Beyond the opening day roster and the complex machinations involved in service time manipulation as well as option protection organizations are tasked with other nuanced player assignment decisions. Organizational assignments for minor league players are one of the more enlightening indicators big league teams will provide regarding how a prospect is viewed internally. Consider for a moment, Jose Ramirez who started the 2013 season in Akron at just 20 years old or Nick Sandlin who made it all the way to Akron in 2018 in his first season in the organization.
The aggressiveness of the organization in terms of assignment as it relates to age and level is highly indicative of internal evaluation. With this in mind as well as other notes, below are a few prospects whose assignments were surprising.
Lake County has a few of the Indians most aggressive assignments; for context the average age in single-a is just over 21 years old. Which brings us to two of the more fast moving prospects; catcher Bo Naylor and pitcher Luis Oviedo.
Naylor, who turned 19 in February, absolutely annihilated the Arizona League to the tune of a wRC+ of 126 and an elite walk rate. Naylor has a refined approach and could be in Lynchburg after the All Star Break.
Oviedo’s assignment appears less aggressive in the sense that his final start of the 2018 season was in Lake County. However, as a 19 year old pitcher, Oviedo’s assignment is very impressive and with three potential plus pitches, a leap in command could make Oviedo a quick mover.
Other fascinating placements; former first round pick Brady Aiken will return to Lake County where he struggled in 2017. Aiken spent 2018 in the wilderness, working with Indians staff to regain velocity; this year is likely the last significant chance for Aiken to show the upside which made him an elite draft prospect. Jean Carlos Mejia who the Indians placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from being taken in the rule-5 draft is beginning the season in Lynchburg but I expect the 22 year old to see Akron in the second half of 2019.
There are not too many surprises at the upper level of the Indians system except for the logjam. Connor Marabell and Ka’ai Tom would both probably be better served in AAA but are in Akron due to Columbus currently carrying Carlos Gonzalez, Cameron Maybin, and Oscar Mercado.
The three biggest names to watch in Akron at the moment are Sam Hentges, James Karinchak, and Daniel Johnson. Hentges broke out in 2018 and with command growth could be big league ready as soon as June.
A final note, Nick Sandlin was not placed on a roster to start the season due to what the organization has dubbed arm fatigue.
One thing is for certain, Lake County has the most exciting and organizationally impactful roster in the system.