Saturday, April 02, 2005

2005 Preview - Positional Analysis Part III

With the recent move of Juan Gonzalez to the DL, the outfield remains a fluid area, where 4 players will fill the outfield, changing positions according to whether the team is facing a righty or a lefty. The 4 players in question: Coco Crisp, Casey Blake, Grady Sizemore, and Ryan Ludwick all bring different skills to the table, thus giving different looks to the lineup. Crisp is the prototypical leadoff hitter (with the exception of his limited number of walks and SB efficiency) in that he is a slap hitter with speed and occasional pop. While he does not walk very often, he has proven himself as legitimate MLB player by outlasting the Alex Escobar Experiment and Sizemore's promotion in 2004. Crisp had a phenomenal spring and should continue to grow as a player as he gets a better understanding of base-stealing. His acquisition as a throw-in for Chuck Finley (where have you gone, Luis Garcia?) remains one of Shapiro's great coups. Blake moves to the outfield after a stellar 2004 campaign at 3B. In the spring, he seems to be acclimating himself well to the outfield, both in his throwing and his attitude. After knocking around the minors for many years, Blake got his chace with the Tribe and took full advantage. After the acquisition of Boone, Blake turned it up a notch, forcing his name into any discussion regarding the future of the team. Though he strikes out more than most in the lineup, he is a steady contributor necessary on a team with a limited payroll. Sizemore, who may be the jewel of the Colon theft of 2002, is a promising player who needs more experience to fulfill his potential. Though there is no one area in which he truly excels, he is a solid, hard-nosed player who should be a mainstay for years to come. Gonzalez's move to the DL did not disappoint many, particularly those who felt that Sizemore simply needed more time to acclimate himself to big league pitching (see Martinez, Victor). Ludwick is the wild card of this group as he has never provem that he can stay healthy over the course of a full season. When given the opportunity to be in the lineup, Ludwick has produced and gives the Tribe a possible right-handed run producer. It will be interesting to see how Ludwick and Sizemore, two Wedge favorites, are handled IF Gonzalez recovers from whatever ailment is bothering him that day.

The outfield should look like this: against righties, Crisp in left, Sizemore in center, Blake in right; against lefties, Blake in left, Crisp in center, Ludwick in right. How the players, particularly Crisp and Blake, will handle playing multiple positions may ultimately determine is Sizemore stays in Cleveland for a while or is sent to Buffalo for consistent AB's. Also in the mix is Jose Hernandez, who can bring pop to the lineup when any of the outfielders may need a break. The X Factor is Jody Gerut, who burst on the scene in 2003, but fizzled in 2004 with his season ultimately ending in injury. His beginning the 2004 season as the 3 hitter to not being assured a spot in the lineup when he returns is a testament to the depth and strength of this area of the ballclub.

In the minors, Buffalo is stocked with mainly veterans, while Akron is stacked with Franklin Gutierrez, Ben Francisco, and Jason Cooper. Other outfield prospects include Brad Snyder and Ryan Goleski who will probably start the year in Kinston. Again, this is a deep position for the Indians, one which can be dipped into as trade bait as time goes on.

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