Wes Hodges, the Indians' third baseman in grooming, has been named to the Arizona Fall League’s 2008 Top Prospects Team. Hodges hit .349 with six homers, eight doubles and 26 RBI in 25 games. His 26 RBI tied for seventh in the AFL. Hodges is one reason why the Indians are reluctant to give Casey Blake or any other free-agent third baseman a long-term contract. No sense when Hodges is not far away.
Hodges, 24, has had two solid seasons in the Indians' organization since being Cleveland's second-round pick (No. 69 overall) in 2006.
He didn't start his pro career until 2007, however, sitting out 2006 with a stress fracture in his leg sustained during his senior season at Georgia Tech.
At Class A Kinston in 2007, he hit .288 with 15 homers and 71 RBI despite missing more time with injuries -- a strained hamstring injury kept him out for eight days, then he missed a couple of weeks due to a broken bone in his left big toe.
Promoted to Double-A Akron, the 6-2, 206-pounder hit .290 with 18 homers and 97 RBI.
Offensively, Hodges is on the fast track. He's not as polished on defense as the Indians would like, making 19 and 28 errors respectively in his first two years of pro ball. Many of the errors have come on errant throws and the organization continues to work with him to establish good footwork and balance in order to get into proper throwing position.
Hodges is a line-drive hitter with gap power who has made some adjustments to his swing. He has worked to get his legs more involved in his swing and eliminate a slight hitch. In the past, he would hold his hands close to his chest and then move them back as the pitcher went into his windup. He has eliminated much of that movement and also shortened his swing. He struck out 90 times in 393 at-bats in 2007 and 105 times in 2008 -- but that was in 504 times at bat.
Hodges is expected to start the 2009 season at Triple-A Buffalo. If he continues to progress, he could get a late-season trial in Cleveland and be considered in the mix for a job with the Indians in 2010.
The top prospects team was selected by AFL managers, coaches, and administrators following
the seven-week schedule. Voters were asked to consider AFL performance and major league projectability.
Joining Hodges at third base on the select squad is Brett Wallace from the St. Louis Cardinals' system. Drafted in the first round, No. 13 overall, last June, he hit .309 and tied Hodges and three others for seventh in the league with six homers. He had 55 total bases for the season. He hit safely in 11 of his final 12 games, at a .417 clip over that span.
Eric Young, Jr. (Colorado Rockies) — Fall League batting champion (.430) … also league leader in stolen bases (20), runs (37),and on-base percentage (.504) ... catalyst of league champion Phoenix Desert Dogs ... had two grand-slam home runs in five-day span, the second a
rare inside-the-park gapper ... had 21-game hitting streak ... reached base three times on two singles anda walk in the championship game win.
Sean Doolittle (Oakland Athletics) — Displayed Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield and at first base while hitting .293 ... eight home runs tied for third, 67 total bases ranked sixth,
and 26 RBI tied Hodges for seventh.
Chris Pettit (Los Angeles Angels) — AFL leader in hits (52), total bases (79), doubles (13), and games(37).
Austin Jackson (New York Yankees) — Hit .246 in 28
Casper Wells (Detroit Tigers) — Hit .321 with eight homers (tied for third) and 23 RBI in 23 games ... RBI double and single in the championship game.
Mike Baxter (San Diego Padres) — The league’s No. 4 hitter at .402 ... ranked second with .495 on-base percentage.
Jason Donald (Philadelphia Phillies) — Won the 2008 Dernell Stenson Award for character
and leadership ... second in batting (.407), doubles (12), and extra-base hits (19).. third in slugging percentage (.747) ... had three four-hit games ... split time between shortstop, second base, and third base.
Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox) — Hit .394 and posted the league’s top single-game offensive performance with a five-for-five day that
included seven RBI. He scored after all five hits, making him responsible for 12 runs.
Daniel Murphy (New York Mets) — Batted .397 and .487 on-base percentage ranked third.
Kevin Frandsen (San Francisco Giants) — The 2006 Dernell Stenson Award winner returned to the AFL and stole 10 bases to rank second ... hit .331.
Logan Morrison (Florida Marlins) — No. 3 hitter in the league ... tied for second in RBI (29) with Jeff Larish (Tigers) ... also played the
outfield ... hit for the cycle and had one five-for-five game ... had 16-game hitting streak ... singled twice in the championship game.
Rhyne Hughes (Tampa Bay Rays) — Led AFL with 20 extra-base hits ... hit .394 with five home runs and 27 RBI.
J.P. Arencibia (Toronto Blue Jays) — Vital cog in Phoenix Desert Dogs' fifth consecutive league title ... split catching duties with Mike McKenry and served as designated hitter ... caught championship game victory over Mesa Solar Sox ... had 10-game hitting streak and a two-homer game.
Matt Wieters (Baltimore Orioles) — Hit .301 in 20 games with a .407 on-base percentage.
Tyler Flowers (Atlanta Braves) — AFL leader in homers (12), slugging percentage (.973) and OPS (1.433) ... hit .387 overall ... had three-homer, seven-RBI game ... 73 total bases ranked third.
Mike McKenry (Colorado Rockies) — Had a three-homer game with seven RBI ... nine homers ranked second ... also had 25 RBI, slugging percentage (.786) ranked second and OPS (1.216) ranked third ... hit .369 overall ... 66 total bases tied for seventh ... scored twice for victorious Desert Dogs in the championship game.
Jeff Larish (Detroit Tigers) — Also played third
and first base ... 29 RBI tied for second ... hit .331 with six homers in 30 games ... two-run homer in the championship game ... reached base in 23 consecutive games … 18 walks ranked third, 41 hits ranked sixth.
Tommy Hanson (Atlanta Braves) — First pitcher in 17-year AFL history to merit serious consideration for MVP ... led in wins (5), strikeouts (49), and ERA (0.63) ... 49 strikeouts were the most in AFL since Bobby Jenks' 54 in 2002 ... allowed only 10 hits, two earned runs and seven walks in 28.2 innings ... single-game strikeout high of 11 also led the league ... began AFL season with streak of 19.1 consecutive scoreless innings.
Kevin Pucetas (San Francisco Giants) — Led AFL in innings (35.1) ... four wins tied for second ... eight starts tied for lead ... 4.33 ERA and 28 strikeouts.
Bobby Parnell (New York Mets) — 3–1 record and 2.25 ERA ... 20 strikeouts in 20 innings.
Bud Norris (Houston Astros) — 1.89 earned-run average led all relievers and ranked second in Ato FL Hanson (0.63) .. no decisions in 12 appearances covering 19 innings ... 20 strikeouts, one save.
John Bannister (Texas Rangers) — 19 strikeouts in 12 relief appearances covering 18 innings ... 0–1 record, 5.00 ERA, one save.