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2.21.2012

2012 Spring Training Primer

Nino Colla | Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | | Best Blogger Tips
2012 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Primer
As I say every year.... Today is the day we've been waiting for...Maybe.

It was actually yesterday... But here is the thing about life without your own personal computer. You accomplish things. Well, you accomplish other things. Finishing up the ST Primer? Yeah, not so much around these parts. I guess accomplishing one thing I wouldn't have accomplished and getting the primer out there a day late isn't bad.

But let's continue on, because you came here to read about Indians baseball, which starts up in a few days here. I know, contain your excitement if you can. We have a lot to look forward this spring, among them being: The injury list isn't 25 players long, most positions are settled, Austin Kearns is nowhere to be found, Russell Branyan isn't walking through that door, Russ Canzler is here to save the day, Fausto Carmona is now Roberto HH, Casey Kotchman is at first base, and this post is significantly shorter than in year's past.

So enjoy the ride, because 2012 is officially on!

Three Up - Keep an Eye On

Russ Canzler, 1B: Before Casey Kotchman signed, Russ Canzler was here to save us all from Matt LaPorta! Now all he may be doing is saving Columbus from Matt LaPorta. The Indians acquired Canzler in a trade days before they signed Kotchman and the thought was Canzler would come in and compete for the first base job. Yeah about that... Canzler will compete for a backup role, but with options he is likely destined for Columbus and the International League, where he won the IL MVP award last season. Canzler can play more than first, which gives him an advantage, but the Indians already have Shelley Duncan.

Aaron Cunningham, OF: Another new acquisition, Aaron Cunningham comes from the Padres and the Indians used some bullpen depth in grabbing him. He used to play for Oakland but never really has received a shot at either stop. So here he is in Cleveland, on the 40-man and very much a contender to be the fourth outfielder on this club, which very much means he could be a starting outfielder at any point. Keep an eye on Cunningham because he may try and do something with this opportunity.

Michael Brantley, OF: I think it's time to put-up or shut-up for Michael Brantley. He has talent, he's shown he can play, he can even be the leadoff guy if he wants. But he has to stay healthy and he has to live up to that talent. I think this is it for him. He's going to have to show it here or he may end up middling around from here on out.

Prospect Dark Horse

Nick Hagadone, RP: The move to the bullpen gave Hagadone the push (and kept him healthy) that he needed. He pitched in nine games last year towards the end of the season and with a departure in Chad Durbin there are a few spots to claim in the bullpen. Hagadone has the stuff to be a high impact late inning type of reliever and if he demonstrates that in spring, he'll become a full-fledged member of the Bullpen Mafia.

Injury Watch

Grady Sizemore, OF - Body
I should just copy+paste last year's paragraph. Look we don't know what's up here, but the Indians felt that Sizemore could contribute or else they probably wouldn't have brought him back. They aren't an organization that makes emotional decisions. Could his body break down again? Yeah, the chances are actually pretty high. Do we and everyone else in the organization hope it doesn't? You betcha. If he stays healthy, he makes a lot of money himself and the Indians win a lot of games.

Hector Rondon, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Who knows if we see Hector Rondon, but he's on the road to recovery from Tommy John. Last year you didn't even expect to see him, but this year, you just never know. He'll probably be in Minor League camp, but hopefully progress is progress.

Carlos Carrasco, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Don't expect to see Carlos Carrasco at all this season. Maybe he'll make it to the rehab portion down in Arizona, but his 2012 ended when his 2011 ended. It's unfortunate as this was just the first blow to the Indians rotation depth (Fausto Carmona being the second) and if both were still around, the starting five would look rather impressive.

Nick Weglarz, OF - Your Pick
Nick Weglarz is still on the 40 man roster, which makes whatever ailment he has relevant to us. This is someone who really can't catch a break because if it isn't one thing, it's another. He's really the last of the Indians "old breed" of draft picks and it makes sense that he can't make it to the major leagues due to injuries. That seemed to be the theme of those picks.

40 Man Endangered Species

Corey Kluber, SP: The prospect acquired in the Jake Westbrook deal is probably on thin-ice as far as his roster status goes. Even with the departure of Pomeranz and White, Kluber can't find his footing. He's a few roster moves away from getting booted off the 40-man because Gomez, Huff, and McAllister are all ahead of him. Now Scott Barnes is on the roster and making a b-line for Cleveland as well.

Danny Salazar, P: I'm still not even sure why he was rostered in the first place.


Thomas Neal, OF: You can't not love T-Daddy Neal, but the fact of the matter is there are some guys gunning for a spot and he probably isn't one of them. With a 40-man spot and he not-likely to be in Cleveland, he is in a vulnerable position.

Nick Weglarz: From second, or even first best prospect in the system, Nick Weglarz has just had one too many injuries to stay on the radar. Now with so many other outfield options, he becomes a likely candidate to get jettisoned off the 40-man if it becomes necessary. The talent and the power is still there, but the opportunity might not be.

Position Battles

Final Two Bullpen Spots
Contenders: Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, Chris Ray, Chris Seddon, Robinson Tejeda
Chad Durbin is gone and Herrmann's spot isn't guaranteed, which means there are officially two spots open in the Bullpen Mafia. Nick Hagadone has to have an inside track given his familiarity with the club and his potential. Herrmann might have an edge due to his ability to be more of a long-man. Ray, Wheeler, and Accardo are all veterans who have had success at some point, with Wheeler likely being one who you could favor. Tejeda might hold that Herrmann edge in that he can be more of a long-reliever as well.

Fifth Rotation Spot
Contenders: Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Zach McAllister, Kevin Slowey, Jon Garland
If you wanna call it a competition. The Indians were not expecting to have this competition this spring, that was until Fausto Carmona became Roberto Heredia. Now we're looking at a four horse race. Slowey was acquired immediately after the Carmona news broke in exchange for Zach Putnam from Colorado. He is likely the leader in the clubhouse and it will take a lot to unseat him given the Indians know what they have in Huff and Gomez. Garland is an interesting signing late, but he is on a minor league, which will put him at a disadvantage.

Starting Third Baseman
Contenders: Lonnie Chisenhall, Jack Hannahan, Andy LaRoche
This is by far the most intriguing spot open in my mind. I think Hannahan will end up winning it, but what happens here is going to be really important. If Chisenhall isn't the starting third baseman, he could end up in Columbus as his versatility ends at third base. The Indians might want him to play every day, especially so he gets his at-bats against left-handed hitters. If Chisenhall does win, it likely will not be in a full-time capacity as he will still probably split time with Hannahan because the guy will be on the roster in some way.

Backup Infielder Spot
Contenders: Jose Lopez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jack Hannahan, Jason Donald, Cord Phelps, Gregorio Petit, Matt LaPorta
What a mess this is. Guess that Hannahan wins, Chisenhall goes down, and Kipnis wins. That leaves a nice little mess. If Donald and Phelps are in the mix, they also have the "added value" of being able to man an outfield spot. Matt LaPorta is kind of stuck in that he is sort of in the next category, but he sort of isn't.

Outfield & Bench Spot
Contenders: Shelley Duncan, Trevor Crowe, Aaron Cunningham, Ezequiel Carrera, Felix Pie, Ryan Spilborghs, Fred Lewis, Chad Huffman, Russ Canzler, Cord Phelps
The Indians are going to pick a fourth outfielder and it will likely be from Cunningham and Carrera because they both have 40-man spots. But then they have one more bench spot to give out and they would probably like to pick someone who has a little more versatility. Could they pick someone like Ryan Spilborghs? Sure. But it is likely they go with someone like Shelley Duncan or Russ Canzler because they'd be prime options to step in for Hafner if he goes down.

Five Burning Questions Headed into Spring Training

1. Why did the Indians sign so many veterans?
The question here needs to be answered with another question. Why not? The Indians were burned by depth last year and more depth is good. These are all capable minor league veterans as well. If someone went down, I don't think Acta or Antonetti would have a problem calling up Fred Lewis from the minors. It's a good backup plan to have. They don't want to be in a position of having to call up a minor league player that isn't ready (even though Zeke Carrera was a nice surprise, that was not ideal last year) or a scrub who isn't a valuable replacement. You'll noticed they did so in the areas they are weak in terms of depth. Not many starting pitchers were signed because that pool to pick from is already good.

2. Who stands to benefit the most from any sort of injury?
It will all depend on the area the injury is in. For example, last year a Jason Donald injury led to Jack Hannahan's opportunity. Generally though, any of these minor league invitees stand a good chance if a starter or even a bench player goes down in some capacity. Any sort of injury can open up the chance for more playing time really, so the better the opportunity, the better the chance for anyone. Any of those outfielders, Spilborghs, Lewis, Cunningham, can all gain from Sizemore or Brantley getting slowed down if they were to get slowed down.
 
Photo - AP via Ohio.com
3. So the first base competition is over, right?
Yeah it pretty much ended with Kotchman signing. What will happen to Matt LaPorta? I can't see him winning a roster spot, not with Shelley Duncan around and even though he is out of options, the Indians can't carry him and Duncan. This could end the LaPorta era in Cleveland, but he had his opportunities and this team is trying to contend. If his defense was at least good, it would give him a chance but Kotchman is the superior defender and he'll at least be able to hit a curveball. Unfortunate for LaPorta, but that's how it's happening.

4. Carmona? Heredia?
Don't expect either to show up anytime soon, especially not for Spring Training.

5. Wait, there are only two starting spots up for grabs... Joke, right?

No, and isn't it nice? It is nice to have a roster pretty much set and the non-injuries play a factor in that of course. The Indians have pretty much everything set aside from a fifth starter and a third baseman and the rest are reserve roles, which are likely for every team. For once there will not be a whole heck of a lot of pressure for a lot of these players as spring progresses. Now let's just hope everyone makes it to April.

25 Man Roster Projections

Starting Lineup
C – Carlos Santana
1B – Casey Kotchman
2B - Jason Kipnis
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
3B – Jack Hannahan
LF – Michael Brantley
CF – Grady Sizemore
RF – Shin-Soo Choo
DH – Travis Hafner

No shockers anywhere here. You know someone will get nicked up though.

Bench
C – Lou Marson
IF – Jason Donald
IF/OF – Shelley Duncan
OF – Aaron Cunningham

This is anyone's best guess, but considering Cunningham is on the 40 and the Indians have featured Donald and Duncan as prominent members of this organization, I think they have the huge inside track to winning jobs.

Starting Rotation
1. Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Justin Masterson
3. Josh Tomlin
4. Derek Lowe
5. Jon Garland

I think if he is actually signed, Jon Garland will win a rotation spot. They say he's healthy and a healthy Jon Garland is better than Kevin Slowey.

Bullpen
Closer – Chris Perez
8th Inning – Vinnie Pestano
Bullpen – Joe Smith
Bullpen – Tony Sipp
Bullpen – Rafael Perez
Bullpen – Nick Hagadone
Bullpen – Dan Wheeler

The Mafia! I think Nick Hagadone will claim a spot and the last one will go to another veteran in Dan Wheeler. If Frank Herrmann has options, why not use them and see what you can get out of Wheeler. Provided he actually performs well, which I think he will.

Four-Deep Depth Chart
Catcher: Carlos Santana, Lou Marson, Luke Carlin, Chun Chen
This is in a better spot than it was last year as now Chen has reached the position to where he really could be an option if needed. Luke Carlin will still get the call if Marson or Santana get hurt, and if they do have to go beyond that, they may sign someone or call up someone like Michel Hernandez if Chen isn't deemed ready.

First Base: Casey Kotchman, Shelley Duncan, Matt LaPorta, Russ Canzler

This is anyone's guess... I'm just starting with who's starting and finishing with who's not.

Second Base: Jason Kipnis, Jason Donald, Cord Phelps, Jose Lopez
There are no shortage of options, thankfully. Jason Donald would be chomping at the bit to get a full-time shot somewhere. I think Jose Lopez ends up in Columbus as the vet on standby for the infield.

Third Base: Jack Hannahan, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Donald, Cord Phelps
I think this is what it will look like? At least it isn't Nimartuena, right?

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Donald, Cord Phelps, Juan Diaz
I contemplated not listing 2-through-4 but I don't want to tempt the baseball gods.

Left Field: Michael Brantley, Aaron Cunningham, Ezequiel Carrera, Fred Lewis

This works both ways with center field as if Sizemore is hurt, Brantley is shifting.

Center Field: Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Ezequiel Carrera, Felix Pie
There is a wealthy of options to go to if Sizemore gets hurt and it doesn't end with Pie.

Right Field: Shin-Soo Choo, Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, Fred Lewis
The Indians will not find themselves in the pickle they did last year with outfielders if Choo goes down, that is for sure.

On-Call Pitchers

Starting Rotation

1. Kevin Slowey
2. David Huff
3. Jeanmar Gomez
4. Zach McAllister
5. Scott Barnes
I think Huff ends up being the first guy up after Kevin Slowey, but eventually don't be surprised if you see Scott Barnes at some point.

Bullpen
1. Frank Herrmann
2. Jeremy Accardo
3. Robinson Tejeda
4. Chen Lee
Herrmann has the status due to his 40-man status and prospect Chen Lee will be in Cleveland by years end.

Projected Lineups

VS RHP
CF – Grady Sizemore, L
2B – Jason Kipnis
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
C – Carlos Santana, S
DH – Travis Hafner, L
1B – Casey Kotchman, L
3B – Jack Hannahan, R
LF – Michael Brantley, L

Who really knows what Manny Acta has planned... I can only assume it looks something like this, but I could be dead wrong.

VS LHP

CF – Grady Sizemore, L
2B – Jason Kipnis
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
C – Carlos Santana, S
DH – Travis Hafner, L
1B – Casey Kotchman, L
3B – Jack Hannahan, R
LF – Michael Brantley, L

And if he does make it look something like this, it will be the same against left-handers.

Quick Hits
• Trade Candidates: Let's not explore this area this year, kay?
• Official Report Day: Thursday, February 23rd is the day the rest of the position players are required to show, but most are already there.
• First Spring Training Game: March 3rd @ Reds
• Here are the players known to have reported early: Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, Jason Kipnis, Justin Masterson, Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jack Hannahan and his dog.
• The following games will be televised by SportstimeOhio this spring: San Diego (SAT, 3/10, 4:05 PM), Arizona (TUE, 3/12, 4:05 PM), Texas (WED, 3/13, 4:05 PM), Chicago (W) (THUR, 3/15, 4:05 PM), Los Angeles (D) (TUE, 3/19, 4:05 PM), San Francisco (THUR, 3/21, 4:05 PM)
• Cleveland has split quad games on the 11th traveling to face the Angels and Rangers and again on the 29th with the Rockies at Goodyear and traveling to face the Diamondbacks.
• Cleveland's last game in Goodyear is on April 2nd will be against the Reds with the Indians as the home team. Then as they did last year against the Clippers, the squad will play an exhibition opener against the "Carolina Mudcats" in Zebulon, North Carolina. The Mudcats are the new High-A affiliate of the Indians.
• Some late issues with Jon Garland on actually signing his deal. He was supposed to be in camp on Monday to take his physical, but that did not happen. There is no update on when he will be in camp or when this deal will get done, but I'm sure it will get done before games start or else Garland himself will behind, which is not good for him.

Final Outlook
I told you it was significantly shorter. Or maybe that's just my eyes deceiving me, but with less injuries, I think it automatically got cut in half.

A lot of people probably want to be cautiously optimistic about this team and that is fine, but there is a certain feeling you get by listening to some of these players talk. It's backed up by the fact that pretty much all of them are ready to go and there is no mystery as to who will be here and the injuries coming in, are not much of a point of discussion.

It's nice to have a Spring Training with very few issues and questions. And if the biggest question is about Fausto Carmona's availability, then I think we are on a good track for things because that question is easily answered.

Enjoy the glory that is this week as we see all sorts of fun baseball news and especially Thursday, as things really ramp up. Spring Training Rundown will be in action rather soon.

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