Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hot Corner Issues

With Travis Hafner scheduled to return to the lineup (please!) any day now, the Atomic Wedgie is going to be facing some issues trying to find AB’s for the players that need to be evaluated going into the off-season. Nowhere is that more apparent than at 3B.

Kevin Kouzmanoff has subbed for Pronk at DH in his absence and has played well, though in an admittedly small timeframe. He burst on the scene with HR’s in his first two games, and in particular with the Granny on the first pitch he saw – and plans were in motion to erect a statue next to Bob Feller. Those plans have subsided, as K2 (take that Soldier Boy) has fallen back to earth. We have not seen him at 3B in the field to see how he stacks up as a defender. He’s succeeded at a ridiculous level all year in the minors (how about a .379 cumulative average with a 1.093 OPS?), and to see him handle himself at the plate gives you the answer.

He has a nice, compact swing and seems capable of spraying line drives around the field. Plus, he’s one of those lanky white guys who shaves his head, so he’s got that whole Tom Tolbert thing going for him. The Kouz is 25, so he’s an “older” rookie; but so was Hafner.

We’ve seen quite a bit more of Andy Marte in 30+ games and he’s come as advertised, only better defensively. He has a tendency to try the pull the ball, resulting in a long swing and, to this point, a low average (.206). His glove has been phenomenal, as the Indians finally have a 3B capable of making the routine play as well as the spectacular. His instincts are better than we’ve heard (remember all of the hand-wringing over his AAA errors?), but his inconsistency at the plate is disconcerting. To be fair, there was another 22-year-old who didn’t light the world on fire after making his debut in late July. SuperSizemore hit .246 in 43 games in 2004, so don’t read too much into Marte’s “struggles” at the plate.

Marte has talent, evidenced by the fact that he’s a 22-year-old in the Bigs; but he also shows, fairly regularly, that he’s a 22-year-old in the Bigs. He’s hovered around that .200 mark all year, though his OBP and SLG have steadily risen.

So, what can we do to evaluate both of these players? They’re both RH, so a straight platoon is out of the question and Marte has shown that he’s not a liability in the field. Kouzmanoff has earned a look with his numbers in Akron and Buffalo this year, but to what extent?

Regardless of how they do it this year, I have a feeling that these two players will go into Winter Haven next year fighting for the 2007 3B spot. It should be a competition based on merit, not with the idea of justifying the Coco deal.

If Kouzmanoff wins the job outright, the then-23-year-old Dominican Dandy can go to AAA to refine his game. Marte certainly didn’t blow the doors off of Buffalo (except for the HR Derby), so maybe he could use a little more seasoning. He wouldn’t take it well, but that’s why it can’t be a redo of the Phillips-Vazquez battle that has little to do with on-field performance.

If Marte wins the job, expect Kouzmanoff to slot in elsewhere on the field (maybe the OF?) as he’s proven that he has nothing left to prove in the minors. If he is sent back down, he may regress like Garko-my-God-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that? did (numbers-wise) this year in AAA

Speaking of GMGDYSHFHHT (that looks weird), how quickly has he slotted in as a run-producer in this lineup? He’s been batting, well, in the 3rd and 4th hole. Which begs the question: If Garko Milicic is the RH bat that’s needed in the lineup, can the Indians use the money better elsewhere? I love the idea of playing Garko at 1B, Vic at C, and Shoppach spelling Vic in the field as the Stick flip-flops between 1B and C to keep that bat in the lineup.

Finally, in the best news of the day, Jeremy Sowers will live to pitch another day this year – next Tuesday against KC. Obviously, I have tix to the Wednesday game and two games in September versus the Royals is a stretch, even for me.


Cy Slapnicka said...

I'd really like to know why I was watching Aaron Boone DH last night. And worse yet, why he got 5 AB's last night. Yes, he did have a good game. However, I'd rather see a youngster get some ABs. And if Boone is going to start, at least take him out after the bloodbath was on. He could have worked on his good clubhouse guy act and high fived people and slapped some asses. Perhaps even blowing bubbles and sneaking them on people's caps?

I might just be negative b/c I had to listen to the Sox announcers last night. They are just brutal. If you ever want to complain about Tribe TV men, watch these guys for a few games.

I'm headed to Comiskey for tonights game. Hopefully Pronk gets a few cuts tonight.

Cy Slapnicka said...

Btw, how great are those Briscoe High commercials?