Sunday, March 12, 2006

Lazy Sunday

Nothing like a Sunday morning to run some errands, enjoy a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee, and force the bride to drive around the Kohl's parking lot because Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" came on the radio.

But without further ado, here's the Sunday roundup:
We’ll start off with Terry Pluto’s insights from Spring Training in his newsletter. If, by chance, you are not currently subscribed to his newsletter, then stop what you’re doing…’cause I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to. Sorry, but I would highly recommend it.

Terry’s View from Pluto wasn’t available at press time (is that the right term?), but I’ll link it when it comes up.

Paul Hoynes’ Sunday debut is highlighted by the fact that Scott Elarton may be the Royals’ #1 starter. Yes, the same Scott Elarton that the Indians wouldn’t give a 2-year deal to.

He also says that SuperSizemore and Lee are on board for some long-term action.

Bud Shaw actually seems to be on board with the Tribe, commenting on the Coco move (still). About a month ago, Livingston referred to Coco as George Herman Crisp (brilliant!). Could these guys actually be drinking the Shapiro Kool-Aid?

Ken Rosenthal weighs in on the Andy Marte situation.

Sheldon Ocker handicaps the race for the final reliever spot, among other notes.
Then Ocker responds an intelligent question about Jason Davis by mocking the question. He always handles constructive criticism and knowledgeable questions well, doesn’t he?

With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the main spring “battles” to see how they’re progressing:
Utility-BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
Brandon Phillips-.300/.364/.500/.864 with 1 HR & 3 RBI
Ramon Vazquez-.273/.273/.318/.591 with 0 HR & 6 RBI
Lou Merloni-.333/.566/.833/1.214 with 1 HR & 3 RBI
This is an interesting race, as both of the main competitors (B-Phil and Vazquez) have come out of the gate pretty quickly. It will probably come down to the last few days of camp on this one, but there’s more to look at in this race- more than just stats.

A big part of the decision on this spot is what the Indians’ plan on doing at 2B in 2007. With Belliard’s contract running out after this year (and if he continues to play like he has, he’ll be in line for a big contract…probably not from the Indians, who view him as a complementary player, not a “core” player) and Phillips out of options, the Indians risk losing Phillips (who is the front-runner for the 2007 2B spot) if he doesn’t make the roster.

Vazquez is probably the better prototypical utility player (and he has a major-league deal) in that he is a slap hitter who could pinch hit, pinch run, and fill in defensively if needed; but he doesn’t project as a full-time player next year like Phillips (ideally) does.

With that being said, Phillips could get the nod, mainly because the Indians feel that he is their best player for 2B in 2007. Another factor in the 2B in 2007 conversation is Joe Inglett, who is a nice little middle infielder that’s knocked around the Indians farm system for a while. Think a poor man’s David Eckstein…a solid 2B/SS who will never blow anyone away, but is solid with the glove and fundamentally sound. The 2B position in the next few years is not a position the Indians figure getting much production from, so Inglett could fit the bill, at the right price.

Lou Merloni looks to be an afterthought in this race (he has 1/3 of the AB’s of the other 2 so far), and will likely start the year in Buffalo, unless he can latch onto another big league team.

Backup C- BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
Kelly Shoppach-.091/.231/.182/.413 with 0 HR & 0 RBI
Einar Diaz-.333/.385/.417/.892 with 0 HR & 1 RBI
While Shoppach has certainly struggled at the plate, expect him to still make the team out of Spring Training. Changing organizations (particularly as a young player) is difficult as you learn about your new team, but more so for a catcher. Learning brand-new coaches, pitchers, players is difficult for the “general” of the defense, so Shoppach’s offense may be suffering as a result of his new surroundings.

With Diaz, the Indians know what they are getting…and it doesn’t excite them too much. Shoppach is a player who needs experience and some time at the big-league level to gauge his effectiveness.

Diaz will likely go elsewhere to try to open the season on a big-league roster, while Tim Laker will head to Buffalo to provide some veteran insurance, in case Shoppach flames out.

Bullpen Spot-ERA/WHIP/K to BB Ratio
Jason Davis-4.50/1.25/5 to 2
Danny Graves-4.50/1.75/2 to 2
Steve Karsay-6.75/1.00/2 to 1
Andrew Brown-4.50/1.50/5 to 2
This is probably the most intriguing spot to be decided in camp, with Davis and Brown on the 40 man roster, both trying to make good impressions; while Graves and Karsay, who are signed to minor-league deals, are trying to prove that there’s some gas left in the tank.

Jason Davis had a strong outing yesterday, going 2 scoreless innings, but has struggled up to that point. The question still seems to be out there of whether JD is a starter or a reliever. But while that question has been debated for the past year and a half, he’s fallen out of the group of front line starters (being passed by Carmona and Sowers) and has been leapfrogged by Fernando Cabrera, and now possibly Andrew Brown, as bullpen options. This Spring could be a real crossroads for Davis, who, at the beginning of the 2004 season was seen as the #2 starter behind C.C. for years to come; Davis needs to establish himself as the 6th starter, or drop a couple of his pitches and dominate out of the pen. He has the arm for it. Something just hasn’t clicked for him, whether it’s mental or a result of the yo-yo he’s been on between the rotation and the bullpen (remember Danys Baez). With all of that being said, Davis still has to be the front-runner here because of his ability to be the long man out of the bullpen, something that the Indians currently lack.
Andrew Brown has made a strong push for the final spot, despite getting roughed up on Friday. He has received rave reviews from many sources, in terms of his stuff and his mound presence. He’ll have to keep up the solid performances to force himself into the bullpen, though, because he (like Davis) still has an option, which means he could start the year as the Buffalo closer (like Cabrera did last year) and be ready at a moment’s notice.
Graves and Karsay (they keep getting lumped together this Spring, don’t they) have pitched well and either could make the team if Shapiro wants to get Davis or Brown more seasoning in Buffalo.
The other interesting scenario, pointed out by the CIR is that Matt Miller (who apparently is still working himself up to 100%) could start the season on the DL and have a few rehab appearances early in the year, Davis and Brown could be sent to Buffalo (with their options), and Graves and Karsay would make the team out of camp. This would allow the Indians about another 2 weeks to sort out this final spot. The downside, however, is that if BOTH Graves and Karsay make the team, they would have to be added to the 40-man roster, meaning that 2 players would have to be removed from the 40-man (perhaps in a late camp trade?).
The other players who were “fighting” for this spot (Tadano, Guthrie, Sipp, Stanford, and non-roster invitee Ben Howard) will likely fill out the bullpen in Buffalo. That’s right, Guthrie and Stanford would likely project as relievers after the Haven.
Keep your eyes on this last bullpen spot, because it may not be resolved much sooner than the 1st game of the season in Chicago.

Another development in camp is the performances of Andy Marte and Ryan Garko. While Shapiro has gone on record to say that Marte “will not make the team out of camp”, both players are making huge impressions with the coaching staff and the Front Office. Marte has excelled at the plate and in the field and could force a decision soon, regardless of the performance of Aaron Boone.

Garko, meanwhile, has shown that his glove work is further along than most thought it was, making him a very viable option for 1B at the Jake should Broussard falter (or enter a prolonged slump). Since Shapiro has often stated that Garko’s bat was ready for the big leagues, it was only his glove that needed improvement – Garko could force himself onto the Indians by June.

The other thing to watch is the 4th outfielder position as Todd Hollandsworth has struggled, hitting .176/.222/.353/.575 with little pop. Jason Dubois has hit the ball well, but his strikeout numbers continue to be high, and he really isn’t a 4th outfielder. Franklin Gutierrez has been impressive in the field, but his offense needs more polish in Buffalo. Hollandsworth is still the 4th outfielder by default, but he may not remain in that role for very long.

The Tribe has played 12 Spring Training games, with 21 games left to play, so we’re more than 1/3 of the way through the Spring. We’ll keep watching these battles and the other developments.

Also, a big welcome goes out to the Browns’ signings, notably the homecomings of LeCharles Bentley (a Wildcat), Dave Zastudil, and Joe Jurevicius.

Jurevicius will forever be remembered for a reverse dunk in a CYO High School Basketball game (Paterno didn’t want him to play for Lake Catholic his senior year) circa 1994, in which he stole the ball at mid-court and posterized the man known as the Rock Dawg in this forum.

Best dunk I’ve ever seen from half-court, and quite a change of pace from the usual hack b-ball that was played in the Borromeo Seminary gym in the early to mid ‘90s.

3 comments:

Baltimoran said...

Joe J is an all-world athlete, the only man i can recall who was able to throw one down on the Wramblin Wreck

T-Bone said...

Adelphia formally picked up the new network today. Maybe moving to Westlake was a good idea afterall...

Tiko said...

Stu Kolllar's comment after hearing about the Joe J signing:

'He probably came back to town to dunk on Aaron again'