Purchased the Contract of OF Thomas Neal and Recalled him from Akron (AA)
Recalled LHP Scott Barnes and 1B/OF Russ Canzler from Columbus (AAA)
Columbus has been eliminated from playoff contention, it's not surprising to see Barnes and Canzler on the first day the rosters expand, but Neal is a bit of surprise. Akron is going to the playoffs, and the Indians tend not to raid a minor-league roster if the team is still in the playoffs. So that the Indians recalled Neal on the first day of September shows (1) what they think of Neal as a prospect and (2) what they think of the current players on the roster.
(Because the Indians designated Shelley Duncan for assignment, they won't have to make a roster move to get Neal on the 40-man roster, though if they needed to, they could have just moved Josh Tomlin to the 60-day Disabled List.)
Neal was acquired last July from the Giants organization in the Orlando Cabrera deal. At the time he was acquired, Neal was playing in the PCL with Fresno, and doing a decent job as a 23-year-old outfielder. But his stock had dropped considerably from 2010, when he was considered a marginal top-100 prospect after hitting .337/.431/.579 in the California League as a 21-year-old. Neal finished the 2011 with Columbus, but suffered a wrist injury which curtailed his effectiveness.
He was on the 40-man roster last winter, but the Indians outrighted him at the end of the spring when they added Jose Lopez and Dan Wheeler to the roster. He thankfully cleared waivers, and the Indians sent him to Akron, down a level from where he played the season before. And though he's stayed there the entire season, it hasn't because he's struggled; Neal has the 9th-highest OPS in the Eastern League (min 200 PA), hitting .314/.400/.467 in a pitcher's league. He's played all three outfield positions this season, so it looks like the Indians are prepping him for a role as a reserve outfielder. He doesn't have an extreme platoon split, actually hitting better against right-handers than left-handers, so I don't think he should be type-cast as a platoon partner, but more as a pure 4th outfielder.
With Shelley Duncan now out of the picture and the DH spot open, Neal should get plenty of at-bats this month even with Tim Fedroff likely to be called up as well. Neither Neal nor Fedroff are premier prospects, but one or both could have a decent major-league career, and with the Indians very thin in the outfield, both players should have a very good opportunity between now and the end of March to make the 2013 roster.
When Barnes was last sent to the minors, I wondered whether the Indians would put him back into the rotation. The Indians elected to keep him in the bullpen, so it looks like that's where he'll stay. His recent appearances have been either really good or bad - he allowed 5 runs to Durham in 1.1 innings, then pitched 3 scoreless innings over two appearances, then allowed 3 runs to Toledo. The Indians have been looking all season for a good left-handed reliever, and I don't think Barnes is going him what they're looking for.
Canzler will be making his Cleveland debut after spending the entire season with Columbus. He hit .265/.328/.487 with the Clippers. He has a huge home/road split in batting average and OBP, but not slugging, which is kind of odd. Canzler can play both infield and outfield corners, but he's probably more suited to first base or DH. He's right-handed, but like Neal, doesn't hit any better versus left-handers than right-handers. But he should be getting most of his starts against southpaws with the Tribe's left-handed heavy lineup.
Thomas Neal Career Minor-League Stats
|2011||23||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AAA||SFG,CLE||70||277||256||40||74||14||3||2||26||8||6||14||57||.289||.343||.391||.734||100||6|
|AA (2 seasons)||AA||253||1055||930||146||280||64||2||24||120||22||13||92||165||.301||.377||.452||.829||420||35|
|AAA (1 season)||AAA||70||277||256||40||74||14||3||2||26||8||6||14||57||.289||.343||.391||.734||100||6|
|A (1 season)||A||117||497||428||69||118||25||1||15||81||3||4||48||103||.276||.359||.444||.803||190||8|
|Rk (1 season)||Rk||10||46||39||7||12||3||0||1||4||0||0||5||7||.308||.413||.462||.875||18||0|
|A- (1 season)||A-||50||187||176||26||44||6||2||4||20||1||3||7||44||.250||.289||.375||.664||66||3|
|A+ (1 season)||A+||129||559||475||102||160||41||4||22||90||3||0||65||98||.337||.431||.579||1.010||275||12|
Scott Barnes Career Stats
|162 Game Avg.||0||0||8.10||68||0||97||117||87||87||10||68||0||97||49||1.900||10.8||0.9||6.3||9.0||1.43|
Russ Canzler Career Stats
|162 Game Avg.||162||270||162||0||54||0||0||0||54||0||0||54||54||.333||.400||.333||.733||113||54|