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2.14.2011

2011 Spring Training Primer: 40-Man Roster - Position Players

Nino Colla | Monday, February 14, 2011 | | | Best Blogger Tips
As usual, our final section of the Spring Training Primer ends with all position players on the 40-man roster. The overview comes tomorrow.

Just a reminder that not all 40-man players are guaranteed spots, especially with NRI's fighting hard and well, surprise signings like the Orlando Cabrera deal that just throw monkey wrenches into this process.

Each player gets profiled as we discuss what to expect from them in the spring and what they're fighting for.

*With Orlando Cabrera's signing still not official, there will be a 40-man roster removal. Right now, I've included Cabrera, but take in mind one of the players listed here may be ousted off the 40-man at some point in the next few days.

$ - Indicates Free Agent Signing
T - Indicates Trade Acquisition
5 - Indicates Rule V Pick Up
# - Indicates Cleveland Minor League Player
Previous Club Listed

Catchers


R Lou Marson
What to Expect: Backup catcher

Last year there were like, millions of people under the catcher section of this primer. Now there are two and if all goes according to plan, both will be the only two to start the season. Lou Marson came in last year as the starter, without being named the starter. He had to "beat out" Mike Redmond in a way, but it was pretty much a formality.

Now he's got to sort of do the same for his backup job. He has to "beat out" the likes of Paul Phillips and Luke Carlin, but not in the way you may think. He has to beat them out by showing he doesn't need everyday at-bats at Columbus, at least if he wants to be the backup in Cleveland. Essentially, he's in a battle with himself. The only guy that controls Marons's destiny is Marson.

Now he is good defensively, we like that. With Santana likely to see time at first, Marson may be needed three times every two week and you have to like the defense. He can't hit his weight in batting average though, he'll have to be decent with the bat and that is what he'll have to prove this spring.

S Carlos Santana
What to Expect: Starting Catcher

Carlos Santana was just cleared to be our savior, cross your fingers. With the leg healed and months removed from surgery, Santana is expected to start from day one of spring training. Last year it was all about making headway so he could start as soon as possible for Santana.

This year the job is his and full-speed ahead. Other than making it through spring healthy, he'll be working to gain experience at first base in preparation for his additional role there this season.

Infielders

SS Asdrubal Cabrera
What to Expect: Starting Shortstop

The truth is we never know what to expect from Asdrubal Cabrera. Is he going to come into camp in shape? Is he going to break his arm after some fatass sits on him? Who knows. One thing is for sure, this team is way better when he's healthy. He brings solid defense to the table and we know he can hit. Look, we know he can field. I'm not buying this argument that he isn't a gold glove caliber shortstop. He is. Now that doesn't mean he's been playing like one. After what I saw from him a few years ago, I have to believe it is in there somewhere.

Getting fit is a big key. There have been rumblings since Wedge hinted at it when they first sent Cabrera down in 2008. He doesn't take care of his body and I think that is maybe a reason for his defensive decline. The injuries can be pointed to his offensive issues. If he's healthy and focused, he's a top of the order hitter. He hasn't been at times and last year was a good example. I really have no clue what Cabrera needs to do this spring because really, how is he going to arrive at spring? Will he be in shape? Will he be focused? Will he be healthy? If the answer is yes, he won't have much to work on, just getting ready to play this season.

SS Orlando Cabrera
What to Expect: Contention for Second Base, Utility Spot

Can we just give Orlando Cabrera the second base job? Do we have to kid ourselves with this whole "second base contention" stuff? In a way it is almost insulting to the players around them to even give them that hope. You are not a club that signs a guy like Cabrera to a guaranteed contract this late in the process to have him "compete" for a starting spot.. You signed him with the intention of starting him right out of the gate.

When the signing is official, Antonetti and Acta are best served just telling the world that Orlando Cabrera is the starting second baseman fro the Cleveland Indians.

2B Jason Donald
What to Expect: Contention for Third Base, Utility Spot, Second Base


Jason Donald is one of those players that you have a hard time denying when it comes to giving him an opportunity. He's a worker, someone who plays hard and makes up for whatever talent he doesn't have (but he has a lot of talent) in certain areas. I'd make him a starter on this team.

But Donald is going to have to fight for his spot and that fight just became tougher with Orlando Cabrera now in the fold. He'll likely be the second base, which gives Donald a tougher task of winning the third base job, instead of fighting it out with Jayson Nix for two jobs. Yeah that's a tough fight. Donald could end up as a utility player if he doesn't win the third base job.

The whole third base thing is different though because he's primarily a middle infielder, having most of his experience at second and shortstop. He's played third base before, but it isn't his normal position. So in addition to fighting for a roster spot, he has to show he's defensively capable at a position he isn't all that familiar with.

Luckily for him, Jayson Nix hasn't exactly been the most capable at the spot, so he has that working for him. If the Indians decide that Donald would be better suited playing everyday, he could go to Columbus and start regularly there until called upon. That would seem like a waste, especially if you believe Donald is one of your future utility guys, why not let him gain third base experience now? Either way, Donald is one of the more intriguing names to watch out for this spring.

3B Jared Goedert - #Columbus
What to Expect: Contention for Third Base, Experience, Development

You could say that Jared Goedert is in the mix for the opening at third base, but then again you'd have to also say that Jared Goedert can also play third base flawlessly. The Indians would be more willing to play a veteran like Jayson Nix at third in Puerto Rico with the hope he'd pick up the position than give the spot to Goedert. What does that say about Goedert?

That isn't anything negative. Well, it kind of is. But Goedert had a great first half last season split with Akron and Columbus. It was the first half that let him become "The Rare Breed" Jared Goedert. He was super-human in his ability to hit home runs. But he still can't play third base all that well and there is legit concern that the super-human first half was just that and not for real. Goedert will come in and "compete" but he's really here to develop more at third base and hopefully prove he can be a more consistent hitter. He's battling for at-bats in Columbus right now, because he certainly won't start there either with Chisenhall around.

DH Travis Hafner
What to Expect: Starting Designated Hitter

Can I just copy last year's paragraph? Oh boy!

Make it short and sweet with Travis, because that's how we do things now a days with Pronk. There's one thing he needs to do this spring.

Stay healthy you big ox!

1B Matt LaPorta
What to Expect: Starting First Baseman

Stay healthy you slightly smaller, but still big ox! No really, Matt LaPorta could prescribe to the Pronk remedy if he wanted to. Stay healthy with an extra dose of get in shape. The goal in the offseason for LaPorta was to prepare, prepare, prepare. He's finally healthy, so instead of rehabbing and that, get ready for the 162 game season you are about to go through.

Now spring is about taking that plan to the next level. Putting it all together and testing it out. LaPorta is the first baseman on this team, he's healthy, he has nothing to worry about. Confidence wise, that will be great. If the things he put to work in the offseason take, the confidence boost will be that much better.

2B Jayson Nix
What to Expect: Contention for Third Base, Utility Spot, Second Base


The Rectangle that is Jayson Nix went to Puerto Rico this offseason to hone his amazing third base skills. Part of that sentence is false and you know which part that is. Nix didn't fair as well as the Indians hoped and a lot of that had to do with an injury that took him out of a portion of his time down there. He'll still contend for the third base job though, because as much as he didn't prove, the Indians are still in a dire situation with that position.

Nix will also contend for a second base job that will probably be won by Orlando Cabrera. It was looking ever-so-likely that Jason Donald would start at third, returning Nix to second base, where he is defensively capable. Now he may be on the outside looking in with a utility spot (he has the advantage of being able to play the corner infield spots) and primary backup to third and second. He likely doesn't have to worry about not making the roster, as Donald would be more likely to get sent down and he has 40-man status over someone like Adam Everett, but he'll still have to fight for his place on the opening day roster.

2B Luis Valbuena
What to Expect: Contention for Utility Spot

Ugh... If I could end it with that, I would, but there is more to say about Luis Valbuena than just Ugh, as much as I want to just say Ugh and be done with it. Valbuena was horrid offensively last year and things didn't get much better during Winter Leagues. There was a point he turned it around and the Indians still have a lot of hope invested into Babes.

Here's the problem with that. There isn't a whole lot of "PT" to go around for Valbuena at the major league level because not only is Asdrubal the shortstop (god help us if he ever sniffs short again) but now Orlando Cabrera is here and Jason Donald and Jayson Nix have passed up Luis in the pecking order. Nimartuena didn't work out so well so while he can "contend" for third base, does anyone think he'll get it? Valbuena is up for a utility job and he could probably get it by default.

I think the best thing for him is to go to Columbus and get regular at-bats though. There could be an opening to play short there (yeah keep him away from short at the major league level, Columbus is fine) and get some more regular chances than he would in Cleveland. He's gonna have to fight for his job with the likes of Adam Everett and whoever doesn't win a starting spot, but the Indians may like him enough to just give him his place.

Outfielders

L Michael Brantley
What to Expect: Starting Left Fielder

Last spring, the Indians were not convinced that Michael Brantley was ready to start in left field for them. So they, not panicked, but they certainly reached in signing Russell Branyan to play first so Matt LaPorta could play left field. The didn't work so well as Brantley started anyway because Branyan was hurt. Turns out though, they were right, Brantley got off to a horrific start.

Whether they were right though, might have been their own doing. Did the pressure get to Brantley that he pressed? I certainly believe that. When Brantley was given the job after the Kearns trade, he was the player we had expected him to be. He wasn't pull happy, he was the right amounts of aggressive and patient at the plate. Now that he's the no-doubt-about-it starter from the get-go, expect big things from Brantley out of the gate. He'll probably look to establish his place in the order, even though he'll probably start from the bottom. But he could get a quick start in his case to be moved up to the leadoff spot.

L Ezequiel Carrera - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Development, Experience

Ezequiel Carrera. Now that I got that out of the way, I can now call him Zeke for the rest of this period. Zeke came over in the Russell Branyan deal and looks to be a younger version of Trevor Crowe without the hype. Also looks like he might be a tad bit better defensively.

Carrera is on the 40-man roster, was when he got here. So he's pretty much on stand-by in Columbus. Like some of the other first timers in Indians camp, he'll probably use this to get more acclimated to the organization. Is he behind Crowe on the pecking order? Ahead of Weglarz? Perhaps that's what he's out to prove this spring. Acta really likes Crowe and if Crowe doesn't make the roster, then that could stand to be good news for Carrera as he can try and out-play him in Columbus.

L Shin-Soo Choo
What to Expect: Starting Right Fielder

Gold Medal achieved, contract likely not to occur, best season of his career. Do we really have anything about Shin-Soo Choo to talk about?

That is a scary thought, but no, there really isn't. Hopefully that doesn't mean something pops up, but it is pretty nice to not have to worry about one spot in the lineup.

S Trevor Crowe
What to Expect: Contention for Bench Spot


Usually we don't take the Primer as a chance to act silly, but we break that code when it comes to Trevor Crowe. The biggest question I think we are waiting to find out is if Crowe cut his hair or shaved at all this winter. Did he hibernate like a bear and not tend to his grooming needs? Is he like Casey Blake, where he only gets his haircut if a teammate does it for him for free?

Other than that, I guess Crowe will be in a position to fight for a bench spot. It all depends on what the Indians want to do with their other reserve spot. Crowe can't play the infield, so he doesn't have any claim to stake there like Duncan does. if Sizemore is a no-go, that's great news for Crowe as the fourth outfield job for the start of 2011 comes open and that is something he definitely has a chance to win.

R Shelley Duncan
What to Expect: Contention for Bench Spot, Battling for Roster Life

Well, we don't even know if Shelley Duncan is going to be on the roster. With the signing of Orlando Cabrera not official at the time of this posting, Duncan could be on the way out to clear 40-man room. If he survives, the Indians must really really really like Duncan and have a spot for him on the roster. Otherwise Duncan is out.

That doesn't mean Duncan won't be out of the organization though. If he remains with the organization, he'll probably still be able to fight for a bench job. Again, if Sizemore is not ready to go, that is good news for all the outfielders. The chances of him making the roster otherwise could be sketchy. Having him around in Columbus is certainly something the club would like though and if that is the case, there isn't much Duncan needs to do at that point. We know what he's all about.

R Austin Kearns - $New York Yankees
What to Expect: Fourth Outfielder, Grady Sizemore Insurance Policy


The signing of Austin Kearns tells us two things. One, he really likes Cleveland. Two, the Indians really like him, but they also have concerns about Grady Sizemore. Kearns did such a great job in the early portion of the season when the Indians were searching for anyone to pick up the slack. Now he can come in and be a nice little insurance policy in case Sizemore can't quite go.

If Sizemore can go, he is probably one of the best fourth outfielders a team could ask for. He knows the clubhouse, so while it is a free agent addition, it really isn't. It's a re-addition for the Tribe and Kearns is a great fit for this squad.

L Grady Sizemore
What to Expect: Starting Center Fielder, Rehab


The scary thing is, we don't know what to expect out of Grady Sizemore's knee thanks to the micro-fracture surgery he underwent last season. This is borderline revolutionary in terms of baseball, so we are in uncharted territory when it comes to his rehab. The hope is he'll be ready for opening day, but the knowledge given so far is that he won't be ready for the start of spring games. That I think is something that the Indians wouldn't do even if he was 100% cleared.

Sizemore will be eased into action. The hope is he hits all his steps and can be ready to start the season not on the disabled list. From there though, how often does he play? We all know Grady is an all-out type of a guy and that he wants to play everyday and the club will let him if he's healthy. But we also know that the all-out type of a play and attitude has sort of put him in this position. Another thing to watch is how he is in the field. There is the talk that the surgery may force Sizemore out of the center field position and even without the surgery, some think Brantley may be better anyway.

Sizemore is clearly going to be the most watched player this spring. From the injury, to the status defensively, to how he looks on the base paths. There is a lot riding on his health and stability and if he is ready to go in April with no restrictions, there will be a lot of happy people.

L Nick Weglarz - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development

Our big ox of a guy Nick Weglarz made it to Columbus last year, which means he's right on the door-step of getting that call to Cleveland. Last year he came in as one of the top prospects in this organization. He's sort of fallen off of that, but not because he took a complete nose-dive in his numbers. Rather the additions to the farm system have had a big impact in his rankings. Weglarz can still mash though and if Hafner's contract wasn't around, there would be more wiggle room to push him.

Big Red is still young though and any long term injury or need may prompt the Indians to make it Weglarz time. He can play the field and perhaps if there was more of a pressing need, there might be more discussion around him. But guys like Crowe and Carrera are going to get the first shot if say, Sizemore isn't ready for a few weeks. When Weglarz gets his shot, it will be in the matter of Santana. Once he gets here, it is going to be for good.

NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Tuesday, February 15th: Final Overview

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