Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Coaching Staff Ready for Cactus League Opener?

Woody Allen may of been describing the emotions that Tribe fans have been going through since 1948.

"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love, But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer.  To be happy is to love, To be happy, than, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness." - Woody Allen

The Logic Behind the Chad Durbin Signing

The Indians, according to reports, have signed long reliever Chad Durbin to a 1-year $800,000 major league contract which includes nearly 1 million in incentives.  According to Ken Rosenthal, Durbin is expected to take his physical on Monday.

Chad Durbin will join an Indians bullpen which includes Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, and Jensen Lewis.  Durbin will assume the role as a low leverage reliever and with his abiliyt to work multiple innings will be the long rel.iever.  He has been reliable and durable over the past three seasons in Philadelphia, logging 87.2 innings in 2008, 69.2 innings in 2009, and 68.2 innings in 2010.  Looking at what is referred to as the Leverage Index (LI) for relief pitchers, with 1.0 being considered average, Durbin was a 1.3 in 2008 and a 0.8 in 2009 and 2010. 

As for the roster move, it is my guess that the Indians remove Frank Herrmann from the 40 man roster to make room for Durbin.  I do not forsee anyone claiming Herrmann and adding him to their 40 man, nor do I see the Indians having a gaping hole in that role (Reyes, Laffey, Tomlin, Gomez, Martinez, Mathis). 

Overall, the Indians bullpen is deeper and more experienced with Durbin than with Frank Herrmann or any of the other pitchers mentioned.   The last relief spot may go to someone who can challenge Jensen Lewis, who will be on the shortest leash in camp and early in the 2011 season, as the right handed back end reliever.   Jess Todd, Vinny Pestano, and Josh Judy are probably the most likely candidates as of today.  Or the Indians could add Aaron Laffey to the back end of the bullpen and test Durbin in some more higher leverage situatins as the Phillies did in 2008 while Judy, Pestano, and Todd get consistent work in Columbus to start the season.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Detroit Tigers Poised to Win the Central

The 2011 Tigers are built to score runs.  Led at the top of the order by dynamic CF Austion Jackson and a middle of the order that includes Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Raburn, and Johnny Peralta.  The starting rotation has a true Ace and a vey promising one-two punch with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  On paper, the Tigers rotation is the Achilles heel for the Tigers.  Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, and Brad Penny provide as many questions as answers.  The Tigers are prepared for some short outings by their starters and have assembled a very high octane bullpen that includes Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Perry, and a hopefully healthy Joel Zumaya.  If the Tigers can avoid the injury bug and overcome the defensive liabilities at several positions on the field they should be in position to win their first AL Central Title.

Some of the questions I have about the Tigers are:
  • Will Magglio Ordonez show any ill effects from his 2010 ankle injury.  Will he put up another +.800 OPS season.
  • Which Brennan Boesch is the real one?  The first half or the second half?  Will he break camp with the big league club?
  • Will Rick Porcello be able to pitch to contact successfully or will the defensive lapses behind him affect him more than others.
  • Will Phil Coke be able to effortlessly transition from reliever to starter and provide sufficient innings?
  • Will Brad Penny be able to stay healthy and like Porcello, pitch to contact successfully.
  • Will Miguel Cabrera be able to stay on the straight and narrow for the duration of the 2011 season (it seems to me that being around basebll family may be great support).
  • Will Carlos Guillen return from microfracture surgery and be able to play 2b?
  • Will Will Rhymes/Scott Sizemore be able to provide enough offense and defense at 2b until Guillen is ready to return?
  • Will we see Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner in the rotation in 2011?
  • WIll we see Alex Ortega or Chance Ruffin skyrocket through the system and appear in the Tigers bullpen in 2011?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lou Marson: Backup Catcher

Should Lou Marson return to AAA to get consistent playing time while Paul Phillips or Luke Carlin head North with the Indians to fill the backup catcher role?

Other than the 40-man roster move that would have to be made to get Phillips or Carlin on the roster, neither Phillips or Carlin appear to have the skill set that provide any sort of depth on the major league roster. 

Marson showed the ability to hit at AA Reading in 2008.  He hit .314/.433/.416 in 395 PA (see peripherals below as to why I don't feel he could replicate those numbers).  He has been unable to carry that 2008 production to AAA or the major leagues.   I doubt the Indians feel that Marson will  evolve into an offensive force in AAA and allow them to move Carlos Santana to 1b.  I do believe the Indians see Marson strictly as a backup catcher, a guy to provide a day off for Carlos Santana, will help control the running game, and will provide offense against left handed pitching.

Just some peripheral stats: 

In 2010, Marson had an unbelievably low BABIP of .221  in the majors and .231 in the minors. 

In 2010, Marson had a GB% of 56.9 (league average is 43.2%) in the majors and a GB% of 46.5% in AAA.

Even in Marson's best 2008 AA season he had a GB% of 59.1 but a BABIP of .386.

Let's first take a look at the obvious backup catching options that are in camp.  Keep in mind that Marson, Phillips, and Carlin major league statistics are all based on limited sample sizes.  Since is not available, I am unalbe to give the minor league vs left handed pitching splits.  Finally, arguing the merits of the defenisve prowress of a catcher is a tricky proposition, so I tried to keep the defensive statistics fairly vanilla.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Manny Acta's Three Big Lies of Spring Training

Manny Acta is doing his best Matt Foley trying to motivate the Indians in Goodyear Arizona.

The three big lies being fed to the media early in Spring Training 2011 are as follows:

1. Orlando Cabrera is the starting second baseman. If Orlando Cabrera is the opening day second baseman then several players had very disappointing springs. The point of this lie is to light a fire under Luis Valbuena, Jayson Nix, Jason Donald, and Cord Phelps. Manny Acta wants one of these guys to win the job. I would buy in to this lie a little more if in fact Orlando Cabrera's contract did have incentive language in it based on starts or innings played etc., but it does not (at least according to Cot's).

[sidebar] I belive the Indians would like to see Cord Phelps get at bats against the best pitchers in AAA rather than the diluted staffs he saw after his promotion in 2010 (same goes for Kipnis).

2. Aaron Laffey is competing for the 5th starter. Laffey being the 5th starter would be a big shock to me. Aaron Laffey has been unable to stay healthy for the last few seasons. He should to be a long reliever or low leverage reliever as I believe this could be a perfect role for him. The purpose of this lie is to light a fire under David Huff. Manny Acta doesn't want an all right handed rotation but it is the opinion of this writer that he'd rather have that then a rotation with Aaron Laffey in it.

3. Paul Phillips or Luke Carlin will start the year as the backup catcher. This is a way of telling Lou Marson to stay sharp and work hard. He isn't guaranteed a spot on the final roster. There really is no logic behind making a 40-man roster move to give Marson AAA at-bats. Marson does a good job at controlling the running game, hits lefties well, has decent speed for a catcher, and Carlos Santana has a long swing from the right side.

It will be interesting to track these developments through the Cactus League season and see if the tune changes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Luis Valbuena: One More Shot?

photo from
It was a much more than a sophomore slump, it was the total collapse of a player who had a breakout year in the minors in 2008 and a respectable rookie year with the Indians after a blistering start in AAA Columbus in 2010. Valbuena may be one of the few Indians prospects that have been rushed up to the major leagues.  To date, Valbuena still only has 460 AAA Plate Appearances and he only had 341 prior to his 2009 call up.  Valbuena has been unable to settle in to any position in the infield, although 2b appears to be his best position.  After signing Orlando Cabrera to play 2b, what plans do the Indians have for Luis Valbuena?  With Jason Kipnis/Cord Phelps on their way up at 2b,  Lonnie Chisenhall on his way to 3b, and Jason Donald available as a true utility infielder where is there room for Valbuena to play?  I can see Valbuena being the 2b/3b utility guy and when Asdrubal needs a day off pushing Orlando Cabrera to shortstop but being able to play shortstop in a pinch. 


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jared Goedert: Comeback Kid

Unlike other prospects discussed here, (Nick Weglarz, Jason Kipnis, Anthony Reyes, Adam Miller), Jared Goedert is a player who is not considered by scouts as a top prospect.  He is a player who lacks a position and has a history of being injury prone.  With that said, what Goedert did in 2010 from the time of Spring Training through the end of the Venezuelan Winter League was hit and show the once promising swing that made the Indians consider him a prospect early in his professional career.  Goedert will come to spring training looking to win the job at third base, but will probably find himself in Columbus to start the season.   If Goedert can repeat his 2010 performance he will once again be on the Indians radar as a major league bat. 

Jared Goedert was drafted by the Cleveland Indians out of Concordia High School in Concordia, Kansas in the 36th round of the 2003 draft.  He would elect to bypass professional baseball and enrolled in Cloud County Community College where he played for one season before transferring to Kansas State University.  He would play two seasons at KSU and spend the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons playing for the Hays Larks of the Jayhawk League.  The Indians would draft Goedert after his junior season in 2006 in the 9th round of the draft and would give him a signing bonus of $70,000.

That summer, Goedert reported to Mahoning Valley Scrappers where he played in 63 games and hit .269/.328/.382 and would have labrum surgery following the season.  Goedert was 100% recovered from the labrum injury and reported to the Lake County Captains of the South Atlantic League to start the 2007 season.  He would absolutely destroy SAL pitching by hitting .364/.475/.715 through 46 games.  Remarkably he had 16 HR in only 205 plate appearances.  The Indians elevated him to High A ball to provide him more of a challenge, unfortunately the challenge was overcoming an re-injury of the shoulder on a diving play during his last game at Lake County.  Due to his poor fielding at 3b, the Indians moved Goedert to 2b at Kinston and in order to attempt to strengthen the shoulder, Goedert played in every other game the remainder of the season.

In 2008, Goedert would struggle at High A Kinston with regaining his confidence in his swing due to the previous shoulder injuries.  He hit .255/.336/.337 with only 10 HR on the season.  In 2009, the Indians would promote Goedert to AA Akron where he would hit a dismal .224/.309/.348 and battled an oblique injury which limited him to only 92 games.  Goedert prospect status had nearly flat lined due to injury and poor performance until spring training of 2010 where he found his swing once again and hit .426 including a .726 SLG% (spring stats courtesy Tony Lastoria at IPI).

Goedert reported to AA Akron to begin the 2010 season where he hit an impressive .352/.382/.540 including 7 HR in 44 games before being promoted to AAA Columbus.  The elevation in competition would only serve as a slight speed bump to the now 100% healthy Goedert as he hit .261/.345/.528 with 20 HR in 81 games. Goedert finished strong in 2010 as he reported to winter ball in Venezuela and appeared in 14 games and hit .333/.474/.444.  The Indians need a right handed bat with power, Goedert with an impressive 2011 campaign could eventually be a roving utility player and RH DH.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jason Kipnis Future Star or Superstar?

Jason Kipnis is one of the Indians brightest prospects.  The discussion of whether or not he breaks camp with the Indians in 2011 is an argument where fans debate service time versus lack of AAA experience.  My opinion is that Kipnis will have to succeed in AAA for more than the handful of games that he has played there thus far before the Indians bring him up to the big leagues.  Starting Kipnis off in AAA has zero downside.  The question I have is Jason Kipnis a future star or a future superstar?

Meet Jason Kipnis Video Interview (VIDEO)

ATVL: Do you have a major league player you pattern your game after?
JK: I pattern my game after Grady Sizemore and Carlos Beltran. That's what people have compared me to. But the guy I like to watch the most is Albert Pujols. I think he's the most natural hitter there is in the game.

Baseball America rates Kipnis as the Indians 3rd best prospect. Their scouts refer to him as an aggressive hitter that takes advantage of mistakes with a short powerful stroke.  He is rated as an average runner with good instincts on the bases.  As for his defense, the scouts say that he has good range and a fringe arm, and his pivot and positioning on relays both need work.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranks Kipnis the Indians top prospect with a 5-star rating.  He says that Kipnis has a short powerful stroke who consistently put the fat part of the bat on the ball.  He projects as a high on-base guy with 15-20 HR potential.

John Sickels ranked Kipnis the Indians third best prospect with a grade of B+.  Sickels Grading system here:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NIck Weglarz: Rising Star

Nick Weglarz made it to AAA in 2010.  He turned 23 on December 16th and is poised to make his way  to Cleveland in 2011. He will open the year in AAA Columbus and will  primarily played left field but will problaby begin to see some time at 1b.  Weglarz has an excellent knowledge of the strike zone and is a line drive hitter. 

Weglarz is rated as the Indians fifth best prospect by "Weglarz has the potential to slot into the middle of the order and produce a high OBP with power, though he'll have to work on his defense to make sure he doesn't give back too many runs in the field."

The key for Nick Weglarz in 2011 is to find a way to stay healthy, be more agressive on pitches in the strikezone, and develop some loft in his swing in order to turn some of those line drives into home runs.

The Indians drafterd 17 year old first baseman Nick Weglarz in the 3rd round (#94 overall) of the 2005 draft out of Lakeshore Catholic High School in Ontario, Canada.  After signing and reporting to Rookie Ball, he struggled hitting .231 with 2 HR, 13 RBI in 41 Games.  In 2006, Weglarz would get hit by a pitch after only one game and break his hamate bone which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.  In 2007 Weglarz showed the promise that the Indians had hoped for by splitting time between A ball Lake County and High A Kinston where he hit .274 with 24 HR, 93 RBI, with a OBP of .393 and a SLG%% of .498. 

Weglarz would play the entire 2008 minor league season at High A Kinston where he hit .272 with 10 HR, 41 RBI, a OBP of .396 and a SLG% of .432.  He had a BB% of 15.6% and a nearly indentical K% of 17.1%.  Weglarz would also play for Team Canada in the 2008 Beijiing Olympics in China.  Although Team Canada struggled by going 2-5, Weglarz shined.  He hit .400 with a .423 OBP and a .720 SLG%, includding 2 HR and 5 RBI in 7 games.  His best game came against Team Cuba where he went 4-4 with 2 HR and 3 RBI.  Tony Lastoria would move Weglarz to #2 on his prospect list.  Check out Indians Prospect Insiders write up on Weglarz.

Baseball America would move Weglarz up to #3 on the Indians Top 10 Prospects List:

Weglarz has uncanny discipline for a player his age and size, rarely offering at pitches outside of the strike zone and showing the potential to draw 100 walks in a season. He generates excellent loft, bat speed and leverage with his swing and shows plus-plus power potential, giving him an outstanding combination of power and patience.
Weglarz played for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Afterwards, he returned to AA Akron after his stint in the WBC and had a horrible April hitting .089 with a .386 OPS before rebounding in May hitting .329 with 1 1.055 OPS with 6 HRs and .280 with a 1.007 OPS with 5 HRs in June (stats from Tony Lastoria here).  Weglarz continued to hit in July but suffered what eventually was determined to be a stress fracture in his left shin.  He continued to play through the pain and struggled through to the end of the season finishing with a .227 average and 16 HR with an OPS of .808.  The Indians, not knowing the severity of the injury, sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he struggled for the Peoria Saguaros hitting .240 with a .740 OPS in just 25 at bats.  In Novembver, Weglarz had surgery surgery  to put a rod in his leg in order to help stabilize it and help the fracture heal. 

Weglarz started the 2010 season back in AA Akron where he hit .285 with 7 HR and an OPS of  .897 in 37 games before being promoted to AAA Columbus.  He found succes in his first stint in AAA hitting .286 with 6 HR and an OPS of .889.  Weglarz was on the short list of players expected to get a callup in September when he sprained his thumb in late July and required surgery.  Weglarz went go to Venezuela to rehab over the winter but only appear in 4 games (12 at-bats).

2007192 Teams2 LgsA-A+127540446248383131.274.393.498.891
200719Lake CountySALLA125532439238282129.276.395.497.892
2010222 Teams2 LgsAAA-AA8737231213475069.285.390.503.893
6 Seasons4671961162165249296400.262.383.455.838
AA (2 seasons)142590476239297104.244.380.454.833
Rk (2 seasons)421681492131744.228.310.342.652
A+ (2 seasons)10846238211427280.270.394.435.828
A (1 season)125532439238282129.276.395.497.892
AAA (1 season)502091756202843.286.392.497.889
Generated 1/29/2011.