Right-handed hitting prospect Jesus Aguilar just might be the Cleveland Indians’ long-term answer to solidify the middle of the order
Still 24 years old, Aguilar has become one of the most feared hitters in the minor leagues. He put together a slash line of .304/.395/.511 in 118 games with Columbus (AAA) last season and clubbed 19 home runs while driving in 77 runs. He was an International League Mid-Season All-Star selection and earned his second consecutive MILB.com Organization All-Star recognition.
He did, however, make his big league debut with the Tribe last season and performed poorly. Aguilar struck out 13 times in 33 at-bats, posting just four hits – all singles – over 19 appearances. He never looked comfortable at the plate and, frankly, didn’t have the time he needed to work out of the funk.
According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, Aguilar is the No. 10 ranked first base prospect who has shown the “ability to be a real run producer” in the minor leagues over the last years. Mayo also points out that Aguilar has little left to prove at the minor league level but, as of January, a spot on the Tribe’s Opening Day roster did not appear to be open.
Now it is, and manager Terry Francona still seems to think Aguilar’s atrocious debut will prove to be a minor hiccup in the prospect’s career:
"Sometimes you’ll see guys in that situation swing crazy. He looked like he was almost trying to shoot the ball to right field. Like he was trying to be a No.2 hitter. I just think it was a case of a guy who had worked hard in Triple-A to build a reputation of being one of the feared hitters and he came to the major leagues and wasn’t quite sure where he fit in. That’s happens a lot."
Vying for a (possibly) temporary spot on the Tribe’s Opening Day roster, Aguilar has been nothing short of spectacular this spring. He has posted an eye popping slash-line of .414/.419/.621, clubbing four extra-base hits — including one home run — and driving in four runs.
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According to Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Aguilar credits much of his spring training success to former Indians’ slugger Travis Hafner, saying he spent last spring trying to do too much:
"I was working with Travis Hafner earlier in camp. He talked to me about trying not to do too much in the box. He helped me just to concentrate on making hard contact. He taught me a couple things he did when he played. It helped me a lot."
Surely Cleveland does not expect Aguilar to put up Pronk-type numbers right out of the gate, but right-handed power has long been included on the team’s offseason wish list.
If Aguilar takes the next step in his development and his offensive production translates to the next level early this season, Cleveland may be looking at a long-term solution in the middle of their order.