Saturday, February 18, 2006

They Made It, Dammit, They Made It

While I have yet to actually see footage of pitchers and catchers in camp (catching up on TiVo’d episodes of 24 and Lost, as well as watching The Goonies 8 times since AMC put it into heavy rotation, have taken up some time), all reports indicate that there are 23 pitchers and 7 catchers who have reported to Winter Haven.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at those two subsets of players, examining what players are in camp and, without getting into too much detail, where they are expected to be when the big-league club breaks camp:

C.C. Sabathia
Paul Byrd
Cliff Lee
Jake Westbrook
Jason Johnson
Barring any injuries, these 5 pitchers are essentially set in stone, and will probably pitch in the order in which they are listed this season. Without getting into who the #2 starter is vs. the #3 starter (which are really just arbitrary classifications), it’s assumed that the rotation will set up to separate the LH and RH and the styles of pitchers (power pitchers vs. sinkerballers).

As an aside, C.C. was named one of the starters for the U.S. Team in the WBC. Regardless of your feelings about the WBC, that’s a pretty big deal for C.C., who joins Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy, and Dontrelle Willis as the only starters on the roster. I know that a lot of players declined invitations (notably Tim Hudson), but that means that C.C. was selected over the likes of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Ben Sheets, Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Kevin Millwood, Chris Carpenter, and Roy Halladay.
Do you think that the rest of the league thinks that C.C. is a bona fide ace yet?

Bob Wickman
Guillermo Mota
Rafael Betancourt
Fernando Cabrera
Scott Sauerbeck
Matt Miller
From back to front, these are the arms that, by all accounts, have spots in the pen. Again, barring injuries, this should constitute the 6-9 inning crew.

The final spot in the bullpen will be up for competition, with these players thought to be in the mix:
Final Bullpen Spot Candidates
Andrew Brown
Jason Davis
Jason Stanford
Kazuhito Tadano
Steve Karsay
Tony Sipp
Danny Graves
Ben Howard

The final 4 (Karsay, Sipp, Graves, and Howard) are not on the 40-man roster, meaning that someone would have to be removed from the 40 man for any of those players to make the team.
The question facing the Indians will essentially come down to what they want in this final bullpen arm:
If they want a long man, who can also serve as a spot starter, Davis, Stanford, and Tadano (probably in that order) would be the main candidates.
If they want another lefty to complement Sauerbeck (and replace Rhodes as the 2nd lefty in the pen), Stanford and Sipp are the lefty options.
If they want a young power arm that can evolve into a more important role, the way that Cabrera has, Davis and Brown would be the guys.
If they’re looking for experienced arms, Karsay or Graves (or even long-shot Howard) would be the obvious candidates.

You get the idea. The Indians’ brass will probably enter Spring Training with a good idea of what they’re looking for out of the last bullpen spot. They will then whittle the list down to 2 or 3 and let those guys go after it.

My thinking would be that they’ll be looking for a long man or someone who can develop into a top flight reliever, thus Davis would be the front-runner with Stanford and Brown being in the mix. Karsay and Graves would have to really impress to break camp with the Tribe while Tadano and Sipp will probably need more seasoning in the minors before making a serious push to stay in Cleveland.
Young Pitchers Getting a Taste
Fausto Carmona
Jake Dittler
Jeremy Guthrie
Edward Mujica
Rafael Perez
Brian Slocum
Jeremy Sowers
This group is going to Winter Haven knowing that they have little chance to make the 25 man roster, but will benefit from the big-league coaching at camp.
The starters (Carmona, Dittler, Guthrie, and Sowers) will all see some action before being sent to Buffalo to comprise their rotation (which should be pretty impressive). There is an off-chance that one of the starters (Carmona or Sowers) completely blows away the Indians, like C.C. memorably did in 2001, and breaks camp with the big boys; but that is an unlikely scenario.
The relievers (Mujica, Perez, and Slocum) will also get some innings (and likely stay in extended Spring Training) until they are sent to Buffalo and Akron. Mujica and Slocum are two interesting names to watch as Mujica is a big 21 year old who has moved up the ladder quickly, while Slocum is a 24-year old converted starter who made his first foray into the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, where he held his own.

Victor Martinez
Kelly Shoppach
Armando Camacaro
Einar Diaz
Javi Herrera
Tim Laker
Victor and Shoppach are the only two catchers (I’m counting Ryan Garko as a 1B/DH for all intents and purposes) on the 40 man roster, so it’s likely that those will be the catchers on the 25 man roster come April. Not much needs to be said about Victor (as we all know what we’re getting), but Shoppach is an interesting player.
Acquired in the Coco deal, Shoppach was blocked by Jason Varitek and the Red Sox insistence on a veteran backup in Boston (by the way, do you think that Josh Bard will be on the Sawx Opening Day roster? Me neither). Now in Cleveland, Shoppach will get every chance to be the backup C out of Spring Training. Hopefully his defense (he gunned down 44% of baserunners in AAA last year) and the pop in his bat (he had 26 HR in Pawtucket) will allow Victor to take some days off, or play some games at 1B.
The rest would do Vic some good, as he played a staggering 147 games (way too much for a Catcher) last year and didn’t get any breaks late in the season, after Wedge lost all confidence in Bard’s ability to hit.

Einar Diaz and Tim Laker are two old Tribesman who are looking to make the team out of Spring Training, but Einar will probably end up in Buffalo (unless someone else gives him a ML contract), while Laker has acknowledged that his career is on its last legs and he will probably retire (and possibly find a place in the Indians’ organization).

Camacaro and Herrera are two farmhands who will be in Winter Haven to ease the burden of catching too many innings in Spring Training. Camacaro is an older (26) catcher who spent most of last year in Akron, though not as the starter. Herrera had that distinction, and is more of a prospect – being a 23 year old who played in the Arizona Fall League. He didn’t have very good numbers in Akron and is now essentially blocked by Martinez, and now Shoppach, from making too much of an impact on the big-league squad any time soon.

The catching position, like the 3B position, prior to the Coco deal was lacking in top-level prospects. The acquisition of Shoppach (like Marte) solves that problem by giving the Tribe another top-flight prospect at a position of need.

Not much competition is expected out of the Catcher position in Winter Haven, as The Stick and Shoppach should be the ones making the trip to the North Coast come April.

Today is the first workout for the players listed above (along with anyone else who reported early), while position players are scheduled to report on Tuesday.

We’ll take a look at the position players in camp and any issues at that time.

If you’re in Cleveland, enjoy the sub-zero wind chill temperatures and dream of palm trees and Spring Training.

1 comment:

Baltimoran said...

the media didn't say much about him, but shoppach could be a huge acquisition if he can put up the type of numbers he has been in the minors. i wouldn't mind if they put vic at first for a game here or there too.

i hope bronny bron does't play too many minutes on sunday, we'll need the best player on the planet to stay in the 4 seed.