The 2021 Minor League Baseball season will begin on May 4th after a delay of more than 13 months. For the Hillcats specifically, it will be their first game since September 2nd, 2019 when they lost to Winston-Salem to finish 62-73. Since then, they have switched levels and are now the Indians Low A affiliate rather than Advanced A. With the lost season, most of the players on the 2021 Hillcats came straight from Arizona rather than Mahoning Valley or Lake County.

Be sure to check out our depth charts all season long to get an up to date look on which players are where.

Starting Rotation

RHP Lenny Torres Jr.
RHP Daniel Espino
RHP Josh Wolf
RHP Xzavion Curry
LHP Deritzon Feliz

The Hillcats 2021 rotation is full of potential and the head of that is Indians 2019 first round pick Daniel Espino. Nearing 100 MPH on the fast ball, Espino struck out 12.9 per nine across 23.2 innings in his rookie year between Arizona and Mahoning Valley. Command could be an issue, but he certainly should be able to handle the hitters in low A.

The “veteran” of the team is Lenny Torres, who has missed a season more than everyone else as he had Tommy John in April 2019. He had a great rookie year in 2018 with Arizona, but hasn’t officially pitched since and will be looking to make a big return in 2021. Given his time in the organization, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoted quickly.

The third starter will likely be Josh Wolf, who came to Cleveland in the Francisco Lindor trade from New York after being the Mets second round pick in 2019. He pitched well that year in extremely limited time in the Gulf Coast League. The rest of the rotation will likely be Xzavion Curry and Deritzon Feliz. At 22, Curry is the oldest of the group, but has pitched the least as he missed the 2019 season (he was a 7th round pick that year) after pitching earlier in the year with Georgia Tech. Feliz is 21 and has yet to pitch above the rookie level.

Labaut pitches for the AZL Indians Blue during the 2019 season. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI


RHP Eric Mock
LHP Andrew Misiaszek
RHP Jerson Ramirez
RHP Trey Benton
RHP Sergio Morillo
LHP Jaime Arias
RHP Zach Hart
RHP Jordan Jones
LHP Randy Labaut
RHP Miguel Vinicio

The AZL Indians Blue had an incredible bullpen in 2019 and three of their best are joining Lynchburg in 2021 with Eric Mock, Randy Labaut and Jordan Jones. They all had an ERA below 2.60 and K/9 above 10.0 in 2019 with Labaut leading the way with a 1.74 ERA across 31 innings. Zach Hart (Blue), Miguel Vinicio (Red) and Andrew MIsiaszek (Red) also pitched in the Arizona League in 2019, although they didn’t have that level of success.

Sergio Morillo and Jerson Ramirez are more advanced pitchers with Morillo pitching in Arizona in 2018 and Ramirez in Mahoning Valley in 2019. The apparent closer of this squad would be Ramirez who nears 100 on his fast ball and has an 11.2 K/9 and 1.46 ERA over 55.2 career innings. They will be joined by newcomers Trey Benton (15th round pick in 2019) and 22 year old lefty Jaime Arias-Bautista. Arias has yet to pitch professionally after being signed as an amateur free agent out of Fresno St following the 2020 draft.

Martinez makes contact for the Indians during 2019 extended spring training. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI


C Yainer Diaz
C Andres Melendez
1B Will Bartlett
1B/3B Jhonkensy Noel
SS Angel Martinez
SS Yordys Valdes
3B Gabriel Rodriguez
3B Christian Cairo

To begin, Lynchburg should have an extremely elite defensive infield if nothing else. Angel Martinez, Yordys Valdez, Gabriel Rodriguez and Christian Cairo are all natural shortstops and will have to split up second, third and short. My assumption is that Rodriguez will play third, Martinez short and the pair of Valdes and Cairo will split time as utility men and at second. Jhonkensy Noel is also an accomplished defender at first with a solid glove and arm at third. Even Will Bartlett has added versatility as a part time outfielder.

Offensively, Noel on Rodriguez will provide the power while Martinez brings a well rounded overall bat and Bartlett a great OBP. The rest of the offense could be very questionable given their performances during their short periods in pro ball to this point.

Escobedo (AZL Indians Blue) stands ready at bat with Diaz (AZL Indians Red) behind the plate during a 2019 AZL game. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI


LF Korey Holland
CF Alexfri Planez
CF Julian Escobedo
RF Johnathan Rodriguez
OF Micah Pries

The jewel of this outfield group is Alexfri Planez who has great power and speed with the range and glove to stick in center. A broken hamate bone cost him almost all of 2019, but he’s still just 19 years old heading into 2021. Of the other higher end players Julian Escobedo had an amazing start to his career in Arizona, but was horrendous upon promotion to Mahoning Valley and Micah Pries will be making his pro debut following his selection as a 13th round pick in 2019.

The other two players in this group are a bit of a surprise. John Rodriguez was a 3rd round pick in 2017 and is now 21 without a game played above Mahoning Valley. He has some power, but is a poor defender, baserunner and contact hitter. Holland was a 14th round pick in 2018 and is also 21 without a game played above MV. He’s a good defender and baserunner, but has yet to hit with any consistency in his short MiLB career.

Overall, the 2021 Hillcats look like a strong, well rounded team with their greatest value at the top of the starting rotation and in their young, athletic infielders.

Of the 28 men on the roster, 13 were ranked in the top 70 in IBI’s 2021 prospect rankings and three of the starters were in the top 20. To whittle things down to a few players, keep a close eye on Espino, Ramirez, Noel, Rodriguez and Planez to make big moves early on and impress in their first seasons in A ball.

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