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AFL Spotlight: Jesus Aguilar

AFL Spotlight: Jesus Aguilar
October 19, 2011
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Jesus Aguilar (Photo: IPI)
The “AFL Spotlight” is a weekly feature piece on a player from the Cleveland Indians farm system that is participating in the Arizona Fall League. League play wraps up on November 19th.

Week three of the Arizona Fall League (AFL) is now underway, and of the eight Indians players who have played out there so far the one player who has clearly had the best performance to date is first baseman Jesus Aguilar.

Aguilar, 21, had a breakout year this past season where in 126 combined games between Low-A Lake County and High-A Kinston he hit .284 with 23 HR, 82 RBI, and a .865 OPS. He hit four more homers in the Carolina League playoffs and one this fall in five Instructional League games before joining up with his AFL teammates.

Aguilar’s performance so far in the AFL has been very, very encouraging. In ten games he is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with 5 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 1.204 OPS. When viewing AFL stats you try not to get too worked up by a good or poor performance as they do not really mean much, but when a hitter like Aguilar who has never played a game above the High-A level comes in and plays well against the top competition in the minor leagues, you take notice.

It has been a very successful 2011 campaign for Aguilar and his performance in the AFL is but the cherry on top. Even more encouraging is how he has held up at the end of the season as his body and mind are both very tired. Coming into this season he had never played a full professional season, so while it has been a long year for him he is showing good mental and physical stamina.

“I feel good, but I am tired,” Aguilar said through the help of interpreter Roberto Perez. “It was my first full season so it was tough as I had never played more than 100 games before. I have tried to do the same thing every day and stay on top of my routine, and that is why I think I had the success I had this year.”

Even though Aguilar has played a lot this season and the year is ending there is still time to make some adjustments and improvements to his game. There is no doubt that the power is there as he stands in at the plate as a hulking menace and looks bigger than his listed height and weight of 6’3” 241 pounds. His big, strong upper body has the power to unleash some major damage and hit a fastball a long way. But two areas where he needs to continue to improve and grow is his defense and plate discipline.

The Indians feel the ability is there for Aguilar to be at least an average defender - possibly an above average defender - and he continues to make strides. He gets a lot of work in before games at first base, and this fall in Instructional League the Indians Minor League Fielding Coordinator Travis Fryman worked with him extensively there.

At the plate Aguilar is a typical slugger right now where he piles up a lot of strikeouts. He struck out 126 times in 462 at bats this season, but when a player hits for power like he does you often live with the strikeouts. That having been said, his plate discipline needs to continue to improve because the pitching will only get tougher as he moves up the minor league ladder. He has trouble with breaking pitches, particularly low and away.

So far things are going well for Aguilar as he has not been too overwhelmed at the plate where in 40 at bats in the AFL he has 10 strikeouts and 6 walks. Even though he is still striking out at the same rate as in the regular season the 6 walks are good to see. Small sample size be damned, for a player like him with no upper level minor league experience he is more than holding his own at the plate so far. If he can continue to improve his walk rate and work pitchers a little more it is going to make him an even more dangerous hitter and allow him to have more consistent success in the upper levels of the minors.

“I am working on my offense by trying to stay back on the ball and recognizing breaking stuff,” Aguilar said. “My defense is also going well for me. I worked hard every day with Fryman in Instructional League taking ground balls and everything.”

Aguilar is not expected to remain in the AFL until it ends on November 19th. He is supposed to depart by the end of this month - if not sometime in the next week – to play winter ball in Venezuela. He is expects to be more than just an understudy out there as he should play a lot for at least a month before several of the more established players arrive.

Aguilar joked that playing in Venezuela will give him a chance to make some more money, but it will also give him a chance to play even more and get a lot of tips from some of the older players out there.

“I talked to them and they said I will be playing the first month until the big leaguers come,” Aguilar said. “It is the same league and they have guys over there that have thrown in the big leagues or Triple-A. It is going to help me playing over there because by playing with older guys it is going to get me more experience more maturity at the plate. I will be involved with those guys and they will help me because I am young.”

Once Aguilar’s fall and winter ball seasons come to an end in the AFL and Venezuela he will go home and rest and then begin preparations for his 2012 season. While 2011 was a very successful season for him in that he broke out as a prospect, there are still several question marks which remain. Many of them can be answered with another good season next year where he is expected to play the majority of it at Double-A Akron, so this is a key offseason for him.

“After I am done playing winter ball and all that I am going to take some time off and then I will work on my body to get ready for spring training next year,” Aguilar said. “And I will get lots of sleep (chuckles).”

After the long season Aguilar has had, that sleep will be well deserved.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

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