The Spokane Indians team that takes the field this week against the Everett AquaSox is much different than the one that faced the Seattle Mariners’ farm team earlier in the season.
Such is the nature of Minor League Baseball but especially this season, after missing a year due to the pandemic and with all of the changes MLB instituted to the classifications and affiliations during the offseason.
It’s been a year of evaluation and movement as players prove they deserve a higher challenge within the compacted player development structure of their organizations.
The Indians have seen nearly a dozen stalwarts from the first half of the season move up to Double-A Hartford, including starting pitchers Karl Kauffmann, Nick Bush, David Hill and Ryan Feltner, reliever PJ Poulin and catcher Willie MacIver.
The most recent promotion came Monday, as first baseman Michael Toglia, the High-A West leader in home runs and RBIs, was given his moving papers.
It stands to reason, then, that as players move out, others move in.
In recent weeks, pitchers Mitchell Kilkenny, Will Ethridge and Dugan Darnell were added to bolster the staff, and in the past week three more players moved in.
Noah Davis was the first to arrive July 28. A 24-year-old right-hander, Davis was acquired in the trade that sent major league reliever Mychal Givens to the Cincinnati Reds. Davis went 3-6 with a 3.60 ERA in 13 starts for High-A Dayton in the Reds’ organization this season.
He made his first start for the Indians on Saturday and picked up the win against Vancouver. He allowed no runs on three hits and two walks over 6⅓ innings.
Indians manager Scott Little said he was ecstatic with Davis’ performance.
“What can I say?” Little asked. “On a night when we were really thin in the bullpen again, this kid steps up, fresh off a plane out of a different organization, just got traded, comes up and just pitches one hell of a game.”
Davis enters the Rockies’ system as their No. 25-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.
On Monday, two everyday position players joined the Indians from Fresno, as the Rockies promoted shortstop Ezequiel Tovar and first baseman Grant Lavigne.
Tovar, 20, hit .309/.346/.510 with 11 home runs, 54 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 72 games with the Grizzlies. He is ranked the No. 19 Rockies prospect by MLB.com.
The thing that jumps out about Tovar is the increase in his power output. In 289 plate appearances in rookie and short-season ball in 2019, he hit two homers and six doubles. Already this season for Fresno, in addition to the 11 homers he has 21 doubles and three triples.
“When I hit a home run, it’s an accident,” Tovar said through a translator Tuesday before the Indians took on Everett.
“In the offseason, I worked on getting stronger, but I did not expect to, you know, have 10 or 11 home runs, whatever it is,” Tovar said. “I just worked on getting stronger and, you know, it’s just happened.”
Tovar hopes to continue his success at the next level.
“I’m somebody who’s gonna be happy and somebody that will bring energy on the field,” he said.
Lavigne, 21, hit .281/.388/.442 with seven homers, 40 RBIs and seven steals in 72 games with Fresno. Lavigne is ranked No. 12 on the Rockies’ prospect list.
The 21-year-old from New Hampshire is a big hockey fan and lists the Boston Bruins as his favorite team.
One of Lavigne’s biggest strengths as a left-handed hitter is his knowledge of the strike zone and ability to use all fields. He admittedly got a little “pull-happy” while with Low-A Asheville in 2019, but enjoyed success at Fresno this season.
“I think I was just doing a better job of using the whole field,” he said. “In Asheville, I kind of got away from what I did best on my first go with the Rockies, which was using the whole field. I’m back to doing that and starting to see some of the results I like to see.”
As a hit-first first baseman, power is at a premium, and Lavigne is growing into that.
“Obviously, I’d like maybe more homers, but I pride myself being a hitter first and I think the power will come a little bit sooner, hopefully,” he said. “But I just like to go up to the plate and try to hit the ball hard.”
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