Over the next few weeks, as the 2012 season draws near, I’ll be taking a look at the International League. I’ll post on everything from the top prospects in the league to the best places to each in each city. Consider it your “everything you really need to know” guide to the 2012 IL season.
The International League is heading into uncharted water this season with six new managers. It’s the largest turnover in recent years for the 128 year-old league.
All four playoff managers return for the 2012 season as skippers in Columbus, Lehigh Valley, Durham, and Pawtucket try to return to the post-season. Managers that have a Governors’ Cup Championship on their resume return in Gwinnett and Scranton Wilkes-Barre and things remain unchanged with Toledo and Indianapolis as well.
Of the six new managers , two have previously led other IL clubs.
Here they are:
Buffalo – Wally Backman
Backman takes over for Tim Teufel, who was promoted to third base coach with the Mets. The 52 year-old played on the 1986 Mets World Series Championship team. He’s entering his tenth season as a manager, his third with the Mets organization. Last year, Backman’s Double-A Binghamton club finished 65-76 in the Eastern League.
Charlotte – Joel Skinner
Skinner replaces Joe McEwing, who was named the third base coach with the White Sox. He last managed in 2010 with Cleveland’s Double-A club in Akron. The 51 year-old was on the Oakland A’s staff last season. Skinner has big league managerial experience; he took over for Charlie Manuel as the Indians’ interim manager in 200. He was a catcher in the Cleveland organization when Charlotte was the Triple-A affiliate.
Columbus – Mike Sarbaugh
The two-time defending Triple-A National Champions have Mike Sarbaugh back as manager. He was the 2011 Manager of the Year and the IL’s Triple-A All Star Game skipper. Sarbaugh, 44, enters his 23rd consecutive season in the Indians organization as a player, coach, and manager. He led Double-A Akron for two seasons prior to joining Columbus. Sarbaugh has won five championships in eight seasons.
Durham – Charlie Montoyo
Montoyo returns for his sixth season in Durham, coming off a fifth straight IL South Division title. The 47 year-old led the Bulls to the Governors’ Cup and Triple-A Championship in 2009. He was named the 2009 Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year. This will be his 16th season as a manager, all within the Tampa Bay farm system. Montoyo led the Double-A Montgomery club to the Southern League title in 2006.
Gwinnett – Dave Brundage
The Braves manager returns for his sixth season, holding a 231-199 record with Gwinnett and was the manager for two seasons in Richmond for the team relocated. The 47 year-old Brundage guided the Richmond Braves to the Governors’ Cup in 2007, his first year in the league, and wild card berth in 2009. His coaching career began as a player-coach for the Triple-A Calgary Cannons in 1993.
Indianapolis – Dean Treanor
Treanor is back for his second season as the Indianapolis manager after serving as the club’s pitching coach in 2010. The Indians finished 76-68 after starting 9-21. The 64 year-old enters his 24th season in baseball, his eighth as a Triple-A manager. He joined the Pirates in 2009 as the manager of Double-A Altoona.
Lehigh Valley – Ryne Sandberg
The Hall of Famer returns for his second season with the IronPigs after leading Lehigh Valley to a Wild Card berth and the Governors’ Cup finals. Before joining the Phillies organization, Sandberg spent four years as a manager in the Cubs farm system. He managed Triple-A Iowa in 2010. Sandberg, 52, was inducted into Cooperstown in 2005 for his 16 year playing career that included ten National League All Star selections and seven Silver Slugger awards.
Louisville – David Bell
The Bats welcome a new manager for 2012 as David Bell takes over for Rick Sweet. Sweet transitions into a roving catching instructor role and Bell starts his Triple-A managerial career. He was the Reds Double-A Carolina skipper for three seasons. Bell, 39, played parts of seven seasons in the majors. He is the youngest manager in the International League.
Norfolk – Ron Johnson
Johnson is no stranger to the International League, despite being the new Tides skippers. Johnson managed Pawtucket from 2005 to 2009. He takes over for Gary Allenson, who is now the Class-A Aberdeen manager. Johnson, 55, was Boston’s first base coach for the last two seasons. This will be his 19th season as a minor league manager.
Pawtucket – Arnie Beyeler
Beyeler returns for his second season with the Paw Sox, after guiding the club to the first IL North Division title since 2003. He has managed eleven seasons in the minors, eight in the Red Sox system. From 2007 to 2010, Beyeler was the Red Sox Double-A Portland manager. He served as the Clippers pitching coach during a three year stint in the Yankees organization from 1997 to 1999.
Rochester – Gene Glynn
Glynn takes over the reins in Rochester after serving as a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays for the last five seasons. Tom Nieto, Rochester’s manager last year, is now the Yankees Gulf Coast League manager. Glynn has managed five seasons at the Class-A level and has 13 seasons of major league coaching experience with the Rockies, Expos, Cubs, and Giants.
Scranton Wilkes-Barre – Dave Miley
Miley returns in hopes of guiding the Yankees back to the playoffs after their streak of four straight North Division crowns ended last year. The 49 year-old led SWB to the Governors’ Cup Championship in 2008 and earned IL Manager of the Year honors in 2007. Prior to joining the Yankees, he spent 26 years in the Cincinnati Reds organization, including four seasons with Louisville (2000-2003). He managed in Indianapolis from 1996 to 1999 when the Indians served as the Reds top affiliate. He has won 1,092 games in Triple-A. In July 2003, Miley was named the Cincinnati Reds manager, a role he held until June of 2005, posting a 125-164 mark.
Syracuse – Tony Beasley
Beasley takes over in Syracuse for Randy Knorr, who is now the bench coach for the Nationals. He managed Washington’s Double-A Harrisburg affiliate to a record of 80-62 with a post-season appearance. He was the Nationals third base coach in 2006 and joined the Pirates major league staff for three seasons before returning the Nationals in 2011. His teams have made the playoff every year in six seasons as a minor league manager, five with the Pirates. He has been named Baseball America’s Low Class-A Manager of the Year twice and Double-A Manager of the Year once.
Toledo – Phil Nevin
Nevin returns for his second season with the Mud Hens, after a 67-77 finish last year. The 41 year-old joined the Tigers organization in 2012, managing the Double-A Erie club. His only previous managing experience came in 2009 in the independent Golden baseball League. Nevin played twelve seasons in the majors with the Astor, Tigers, Padres, Angels, Rangers, Cubs, and Twins. He also spent two seasons as a broadcaster with the Padres and ESPN.
1. Dean Treanor – 64
T2. Gene Glynn – 55
T2. Ron Johnson – 55
T4. Wally Backman – 52
T4. Ryne Sandberg – 52
6. Joe Skinner – 51
7. Dave Miley – 49
8. Arnie Beyeler – 48
T9. Dave Brundage – 47
T9. Charlie Montoyo – 47
11. Tony Beasley – 45
12. Mike Sarbaugh – 44
13. Phil Nevin – 41
14. David Bell – 39
By Career Wins (minor leagues):
1. Dave Miley – 1,722
2. Ron Johnson – 1,261
3. Charlie Montoyo – 1,031
4. Dave Brundage – 1,024
5. Arnie Beyeler – 723
6. Mike Sarbaugh – 622
7. Dean Teanor – 581
8. Tony Beasley – 452
9. Joel Skinner – 448
10. Wally Backman – 408
11. Ryne Sandberg – 364
12. Gene Glynn – 190
13. David Bell – 176
14. Phil Nevin – 133
By Winning Percentage (minor leagues):
T1. Mike Sarbaugh – .585
T1. Tony Beasley – .585
3. Joel Skinner – .574
4. Dave Miley - .555
5. Wally Backman – .528
6. Charlie Montoyo – .522
7. Dave Brundage – .520
8. Ryne Sandberg – .516
9. Arnie Beyeler – .511
T10. Ron Johnson – .499
T10. Gene Glynn – .499
12. Dean Teanor – .487
13. Phil Nevin – .465
14. David Bell – .424
By Governors’ Cup Championship:
T1. Mike Sarbaugh – 2 (2010 & 2011)
T1. Dave Miley – 2 (2001 w/Louisville, 2008 Scranton/WB)
T2. Charlie Montoyo – 1 (2009)
T2. Dave Brundage – 1 (2007)
By Triple-A National Championship:
1. Mike Sarbaugh – 2
2. Charlie Montoyo – 1
I have dug deep to find the best Valentine’s Day baseball names, enjoy!
Bobby Valentine – Boston Red Sox manager, former skipper for the Rangers, Mets, and Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan. He played 12 seasons in the majors with the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Mets, and Mariners. He interviewed for the Indians managerial job after the 2009 season when Manny Acta was hired. He was ejected from a Mets game in 1999 and returned to the dugout in sunglasses and a fake mustache disguise.
Corey Hart – Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, two-time All Star selection. He hammered a career-best 31 HR and produced 102 RBI in 2010. This Corey Hart should not be confused with the Canadian-born singer that produced “Sunglasses at Night” in the ’80′s.
Pete Rose – The “Hit King” batted .303 over 24 seasons with the Reds, Phillies, and Expos. He finished with 4,256 career hits and managed in Cincinnati from 1984-1989 before receiving a lifetime ban for gambling. Rose won three World Series titles, one NL MVP, one World Series MVP, three batting titles, and was the NL rookie of the year in 1963.
Rick Sweet – former Louisville Bats manager, winningest skipper in Louisville history. He played parts of three seasons in the majors with the Padres, Mets, and Mariners from 1978 to 1983. Sweet has transitioned into a catching instructor role with the Reds. At Huntington Park, he once argued a close call at second base that he never saw because he was in the bullpen warming up his pitcher. Louisville was short on catching help so Sweet decided to throw on the gear. He also has the ability to grow one of the best mustaches in the game!
Tyler Flowers – Charlotte Knights/Chicago White Sox catcher. Originally drafted by the Braves in 2008, he was traded along with Brent Lillibridge, Jonathan Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez to Chicago for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Flowers hit his first major league homer last August.
John “Candy Man” Candelaria – pitched from 1975 to 1993 with the Pirates, Angels, Mets, Yankees, Expos, Twins, and Dodgers. He was a member of the 1979 “We are Family” World Champion Pirates club.
What do you think? Are there other Valentine’s Day baseball names? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It sounds as though the Cleveland Indians have come to terms with pitcher Jon Garland on a minor-league deal pending a physical to be conducted later this week in Goodyear, AZ. Garland has been one to of the upper-level (though not premiere) starters in baseball over his career, which spans 12 seasons. He’s 32 years old, but coming off of a shoulder surgery that ended his 2011 season in July. The timetable for return from his injury should put him in line to be ready for Spring Training.
If he’s healthy, I’d guess he has a good chance to make the rotation, but that means there’s a domino effect. Kevin Slowey was the favorite to snap up the 5th spot yesterday with David Huff Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister in the mix. If Garland does make the squad, Slowey may make the bullpen and push someone else out.
This continues the off-season of depth for the Indians with a bevy of minor-league deals with Spring Training invites. The Tribe will have 60 on more players in big league camp vying for playing time with what is probably 5 or 6 spots open for competition.
The Indians GM Chris Antonetti today told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the team will from now on refer to the former Fausto Carmona as Roberto Hernandez, which has been determined to be his real name. And so too, shall I.
Check out the new look to our friend Tony Lastoria’s website Indians Prospect Insider.
The Indians still have not announced a compensatory 40-man move for the signing of Casey Kotchman. It should be coming soon, and will likely come from the group of Nick Weglarz, Kelvin De La Cruz, and Corey Kluber. All would be intriguing to other teams when/if exposed to waivers.
The Oakland A’s have signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes to a 4-year $36 million contract and have also released a book entitled Moneyball 2: In Case You Didn’t Notice, the Last Philosophy Didn’t Win Us Squat So We’re Just Going to Throw Insane Amounts of Money at Unproven Mystery Players. It’s a bit wordy, as book titles go, but it seems to summarize the book nicely.
The final leaf has fallen, twice.
The little known Murray State Racers of the Ohio Valley Conference lost to Tennessee State last week ending their run as the only unbeaten college basketball team in the country. The Racers were a perfect 23-0 entering that game and looked, I believed, to be poised for an unbeaten season. The Racers were closing in on the (for me, highly-anticipated) ESPN U “Bracketbusters” showdown with St. Mary’s (CA) this Saturday, which seemed to be the Racers last real test. Then they lost to Tennessee State, a team they had won eight in a row against.
There has not been an undefeated team through the regular season since St. Joseph’s in 2004. I wear my mid-major college basketball hat with pride and was hoping the little school from Murray, Kentucky was headed to 30-0. Oh well, maybe they’ll at least be one of the teams that makes a run during March Madness. My bracket filling-out out hands are ready…
The Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera agreed to a one-year, $4.55 million deal closing the books on the club’s 2012 arbitration-eligible players. Cabrera, 26, is fresh off his best season of a five year major league career. The Venezuelan shortstop hit .273 with a career-best 25 HR and 92 RBI. The 25 homers are a Cleveland franchise record for his position. He was the American League’s starting shortstop in the All Star Game.
The Indians have not been to arbitration with a player since 1991, a streak that will now continue. The club had already struck deals this winter with Shin Soo-Choo, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez, Jack Hannahan, Joe Smith, and Rafael Perez. Cabrera was the lone hold-out, reportedly asking for $5.2 million while the team countered with an original offer of $3.75 million. There was speculation that a long-term deal was in the works, but that never came to be. Interestingly, no players have guaranteed contracts past this season. There are club options for Ubaldo Jimenez, Travis Hafner, and the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
This will probably conclude the Tribe’s off-season business and now all attention turns to actual baseball. Pitchers and catchers report in one week.
For more of Cabrera’s signing….
No long-term deal, but Asdrubal signs for 2012 (Jordan Bastian, MLB.com)
Cleveland Indians sign SS Asdrubal Cabrera to 1-year, $4.55 million deal to avoid arbitration (Paul Hoynes, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Indians sign Asdrubal Cabrera to $4.55 million, one-year deal (Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon Journal)
Have a great week!
Professional athlete. Think about that term. They manufacture nothing, they service nothing, they produce nothing. There job is to be marveled at. Those with the genetic predisposition and/or work ethic to make them able to perform physical feats that most people cannot have been put into a position whereby they can exploit that talent for sometimes immense financial gain. Because we as a culture have ascribed significant value to being entertained, there is a select group of people who can succeed in the world by virtue of being physically dominant at a recreational activity. Whether or not that is a good thing or not, is not the subject here. I don’t begrudge anyone for making their living at what they are good at.
Some of the things that allow for success in the arena of sport are the same things that open the doors for some athletes to make decisions to do things that seem inexplicable to those of us watching from the couch. They also open the doors for some athletes to make decisions to do wonderful things.
Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd recently opined in an interview on WBZ Newsradio that he was under the influence of cocaine for about 2/3 of his outings in the Major Leagues. Not that anyone would be shocked to hear that a baseball player in the 80’s partook of the nose candy, but to hear Boyd talk about how prevalent drug use was during his time in MLB clubhouses may help people understand the culture that sees athletes do things that are against the rules and law without much concern for the consequences.Boyd said, “I wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time, because that’s how I learned it.”
Professional Athletes are generally young, have immense self-confidence, and have been training in the culture of locker rooms for most of their lives. Often they have been held in higher esteem by their peers and communities than other people they know. When a person has been told since high school that they are better than the rest, it is easy to fall into a self-image of superiority and invulnerability. Most teenagers and young adults have this to begin with, but coupled with the societal view of pro athletes, those who are inclined to buy into their own press are likely to foster those views and make decisions under the impression that they can handle whatever they do, and that if it’s against the rules, they won’t get caught, and even if they do, there won’t be ramifications. These personality types are not limited to athletes of course; they exist everywhere, but in sports, this is cultivated by agents, entourages, fans and media. The money and fame that accompany being a professional athlete opens virtually any door.
While some athletes see success, money and fame as a reason to indulge their every desire, others see it as a responsibility and a means to contribute to the betterment of others. The drive to succeed on the athletic field takes conviction, dedication and often a sense of accountability. When an athlete sees himself as a part of a community, rather than above it, these traits can produce great things.
When it comes to success, fame and money Albert Pujols is near the top of the list. He could do just about anything he wants, but his values have led him to donate time money and effort for various charities here and in the Dominican Republic. Curtis Granderson is renowned for his dedication to the community. Justin Masterson was named a Roberto Clemente Award finalist for his charity and community work after making multiple trips to the Dominican Republic to help the impoverished.
Most of the professional athletes I’ve known are regular people with an irregular talent. Most of them are basically good people. I’ve seen how the trappings of being a professional athlete can change how a person behaves, but generally, people who grew up with strong moral fiber and values of decency aren’t likely to become drug users or social deviants just because they become rich and famous. Oil Can Boyd’s drug use is not a result of him being a Major League Baseball player, nor are Justin Masterson’s community efforts. They are only magnified by their high-profile spot in our society. Unfortunately, the spotlight shines more often on the negative things. Probably because those who do good things for others usually aren’t doing it for the publicity.
Mike Hessman has signed a minor league contract with the Houston Astros. The Hess-man played in Toledo and terrorized the Clippers and the International League from 2005 to 2009, smashing 140 HR (he also struck out 747 times). He signed with the Mets in 2010 and suited up for the Buffalo Bisons. He played in Japan last season.
Hessman is Toledo’s version of Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni, a slugger with the ability to wow crowds with towering homers. He hit the most impressive homer I’ve ever seen in person, a blast in 2007 off lefty Brandon Claussen that disappeared over the left field scoreboard at Toledo’s Fifth Third Field. The ball disappeared into the darkness somewhere over a parking lot across the street. I like to think it still hasn’t landed.
Hessman’s return to the states is intriguing because he’ll be teamed with former Clipper and International league batting champ Jordan Brown, who also signed with Houston. The Astros also recently added former Durham Bulls star Justin Ruggiano.
I think I speak for many International League pitchers when I say I’m glad Houston’s Triple club (Round Rock) is in the Pacific Coast League.
“Life is a highway”
The Cleveland Indians equipment truck completed its cross-country tour Thursday and arrived at the Tribe’s facility in Goodyear, AZ. Pitchers and catchers report one week from Monday (2/20).
“Celebrate good times”
The Clippers will be celebrating the Triple-A National Championship during the opening weekend of the season. There are promotional items scheduled for the three nights:
Thursday, April 5 vs. Louisville (7:05pm) – National Championship Hat Giveaway
Friday, April 6vs. Louisville (7:05pm) – National Championship/Governors’ Cup Blanket Giveaway
Saturday, April 7vs. Louisville (7:05pm) – Governors’ Cup Trophy Paperweight Giveaway
The Clippers have also announced the Columbus Icons Bobblehead Series, celebrating the city’s bicentennial. Nine Columbus figures will be represented on Sundays at Huntington Park:
April 8 – James Thurber
April 29 – Eddie Rickenbacker
May 20 – Howard “Hopalong” Cassidy
June 10 – “Jungle” Jack Hanna
June 24 – Bobby Rahal
July 1 – Dave Thomas & Wendy
July 8 – James “Buster” Douglas
July 29 – Jesse Owens
August 12 – Woody Hayes
You can purchase a ticket for all nine Sundays for $135 per seat. Call 614-462-5250 and reserve your spot on Columbus Icons Bobblehead Days!
Last week was college football’s signing day, an event that has grown tremendously over that last several years. There is now a recruiting “industry”, where media members spend countless hours researching high school players, ranking them, and covering their college visits as they narrow their possible selection down. Then after the recruits are signed, the experts grade each school’s class and determine who the big winners were on signing day. It’s a little more than I can handle.
I don’t purchase recruiting magazines or watch the signing day shows because many of those highly touted recruits will never become college football stars. There is no way to accurately rank a school’s recruiting class until their careers are over and their accomplishments are complete. It’s a lot of speculating and predicting that seems a bit much for my taste. I’d rather just wait until the season starts and watch the games. I know it’s crazy.
Professional baseball has its version of the recruiting frenzy, it’s the prospect and farm system rankings.
Many think the baseball prospect is a fascinating concept. There are some “can’t miss” prospects that never pan out and there are non-prospects that make it big. The “experts” decide who is a prospect based upon their potential and sometimes players reach that potential while other times they do not. Ranking prospects is as much art as it is science.
ESPN writer Keith Law has ranked the Cleveland Indians farm system 29th in MLB. The only team ranked worse is the Chicago White Sox. Prior to this season, the Tribe spent a few years in the top ten in most prospect rankings. These rankings are a reflection of the recent “graduation” of players to the major league roster and trades Cleveland has made, sacrificing some prospects to bolster its big league roster.
Last season’s top position player prospects, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, have both advanced to the major eliminating them from “prospect” status. The Tribe also traded their top pitching prospects, RHP Alex White and LHP Drew Pomeranz, to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Clippers have been prospect fortunate in the first three years as Cleveland‘s Triple-A affiliate. Columbus has hosted the Indians’ top ranked minor leaguers each year. Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Alex White, Carlos Carrasco, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and other big names have suited up for the Clippers since 2009.
This year, the organization’s top prospects are seemingly closer to diapers than the Triple-A level. Shortstop Francisco Lindor and RHP Dillon Howard are ranked #1 & #2 by Baseball America; they were the club’s top draft picks last June. Both were high school students less than ten months ago.
Clippers fans may see a return of “former” prospects like Matt LaPorta and Lonnie Chisenhall, if they don’t crack the Indians roster in spring camp. We’ll also likely see a continuation of the minor league journey for LHP Nick Hagadone (#3 prospect in Baseball America), RHP Chen Lee (#4), RHP Zach McAllister (#6), and LHP Scott Barnes (#9). All of those players are on the verge of breaking into the majors, but will need to perform well at Huntington Park until opportunity knocks.
The Clippers season will be a little different without a “mega-prospect” on the roster, but I believe the roster is shaping up to make for a very good Triple-A club. There will be, without a doubt, some players who greatly improve their stock by playing well. There will be others who fall further off the map because of their struggles. That’s the intrigue of watching young players compete. That’s what makes minor league baseball fun. So let’s get ready to watch the games and go from there.
Besides, who cares what the “experts” think anyway?
A little less than a month ago, I posted an entry on the blog entitled “Who’s on first?”, essentially a comparison of Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman, the first basemen the Indians were pursuing. Now let’s take a closer look at that position now that Kotchman has been signed, sealed, and delivered to Cleveland.
The Indians will obviously have Casey Kotchman start a majority of the games at first, but he’s another left-handed hitter in an already overly left-handed lineup.
It’s possible that Carlos Santana will see a share of the 1B starts, especially against lefty pitchers. Last year, the switch-hitting Santana made 63 starts at first base. My guess is that he’ll see a mixture of time as the 1B and DH in an attempt to save some wear and tear on his still durable knees. The Indians are hoping to extend his life as a catcher by resting him, but still want his bat in the lineup as much as possible.
Shelley Duncan may also see time a that position, especially if he wins the job as the Tribe’s fifth outfielder and 25th man on the roster. He may be called upon occasionally just to get his right-handed bat in the lineup.
Jack Hannahan could land at first base every once in a while. Hannahan will either be the Tribe’s starter at third or make the club as Lonnie Chisenhall’s back-up and be available for a cameo across the diamond.
If Kotchman, Santana, Duncan, and Hannahan are all members of Cleveland’s roster, it still leaves quite a crowd at 1B in Columbus.
Matt LaPorta would likely be the Clippers Opening Day and the “everyday until further notice” first baseman. The 27 year-old hit .247 with 11 HR and 53 RBI in 107 big league games last year. His struggles at the plate combined with an always tenuous glove will put him in Columbus trying to re-prove himself to the Indians.
Russ Canzler could see time at first as well. The reigning International League MVP plays first, third, and the corner outfield spots. He only made 17 starts at 1B with Durham, most of his time late in the season was spent in the outfield. The Indians spent $100,000 to get him from Tampa Bay and if he doesn’t make the Indians roster, he’ll be on the short list for a call up for a variety of roles. Canzler has all his minor league options still available.
Beau Mills debuted on the Triple scene last season, playing 35 games with Columbus. He split time with veteran Nick Johnson and spoke several times about the positive influence Johnson was for his development. Mills, a 2007 first round draft pick, may get pushed back to Akron for a fourth year in the Eastern League. Another option would be a platoon at 1B and DH with the guys mentioned above.
Jared Goedert may be back to playing exclusively at the hot corner, but time will tell for sure. He made a brief transition across the diamond during spring training and after an injury delay the beginning of his season, only made one start at first after July 28th. He played 33 games at 1B between Akron and Columbus. My assumption is that he’ll go into camp fighting for a job at third, but his fate there may rest with Lonnie Chisenhall’s ability to make the Indians roster. If Chisenhall starts in Columbus, Goedert could be Akron-bound for a while. He could also land in a DH platoon situation.
Chad Huffman will go into camp looking for a spot in the outfield, but may also see a few starts at first. He logged 60 at-bats as the Clippers 1B last season and played almost exclusively at that spot during that year’s Arizona Fall League.
The history of first base…
A season with a log jam at first base is nothing new to the Clippers. Columbus spent the 2009 season with Matt LaPorta, Jordan Brown, Michael Aubrey, Stephen Head, and a host of others seeing time a first. Last season ended with five players on the roster that had started games at the position: Nick Johnson, Beau Mills, Jared Goedert, Chad Huffman, and Travis Buck.
It will be one of many areas I’m interested in following this spring. I’ll be watching to see who plays well, who gets the most opportunities, and who stays healthy. That’s what will determine the answer to “Who’s on first?”
On a side note (if you haven’t suffered enough), follow me on Twitter (@Scott_Leo).
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
The city of Indianapolis is in full recovery mode after the spectacle that was Super Bowl XLVI steamrolled through town. Now, the giant “Zip Line” must come down, the hotels must clean up, and Victory Field can return to a ballpark instead of a stop along the parade.
The Indianapolis Indians home welcomed broadcasting folks like the “Dan Patrick Show” over the last week, and, hosted the “Celebrity Beach Bowl” transforming into an inland beach thanks to a million pounds of imported sand and a giant tent stationed on the field. A “who’s who” of movie stars, music performers, and professional athletes then played a game of flag football in front of thousands of fans. The musical group ”The Fray” performed afterward. Now the clean up begins because in less than two months, Victory Field will open its gates for baseball, just like our own Huntington Park.
The Super Bowl is as over-hyped as anything we ever experience. The talking heads spend two weeks dissecting everything from play-calling to which hoodie Bill Belichick will wear on the big day. I love sports talk radio, but I usually take a break from it leading up to the “Big Game”.
As it turned out, this year’s game lived up to any and all expectations, a close game with a heart-stopping finish. Those who have very little rooting interest can ask for nothing more. The commercials were not as good as is tradition, but Madonna’s halftime show was, believe it or not, entertaining…
Some people will play the cynical role and bash all of it, and the social media age has made that sort of thing much too prevalent. We know the debates about the game, commercials, and even Madonna will be the fuel of the day at workplaces all across the nation.
That is, assuming you go to work. I read that about seven million people call in sick on the Monday after the Super Bowl.
The Giants took home the hardware with a 21-17 victory and after the confetti had fallen to the ground and the cameras were shut off, the football off-season was underway. That means a lot of things to a lot of people; to me it means baseball is almost here.
Some of the Cleveland Indians players have already made their way to Goodyear to begin working out for spring training. Everyone will be there within the next two weeks.
In related news, a gentleman passed me at a grocery store the other day and saw I was wearing a Clippers jacket. He stopped me and started talking about his days as a child attending Columbus Jets games on West Mound Street. He spoke of his memories at the old ballpark, eating hotdogs and spending time with his father. He spoke about taking his own children to see pin-striped Clippers and says he now goes, as a grandfather, to spend time with his family Huntington Park several times each summer.
His eyes seem to light up when he saw the Clippers logo, obviously because it reminded him of many great things. I think that’s the most exciting thing about each approaching season, the thought of more great memories-to-be. Get ready.
The Clippers are teaming with the Southern Ohio PGA chapter for a special promotion on July 17th called “Pros at the Park”. It will feature “Chipping for Charity” after the game, benefiting The Miracle League of Dublin. There will be golf instruction for kids at various points along the concourse and chipping instruction by some area course pros prior to the game. Stay tuned for more details!
“Kotchman joins the Tribe”
As Ryan discussed, the Indians have inked 1B Casey Kotchman to a one year, $3 million deal. Kotchman, 28, is fresh off his best offensive season of an eight year career. Last season with Tampa Bay, Kotchman hit .306 with 24 doubles, 2 triples, 10 HR, 48 RBI in 146 games. He is a career .268 hitter with the Angels, Braves, Red Sox, Mariners, and Rays. Kotchman, who is very solid defensively, will go to camp to be the Indians starting first baseman. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com has more on the Kotchman deal.
The Tribe will make a 40-man move in the next few days to official place Kotchman on the roster. There is already plenty of speculation as to who will be dropped. Take a look at the roster and pick some candidates for yourself.
“One down, one to go”
The Indians signed LHP Rafael Perez to a one-year deal, thus avoiding arbitration. He is the sixth arbitration eligible player to sign and only Asdrubal Cabrera remains. Cabrera and the Indians are reportedly discussing a multi-year deal, something that none of his teammates have received from the club.
Does your son or daughter have a birthday this spring? If so, look into booking a party a Huntington Park! The birthday child receives a Clippers hat, Clippers “Happy Birthday” mini bat, and “Happy Birthday” card from the Clippers. All children attending the birthday party will get a coupon for an inflatable game and a Clippers gift! Click here for the details.
We are less than two months from Opening Day! Click here to buy tickets!
Have a great week.