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2.11.2013

2013 Spring Training Primer: Part 1

Nino Colla | Monday, February 11, 2013 | | Best Blogger Tips
2013 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Primer
As I say every year.... Today is the day we've been waiting for...Maybe.

Like last year, it was actually yesterday. P's and C's officially reported on Sunday, but Sunday is a day to relax and, well, I planned on this going up on Monday, so, there's that. You relaxed on Sunday, I actually worked heavily on this with all the last minute news. And that's another thing. If it went up Sunday, two big moves would have been excluded, which always seems to be the case. I win!

I know why you've come though. You're excited for the Spring! Indians baseball is here, it's back, and it has a fresh new look. Last year we were excited because Austin Kearns wasn't involved in anything, and well, that really was it. That and the shorter list of injuries. It may be even shorter this year and with Grady Sizemore not in the fold, you can guarantee no one will be hurt the moment they step onto the grass in Goodyear. Okay that was a cheap pot shot that I regret, but hey, I made it and I can't go back now. I could, but I won't. Nick Swisher is here, Terry Francona is the new manager and, thus, will bring a new routine for the Spring, there are a bunch of new additions, with a few familiar faces no longer hanging around, and well, the Indians had one heck of a fun offseason.

I've taken the liberty to break this off into two parts, with the second part coming on Tuesday. Point blank, it just got really lengthy this year and to give you time to breath, I've broken it up.

So let's hope that Spring is even more fun, and that the 2013 year tops it all.

Three Up - Keep an Eye On

Trevor Bauer, SP: There's been a lot of positive coming from the Trevor Bauer trade. After acquiring him, the Indians brought him into Cleveland to meet with the media and he came off as completely the opposite of what he was rumored to be like in Arizona. And he even admitted that he is still learning, not only in the field of baseball, but in the field of being a teammate and interacting with people. He very much seems like he learned from his experience in the desert and if that's the case, the Indians might have stolen away a long-term Ace of their staff. Bauer meanwhile comes into this camp with a lot of prove and with a rotation that has questions, he very much could win a spot out of camp. The Indians may want to pump the breaks on that, regardless of what he does this spring, but if he gives them no reason to send him down, they'll have no choice.
MLB.com

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B: I was incredibly impressed with Lonnie Chisenhall and the way he came back from his injury (more on that in a second) last season. It was an attitude that pretty much said, "I need to get back to prove that I'm the starting third baseman, with no doubts." I think he did that. He came back, he played really well, and has really left no doubt about who the starting third baseman is. He may not play against EVERY single left-handed pitcher, but he's the guy at the hot corner. It was almost if he made that "adjustment" and is now ready to take that next step as an important piece to the Indians lineup.

Yan Gomes, C: We may not know much about Yan Gomes, a new addition to the club from Toronto. With a few guys in the Blue Jays pipeline at the catcher position, Gomes was a bit expendable and to add onto all of that, Gomes has versatility. He's more than just a catcher, but his ability to play that position should give the Indians flexibility with their DH spot and the rest of their lineup. Gomes however shows some good potential after the display he put on for Team Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. As the only MLB-er on Brazil's squad, Gomes led the team into the tournament. He's chosen not to compete in the actual tournament though, deciding rather to be in Indians camp all spring in an effort to win a roster spot. You have to admire that.

Prospect Dark Horse
MILB.com

Tim Fedroff, OF: There is a legitimate opening for a fourth outfielder on this team and it could go to someone young. With 40-man status, both Ezequiel Carrera and Tim Fedroff have legs up on the competition, a bunch of veteran non-roster invitees. Carrera is the favorite, Fedroff is the dark horse. With a well-regarded eye for getting on base the past few seasons between his stints in Akron and Columbus, Fedroff is a bit of a rising name with little attention. He could be Ben Francisco-Redux, oddly enough someone the Indians brought back this offseason, or he could really be someone who knows how to hit and can translate it to the major leagues. Either way he is a solid defender, can play all three outfield spots, and would be a good under the radar candidate for the fourth outfield spot.

Injury Watch

Nick Hagadone, RP - Hand
After punching hard objects in frustration, Nick Hagadone got put on the disqualified list and in the doghouse. All may be forgotten though as both Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp are gone and the Indians only signed Rich Hill to a minor league deal. Not to mention, he's the more experienced guy between he and Scott Barnes. More importantly, his injured pitching hand should be healed, but what a way to set yourself back with a non-pitching injury to the thing that is the key to your career.

Carlos Carrasco, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
More than a year removed from Tommy Johns Surgery, Carlos Carrasco has been on the comeback trail. The good news is that he made some rehab outings for the Aeros last season in the playoffs and end of regular season. It still takes a good amount of time after surgery to return to a no-restrictions form. The Indians will have some limits on Carrasco and I question if he actually starts the season in the rotation right away. All signs point to him being a member of the rotation though and getting to pitch, which the Indians really really need.

CC Lee, RP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Unfortunately, the dreaded Tommy John Surgery took the year away from CC Lee. It did more than that though as Lee was knocking on the door to the major leagues. With little to prove in Columbus, Lee was probably going to be called up at some point in 2012, sort of like how Cody Allen was. Now he'll have to spend some time regaining form, if he can regain form and put himself back into the position he was last year. I hope he can because he is a big key to the Indians depth in the bullpen.
Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports

Josh Tomlin, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
And our run of Tommy John is over with the guy who will probably not be around at all this season. Tomlin underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of last season, meaning he's probably out the entire year. He may make it to a rehab point late in the season, but this is very much a lost year for Tomlin like it was for Carrasco last year.

Michael Brantley, OF - Abdominal
Brantley had surgery on a sports hernia right after the season ended in October. He should be 100% good to go and ready for spring with no restrictions and more than rehabbed from everything. I'm sure it wasn't a fully normal offseason, but much better than we've become accustomed to with Brantley and his injuries. He started having some issues towards the end of the season, including a strained left groin.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B - Arm
Lonnie Chisenhall did everything he possibly could to get back to playing last season after he suffered a broken forearm. He came back sooner than expected, played more than anyone thought, and even came on incredibly strong. No doubts for 2013, and no need to have played winter ball. He should be fully recovered.

40 Man Endangered Species

Frank Herrmann, RP: Making it through the offseason is one thing, with the Rule V Draft and this offseason in particular with all the Indians acquisitions. Making it through the offseason AND spring training is another thing. Herrmann could have very well been taken off the 40 Man at some other point this offseason, but he didn't. But that means he's likely one of the first to go if the Indians need to add one of their non-roster invitees that makes the squad. And if one of those guys is a reliever, it's even more likely. He can make that not an issue though if he wins one of those bullpen spots up for grabs.

David Huff, SP: Jeanmar Gomez is gone, which means that David Huff could very well be the "last man" in line in regards to the rotation. What helps his cause is that Huff came out of the bullpen last year for the Major League squad, and since he is a left-hander (and the only left-handed starter on the 40-man), he has that advantage. However, if he doesn't show more worth than a guy like Scott Kazmir, he may be in danger of losing his status. In fact, he has no options, so if he doesn't make the team, he will lose his spot.

Juan Diaz, SS: Last year the Indians had no backup shortstop. At one point they were so hurt, they had to call up Juan Diaz to be their backup shortstop. Diaz is still very much young and has not even had a full-time shot in Columbus. Now, Mike Aviles is in the fold and if the Indians need another roster spot, Diaz could be on the chopping block. He could get scooped up by another team though because he has options, so the Indians would probably prefer not to do that.

Cord Phelps, IF: Whether he's been given a fair shot is a matter of discussion, but Phelps has been given multiple shots to play. He's also been groomed to kind of play everywhere, something the Indians have put some time and effort into. Yet he still doesn't ever seem to be a favorite to get an opportunity to win a bench job. Of course, if he does something to make you notice him, that could work in his favor, but with Jason Donald now gone, he may have more of an opportunity to catch some eyes. Or he may have more of an opportunity to get skated over once again.

Chris McGuiness, 1B: Because he's a Rule V pick, McGuiness needs to make the squad or be offered back up to the Rangers. Of course if the Indians like him enough, they can work out a trade. Either way, something will give and he'll either vacate that 40-man spot he has or keep it and more than likely take up a 25-man spot too.
MLB.com

Mike McDade, 1B: Another bat coming over for Toronto, with Russ Canzler gone, McDade and McGuiness become the focal point of the corner infielder bat/possible DH occupant battle that will happen this spring. The Indians were able to successfully sneak LaPorta (eh, no one wanted him, so they didn't sneak anything) through waivers, but failed with Canzler. It says a lot about how much they must like McDade and McGuiness, so I can't imagine either, but McDade especially, are in any grave danger, but you never know.

Position Battles

Final Two Bullpen Spots
ContendersFrank Herrmann, Cody Allen, Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone, Matt Capps, Jerry Gil, Scott Kazmir, Joe Martinez, Edward Paredes, Fernando Nieve, Rich Hill, David Huff
I don't think the spot to Nick Hagadone is set in stone and as much as Allen impressed last year, he's still young and with options. If he's a big part of what the Indians are doing in the future, they're not going to put him at the tail end of their bullpen to be the long-man. That's the biggest argument for Matt Capps, Rich Hill, and if he doesn't win a rotation spot, Scott Kazmir. I don't think none of the other names matter, and while Herrmann could play a good long man, he's more in danger of losing his 40 man spot than anything. It's Allen, Barnes, Hagadone, and Hill in my mind for two spots.

Fifth Rotation Spot
ContendersDavid Huff, Zach McAllister, Scott Kazmir, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Daisuke Matsuzaka
You know, Trevor Bauer should get the spot on paper. But this whole deal is not done on paper. I think ultimately that this is a McAllister-Bauer battle but as always is the case with this roster spot, every guy is going to get an equal shot. Jeanmar Gomez probably was not picked by most last year to emerge from that battle and yet, he did with an amazing spring. Kluber could do the same, making it hard for the Indians to deny him the first crack, but after the base he set last year, McAllister probably has the best shot. Scott Kazmir and Dice-K have a lot to prove, and need roster spots, and Bauer, well, he's Bauer. He has the ability to make the Indians put him there and could very well do just that. For a nice report on Scott Kazmir, my TCF colleague Adam Burke had a real good report on some interesting pieces to Kazmir's comeback that you can't help be be optimistic about. The Dice-K last-minute signing is interesting, but I think it's more along the lines of a "down-the-road" type of signing and he'll go to Columbus as depth.

Semi-Starting Designated Hitter
Contenders: Chris McGuiness, Mike McDade, Yan Gomes, Matt LaPorta, Jason Giambi
Well this is interesting. It was interesting before Saturday but it grew in its interest with the addition of Giambi. It is anyone's best guess where this goes at this point, but two guys in this clog could end up with spots. You can essentially look at this as a second final bench spot. It is very much a place holder, unless Giambi comes in and wins it, then there's no doubt, he's starting at DH more often than not and that would significantly change the makeup of the lineup, the roster, everything. If one of the young guys comes in, then, well, there's a lot of flexibility.

Fourth Outfielder
Contenders: Zeke Carrera, Tim Fedroff, Ben Francisco, Jeremy Hermida, Cedric Hunter, Matt Carson, Ryan Raburn
The late adds of Ryan Raburn and Jeremy Hermida make this a really interesting battle as Zeke Carrera is considered the favorite and Fedroff is in the mix by virtue of his 40-man status. Hermida and Raburn have major league experience and Raburn adds a little mix of versatility position-wise. Don't forget Ben Francisco who has some familiarity to this club, but not exactly the coaching staff. How the Indians approach this could very well be dictated by what happens elsewhere because of who you would need to get onto the 40-man roster. With two options that are already on, then that really impacts the chances of everyone else.

Final Bench Spot
Contenders: Matt LaPorta, Luis Hernandez, Ryan Raburn, Nate Spears, Mike McDade, Chris McGuiness, Cord Phelps, Yan Gomes, Tim Fedroff
And of course, as always, the last man on the squad. The Indians have a lot to pick from, even when you take two of these names off. Again, like the fourth outfield, this could really be impacted based off the picks in other spots. If you run out of 40 spots to clear and add, you might end up taking a guy that has 40-man status already. You may have to make a hard cut to get a guy like Ryan Raburn on the roster. These battles are very fluid and ever changing and really cannot take true shape until the final few days of spring.

Some Stats That Matter
- Jason Giambi hit .280 as a DH last season in six games. That was obviously when the Rockies were Interleague play. The year before he hit .304 with a pair of home runs in six games as the DH. He may still have it. At least the Indians can find out.
-More importantly, despite the fact that he's a left-handed hitter, Giambi hits the lefties. He hit .296 against them compared to .194 against righties last season. It's a very small sample size though, but it breaks down to 8 hits in 27 at-bats against LHP and 12 hits in 62 at-bats against RHP. Career wise, it's very much an even look average wise.
-Michael Brantley played 144 games in center last year, gaining 342 total chances at that spot. Four other players combined for 68 total chances, bringing the grand total up to 410 chances in center. Granted, this doesn't include the idea of range for each individual player, but that is at least a good basis to determine a rough number of how many more catch-able balls are hit to center. Left field? Well of the 10 players that recorded a chance (more on that in a second), the combined total was...345. A matter of three chances compared to just Brantley, but in grand totals, significantly more still in center. Food for thought when Francona is deciding.
-Since I have these stats, see if you can guess the answer to this trivia question. Johnny Damon had the most chances in left last season. Shelley Duncan was second with 77, meaning that 179 chances were taken by Damon and Duncan, yikes. Based off that 345 number, that's a little over half of the chances. My trivia question though? If I told you Zeke Carrera was third, who was fourth? The answer in a few stats.
-Just to give you an idea how much more ground Zeke covers than those two. He played in 36 games with 236 innings in left. Yet he only had 7 less chances than Shelley Duncan, who played in 57 games with 404 innings. Damon was at 396 innings and 56 games. So Duncan was clearly a little lacking in the chances he got. That could be a matter of chance, because he is probably about equal in terms of range, if not better, than Damon at this stage of their careers. Carrera though, clearly could get to more balls and therefor, you may want to take that into account in the number of total chances in left.
-The answer to the question? Simple: Aaron Cunningham. Highlight the space there for the answer. But also know that he also had 69 total chances also playing in center.
-While the numbers from last year do not indicate it, Lou Marson hits better against the left-handed pitchers. He has a career .264 average and .354 on-base percentage against them. He needs more starts against the lefies, which is much more probable as you can keep Santana in the lineup as a DH and still have someone like Gomes as a catcher just in case.
-Aside from stretches in the beginning of the year when Asdrubal was banged up, the primary backup for him when he needed a breather? Brent Lillibridge. Jason Donald and Juan Diaz got several consecutive starts at short in April and May, but from there on out, Cabrera was a regular member of the lineup. Lillibridge as a shortstop hit .216 with a .300 OBP and three RBI. Regardless of his totals, that was 18 games of Cabrera being replaced with a rather poor bat.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Primer on Tuesday!

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