The opening week of spring training would not be complete without an opening edition of the early weekend 6-pack for the 2011 season. This week I'll briefly address the big questions heading into camp.
1. Who's on second, what's on third?
Like a confused middle-schooler, the Indians seemingly have no clue what to do at second base or third base. That several, if not all of the potential candidates (O. Cabrera, Nix, Valbuena, Donald, Phelps) are being looked at for both positions only adds to the confusion. Paul Cousineau, Anthony Castrovince, Jordan Bastian, Terry Pluto, and our very-own Ryan have all commented at great length on the topic, so I'm not going to repeat their discussions here. Consider this a cheat sheet for considering the various possibilities. I'm assuming Asdrubal at SS, LaPorta at 1B, and Santana at C in every scenario:
Scenario #1 Scenario #2 Scenario #3 Scenario #4
Donald – 2B Donald – 3B Donald – 3B Donald – UI
Nix– 3B Nix – 2B Nix – UI Nix – 3B
Cabrera – UI Cabrera – UI Cabrera – 2B Cabrera – 2B
Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – AAA*
Phelps – AAA Phelps – AAA Phelps – AAA Phelps – AAA
Scenario #5 Scenario #6 Scenario #7 Scenario #8
Donald – UI Donald – 2B Donald – AAA Donald – AAA
Nix – AAA* Nix – UI Nix – 3B Nix – 3B
Cabrera – 2B Cabrera – 3B Cabrera – 2B Cabrera – 2B
Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – UI
Phelps – 3B Phelps – AAA Phelps – UI Phelps – AAA
Scenario #9 Scenario #10 Scenario #11 Scenario #12
Donald – AAA Donald – 2B Donald – 2B Donald – AAA
Nix – AAA* Nix – UI Nix – AAA Nix – 2B
Cabrera – UI Cabrera – cut Cabrera – cut Cabrera – cut
Valbuena – 3B Valbuena – AAA* Valbuena – UI Valbuena – UI
Phelps – 2B Phelps – 3B Phelps – 3B Phelps – 3B
* = possible cut
Create your own as well. Depending on how you are counting, this is only about 1/3 of the choices.
2. The bell tolls for thee
As you may notice above, there are a few too many infielders in camp, especially when you add in Everett and Hannahan. With Chisenhall and Kipnis set for regular duty in Columbus, even if guys are willing to accept a minor league assignment (where the option exists), there isn't enough space. The three guys who I could see as possible mildly surprising cuts would be Nix, Valbuena or Orlando. For the record, I think Valbuena has the nicest smile:
(Dan Mendlik/Cleveland Indians)
3. Need to wear shades...
...because the future is bright. Al Ciammiacella's top 50 prospect rundown over at The Cleveland Fan is definitely worth more than a passing look. Tony Lastoria's on-going rundown is also a great source of information, including videos of most of the Tribe's top prospects.
4. A crow, a buck, and a guy named Zeke walk into a bar...
The most significant other positional battle in camp figures to be the reserve outfielder role. Assuming Choo, Brantley and Kearns make it through camp healthy, they seem like locks. I am going to guess that Sizemore starts the season with a little extra time in Goodyear, meaning the Indians will need a reserve outfielder, and presumably one who can occasionally man CF. For this we have the incumbent, Trevor Crowe, and the two newcomers, Ezequiel Carrera and Travis Buck. Shelley Duncan is also an outfielder, of course, but should he make the team it will be in a different capacity. The best season, statistically, from each of the three candidates are listed below:
- Travis Buck: 2007 - MLB, .288/.377/.474, .347 BABIP (2011 Pecota -.238/.315/.368)
- Ezequiel Carrera: 2009 - AA, .337/.441/.416, .411 BABIP (2011 Pecota - .246/.312/.319)
- Trevor Crowe: 2008 - AA/AAA, .302/.381/.485, .360 BABIP (2011 Pecota - .246/.305/.341)
Buck has the best power potential and has achieved success at the highest level. But he is also most removed from that success, owing to injuries over the past several seasons. In fact, Buck has never shown any sustained period of health. Carrera has the best pure speed and on-base abilities (and defense, likely), but is the most likely to be completely mastered at the plate. Crowe says his elbow was hurting him from the All-Star break onwards last season, but now feels great after off-season surgery. I'd be more encouraged if July wasn't his best hitting month in Cleveland. My vote would be to give the spot to Buck if he is healthy, with Carrera at AAA. If Buck isn't healthy, I say push Carrera to the bigs even if he is used primarily as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner (he's already on the 40-man roster).
5. A fifth of whiskey and a fifth starter
Suddenly, the imminent signing of Jeremy Kevin Bonderwood seems less imminent. Antonetti as quoted this week as saying, "We plan to proceed with the guys we have in camp. If an opportunity presents itself, we'll take a look at it." I've already talked about Huff, I can't imagine there is much to say about Anthony Reyes, and Tomlin and Gomez are what they are (though I think Gomez has more potential to surprise with this upside). Looking at the 40-man roster, Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber appear slated for Columbus to start the season, leaving Joe Martinez, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates back on January 4th for a PTBNL or cash. Martinez, most famous for breaking his skull on a Mike Cameron line drive while pitching for the Giants, seems like depth starter material or a possible bullpen conversion if he remains on the 40-man. Comparing the group ("m" indicates minor league numbers):
Given his durability (180 IP last season) and ability to throw strikes, I see Tomlin as the favorite for this spot. Reyes, if he looks healthy, would seem to be the wildcard. The total collapse in K/BB numbers for all of these guys between the minors and majors should be a warning to us all. The talent gap between AAA and the big leagues is considerable.
6. Bullpen scrabble
Chris and Raffy Perez, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp seem like bullpen locks. Jensen Lewis, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann and Aaron Laffey seem to be the most likely players to join that group when camp breaks. When you factor in NRIs however, the different permutations of bullpen options becomes too large to ponder. So instead, I offer you a ranking of the Indians relief pitchers (currently on the 40-man) based on the Scrabble score of their last name:
- Judy, Laffey & the Perez bros. - 15 points
- Herrmann - 13 points
- Smith - 10 points
- Pestano - 9 points
- Lewis & Sipp - 8 points
- Todd - 6 points
Bonus minor league scrabble!
- Bryson - 11 points
- Stowell & Putnam - 10 points
- Espino - 8 points
Even Scrabble is disappointed by Jess Todd.
7. Bonus shot for luck:
A cheatsheet shot of Goodyear, for those of you heading down to AZ to catch the Tribe. If you find yourself wondering why the Indians/Reds facility is in the middle of nowhere, head East and North.
(courtesy of Google Earth)
When all is said and done, I'd be happy with the roster projections Castro put together yesterday.