Given the excitement that took place at the corner of Ontario, Carnegie and East 9th for much of last summer, you can be excused if you forgot about the team playing just a few miles to the east at Classic Park in Eastlake. You may not be able to get off so easily this summer. The 2012 Lake County Captains will likely field somewhere in the vicinity of seven of the team's top 10 prospects on a regular basis and could be one of the more dynamic and exciting minor league teams the organization has put on the field in some time.
Last year's Captains squad was in several ways an inversion of the role the team has played for the organization since its inception in 2003. Year after year Eastlake has been the landing point for low ceiling college-drafted positional players, and young and exciting arms acquired via the international market. Last year the only teenage pitchers on the Captains' staff were Luis Encarnacion and Felix Sterling, who debuted late in the season. In contrast, the offense witnessed the full season debuts of Luigi Rodriguez (18), LeVon Washington (19), Giovanny Urshela (19), Ronny Rodriguez (19), Alex Monsalve (19) and recent St. Eds grad, Alex Lavisky (20). In the end, this group struggled to a 60-79 record, a record that would have been worse without the significant contributions from the surprising duo of Jesus Aguillar and Carlos Moncrief.
Some of these guys, particularly the younger ones, figure to be back for 2012. But more significantly, they are likely to be joined by a huge swath of Cleveland's next wave of talent. The middle infield will likely see three of the Tribe's most exciting prospects, consensus #1 prospect Francisco Lindor, 2010 3rd round pick Tony Wolters and if he doesn't go to Carolina, 2011 Captain alum Ronny Rodriguez. The squad should also see at some point during the season the Dominican 3B Robel Garcia, who hit 24 extra-base hits in just 45 games for the AZL Indians a year ago as a young 18-year old. The pitching staff is likely to include 2011 over-slot 2nd round pick, Dillon Howard, as well as big lefty Elvis Araujo and right-hander Jake Sisco.
This year's Lake County group figures to be the most talented squad, on both sides of the ball, the Indians organization has fielded since the 2003 Akron Aeros. That team that went 88-53 with the help of performances from Grady Sizemore, Corey Smith, Hector Luna, Ryan Church, Macier Izturis, Luke Scott, Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Cabrera, Rafael Betancourt and brief appearances by Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona.