Jesus Aguilar Picking Up Where He Left Off This Winter
The early returns are based on an extremely small sample size but let’s not discount where Jesus Aguilar is today and ponder where he might be toward the end of the 2014 season.
When the Indians left Jesus Aguilar off their protected 40-man roster in the winter of 2012 there were many who were surprised. Especially when one of the names added was a young injured Class A pitcher that most fans had never heard of named Danny Salazar.
Although not protecting Aguilar had more to do with the fact that he had only played 20 games above the High-A level and the fact that he is viewed strictly as a first baseman than his status as a prospect some may have downgraded his prospect status based on roster protection.
He didn’t let the lack of roster assignment affect him as he spent the 2013 season playing for the Indians Double-A affiliate Akron Aeros. In 130 games the big right handed bat posted a triple slash line of .275/.349/.427 with 16 home runs and 105 runs driven in and reduced his strikeout rate to a career low 18.9% (105 strikeouts in 567 plate appearances).
Following the season in which he put his name back in the conversation as a prospect to watch the Indians rewarded him by adding him to their 40-man roster.
He wasn’t done building his resume up as he reported to Leones De Caracas where he posted a triple slash line of .327/.403/.597 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI in just 58 games spanning 256 at-bats. He finished the season second in home runs, fourth in RBI, and seventh in batting average.
He surprised himself by his power output. “It was crazy,” said Aguilar at the Indians winter development program. “I never thought about hitting home runs. I never thought about that. I just tried to help my team.”
He also revealed that he was getting guidance from teammate Bobby Abreu on his approach. “He told me you have to have a good routine if you want to be a good player and good hitter,” said Aguilar. “I tried to take that part from him. You’re going to have a good day, a bad day, but stay with your routine.”
Another veteran teammate Alex Gonzalez imparted more wisdom to the young hitter, “He told me to try and have control of every situation and prepare myself before every at-bat,” said Aguilar. “If there’s a man at second and third, this is what you do — don’t try to think too much, don’t try to pull the ball. Just stay relaxed and go up looking for one pitch. That’s a big thing for me “
Winter league statistics seldom mean much in terms of raw evaluating but they do serve as a backdrop to a player who had a nice season in Double-A and is moving one step closer to Triple-A. Is his power output a mirage or did the words of Bobby Abreu impact him in such a way that he can carry the approach over in 2014?
Thus far with the Columbus Clippers he has played in 10 games and has 41 plate appearances. He is hitting .417 (15 for 36) and has seven extra base hits including four home runs and three doubles striking out nine times and walking five times.
One other wrinkle in his game over the winter and already for one game at Columbus this season has been his playing third base. It looks as if the Indians want to test the waters to see if he could become slightly more versatile and thus even more valuable.
Of course, this is an extremely small sample size and he will cool off at some point but for now let’s enjoy his progress that he has made in the Indians system since signing and playing in the Dominican Summer League to being one step away from the majors.