Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pennsylvania sleeper in Indians farm system

West Chester (Pa.) University plays in the competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, which is one of college baseball's hidden gems.

For the Cleveland Indians' purposes, the ultra-competitive conference cultivated a player who could have an extended stay in their system.  

Joe Wendle helped West Chester capture the NCAA Division II World Series title last year. Following the Golden Rams' title run, the Indians selected Wendle, a middle infielder, in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. The Indians sent Wendle to Mahoning Valley, where he quickly established himself as one of the short-season New York-Penn League's top players.

Wendle was promoted to Lake County for last year's Midwest League playoffs. Unless he needs Classic Park for rehabilitation duties, Wendle might never don a Captains uniform again.

He skipped Lake County and opened this season at High-A Carolina, where he's leading the High-A Carolina League with a .426 batting average through 14 games. Wendle, 22, has nine strikeouts and nine walks in 47 at-bats. He's playing second base alongside 19-year-old shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor.

The Indians feature a glut of young middle infielder prospects. The group includes Lindor, Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez and Jose Ramirez. But before dismissing Wendle's odds of reaching Cleveland, consider the career path of Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams.

Adams, who played at Slippery Rock, another PSAC school, was selected by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft. Once stuck behind Albert Pujols and multiple major-college first baseman drafted ahead of him, Adams appears ready to stick in baseball-crazy St. Louis.

Adams is hitting .524 with three homers and eight RBI. To get Adams more at-bats, the Cardinals might need to shift Allen Craig, who they recently signed to a $31 million contract extension, from first base to another position. Don't be surprised if Adams becomes a factor in the National League Rookie of the Year race if this happens.

Wendle doesn't possess the same raw power as the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Adams. But Wendle is better defensively, making a position switch or utility role more realistic. Wendle, like Adams, bats left-handed, another major positive working in his favor.
-- Guy Cipriano | @newsheraldguy


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