Mitchell: No Room at the Innings
As we approach Spring Training, thoughts turn to Arizona and Florida. Drills on sun-drenched practice fields, intra-squad games, players wearing numbers in the 90′s and every player hopeful that this year will see them moving up the organizational ladder (or in the case of about 20 guys, that they just don’t get hurt).
When camp begins in Goodyear, AZ, the Cleveland Indians, like most teams will already have most of their allotted 25-man roster accounted for. Barring injury, we know Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin and Dereck Lowe are in the rotation, with Kevin Slowey a favorite for the other spot. Chris Perez is the closer with Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp and Raffy Perez in the 7th/8th inning roles. Joe Smith is likely in unless he falls on his face. That’s 10 spots
The Tribe will have Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore in the outfield. Carlos Santana, Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jack Hannahan are the certain infielders. Travis Hafner returns at DH and Lou Marson will be the back-up catcher. There’s 10 more
With around 60 players in big league camp and only 3-5 jobs up for grabs, there is going to be fierce competition not only for the Major League roster, but at several spots at Triple-A as well.
The contenders for the Major league openings: (*-denotes spot on 40-man roster)
Rotation (Maybe 1)
The entire projected Clippers rotation is on the 40-man and will compete, but someone is going to have to out-perform Kevin Slowey considerably to bull their way into the opening cycle.
Jeanmar Gomez*- Probably the 1st guy up if a starter is needed. Gomez has very good stuff, but sometimes needs to be pushed to be more aggressive with it.
David Huff*- has one option remaining. Huff had been passed up in the organizational depth chart a bit last year. The trade of Drew Pomeranz and Alex White pulled him right back in though. Being a lefty who can throw 93 certainly gives him an edge
Zach McAllister*- had a couple good outings with the Indians. a nice rebound season in 2011 for the big righty
Scott Barnes*- Barnes injured his knee last July, ending a season that was on a steep upward arc. Lefty with a deceptive motion and a high strikeout rate. He will pitch in the Bigs this year, just not right away.
Corey Kluber*- Kluber battled inconsistency last year, but showed that he can be effective. He got a shot with Cleveland in a bullpen role late last year and that may be his long-term opportunity as well- a la Frank Herrmann.
Useless Prediction- All five start the season in Columbus
Bullpen (likely 2 spots)
Frank Herrmann*- “The Herrmannator” has pitched most of the last 2 seasons in Cleveland and to fairly respectable effect. His career numbers are not outstanding, but he has an interesting stat line in close-up inspection. Though he’s not considered a “late innings” guy, Herrmann pitched better in high-leverage situations than in medium or low leverage situations. His BA against also gets lower, the closer the game is. He is also the commissioner of the Indians fantasy football league, so that would be tough to lose.
Nick Hagadone*- Made his Big League debut last season. He was acquired in the Victor Martinez trade and seen as a top-end arm. his conversion to the bullpen is complete and he got better as the season went along last year. mid-high 90′s fastball and very tough on left-handers. With Josh Judy and Zach Putnam gone, Hagadone is the best internal bullpen arm in the system.
Dan Wheeler- signed to a minor-league contract without an out clause, Wheeler would seem to be at a disadvantage to the other invitees. He struggled with Boston last year, but had 3 very good years with Tampa Bay prior to that. He obviously knows how to pitch against tough competition and has late-innings experience should the Tribe need someone in that role.
Robinson Tejeda- he is familiar with the Al Central, having pitched for Kansas City since 2008. He spent most of last year in Triple-A, but had good numbers in 2009 & ’10 with the Royals. He fits into the role the Indians are looking for in middle innings. Does not have an out clause.
Others with a chance
Jeremy Accardo- He saved 30 games in one season for Toronto, but that was back in 2007. He has spent most of the last 3 seasons pitching in Triple-A. He has a June 6th out clause
Hector Ambriz- He didn’t pitch last year due to injury, but the Indians liked him enough that they selected him from Arizona in the Rule V draft and when healthy, he pitched 34 games for them in 2010. He is just 27 and should be in the mix.
Chris Ray- Ray has an April 3rd out clause, so he is either on the team, or likely gone. His stats are not overly impressive. He will have to really out-pitch the competition.
Chris Seddon- Another long shot. He has been mostly a starter in his career and hasn’t spent much time in the majors
C.C. Lee- Likely the Clippers closer so the Indians can see if he can handle the pressure situations. Very good fastball/slider combination and he’ll probably be an Indian at some point.
Kelvin De La Cruz*- Tall, hard-throwing lefty, converted to bullpen last year. Might see Cleveland in 2012, but as a call-up.
Austin Adams and Tyler Sturdevant- non roster invitees who will get their 1st look at Big League Camp. both may see time in Columbus.
Useless Prediction- Herrmann and Wheeler with Hagadone 1st up when needed.
Bench (likely 2 or 3 spots)
Jason Donald*- He played very well when healthy last year. Can play 2B, SS and 3B and will probably see time in the OF in Spring Training. Part of the Cliff Lee trade. Looks like a front-runner for one of the spots.
Shelley Duncan*- A valuable pinch-hitter last season, he got better as he saw more time. Power from the right side is a big need for Cleveland and Duncan provides it. He’s a great teammate and can play 1B and the corner OF spots.
Lonnie Chisenhall*- The top prospect from 2011 spent a bulk of the season in Cleveland, but with Jack Hannahan signed at $1+ million, it’s anything but a slam-dunk that Chiz opens in Cleveland. He needs more development defensively and his plate discipline has room to grow as well. He would have to show growth to bump the slick-fielding Hannahan to a bench spot.
Russ Canzler*- Cleveland just traded for the IL MVP and I’m sure it wasn’t to help the Clippers. Canzler has blossomed at the higher levels of the minors and plays all four corner positions. The every day 1B slot is out, but if he performs in Goodyear, he has a chance to grab a spot.
Aaron Cunningham*- Minor league stud who hasn’t yet made it work in the bigs. Cunningham has a Major League contract and is out of options. The Indians will give him every chance to earn a spot
Matt LaPorta*- Matt has the potential to be everything the Indians hoped for at 1B. His defense isn’t great, but he didn’t kill them there. We saw his bat in Columbus and it looked like something special. His inability to make the transition to the Majors has been his downfall and he goes into camp as a man with seemingly few supporters and a lot to prove. With one option remaining, it will be hard for him to make the team unless he outshines everyone else.
Others with a chance
Ezequiel Carerra*- Zeke spent some time in Cleveland, but he raised the ire of fans with some lapses in the OF. His speed on the bases and in the outfield make him valuable as a late-inning guy.
Thomas Neal*- Brought over in a trade with SF, he was hurt most of his time with the Clippers. He’s had a lot of good years coming up through the minors, but is mostly an unknown. A big spring could see his stock rise and give him a chance to break through.
Ryan Spilborghs- He can play all over the outfield and has a track record of success. Coming off of a down year in Colorado, where he spent his whole career, Spilborghs has a chance to reestablish himself. He’s not a huge power threat, but Spilborghs has an OBP of .360 or better in 3 of the last 5 years and a career .345 mark.
Juan Diaz*- on the Indians 40-man roster, but nowhere near ready
Cord Phelps*- Might not be suited for a utility role. He hits well from both sides of the plate, but really best suited at 2B, blocked by Kipnis. Will likely see time in Cleveland this year though.
Chad Huffman- Huffman had a monster camp in 2011 and many thought he should have made the team. Once the regular season began, things took a turn for the worse. He had a few white-hot streaks, but I’m sure he’d say 2011 was a disappointment from an individual standpoint. He still has value, but will be hard-pressed to crack the roster.
Nick Weglarz*- On-base machine with dazzling power potential. Hasn’t been able to stay healthy or turn the potential into power reality. Projects as a DH. This is a critical year for him.
Fred Lewis- Lewis has played for 3 teams in 3 years, last season with Cincinnati. he has performed well as a back-up but in a crowded field, he doesn’t have any numbers that jump out at you.
Felix Pie- The speedy outfielder tantalized teams for years, but couldn’t get on base enough.
Andy LaRoche- the former top 3B prospect in baseball is way behind heading into spring. With Chisenhall and Hannahan at 3B and Donald as a utility in front of him, his chances are slim.
Jose Lopez- the former All-Star is versatile defensively, which will help him. He had 5 consecutive years with double-digit homers, but rapidly declining offensive stats coupled with the presence of Jason Donald in the utility role make him unlikely to see much time in the race.
Useless Prediction- Donald Utility IF Duncan OF/1B and Canzler wins the last spot with Chisenhall starting in Columbus.
So there you have it. Many of those who don’t make the Cleveland roster will wind up in Columbus, others will get their walking papers. What say you Indians and Clippers faithful? questions and comments to email@example.com