19), Skeiling Rodriguez (20) and Sterling Romero (19).
With such small draft classes in 2020 and 2021, there really wasn’t a need for two Arizona League teams, but this roster is extremely small at the moment and I expect a few more players to be added, especially with the delay in the start of the Dominican Summer League season (now slated for July 12). As it stands, the only prospects ranked by IBI in 2021 on the roster are the new guys, Isaiah Greene (23), Carson Tucker (24), Milan Tolentino (43), Jose Pestrano (54), Junior Sanquintin (55) and Luis Durango (59). Beyond them and the largely unknown of Richardson, there isn’t any real excitement among the hitters. In the pitching staff there is some talent, but the focus should be on the youngest of the group like Samuel and Wardquelin Vasquez. Steven Perez has been very effective in his two DSL seasons, but very rarely to high end prospects spend two years in the Dominican Republic.
In addition to the official roster, the Indians will have other players training in Arizona who can be considered organizational players for up to seven days at a time without being on a minor league roster. It currently appears that those players could be Petey Halpin, Victor Soteldo, Luis D. Garcia, Darlin Noboa, Luis Peguero, Jordan Brown, Cesar Idrogo, Jesus Maestre, Wilfri Peralta and Marlin Made who were all on the originally announced ACL Indians roster.