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10.22.2010

Season Wrap-Up 2010: Columbus Clippers

Nino Colla | Friday, October 22, 2010 | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
COLUMBUS CLIPPERS
Level: Class AAA
League: International League (West)
Finish: 79-65 (Wild Card)
Playoffs: Won International League, AAA National Championship

POTY Feathers: OF Jose Constanza and RP Vinnie Pestano


Constanza: .319/.373 AVG/OBP, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 69 RS, 54/35 SO/BB, 34/40 SB
Pestano: 1-2, 14 SV, 43 G, 46 IP, 1.55 ERA, 59/14 SO/BB, 1.06 WHIP

I don't know two guys who consistently get the job done like Vinnie Pestano and Jose Constanza and don't get nearly enough credit for what they do. This year they were integral parts of this Columbus team and I think it is about time to start recognizing what these two are doing.

Are they the highest prospects on the pecking order? No and some might not even give Constanza prospect status, but they continue to produce. Look at what Vinnie Pestano did this year and it is right in line what you've come to expect from him.

Last year he was set to smash all sorts of records as the Akron closer until injury came upon him. He ended up saving 24 games in 34 innings. This season he started in Akron, pitched in 14 games, saved three and Cleveland did him right and moved him to Columbus.

Vinnie was downright dominant and that was rewarded with a September call up in which he saved his first major league game and looked decent in is first action at the majors. Where Vinnie was really impressive was in the playoffs. He and Zach Putnam were lock down as a combo in the back end. Vinnie gave up a run in his four innings, but he struck out eight hitters and walked just one.

Pestano finished games while Constanza started them. Jose was this club's catalyst all year, in and out early due to the log jam, but soon enough he couldn't be denied playing time. He made the IL All-Star team and was named an end of the season All-Star.

What more can you ask from in your leadoff hitter than a good average, a high OBP and 34 steals? Constanza was second in the IL in average and what did he do in the playoffs? He was six-for-six in steals and he scored six runs.

So here is to a pair of underrated and under appreciated players who were huge parts of this team and their run to the Governor's Cup.

OVERVIEW

What a season, what a season, what a season! This club, a good portion of them made-up of Aeros from last year's Eastern League Championship team, had one of those magical years, like the Aeros had last season.

Baseball America named the Clippers their 2010 Triple-A team of the year, just like the Aeros were named the 2009 Double-A team of the year. Last year it was all about new Huntington Park and the whole honeymoon phase of the Clippers being an Indians affiliate, so this year with the Aeros success especially, it had to be about winning.

And man did they win. Not only did the Clippers stake claim to the Governor's Cup, the International League's championship, they defeated Tacoma in the Triple-A National Championship game to be crowned the overall champions of the Triple-A level.

Now the Clippers didn't just have a dominant team from start to finish, they more than any other minor league affiliate lost some incredible talent to the major league level. Players like Jordan Brown, Jason Donald, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Jeanmar Gomez got plucked from this team and guys like Carrasco, Brown, Tomlin, and Gomez, all missed out on a playoff run.

Still with Akron's best reinforcements, this club was able to mesh on the fly and take it all home in the playoffs. At the center of it all is Mike Sarbaugh, who has continuously now guided Tribe minor league affiliates to success. He is widely viewed as a gem in this organization and a guy that players gravitate to just because of the respect he commands and how much his players love him.

This was a huge year for the Clippers and the Indians. To cash in on the championship prize and bring a title at the Triple-A level in the second year of this partnership is fantastic for the organization and the city of Columbus. Let's take a look at the players that made it possible.

PITCHING


This rotation was supposed to be loaded, because they were the guys on stand-by, waiting should the need arise in Cleveland and there wasn't expected to be just one easy option. One name that isn't noted here that needs to be mentioned is Hector Rondon. The former Future's Game participant made just seven starts this season, seven rough starts, before being shutdown. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery (although not immediately) and he'll likely miss 2011 in addition to this lost season of 2010. Still the Clippers found plenty of arms in the rotation and their bullpen clicked with particular call-ups that made them very tough to deal with.

Carlos Carrasco

The ace of the Clippers staff kept waiting for his opportunity. When it looked as if it was going to come, Carrasco battled an injury stretch that made the Indians take caution and hold Carrasco's opportunity back until September.

But from April to the end of August, Carrasco really took to the advice of pitching coach Charlie Nagy and implemented some changes mechanics wise that helped him have a great season. Overall he led the team in innings pitched and strikeouts. Overall he was 10-6 with a 3.65 ERA and a very respectable 1.23 WHIP in 25 starts.

Carrasco got a September call-up, like he did last season, and with it he showed those improvements. He won a pair of games and in seven starts, struck out 38 hitters in 44 innings and carried a 3.83 ERA, a radical movement from last year's disaster of a debut.

He's now established himself as a potential rotation candidate in Cleveland and he definitely helped anchor the Clippers rotation in 2010.

Zach McAllister

McAllister was probably thinking he wouldn't be a Columbus Clipper once the Yankees ended their relationship with the organization. That wasn't the case as the Indians acquired the Zach attack from New York to complete a trade of Austin Kearns. McAllister was struggling with Scranton after a stellar year in Double-A Trenton (7-5, 2.23 ERA in 22 starts), and some of his struggles continued in Columbus.

McAllister only made three regular season starts with the Clippers, but he had a good run in the postseason. In two starts he was 1-0, giving up just an earned run in 12.2 innings pitched. He did however surrender three home runs and four runs total and he struck out nine compared to just one walk.

McAllister only really struggled with Stanton Island in 2007, having much success in every other year of his professional career. We'll see if he can bounce back in 2011 as a member of the Clippers rotation.

Yohan Pino

Speaking of playoffs, the hero of this squad's pitching staff, or at least one of them, in the postseason was Yohan Pino. In two starts he gave up just two runs in a IL high 15 innings pitched. Pino came up big against Scranton in Game three of the five game set, holding the Yankees to just a hit in seven innings of work, out-pacing Kei Igawa, and leading the Clippers to a 2-1 series advantage.

It was certainly something the former Twins farmhand needed after a season of unusual struggles. Last year Pino rolled through the Double-A and Triple-A levels with the Twins, and did even better when he arrived in Columbus in exchange for Carl Pavano. Last year he was a combined 9-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 127 innings pitched.

This season, he struggled a little more, but he did win 10 games. In 26 starts he did throw a complete game and he struck out 114 hitters, but carried a WHIP of 1.54. Pino was viewed as a possible depth option and perhaps more of a long-relief candidate, as soon as this past season, but his struggles and the effectiveness of a Josh Tomlin put him lower in the pecking order. Had he put together the season Tomlin did, perhaps it might have been him that got a call to the major leagues.

He'll likely return to Columbus next season and attempt to jostle for positioning once again.

Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin

The tandem of Gomez and Tomlin had very different experiences in Columbus this year, but both played a big part in going to Cleveland and proving their capabilities.

Gomez is viewed as more of a prospect where Tomlin was a little bit on the fence and more of a swing guy between the bullpen and the rotation. However Tomlin's performance as a starter eventually couldn't be denied. In 17 starts with the Clippers he was 7-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 100 innings pitched. That downright dominance was more than enough for the Indians to give him a shot and that pretty much became permanent after Jake Westbrook was dealt.

He had some ups and downs, some of the ups being a fabulous debut against CC Sabathia of all people in which he out-dueled the hefty ace. But overall he showed a lot of promise in both his dominant season as a starter in Columbus, and some of the efforts he put forth in the majors.

Jeanmar Gomez on the other hand had a bit of a rough adjustment period to the Triple-A level. Last year Gomez tossed a perfect game for the Aeros and was named Eastern League pitcher of the year. Turning just 22, Gomez reached the Triple-A level this year and with 40-man status, he had put himself on the brink of a call-up. He just needed to produce and learn.

Well he learned but he didn't really produce from the get-go. His first three months were filled with some issues, going 5-7 in April through June. But then seemingly after a call-up in which he wasn't supposed to get, things started to click. Perhaps it was the confidence of going up and winning his first major league start, but Gomez came back to Columbus and was like a new pitcher.

That wouldn't last long as the need had come up for another starter and most likely based off the fact that he (despite pitching on short rest) he was probably the best option to get the call after the Westbrook trade. The staff was short-handed and the opportunity was there for Gomez and he took advantage. Gomez had some success with Cleveland, experiencing the same sort of ups and downs Tomlin did, but the fact of the matter is that one start that he wasn't supposed to get in place of David Huff, sort of turned around his season for the better.

David Huff

Speaking of the devil, if David Huff needs to be poked with the devil's pitch fork every time he is lacking motivation, there may be an issue. Huff battled hard for a shot at the rotation in spring and it wasn't until Manny Acta said that it would be Carlos Carrasco and David Huff for the final rotation spot that things started to really click and Huff took control of the position battle.

However after a great start, Huff faltered and struggled. He ended up losing 11 games, a complete reversal of the team-leading win total he had last season, in 15 starts with the Tribe and being put into Acta's dog house. Huff did do very well with Columbus though, but a big reason for the 8-2 record is the great offensive support he got. Huff didn't show much radical change as the record would suggest as he still carried a subtle 4.36 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.

Huff seemed to be the Clippers front man when it came to the playoffs, making a pair of starts, in addition to starting the National Title game and putting out great results. In two IL playoff games he was 1-0 with three earned runs surrendered and 10 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched.

Who knows what is in store for Huff and the Indians in the future. He'd make a great trade chip with all the options the Indians have, but he has lost a lot of value and maybe the best is still yet to come from him. The motivation is certainly a concern as he only seems to turn it on when he gets criticized. That can only work for so long.

Jess Todd

I don't know if it is still Todd Time in Cleveland anymore. Jess Todd didn't have a bad season, but he was pretty much not discussed or talked about at all. He had a very... uneventful year. I think the club would have expected him to come in, polish off his need for Triple-A seasoning and then be a call-up, much in the way Frank Herrmann was, that impacted the major league bullpen.

Todd was more or less a Eddie Mujica at times. Overall he did go 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 49 innings. His WHIP and average against are a little high for a reliever, especially one of his talents at the Triple-A level, so you have to wonder where he's at in terms of his standing.

He did strike out 53 batters and save four games, but again, it was just an uneventful year for Jess. He pitched in a few games at the major league level, but the club didn't even bother to call-him up once the Triple-A playoffs ended, even though he's on the 40-man.

That status as a 40-man player could be in jeopardy, but you'd hate to think the club would give up on a trade piece they've not been able to really test.

Carlton Smith and Justin Germano

I will not be giving Justin Germano any feathers, so I'll talk about him here. With Carlton Smith, because well. Carlton Smith is Carlton Smith.

Germano was actually good for like, everyone. The dude was over in Japan or somewhere after San Diego didn't want him. This year he pretty much had to work his ass off just to get that major league shot. He was swinging around in Akron and when he got the call to Columbus, it was thought to be temporary but he actually was used for depth.

He ended up throwing 53 innings and carrying a 3.38 ERA. Then he got the call to Cleveland, once again with the thought it would be a rather quick stay. Yeah right. He ended up sticking around everywhere for a lot longer than we thought.

Carlton Smith was quite simply a stud for Akron last year in that bullpen. For awhile he was studly again due to a clog in the Clippers bullpen. But then the opportunity opened up and Smith got the call. Unfortunately it looks as if Smith has hit that point. Smith was downright bad in 48 innings. He gave up 34 earned runs, let up a .325 average against and a 6.38 ERA.

Bad.

Josh Judy and Bryce Stowell

I would like to call this pair, Punch and Judy. Mainly because Bryce packs a punch with his fastball and well, Josh's last name is Judy and it is a clever pun. Okay it isn't that clever or cool, but both had good years all around.

Stowell kind of hit a bit of a wall when he reached Columbus, but his overall numbers still look spectacular after the way he dominated at Kinston and Akron.

Stowell had an amazing streak of scoreless frames that started in Kinston, was flawless in Akron, and ended in Columbus. Overall he went 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 67 innings pitched. he struck out 102 hitters, yes 102 hitters in those 67 innings.

Strikeout...Dominance.

Judy started his season in Akron, sort of out of necessity to the fact that he was coming off an injury. He made two appearances, gave up two runs in two innings and then was let loose in Columbus. He put together 47 innings in which he carried a 2.68 ERA and struck out 55 hitters He had some issues with the fact that the average against was a little inflated, but overall, Judy continued to show he is a legit bullpen option at the major leagues.

These two strikeout guys might eye a bullpen spot out of spring training, but I think it is likely you see them start in Columbus to sort of finish things off. Eventually though, I think you see them pairing up and joining Zach Putnam in the major league bullpen by the end of 2011.

Jeremy Sowers

Good bye Jeremy! GOOOOOOOOOD BYE JEREMY! SEEEEE YA! SEEEE YA! PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTTTTYYYY!!!!

I don't really like Jeremy Sowers, in case you couldn't tell, so I'm not even going to waste my time on the fact that he was relegated to the bullpen, went 2-6 and struck out just 29 hitters. PEACES!

POSITION PLAYERS


Who led the IL in collective average and OBP? Columbus.

Who led the IL in collective runs scored? Columbus

Who led the team in RBI? Jordan Brown with 67.

67? That tells you all you need to know. This was a collective effort from many many players, some of which we won't talk much about and that was mainly those call-ups that are getting feathers. In the Governor's Cup series it was Jason Kipnis who came up big and he wasn't even on the roster in the regular season. It was basically a next-man-up situation with this lineup and that's always good to see.

Wes Hodges

Poor Wes Hodges. He was the third baseman of the future. Then he couldn't figure out how to play third base and the Indians drafted someone named Lonnie Chisenhall. Oh and he got hurt last year.

Hodges came into spring, on the 40-man and at first base. He was actually hitting in big league camp, which was something that shouldn't have shocked anyone considering we all knew he could hit and that his injuries from 2009 didn't take that ability away.

This year he got designated for assignment, claimed by Colorado, but it was short lived as the Rockies pretty much re-designated him almost immediately. The Indians re-claimed him in an odd turn of events and he was back on the 40-man roster and back in Columbus.

Overall Wes hit 15 home runs and knocked in 60 runs. He hit .270 and had an OBP of .308. We know Wes is a power guy, he added 28 doubles, and not much for the glove (11 errors at first). The Indians are really at a point with Hodges where it doesn't look as if he'll make it to spring as an Indian. They need 40-man spots and Hodges really doesn't provide much promise to play in the field and they probably could get more production from people other than Hodges at the DH spot if they didn't have Hafner.

At least he had a healthy season and was able to sort of re-establish himself in some way. Considering they designated him once though, I doubt they could trade him. You have to like the fact that he led the IL in home runs with three in the playoffs and knocked in 10 runs though.

Jordan Brown

If he didn't go down in spring training with a knee injury, Jordan Brown may have made the roster out of spring as the left fielder. We all know the Indians preferred to not start Michael Brantley in left to start the season, which is why they signed Russell Branyan. But Branyan had start the year on the DL and Brown very well could have been the guy they used to prevent Brantley from starting.

After he recovered, Brown returned to Columbus and the reigning IL batting champ had some issues to work out. Eventually it clicked and Brown ended up hitting .298 in 83 games and like I mentioned earlier, leading the team in RBI. He doubled 28 times and hit 8 home runs, which is pretty good for just 236 at-bats.

Brown got his opportunity in the majors, finally, and he hit .230 with a pair of RBI in 87 at-bats. Not exactly what one would hope for. I say this though. Given time to step back and realize it was his first chance, don't doom Brown. I think he deserves a second shot now that he's gotten his feet wet and had a look at what it is like to be a major leaguer. I know he's older and isn't very good defensively, but he didn't win the IL batting crown out of luck.

Cord Phelps

CORD!

With Akron, Cord hit .296 and knocked in 23 runs. yeah big deal whatever. He was probably one of the only one hitting for the Aeros early on and after just 199 at-bats, the Indians decided to test him and Jason Kipnis by moving them up.

Phelps lit it up in Columbus. He hit .317 in 243 at-bats and his OBP was spectacular at .386. He hit six home runs and scored 41 runs. In the playoffs he hit .313 with five runs scored and five runs batted in. The guy gets on-base and that's what you have to love about him.

Phelps just returned from the Pan Am games and he'll be playing some third base and outfielder for the Peoria team in Arizona. The Indians want him to get some versatility so they can move him around with both him and Kipnis likely starting 2011 in Columbus.

Defensively, we know he's a stud, so if there is anyone who can move around, it would probably be Cord.

Jared Goedert and Josh Rodriguez

We affectionately call him the "Rare Breed" because of his rare ability to hit a million home runs in a few games. Godert was on the bubble in the spring, but then he sort of went off and just made it impossible for the Indians to cut him. So they sent him to Akron and he ended up playing a little backup third base to Chisenhall and moving around the diamond and the lineup.

Josh Rodriguez was sort of the same way. Rodriguez played in the outfield and anywhere the Aeros could fit him in. I saw him coaching first base one time even and that isn't a fib. Well both got hold of opportunities in Akron and took full advantage of them. Goedert hit 7 home runs and 14 doubles in 44 games, hit .325 and collected a .382 OBP. Rodriguez ended up hitting .317 with a .405 OBP in 63 games. It looked for awhile like he was getting demoted for no good reason until the Indians called him back up a few days later for good.

Overall, I'd say Rodriguez had the more complete season with the bat. He isn't a power hitter by any means, but he ended up hitting 13 home runs and 30 doubles in 380 at-bats. His .378 OBP is what you look for in a middle infielder who could hit at the bottom or the top of the lineup.

And then you add in the fact that he's played all around the diamond, Rodriguez has almost sort of a re-birth. He was knocked from the rank of "second baseman of the future" quite like in the way Hodges was knocked from his perch. Injuries and new options has made Rodriguez an afterthought, but with his performance and new found versatility, he may be putting himself into legit utility player position.

Goedert meanwhile may have played himself out of utility player position, not because of his offense, but because of his defense. With the desperate need for a third baseman and his production, you would have thought Goedert would have earned an opportunity. As bad as Nimartuena was at third, the Indians didn't think it was bad enough to let Goedert have a shot, so that tells you all you need to know about his defense.

Rare Breed though hit a lot of home runs, 27 to be exact, this season. The problem was he really did it all in one streak early in the season. He really started to fizzle as the year went on with the power and even the average. He did carry a respectable .345 OBP with Columbus, but he ended up hitting just .261, which is way below what he was doing in Akron, even if it was in half the amount of games.

Who knows what is in store for Goedert. His season is normally one that would put someone on the map. Everyone knew Goedert could hit if he was fully healthy, and he finally was this season, but where do you draw the line in terms of him being a fluke and being for real? Not to mention, his glove is worrisome.

Chris Gimenez, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana

I put these three in here for the simple fact that they were important to the season but ultimately, they spent just as much time in the major leagues as they did with the Clippers.

Gimenez really re-established himself in the outfield when the need came up. In 55 games he hit 9 home runs and knocked in 32 runs with a .267 average and a .341 OBP.

Brantley used Columbus to re-adjust himself, but it really was the trade and the guaranteed starting spot that was able to relax him. If anything he needed to see he could dominate Triple-A for his confidence. In 67 games with the Clippers he hit .319 with a .395 OBP. He even hit four home runs.

Santana spent a little less time with the club than Gimenez but he had the most impact. He hit 13 home runs, 13 home runs repeated, in just 197 at-bats. He came in, made an impact and left. It was clear this bat was way to advanced for this level and that he was just around for defensive purposes. A .447 OBP? .597 slugging percentage? Give me a break, that is just crazy stuff.

Nick Weglarz

Nick Weglarz was starting out at Akron, but even knew it would only be a matter of time before he was in Columbus. With the injury last year, he kind of just had to finish of his business in Akron before he moved on. He hit 7 home runs, 10 doubles in 37 games and that was enough for the Indians to move him along.

Unfortunately after just 50 games with the Clippers, Weglarz had to be shut down with more problems. He did end up hitting 13 home runs on the season (struggling slightly with his power stroke, although he made up for it with more doubles), but it was not a full season that the Indians were hoping to get out of him.

The good news is Weglarz will be making up for lost time in Venezuela's winter league and could follow a similar path to Clevleand as he did to Columbus in 2010. If the need arises for some pop in Cleveland at mid-season and Weglarz is proving he's ready, we could see him there.

Ezequiel Carrera

We call him Zeke around these parts because Ezequiel is just too hard to type out on a regular basis. Carrera came over in the Russell Branyan deal and he was hurt originally. When he finally made his debut, he looked like a cousin to Jose Constanza. He looks like a better Trevor Crowe really.

Carrera was hitting .268 with a .339 OBP with Tacoma in 213 at-bats. He ended up hitting .286 with a similar OBP in 161 at-bats with the Clippers. His real damage came in the playoffs where he he had 9 hits and 6 walks in 31 at-bats. He hit a home run and was 3-for-3 in stolen bases.

Healthy, I think we're looking at a decent fourth outfield prospect and between him and Constanza, there should be someone who can contribute there.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ultimately it isn't worth covering the Luke Carlins and Brian Bixler's of the world, but those guys did help contribute. Carlin was great in the playoffs for this team with no other catchers around.

But the core of this team was the pitching and the prospects like Cord Phelps and Jordan Brown and players like that.

Mike Sarbaugh has put himself on the radar in a big way with back to back Championship seasons and while he may return to Columbus next year, he won't be around for long, especially if he keeps winning with whatever he's handed.

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