2011 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Primer
As I say every year.... Today is the day we've been waiting for...Maybe.
Officially, pitchers and catchers will report to Goodyear, Arizona at the now two-year-old Spring Training Complex for the Indians.
This is the extravagant and long winded bow ceremony for everything we've done over the past two days in regards to prepping our spring training gift. The Spring Training Primer concludes with the actual primer, the entire overview. Most of the team is already there, but officially, all the pitchers and all the catchers should be there, which means we get to talk about baseball again.
Happy Spring Training Day Everyone! Let's get to it.
Three Up - Keep an Eye On
Lou Marson, C: Lou Marson is an interesting name to keep an eye on this spring because there is a silver lining to the offensive year he had in 2010. It can't possibly get much worse can it? Marson hit .195 over 87 games for Cleveland in 2010 and with Columbus he hit .202 in 37 games. Defensively he was good, throwing out the second most base runners among AL backstops. Not bad for someone who only played in 87 games. Marson is actually younger than Carlos Santana, so in some way, there is some hope that maybe he'll come around offensively. If the Indians want to start Marson in Colubmus to get regular at-bats, that will depend on what Marson does this spring. With Santana essentially being the backup first baseman, the backup catcher on this team will play more than a normal backup, so Marson can't hit his weight and expect to contribute, something he didn't even do last year.
Matt LaPorta, 1B: Word on the street is that Matt LaPorta is in great shape as a result of actually spending the offseason conditioning and preparing to play a 162 game season. That's a big change from what he did last year, spending his winter months rehabbing from surgeries and injuries. With confidence that he's going to be the opening day first baseman, an adjustment to his swing that was made last year in Columbus and the offseason of conditioning, LaPorta could be setting himself up for a breakout year in 2011. Spring should be a good indicator for all of us in terms of what he could bring to the table.
Vinnie Pestano, RP: There will be a point in 2011 when Vinnie Pestano is pitching in the Indians bullpen. The question is when will that point be? Will it be from the outset right of spring? Will it be in mid-April when someone gets hurt or at the end of May when the bullpen implodes? Let's hope none of those scenarios happens and Pestano makes his 2011 debut due to the least painful reason. Pestano certainly has an opportunity to win one of the two-to-three bullpen jobs that are up for grabs this spring. And other than Jensen Lewis, he probably is the "hottest" out of the competitors in terms of how he ended 2010.
Prospect Dark Horse
Zach Putnam, RP: If you want a name that could come out of nowhere to win a spot on the roster, you could find few better bets than Zach Putnam. Despite never really blowing the doors off statistically, Putnam has pushed his way through the system at a fantastic rate. His upside and stuff play up in the bullpen way better than they do when he starts. The Indians must love his potential and what they see out of him on the mound, because they keep pushing him and he doesn't back down. What if he actually comes out and puts up the stats that blow you away? Denying him a spot in the pen would be hard to do.
Adam Miller, RP - Finger
Adam Miller is not on the big league invite list, despite some laboring over adding him to the 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule V Draft. But Miller will be with the Indians and the early word? He’s going to participate like a normal pitcher but we’re rapidly approaching the moment of truth. Can he pitch consistently without getting hurt and will he be somewhere near the pitcher of old? Miller will contend for a spot in Columbus and he has to win that if he ever wants to reach that major league goal.
Hector Rondon, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Nope... Not this year. Hector Rondon is a prospect to boot, so the chances of him even pitching in a game above Rookie ball are slim. Rondon sat out most of 2010 due to the injury, but he and the Indians didn't opt for surgery until the end of the season, hoping simple rest and rehab would let everything heal. That didn't happen and now Rondon will be out for 2011 as well. He'll likely gain an extra option year due to missing the season.
Anthony Reyes, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
One year later and here we are again. Anthony Reyes didn't officially pitch for Cleveland last year in his attempt to come back from Tommy John Surgery. He did see some time in the minor leagues, but in an effort to help Anthony forget what happened, we won't even mention the numbers or the starts. They were that bad. Now Reyes has more than a year and an additional offseason of strengthening under his belt, but it still will be an uphill battle. The mechanics Reyes has aren't exactly ideal for someone recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, so not only is he trying to adjust to having his elbow put back together with Elmer's glue and rubber bands, he has to adjust to maybe a change in mechanics so he doesn't do it again. Don't forget, he also had some ulnar nerve surgery done as well. Is Reyes going to contend for a rotation spot? Maybe, but the first thing he needs to do is build up his in-game stamina. We remember what Jake Westbrook went through last year, and that was Jake Westbrook. Reyes could benefit from a little bit of extended spring training and maybe a rehab tour, but likely, the worst of his comeback trail is over.
Bryce Stowell, RP - Elbow
Some believe that the guy that hit 100 MPH on the gun last year was due a call-up in September. We'll never know for sure as Stowell strained the elbow on his throwing arm. The strain ended Stowell's season prematurely either way, but shouldn't be causing him any issues this spring. It's still something to keep an eye on though as elbow strains are never good precursors.
Carlos Santana, C - Knee
An impressive rookie campaign was cut short one week in Boston when Santana suffered damaged LCL as the result of a collision at home plate. Initially, broken leg, ripped up knee, torn ACL, everything short of death was expected. Santana underwent surgery and now over a half a year later, he's been cleared for 100% activity this spring. I'm sure the Indians will hold him back slightly, easing him a little easier than they would if he was 100% healthy and without concern, but he's as close to ready as you are going to get coming back from a knee surgery. He should be go to go for the start of spring games and a definite yes for April 1st, baring any set-backs.
Jayson Nix, 2B - Noggin
One of the reasons Jayson Nix's campaign in Puerto Rico wasn't very telling was the fact that he missed nine games after being hit in the head. Nix resumed play, and should be fine this spring.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - Arm
We all know by now, but Asdrubal Cabrera had his arm sat on by Jhonny Peralta. The result of that was a broken arm, sad. Cabrera is completely healed, but he sure didn't look like himself after his return. Let's see how he looks, in addition to him supposedly getting in better shape this offseason.
Grady Sizemore, OF - Left Knee
The knee of Grady Sizemore is clearly the center of attention. Other than Tommy John Surgery, all the other ailments mentioned in this section are cuts and bruises compared to the micro-fracture surgery Sizemore had on his knee. The surgery was done in early June, so he's had months between now and then. But this is a bit of an experimental case in regards to baseball players. Sizemore won't get into games until the middle of March, but Manny Acta recently tweeted he took his first batting practice session on Saturday. The knee will be a hot topic all spring and until Grady Sizemore is in the starting lineup on April 1st, no one will rest.
40 Man Endangered Species
Aaron Laffey, RP: He has options left, but that doesn't matter with as long as Laffey has been around. Laffey's status on this team has always been a question mark. Now that he's most likely a full-time reliever, there stands a better chance of disposing of him if the Indians see fit. He's probably on the lower end of this list, but he's still on it.
Jensen Lewis, RP: With no options left, if the Indians want to send Jensen Lewis down to Columbus, they'll have to pass him through waivers first. For that reason, I think Lewis is probably the lowest on this list of "endangered species." He should be safe, but keep in mind his lack of options if he gets off to a bad start and the Indians want to make a call to Columbus. They simply can't put him on the shuttle anymore.
Joe Martinez, RP: One of the newest additions to the club is probably the least likely to get the boot if the situation calls for it. In fact, if he doesn't make the 25-man roster, there is a chance he's kicked out, especially if the is a need for a 40-man roster spot.
Jess Todd, RP: There was thought that Jess Todd could be on the outs as far as the 40-man roster was concerned. That still may be the case, but with guys like Pestano and Herrmann pushing ahead, and others like Stowell and Putnam on the horizon, he better pick it up. Joe Martinez is probably closer to the chopping block, so he won't have to worry if there is any reliever business to take care of, but we better see "The Todd" in Cleveland sometime this season, or he will soon lose his 40-man status.
Jayson Nix, 2B: There is a chance that the Indians end the Nix experiment to add Orlando Cabrera, but that chance isn't large as Nix is probably the front-runner to take over third to start the year. Nix is no stranger to the waiver wire though and that is where he'll likely find himself if he doesn't come out of the gates playing well defensively. His offensive is marginal, but if he is putrid with the glove, he won't be worth keeping around.
Trevor Crowe, OF: With Nick Weglarz nearing his arrival and now a younger and more quicker type of fourth outfielder on the 40-man in Zeke Carrera, Manny Acta's man-crush on Crowe may not be enough to save him. You don't need two of the same type of player on the 40-man and if a need arises, Crowe could play himself off the 40-man.
Shelley Duncan, OF: With Orlando Cabrera now on board, the chances of Shelley Duncan staying on this list are now slim. He may be moved to the extinct category rather quickly. There was times in the offseason that you thought he may be on the outs, especially when they signed Austin Kearns, but Duncan's survival made you think the Indians like him a lot. If he survives the Cabrera signing, there certainly is something special the Indians see in him, but that is unlikely.
Final Three Bullpen Spots
Contenders: Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann, Josh Judy, Aaron Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Joe Martinez, Doug Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell, Jess Todd
Whoa what a mess... I wouldn't even consider a good portion of these guys. Todd, Mathis, Martinez, and Germano are all fodder if you ask me. The real contest is between Herrman, Laffey, Judy, Putnam, Stowell, and Pestano for two of the spots. I think Jensen Lewis is pretty much guaranteed a spot given that they took time to tender him an offer in the offseason. Out of those six options, the two I like best are Pestano and Judy. I like the young guys and I think one of the two will win a spot based off performance. Putnam and Stowell are nice, but they are not on the 40-man roster and I can see the Indians opting to start them in Columbus no matter what. Herrmann is very much well in the mix after last season and then you have Aaron Laffey, the wild card that the club still has no clue what they are doing with.
Fifth Rotation Spot
Contenders: Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Doug Mathis, Anthony Reyes, Josh Tomlin
The two names you want to watch here the most are probably Josh Tomlin and David Huff. Anthony Reyes has too much to prove, Doug Mathis stands little shot and deep down, even if he pitches well, I think the Indians want Jeanmar Gomez to get a little more Triple-A seasoning. That leaves an advanced Josh Tomlin and a dog-housed David Huff. If you made me pick one right now, I'd pick David Huff based off the hope he can come in and salvage his career. But if you are telling me the competition will be one as it was last year, Tomlin presents more of a challenge to Huff than Carlos Carrasco did, mainly because Carlos Carrasco probably didn't think he had a legitimate shot at beating out Huff. Tomlin had a good rookie campaign and isn't really someone who has to learn much about pitching at the major league level.
Starting Second Baseman
Contenders: Orlando Cabrera, Jason Donald, Adam Everett, Jayson Nix
If they don't announce Orlando Cabrera as the starting second baseman after he signs his contract officially, they probably won't waste much time in doing so. You can assume the other guys here are somewhat in competition, but yeah, this is Cabrera's job to lose. They signed him for a reason and it is likely to start.
Starting Third Baseman
Contenders: Jason Donald, Jared Goedert, Jack Hannahan, Jayson Nix
The assumption last week was that Jason Donald and Jayson Nix would compete for jobs, but it really didn't matter because both would likely win. It just wasn't clear who would go where. Now it looks like they are battling each other for one starting spot at third base. Now the loser could conceivably lose out on the third base job and claim the backup infielder job, but that may not happen if Nix wins. Donald could win and Nix is much more likely to win a backup job. Jared Goedert and Jack Hannahan could be in the mix, but unless you morph them, they probably don't stand a chance. On defense alone, Hannahan is the pick over anyone, but he can't hit worth a lick. Goedert might be the pick based off offense, but he can't play defense.
Backup Infielder Spot
Contenders: Orlando Cabrera, Jason Donald, Adam Everett, Jared Goedert, Jack Hannahan, Jayson Nix, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena
Before the Orlando Cabrera signing, Adam Everett probably had a strangle-hold on this position. Now with essentially a guaranteed contract given to Cabrera, Everett is redundant. If he could play third, he'd have more a chance but we don't know if he can or not. If he can, then he may be worth taking over Luis Valbuena. Otherwise it looks like Luis Valbuena's spot to lose. He could very well lose it though. The loser of Nix/Donald at third will be Valbuena's stiffest competition, but it may not matter at all.
Contenders: Jordan Brown, Travis Buck, Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan
It is conceivable that the Indians go with someone like a Shelley Duncan as their other bench player (over a Nix/Valbuena/Donald/Everett) because he can play first base as well as the outfield. But the likelihood of them carrying five bonafied outfielders is slim. Buck was probably signed for depth in Columbus and if Duncan isn't around, Trevor Crowe, Jordan Brown and Ezequiel Carrera are still there. Austin Kearns could play first base in a pinch but it is expected that if LaPorta doesn't start at first, Santana will. Nix and Valbuena could also probably play first in a pinch.
Five Burning Questions Headed into Spring Training
1. How will the top of the order shake out, with or without Sizemore?
This is an interesting question because we don't know how Acta will choose to integrate Grady and if he will even have to. We saw him move Sizemore into the two hole last year from the start, but is that something he wants to go back to? Hafner won't be hitting cleanup and that means there will not be three left-handed hitters stack in the middle if he were to do so. How will he use Michael Brantley at first? Does he want to throw Brantley in the fire right from the get-go? These are all questions that begin to get answered as the games start as his lineups may clue us in to what direction he may be leaning.
2. Who will Orlando Cabrera's addition impact the most?
It's looking more and more like the Cabrera addition is going to impact Jason Donald the most. He could win the third base job, that's a fact. But if he doesn't, the club will likely want him getting everyday reps in Columbus rather than being the utility player. Even though he is perceived to be a utility player in the future, the club wants him to play now and the Cabrera signing definitively eats up one of the starting spots that was assumed to go to Nix AND Donald. With only one spot now open, Donald likely is the odd man out and because of that, likely destined for Columbus.
3. What happens if a starter is signed?
Well most importantly, it depends on if that pitcher is a minor league signing. The Indians are said to not want to add Bonderman unless it is just that. They've had the discussions with Millwood, but they won't give him the four million he's seeking? would they sign him to a guaranteed deal if he took, say one million? Obviously if one is signed, it really puts a damper on the fifth spot and it is likely one of the two (if that is the case and they earn their spot) will slide into the third or fourth spot and push everyone else down. I think that is really unlikely at this point though, but you never say never.
4. Who's closest to the parent club in terms of prospects?
I think it has to be Cord Phelps. The guy is gaining versatility and he's such an experienced college player who has really taken every challenge at the minor league level. I think he's the first guy up this season. If Jayson Nix goes disaster on us at third, I think Phelps will be the guy this team calls on because you can only get away with playing him like Mark DeRosa for so long. The relievers will all get their shots but it is rather unpredictable in terms of when and how that will happen. In terms of position players though, I think Cord Phelps is the guy we see first. I think we'll see Weglarz at some point and if he shows good health Chisenhall on the same time-table as Santana was last year. Kipnis, is a long shot.
5. What happens if Grady Sizemore can't go?
There is a definitive answer to this question. At least the first part. Austin Kearns will start in left field and Michael Brantley will assume center field duties. Heck, Brantley may assume center field duties at some point anyway, but a Sizemore disabled list stint to start the season will solidify that. Kearns will be the left fielder, they essentially brought him in for that reason and then the fourth outfield spot would be up for grabs. Trevor Crowe would likely be the next in line to be the fourth outfielder by virtue of his ability to play all three outfield positions.
25 Man Roster Projections
C – Carlos Santana
1B – Matt LaPorta
2B - Orlando Cabrera
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
3B – Jayson Nix
LF – Michael Brantley
CF – Grady Sizemore
RF – Shin-Soo Choo
DH – Travis Hafner
In the end, while it isn't the move I'd make, I think Jayson Nix ends up being the guy the Indians go with at third base initially.
C – Lou Marson
IF – Luis Valbuena
IF/OF – Shelley Duncan
OF – Austin Kearns
In a surprise twist, I'm picking Shelley Duncan to win the final bench spot. It makes the most sense if Nix is the third baseman and Luis Valbuena wins (loosely use the term win there) the backup infield spot. Duncan becomes a swing guy that can DH, play corner outfield and first base.
1. Fausto Carmona
2. Justin Masterson
3. Mitch Talbot
4. Carlos Carrasco
5. Josh Tomlin
As long as there are no more additions that go by the names Bonderman or Millwood, I see Josh Tomlin coming out ahead of Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff. I think the battle is mainly between Huff and Gomez and I think the Indians will truly base it off spring performance. If that is the case, I don't like Huff's chances. I think he gets an opportunity at some point this year though.
Closer – Chris Perez
8th Inning – Rafael Perez
Bullpen – Joe Smith
Bullpen – Tony Sipp
Bullpen – Jensen Lewis
Bullpen – Josh Judy
Bullpen – Aaron Laffey
A lot of people default Jensen Lewis, but I think he still has to "win" the spot. That shouldn't be hard though. Aaron Laffey finds a way in as a guy who can give the club some length and I'll go with a bit of a shocker and say Josh Judy will open up the year in Cleveland.
Four-Deep Depth Chart
Catcher: Carlos Santana, Lou Marson, Paul Phillips, Luke Carlin
If Santana goes down, Marson starts and one of the two between Phillips/Carlin backs up. If the Indians opt to give Marson regular at-bats in Columbus, Phillips likely becomes backup. Chun Chen is still a ways away, so this position isn't really deep at the upper levels.
First Base: Matt LaPorta, Shelley Duncan, Austin Kearns, Jared Goedert
Carlos Santana will essentially be LaPorta's backup, starting there at least once a week to stay fresh and so his bat stays in the lineup. Shelley Duncan if he makes the squad is automatically the "reserve" first baseman. Even if he doesn't and still remains with the organization, he'll only be moved behind Kearns who would play there in a pinch. Goedert and Hodges are "the world destroyed everyone in front of them" options.
Second Base: Orlando Cabrera, Luis Valbuena, Jayson Nix, Jason Donald
If Donald makes the squad, Nix becomes backup, Valbuena is last.
Third Base: Jayson Nix, Cord Phelps, Jack Hannahan, Jared Goedert
I think Cord Phelps is the first guy up if Nix is a disaster. I put Hannahan ahead of Goedert based off the fact that I don't think the Indians want to go from one disaster of a third baseman to another.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Donald, Cord Phelps
Orlando Cabrera becomes the primary backup at short, Donald will get the call if something goes wrong and Phelps is the super-deep option.
Left Field: Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe, Ezequiel Carrera
If Sizemore goes down, Brantley slides over and Kearns is option one. After that Crowe and Carrera follow in that order.
Center Field: Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe
See left field...
Right Field: Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe, Ezequiel Carrera
Hope this never gets tested.
1. David Huff
2. Jeanmar Gomez
3. Anthony Reyes
4. Alex White
Huff will be the first guy to get a shot if he doesn't win. If he does win, Tomlin becomes the first option. Gomez should get an opportunity this year at some point but if he doesn't that could be a great thing or a bad thing for him.
1. Vinnie Pestano
2. Frank Herrmann
3. Joe Martinez
4. Zach Putnam
Pestano and Herrmann are essentially 1-1A if neither win a spot out of spring. They are both on the 40-man and are chomping at the bit. Martinez may be next if he keeps his 40-man spot, if not Putnam and Stowell move up. Judy is there if he doesn't win a spot.
CF – Grady Sizemore, L
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
C – Carlos Santana, S
DH – Travis Hafner, L
1B – Matt LaPorta, R
2B – Orlando Cabrera, R
3B – Jayson Nix, R
LF – Michael Brantley, L
Sizemore will probably initially be put back in the leadoff spot, but that could change quickly if Brantley starts off hot. Brantley at nine is like having a second leadoff hitter if the lineup turns over. Hafner is head of LaPorta, but if LaPorta breaks out, he could jump ahead. Nix and Cabrera can be interchangeable.
CF – Grady Sizemore, L
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
C – Carlos Santana, S
DH – Travis Hafner, L
1B – Matt LaPorta, R
2B – Orlando Cabrera, R
3B – Jayson Nix, R
LF – Michael Brantley, L
Exactly the same, for the first time in a few years there's no platoonage.
• Trade Candidates: Orlando Cabrera becomes the most prime trade candidate with his addition. Teams love adding him for stretch runs and if he's playing well, his value only goes up. Grady Sizemore could potentially be thrown into the rumor mill if he comes back healthy and of course teams will bring up Fausto Carmona's name as well. Those two names coming up doesn't mean the Indians will look to trade them though, so don't be fooled.
• The following players are known to have reported to Goodyear before their target report date based off various reports from Jordan Bastian and Manny Acta: Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Grady Sizemore, Chris Perez, Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Kipnis, Travis Buck, Bryce Stowell, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jeanmar Gomez, Alex White, Chun Chen, Justin Masterson, David Huff, Josh Tomlin, Shelley Duncan, Jason Donald, and Jayson Nix.
• Official Report Day: Friday February 18th
• First Spring Training Game: February 27th Vs Reds
• No word on the report date for Orlando Cabrera. It sounds like it will be later this week. According to Jordan Bastian, the club hasn't even made it known he's joining the team. He still has to go through his physical, which the players do after their report date (for pitchers their physicals are Wednesday).
• Weight Watchers: Matt LaPorta was said to look more slim during the Tribe on Tour Event (I could verify, but I don't know what he looked like before hand in person. Looks to be in pretty good shape I guess?).
• Jeremy Sowers tenure with the Indians was pretty much over, but now it likely is after Sowers underwent rotator cuff surgery. Recovery time is anywhere from 9-to-12 months, so he's out and that really puts a damper on his career.
• The following games will be televised by SportstimeOhio this spring: Arizona (Tue, March 8th, 3:05 PM), San Diego (Wed, March 9th, 3:05 PM), Los Angeles Angels (Sat, March 12th, 4:05 PM), San Diego (Sun, March 13th, 4:05 PM), Oakland (Mon, March 14th, 4:05 PM), Milwaukee (Tue, March 15th, 4:05 PM), @ Columbus (Wed, March 30th, 1:05 PM)
• Cleveland has split quad games on the 5th against Chicago and Seattle and the 18th against Kansas City and Texas. The game against the White Sox will be at 3:05 in Goodyear and the game against the Mariners will be away at 3:05 as well. On the 18th they play away against the Royals at 4:05 and at Goodyear against the Rangers at 10:05 PM.
• Cleveland's last game in Goodyear is on the 29th against the Reds with them as the home team. After the trip to Columbus they'll be going right to Cleveland for the opener on April 1st.
I usually like to take this time to wrap everything up and go on about something. This year, I'm tired... So we'll cut it short. This should be an interesting spring with most of the roster filled out. Still there will be some surprises because there always are.
This is basically year two of the new "regime" if you want to call it that. Antonetti may be in his first full year as the regular GM but he has been running a lot of the show for some time now. This is officially year two of the Acta way so we know what to expect, sort of.
As always, I make note that this is my primer. I've included a lot of information from the guys who cover the team and paired it up with my sputtering analysis. Hopefully it serves as a useful guide to you as we navigate through spring together and try and figure out just what kind of team we have here in Cleveland. The great news of it all? This is the end of the offseason and we can officially start talking about things with substance. Thank you and happy P's&C's Day everyone!