Tribe’s top prospects attend the Indians Winter Development Program

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Thirteen Tribe prospects are in town this week as part of the Indians Winter Development Program, introduced by then-Director of Minor League Operations Mark Shapiro in 1996 as a way to strengthen the physical, mental and fundamental skills of some of the organization’s top prospects prior to Spring Training. Now in its 20th year, the program still acts as a way to help young talent of the Indians farm system prepare for the majors.

Again this year, the prospects will participate in classroom sessions, conditioning and fundamental work, while also hearing from multiple guest speakers including Shapiro, manager Terry Francona, pitching coach Mickey Callaway, new bullpen coach Jason Bere and St. Ignatius football coach Chuck Kyle, among others.

“These guys are close,” said Director of Player Development Carter Hawkins, regarding the group’s expected timeline of reaching the Major League level.

James Ramsey, who was acquired on July 30 in the Justin Masterson trade, may be the closest out of all and expressed his respect for the Indians organization.

“Growing up in Atlanta in the 90s when the Braves and Indians were going back and forth, you have a respect for the fan base and the fans of Cleveland for such good support,” he said.

After arriving at Class AAA Columbus, Ramsey hit .284 (31-109) with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs and 16 RBI in 28 games. He enters the 2015 season as the 12th-best prospect in the organization according to Baseball America.

Another participant in this year’s program is lefty Ryan Merritt, who recently received the organization’s 2014 Bob Feller Award, given to the Player Development System’s top pitcher. He, too, sees the program as a great way to build on his success. Merritt finished the 2014 season with a Carolina League-best 13 victories holding down a 2.58 ERA (46 ER/160.1 IP) in a career-high 25 starts at Single-A Carolina. He was named to the Carolina League and organizational (MiLB.com) postseason all-star teams and led all Tribe minor league pitchers in ERA (2.58).

“It’s great; I think it’s awesome that they bring us in and help us become major leaguers,” said Merritt, who was recently added to the 40-man roster. “They really just try to give us a good experience of everything. All these guys here are on the brink of making it so I think it’s great. They really care about us and want us to be productive major leaguers.”

–TribeVibe contributor Angela Martin

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