Nino Colla | Thursday, February 18, 2010 | 2009 Offseason | 2010 Spring Training | 2010 Spring Training Preview
After covering the 40-Man roster's pitchers, it's time to take a look at the position players. Like the pitchers, just because someone is on the 40-man roster, doesn't mean they are guaranteed a spot come the regular season. Andy Marte is out of options and on the outside looking in.
Each player will be briefly profiled in terms of their situation and if they are fighting for a job or not.
Note: There could be a very real possibility that this post needs to be amended at some point, even later today. With the Indians being the rumored front-runner to land Russell Branyan, this would change the outlook of this group. Changes will be made if a move is in fact made.
$ - Indicates Free Agent Signing
T - Indicates Trade Acquisition
5 - Indicates Rule V Pick Up
# - Indicates Cleveland Minor League Player
Previous Club Listed
R Chris Gimenez
What to Expect: Fringe Contention
Chris Gimenez has become a forgotten body on the Indians' 40 man roster.
Hes extremely versatile, with the ability to catch and play every corner position on the diamond. However last year's .144 average isn't really inspiring too many people to get behind him. He did hit three home runs, but his offense wasn't enough to put him on the radar.
So now he's not only fighting for a roster spot, he's fighting for his 40-man life. Gimenez is on the fringe of the 40-man and could be out if the Indians need to make a couple of moves. He'll be in the running for a bench spot, but he has a lot of work to do.
And let me just say it's a bit of a shame, because Chris is a hard-worker and his versatility is a plus. I don't think we can judge him fully off what he did last year in the 45 games he played in. He's not worth giving up on yet.
R Lou Marson - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention for Starting Catcher
So even though they've got their catcher of the future winning the Eastern League MVP and are not far away from seeing him take over the starting catching duties, the Indians still decided to add Lou Marson in the Cliff Lee deal.
Marson is a highly touted prospect in his own right and now he has a shot to win the starting catching job pre-Santana. Who knows, if he wins it, how long he'll have the job, but right now is what counts.
He'll be battling Wyatt Toregas for the job and if he can establish himself and maybe even up his value, perhaps he could become a trade candidate.
Either way, you never have too many good catchers, so focus on the present. Marson is up to for the starting job and he is considered the heavy favorite to land the job.
R Mike Redmond - $Minnesota
What to Expect: Backup Catcher
As for now Mike Redmond was the only name the Indians brought in on a major league free agent contract. It was one of the surprises of the offseason for the Tribe.
Of all the positions, why did they need to get a backup catcher, especially after they brought in the coaching influence that is Sandy Alomar Jr.? Wouldn't it have been cheaper to just use Toregas, who is defensively sound, as the backup?
Point is, Redmond is a veteran influence on the field that can't be duplicated. He's also been around the game and the division for awhile now. He can not only tutor the young group of catchers this spring, he can handle the pitching staff that is going to be super young.
Some may knock the signing, but Redmond adds something to the team and spring is when that something is going to be put to use big time.
S Carlos Santana - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development
Carlos Santana can't win the job out of Spring Training, but he sure can put the pressure on.
Santana will start the year in Columbus. The Indians simply don't skip a level with a prospect.
But that doesn't mean Santana will spend the entire year there. There is no telling how long the Indians will keep him in Columbus because it will depend on both Marson's production and Santana's progression.
He can progress a lot during the spring, especially if he proves the surgery he had on his broken hand is all healed up.
R Wyatt Toregas
What to Expect: Contention for Starting Catcher
In a way, I feel bad for Wyatt Toregas.
Coming into this season, it was expected that he'd at least be the backup catcher.
Well, that's probably the case, however he'll probably the backup catcher at Columbus.
That's rough.. What's rougher is that he's going to be competing for the starting job and no one expects him to win. So he'll have his hopes up about being the starting catcher for the major league team and then end up as the backup catcher at Triple-A.
Wyatt doesn't have much of a bat by many standards, but he can hold his own defensively. If anything, that's something positive and something he probably holds over all the other catchers on the 40-man.
SS Brian Bixler - T Pittsburgh
What to Expect: Utility Job Contention
Cleveland completed a swap with former Indian front-office worker Neal Huntington to acquire Brian Bixler.
Bixler has options and is on the 40-man roster and will come in to compete for a backup role. The light-hitting shortstop can also play second base and when you consider he was dealt for a prospect who was old for the level of baseball he was playing, it was pretty much Pittsburgh giving him to Cleveland.
Jesus Brito had a good year, but some believe it was probably just an aberration. He's old for the level he was at and Brito wasn't highly regarded. If Bixler wins a spot, he wins a spot. If not he goes down to Columbus until the Indians need him.
He'll compete for a backup role for shortstop and second base. His defense will be his biggest tool as he isn't a remarkably outstanding hitter.
Bixler stands a chance, or else the Indians wouldn't have made the move to bring him in. Whether he has a better shot due to his situation though is another story.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
What to Expect: Starting Shortstop
Asdrubal Cabrera has paid his dues. He's been to the top, been knocked down and sent to the minor leagues, and then re-ascended to the top.
He's ready to take the next step. He is now he rightful starting shortstop of this club. He'll probably hit in the two or three-hole to start the year and he's this team's linchpin defensively.
Now it's just about getting through a full-season healthy. He had an couple injury concerns last year, but it wasn't a durability issue.
Asdrubal just needs to get through spring and continue his development into a major league hitter. I don't buy the notion that Eric Wedge put out that 'All Cabrera needs to do is play defense and just hit a little.'
This kid can hit the baseball, he can hit near .300 and get on base. He shouldn't be held to a high .310 or .315 average.. But if he hits around there, scores 90-100 runs and gets on base at a .350-.360 clip like he did last year, I think that's suitable.
2B Jason Donald - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Experience
A general thought when it came to Jason Donald was that he'd be a lock to be the Indians utility player coming into 2010.
Well Donald's injury sort of put a damper on that idea. Because Donald got hurt, he didn't get a call-up to end the 2009 season and the Indians took a stance that Donald needed more seasoning at Triple-A.
So regardless of what happens this spring, Donald will be in Columbus to start the season. They still view him as an option for the major leagues this season, but it won't be from the get-go. This spring is about staying healthy and getting experience.
DH Travis Hafner
What to Expect: Starting Designated Hitter
Travis Hafner enters this spring in a much better place than he did last spring.
For one, he's healthier and he won't be behind like he was. He can take things at a regular pace and he won't be held back or rushed or anything. And with an offseason of rest, there's no telling how far his shoulder has come.
I think everyone hopes that Hafner is near full-strength and he can use this spring to build up confidence for the upcoming year. Because everyone knows that this lineup would be downright awesome if Pronk is putting the fear of God into everyone as the three-hole hitter.
So really, that's what this spring is about for Travis... STAYING HEALTHY!
3B Wes Hodges - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development
Wes Hodges is in an interesting position. Last year he was the Tribe's third baseman of the future. Now he's just a stop-gap.
He did get added to the 40-man roster this offseason, because he was Rule-V eligible. But with the rapid ascension of Lonnie Chisenhall, Hodges is now an afterthought. And really Hodges can't blame himself.
A big reason for that afterthoughtness is because of an injury that claimed a lot of his 2009 season. Throw in the fact that Hodges may simply not have the glove to handle third base and he's in a tough spot.
You should believe however that Hodges can hit the ball though. And if you can hit the ball, you will find a spot on a major league roster. Wes just needs to keep his nose to the grind stone and stay healthy. If he can prove he can hit, he could eventually get a shot with the Tribe, and even at third base.
The Indians might trade their third baseman at some point this season and if Chisenhall isn't ready (he won't be), he'd be the next man up. So hope for Hodges isn't lost. He may no longer be the Indians third baseman of the future, but he still very much has one.
Wes is a guy to not forget about just because of that injury and all the additions to the Indians farm system. He will start the year in Columbus, but this spring is about re-establishing himself as a viable option.
3B Andy Marte
What to Expect: Contention for Roster Spot
Andy Marte is yet again in the same spot he was last year. Out of options, fighting for a roster spot, may not make it out of Spring as a Cleveland Indian.
What's different about this year is that he has a little steam. After getting cut and passed over by 29 teams on waivers, Marte went to Columbus and ripped it up after getting rebuilt by new Indians hitting coach Jon Nunnally.
Now Marte comes back, still with no options, so if he doesn't make the roster out of spring, he'll have to go through the process of clearing waivers yet again.
And after a decent year at Triple-A and a little bit of improvement at the major league level, 29 teams may not pass on him.
If there are two infield spots to be had, Marte should have an advantage as he plays a very good third base and can slide over to first as well. One thing is for sure: If he comes in out of shape like he did last season, I think all faith will totally be lost in the once heralded prospect.
3B Jhonny Peralta
What to Expect: Starting Third Baseman
I'll do it again... Oh Boy...
After a season of move him/don't move him, Peralta has been moved to third and now he gets a chance to start spring from that position.
Which should do wonders for him in terms of getting familiar with the position.
He needs a lot of credit for making the switch mid-season and not completely sucking. I mean, when you think about it, the guy was put in a difficult position. While he may not have handled it through the media (and I think language barrier has something to do with it) all that well, he handled it well on the field.
That all being said, Peralta's time as an Indian may be coming to a close after this season. Peralta has one year left on his deal, plus a club option for 2011 at $7 million dollars. They could pick it up, or they could trade him before they even have to make a decision on that, because the money he is making this year is a bargain, especially if he can produce.
Peralta will enter this spring as the club's starting third baseman. Where he is a few months from now is a different story.
SS Carlos Rivero - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development
Carlos Rivero was a bit of a surprise addition to the 40-man roster this offseason. Cleveland must have felt that he was way too valuable to risk, so they protected him from the Rule V Draft by adding him.
Rivero may repeat in Akron this year, with a chance to move up to Columbus at some point. With Asdrubal Cabrera manning short and Rivero's power stroke, he may not be long for the position, but right now (at least not with the Tribe, hint hint) he's at short.
Rivero will be in big league camp to gain experience and develop. He'll need to develop after this down year in 2009, but a strong AFL performance (.318 AVG/2HR) and end of the season should provide some optimism.
2B Luis Valbuena
What to Expect: Starting Second Baseman
Luis Valbuena is going to get his opportunity. Or at least that would appear to be the case.
Cleveland did try to get Orlando Hudson on a two year deal to be their starting second baseman. That would have pushed Valbuena into more of a utility role.
The big knock on Baby Val right now is his inability to hit left-handed pitching. Granted he only had 40 at-bats against lefties last year in the major leagues, it's still the biggest issue working against Valbuena.
But since Hudson went to Minnesota, they'll be giving Valbuena the first crack at the second base job. There really isn't any other option at this point. They need to see if Valbuena can take the next step and establish himself.
Baring any crazy addition or a horrendous spring from Louie, he'll be starting at second base. Now there could be a realistic possibility that he splits time with the backup utility player against left-handed pitchers. That isn't out of reach at all, especially if Mark Grudzielanek wins a backup job.
L Michael Brantley - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention for Starting Left Fielder
Ladies and Gentleman, Michael Brantley is by far the most gabbed about player this team has going into Spring Training.
Because he lit the world on fire during September last year and he's got an exciting skill set. Throw in the fact that people are eager to move Grady Sizemore down to the third spot in the lineup and this guy is the key to that happening and you've got yourself a lightning rod.
That is exactly what type of player Brantley is though.
I think in a way Cleveland is committed to giving Brantley the shot to be the starting left-fielder but not committed to letting him leadoff. In another way I have a feeling they don't even want to give him the left field job.
Yet if he just goes out this spring and does well, discussion over, the guy's got the job.
At least that's what I think. Brantley is interesting. He's going to be the most intriguing storyline and him winning the job would be a very good thing for this club.
L Jordan Brown - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention for Outfield Job, Development
Jordan Brown is behind?
Well, if you believe a lot of people, including myself, he should have been added to the 40-man roster a year ago, not this past offseason.
He should have been called up to the major leagues last September, not fighting for a shot to do so this spring.
Yet according to the Indians, Brown's defense isn't quite there. He was moved from first base because of the defense in the first place, but he has yet to make the strides the Indians desire in the outfield.
His bat is there, he's the reigning International League batting champion, he can hit the baseball.
But the Indians will not give him that chance until they see he is ready defensively.
Or until they are maybe forced to.
Brown will contend for the left field job, but is not likely to get it. Because of his defensive deficiencies, don't expect him to even be considered for the fourth outfield spot either.
L Shin-Soo Choo
What to Expect: Starting Right Fielder
Yeah I got nothing much here.
Ordinary offseason for Shin-Soo Choo if you ask me. No injuries, no WBC preparation and the talk about his military obligations to his native Korea subsided. Mainly because the Indians and Choo are simply ignoring the whole ordeal.
They don't seem to be worried and neither does Choo. You see the plan is to either win a gold medal or just establish residency in the United States. Either way, Choo isn't going anywhere.
No injuries, he's coming off a fantastic year at the plate, he's going to be an Indian.. What really is there to talk about with Choo?
Contract extension, maybe?
S Trevor Crowe
What to Expect: Contention for Outfield Job
Trevor Crowe had an interesting first year with the club.
He was a surprise inclusion on the 25-man active roster after David Dellucci drunkenly slammed his pick-up truck door on his finger and had to start the year on the Disabled List.
He was sent down and then called up later.
He's got speed, he can play defense a bit and... Okay not convinced?
Crowe fits the mold of a fourth outfielder, which is one of the jobs up for grabs. However he's up against... Austin Kearns?
One more for the road... Oh Boy...
Crowe may not win the left field job, it would be a shock if he did. But I think he's got a serious shot at winning the fourth outfield spot. He has options, he's on the 40-man, obviously, so it wouldn't cost the Indians a real roster move.
He's just going to have to go out and give em the good old fashioned, "I deserve to win the spot" type of performance this spring. Don't let them even think that the job isn't yours.
R Matt LaPorta
What to Expect: Starting First Baseman, Rehab
Matt LaPorta is the one concerning part of next year's potential club.
The surgery to to his hip held him out of baseball activities up until just now. So LaPorta has some catching up to do.
He'll be behind his teammates this spring and depending on how active he was during the offseason, he'll have to use the start of the spring to get in shape and get himself ready to be on the level of everyone else at camp, because he will most definitely not be there with an offseason that restricted him.
If there are no set-backs and LaPorta is ready to go, he may not be ready to go everyday, which is why the Indians brought in several insurance options and already have a few on the roster.
The first base job is his. He just needs to be healthy and that's what his spring will be all about. Getting ready to play a full-season and making sure there are no setbacks.
L Grady Sizemore
What to Expect: Starting Center Fielder
Just a ho-hum offseason for Grady Sizemore.
Every other year maybe....
Aside from surgery, Sizemore had a little photo problem that he had to deal with.
And after talking with reporters a few weeks ago, that issue is pretty much put to rest. His surgeries were performed back in September, which means he should be 100% ready to go with everyone else, so he won't be behind.
Last year he had the WBC on his plate, but eventually pulled out after an injury. That of course pretty much hampered him all year and forced him to have one of those surgeries.
Let's hope this spring remains problem free for Grady as he's the linchpin of this team when healthy and productive. His return to form is crucial and when he's on, the team as a whole is much different.
L Nick Weglarz - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development
Nick Weglarz came into the 2009 season on top of a lot of prospect lists within the Cleveland Indians organization.
A slow start and an injury put a damper on that.
He's still one of the organization's best hitters however as he can really generate some heavy duty power. He did pull out of the Arizona Fall League due to injury, but he should be using spring to continue his development.
Weglarz was added to the roster for Rule V protection and could start the year in Columbus depending on who will be there already. It's only a matter of time before Weglarz's bat gets him to the big leagues.
NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Sunday, February 21st: Final Overview