Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Evaluating Holmgren/Heckert - First Major Moves

Some will argue it is too early in the "5-year plan" to fairly evaluate the Holmgren/Heckert regime, but I don't think new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will agree. I expect Haslam to look at each and every move H&H have made with the scrutiny of someone who wants to win now.

First we'll take a look at the initial test each man faced. For Heckert, it was the 2010 draft. For Holmgren, it was deciding who would coach the team in 2010-11.

Let's start with the draft:

CB Joe Haden at #7 overall. Haden had a fantastic rookie year with a bit of a drop in play last season. His future is still very bright... drug suspension non-withstanding. I like this pick a lot. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, Giants) turned out to be the best player drafted after Haden, but he was considered a reach by the G-Men at 15. B+/A-

SS T.J. Ward at #38 overall. Ward's first two season mirror Haden's: great rookie season, sophomore slump. But for Ward, the majority of the problem last year was that injuries kept him out of 8 of the team's 16 games. It's hard to fully evaluate Ward with the lack of talent he is currently playing with this season, but I expect him to continue to show his hard-hitting ability moving forward. The big miss here was Rob Gronkowski, taken four picks after Ward by the Pats. A tight end upgrade over Ben Watson would have been nice, but safety was an area of need and I don't fault the miss very much. B-

This sight sums up the 59th pick in 2010.
RB Montario Hardesty at #59 overall. I'll tell you right now, this one's gonna get a failing grade. Injured his whole career (10 out of a possible 35 games played) and worthless when he has been out there (career 3.0 ypc, 0 TDs, numerous dropped passes), Hardesty has not worked out to say the least. The parts of this selection that baffle me the most are that he was a one-year wonder at Tennessee and had health issues coming out of the draft. To add insult to injury, Heckert traded up to get him!! This pick should not have been made. Golden Tate (taken immediately after Hardesty by Seattle, made famous by last night's MNF game) should have been the pick. F

QB Colt McCoy at #85. I hated this pick at the time and have warmed slightly to it since. I'm not sure if this was Heckert's call or Holmgren's, but whoever it was swung and missed. Colt never had a smidgeon franchise QB in him (closer to Charlie Frye than Matthew Stafford), yet a team in desperate need of a QB reached for one who was never even given a full chance to succeed. Now he is a 3rd round backup at a position that only plays one man at a time. After passing three different times on a receiver, Eric Decker was on the board but Heckert passed him up. Apparently Massaquoi, Robiskie, Stuckey and Cribbs were enough to satisfy that position. D+

OG Shaun Lauvao at #89. This selection illed a position of need at the time but Lauvao has turned out to be an average pass-blocking guard and a poor run-blocking one. He hasn't developed much in 2+ years and isn't looking like a long-term starter. Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez would have worked out well, but I don't blame any GM for missing on these two draft sleepers. Not a terrible 3rd rounder, but you need starters in the first three. C

SS Larry Asante at #160. Asante was put on the Browns practice squad out of training camp and logged two games at the end of his rookie season as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a pick of Drew Brees. Out of the NFL two years later. Also, we had just drafted Ward. Not good. This pick isn't weighted as high as Hardesty (2nd rounder vs. 5th), but a fail is a fail. If OT Marshall Newhouse was good enough to protect Aaron Rodgers' blindside during the Pack's 15-1 season, he would have been better than Tony Pashos at RT. F

WR Carlton Mitchell at #177. I liked this pick a lot at the time. Carlton had size and upside but never developed to be a complete NFL WR. He caught 3 balls for 31 yards for his career and is now out of football. ILB Arthur Moats would have been a great depth and special teams player. I at least give him a small bump for making the team 2 years. D-

DE Clifton Geathers at #186. Who? Geathers has been on four NFL teams in 3 years and has never recorded a stat. This was another major whiff. If draft picks don't make a squad that goes on to be 5-11, they weren't good picks. In typical Browns fashion, the Steelers outsmarted us with Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown. Sigh... F

Final Rating: I'm not going to punish Heckert totally for what happened in retrospect, that would be unfair. The only pick that probably shouldn't have happened at the time was Hardesty over Tate (2 TDs in 3 games this season). We also could have done without another safety in Asante and gotten some OL or DL depth. I credit Heckert on the Haden selection and the Ward selection and give him a passing grade on Lauvao, who would be a good 3rd/4th OG for us. I also spare him somewhat on the McCoy pick since I believe Holmgren was the deciding voice behind it. Hardesty was a major bust, however and you can't afford that in the first two rounds. He also got a big fat NOTHING from rounds 4-7. Nothing. Asante and Geathers never stepped on the field for us and Carlton Mitchell caught three passes. Overall, picking up the two solid DBs is the only thing saving this draft from a big fat D-. Instead, I'll give it a C-

There was no reason to keep Mangini.
Holmgren's first major personnel decision was keeping head coach Eric Mangini for what turned out to be one, lame duck year. This decision probably set the Browns back at least a year in franchise development. The players put up a 5-11 record under a lame duck coach. It was another wasted year in the 3-4 defense and basic pro-style offense when I believe Holmgren's plan all along was to go back to a 4-3 and West Coast Offense. I don't think even a playoff appearance could have saved Mangini's job, Holmgren was basically taking a mulligan on the crop of available coaches in 2010 and waiting a year to pick "his guy" who ran "his system" (more on this alleged guy in future posts). This never appeared to be a good move, a contract extension for Mangini or firing him outright would have each been better options. At least we got two exciting wins over the Pats and Saints out of Mangini's last hurrah. Grade: D-

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2013 Indians Tryouts: Part 3

Position Players

Carlos Santana: Improve standing with club. 'Los has actually had a stronger season than most fans realize. Since he broke out of his slump (inconveniently around the time the Tribe plummeted out of contention), he has brought his season totals up to 17 HRs and 70 RBI. His power is down from last year, but his strikeouts are down and his average is up. His defense has also improved. However, he has been criticized for a laisse faire approach behind the dish and it is rumored the Tribe tried to trade him for Rays SP James Shields straight-up at the deadline. A strong finish with a stronger attitude will do a lot of Carlos' confidence and development as well as his standing with the big wigs.

Lou Marson: Solidify backup position. Lou-Mar has proven to be a barely-above average catcher, which is fine for a backup. He'll probably be the backup again next season, but hopefully some improvements to his hitting approach over the last 1.5 weeks of the season will carry over to the winter/spring.

Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley: Stay Healthy. At this point, these four cornerstones of the 2013 Tribe just need to stay healthy. All four had solid seasons, (breakout years for Kipnis and Brantley) and will be counted on in the same roles next year. At worst, Choo will be traded. Either way, we need all four to finish the season healthy.

Lonnie Chisenhall: Starter or backup? Lonnie's only logged 337 plate appearances in the Bigs and can use as many as he can get towards the end of the season. Anything else he can pick up from different pitchers around the league, his veteran teammates like Jack Hannahan, or his coaching staff should be stored in his mental notebook. Lonnie has the edge for the 2013 starting 3B job.

Jason Donald: Future with organization. It's tough to call Donald a "bust" since he wasn't exactly hyped up to be a star, but it suffices to say that he has been a subpar player with a .256 average with no power and average defense at best. Donald has to show something in the last couple weeks and/or in the Spring to make the club as a utility man next year. At 28 years old, he doesn't qualify as a "prospect" anymore.

Jack Hannahan: Indians or elsewhere. It's hard to argue with Jack Hannahan's professional approach on and off the field. He's supplied solid defense at 3rd and (before his injuries) a solid stick and knack for clutch hitting. He'll never be a star but a 2.5 WAR last season (-0.1 this year) shows he can be a solid starter. Whether it will be here or not is most likely not up to him, it's up to Lonnie Chisenhall's development. Either way, a MLB team will find a spot for this quality person and player in 2013.

Casey Kotchman: Hit the help wanted ads. No offense, but Kotchman has been awful at the plate in 2012. His defense hasn't been good enough to help him from a -0.9 WAR (meaning he has been 1 team loss worse than an average AAA player). He won't be back for the Tribe next year and needs to trick another MLB front office into signing him like he did Shapiro/Antonetti last offseason. The .306 season he had in 2011 with Tampa has shown itself as a fluke (career .263).

We wish it wasn't so but Matt LaPorta has been a bust.
Matt LaPorta: Last chance with Tribe. LaPorta's struggles have been well-chronicled by Tribe pensmen. The boneheaded play at 1st costing the Tribe a win last week against the Twins may have been the final straw (his second such play of 2012 in limited PT). He can't hit, can't field and is an AAA player. Unless he busts out in a big way in the last 9 games, he will be lingering in another club's farm system.

Cord Phelps: Future here or elsewhere. Phelps has to see that 2B is roadblocked by Kipnis for the forseeable future. Therefore, he needs to make the most of his ML at-bats (which he did with a HR on Sept. 22) and showcase himself, possible for other teams in a future trade. I like Phelps' bat and think he is one of our more-attractive IF prospects at the high-minor league level.

Russ Canzler: 1B contender for next year. Canzler came up like a man on fire, with 8 hits in his first 20 ABs. He is just 6 for his last 25, however and his average is down to .270. A strong finish will help his already rising chance to make the 2013 Indians as a 1B either starting or coming off the pine.

Ezequiel Carrera: 4th OF contender for next year. Zeke has been a curious case in his 110 career games with the Tribe. He gets hot for spells, but then cools way off. Is he more than the .242 hitter he has shown to be? With solid defense at all three outfield positions, the still-developing 25-year old has potential to make the Tribe as a 4th OF next season. If he shows his stick will show up with his glove.

Brent Lillibridge: Moot point. Lillibridge was acquired by the Tribe when they were still in contention to be a super-utility guy. He's not really needed at this point and has barely played (25 at-bats in team's last 22 games). He's 29 with no bat, no power and a glove that is rated average-to-below average sabermetrically. He has value in that he can play 7 positions on the field, but with guys like Donald to develop, probably won't be back in 2013.

Thomas Neal: Place in organization. Neal is trying to earn a full season in AAA (or better) for 2013 after spending most of this year in AA Akron. He's still young at 25 and has shown average and power in the minors. He probably won't make the Indians out of the Spring next year, but the more he shows in limited at-bats with the big club, the higher his rank among outfielders in the organization.

Vinny Rottino: Future in the game. Vinny is close to the end of his baseball career barring a Dickey-like revelation. He's a 32-year old journeyman with only 56 career ML games. He has shown good defensive versatility in the OF with the Tribe, but not much with the bat (a horrendously unlucky .158 BABIP) hasn't helped him in the AVG department. If the team invites him to Spring Training next year, he likely will be back in the minor leagues. Vinny either has to show enough in these last 9 games to increase his stock or take a look at his career and decide if he wants to spend his 30s in Minor League Baseball.

Travis Hafner: One more year? Pronk's contract has been an albatross on the Tribe's payroll, no doubt. But he hasn't been able to help his injuries and has shown power in his healthy opportunities. 24 homers in his last 156 games would be a great full season. Unfortunately for Pronk, that's been his last two seasons. If the Tribe bring him back it will be on a one-year team-friendly deal with a shot to stay healthy and man the DH position like he hasn't done since 2007. Antonetti (if he is still here!) has hinted he may do just that.

Others: Juan Diaz showed some good D with the Tribe earlier in the year but will remain in AA/AAA next season, developing his bat ... Lars Anderson was acquired from the Red Sox in a low-key deadline deal, he will probably take LaPorta's spot at 1B at AAA Columbus next year ... Grady Sizemore has not proven he can stay healthy enough for the Tribe to stick with him in 2013. Au revoir.

My guess: Marson, Santana, Asdrubal, Chisenhall, Kipnis, Brantley, Canzler, Choo make team; Hafner re-signed for 1-year; Hannahan, Kotchman, LaPorta, Lillibridge, Rottino removed from 40-man roster; upgrades sought at 1B, LF.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2013 Indians Tryouts: Part 2


Chris Perez: Future with Indians. Perez has appeared to be intentionally trying to talk his way out of Cleveland this year. First he criticized the fans, then he fought with an Oakland A's fan, then he called out management and ownership. Those distractions alone may have already sealed his ticket out of town. His on the field play has been very strong, with an ERA of 3.42, FIP of 2.53 and a brilliant 10 K/2 BB per 9 innings. Another problem for Perez's Indians tenure is the emergence of Vinnie Pestano as the team's best pitcher. Pestano has proven he can be a closer equal to or greater than the caliber of Perez. I don't think Chris can play his way on or off the team at this point, but if he wants a trade, spouting off a few more times can help him in that regard. 

Vinnie Pestano: Closer or setup man. As with Perez, Pestano has sealed a spot on the 2013 Tribe with his on-field play. Whether it will be as a closer or setup man will depend on Chris Perez's status on the team. He can't help or hurt his standing at this point, even if he pulled a "CP" in the press.

Joe Smith: Future with Indians. Smitty has had another strong season, but regressed from a 2.01 ERA to a 3.26 ERA. Smitty's play has earned him a raise from $1.75 mil but will the Indians pick it up? Right-handed specialists aren't hard to find and the bullpen is deep. A few more strong performances will only help Smitty's case. 

Tony Sipp: Future with Indians. If I was the GM of the Tribe, Sipp would be jettisoned after this year. He doesn't command a ton of money, probably under $1 mil, but at age 29, with a career 4.76 FIP, he just isn't that good. He walks too many guys, gives up too many home runs, and a career .239 BABIP signals a season or two of pure implosion in his future. I know he's a lefty, but we have others in the system. Sipp can help his case with some strong work down the stretch.

Esmil Rogers has earned a late-inning role for 2013.
Esmil Rogers: 2013 Role. Rogers has proven his worth to the Tribe. Whatever his problems were in Colorado don't matter, I think we have found a gem. With a .343 BABIP this season, Rogers numbers could have been even better than the 2.47 ERA he has posted with the Tribe. Rogers will be in the mix for 2013, with a chance at a 7th inning role. The better he finishes the season, the better his chances for a late-inning job will be.

Chris Seddon: Future with Indians. Seddon was an old 29-year old in AAA Columbus but he earned his promotion late in the year. The Tribe seem to be looking at him as a long reliever and that is probably his best bet to make the big league club in 2013. How he adjusts to that role this September will say a lot about his chances.

Frank Herrmann: Future with Indians. I thought Herrmann was done-zo in August. He had a mediocre year in Columbus and had proved to be average in 89 games with the Tribe. However, his strikeouts are up and his walks and HRs are down in his stint with the Indians this fall. If Herrmann continues to pitch well (another scoreless inning tonight), he may just stick around with the organization with another year. Hopefully the front office don't hold his .222 BABIP too highly, because it shows he has been lucky on balls hit in play.

Cody Allen: 2013 Role. No Indians reliever helped his case in 2012 than Cody Allen. The youngster came up and dominated his competition with 12 straight scoreless appearances. He has cooled off a bit since, but has shown fantastic stuff. His ceiling might be as high as a guy like Vinnie Pestano if he can cut down on the walks. If Allen finishes the season without any major setbacks, he will be a candidate to make the club right out of Spring Training. 

Scott Barnes: Indians or Clippers. It was an up-and-down year for Barnes. He made his big league debut with the Indians May 30 after being converted from a starter to a reliever in AAA Columbus. His ERA ballooned to as high as 10.38 after his fifth appearance but he has settled down nicely in September and posted six-straight scoreless appearances. Lefty relievers are valuable and Barnes has a chance to take Tony Sipp's spot in the 2013 pen.

Scott Maine: Future with Team. Scott Maine was an interesting waiver-wire pickup from the Cubs in September. He's 27 with good stuff and some minor control issues. The Tribe likely will bring him to Spring Training on a minor league deal. He can certainly help his case with some scoreless frames to end the year because we've only seen him a few times this year.

Others: Raffy Perez was shut down this week after trying to come back from an extended injury. He'll be due for a contract in the $2 mil range and the Tribe might replace him from within ... Nick Hagadone will be one of the lefty candidates to replace Perez, if he can prevent himself from breaking his hand in a fit of rage. He needs to work on his control (sound familiar?) to be in the 2013 Tribe pen at the start of the year ... Fabio Martinez was a late addition to the 40-man roster off waivers from the Angels. He is 22 with a live arm, but needs to start getting it done on the field. He'll be in Akron next year at some point. 

My Guess: Chris Perez will be traded, Smith-Rogers-Pestano will cover the 7th thru 9th innings, either Jeanmar Gomez or Chris Seddon will make the team as a long reliever, Barnes, Allen, Hagadone and Herrmann will round out the rest of the pen. The team will let Raffy Perez and Tony Sipp go.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2013 Indians Tryouts Begin Now

The 2011-12 Indians' season has long been lost. All that is left to play for is a spot out of the AL cellar. But there are a number of Tribesmen who still have a ton to play for in the final dozen or so games of a miserable year. 

Here's the first of a three-part series looking at exactly who and what is at stake:  

Starting Rotation 

Justin Masterson: Money. Masterson's spot in the 2013 rotation is secure. The big righty made just under $4 mil in arbitration last season and that number doesn't figure to go up much. A few more strong starts could help earn him a little more dough but he can't change his situation much at this point. 

Ubaldo Jimenez: Pride. Other than lowering that dreadful 5+ ERA, there isn't much Ubaldo can do to salvage a lost season. The Tribe will probably exercise his $5.75 mil option regardless of how he finishes because his talent is worth the risk. Although the W/L record and ERA don't show it, Ubaldo has pitched better lately, with more command and stronger overall stuff. A BABIP and HR/FB above his career mean hasn't helped him in the luck department, and a 5.00 FIP and 0.1 WAR show an average-to-below average-pitched season, not a terrible one. Tribe fans can only hope for improvement next season. 

Zach McAllister: Spot in 2013 rotation. In a lot of ways, Z-Mac was the Tribe's most consistently good starter this season. He'll probably be back in the 2013 rotation but a couple more solid starts can only help his already strong case. 

Corey Kluber is hoping to earn a spot in the 2013 rotation.
Corey Kluber: Cleveland or Columbus. Kluber certainly will be in the conversation for the 2013 starting rotation. He is young, with good stuff and has suffered a quite unlucky 2012 (BABIP near .400, HR/FB 12%). His FIP of 4.18 is closer to his overall performance than his 1-4 record or 5+ ERA. A couple more strong starts can help Kluber's case to begin the season in the Indians' or Clippers' starting five. 

Jeanmar Gomez: 2013 Role. It remains to be seen how many more starts the 24-year old Gomez will get this season. Gomez is looking like either a long reliever for the Tribe or a starter for the Columbus Clippers next year. A 4.8/3.0 K/BB per 9 innings line just won't get it done in the big leagues as a starter. 

Roberto Carmona Fausto Hernandez Heredia: Future in the game. The Tribe had a $9 mil club option for 2013 on RCFHH but it has been restructured due to his less-than-honest approach to U.S. work visa laws. Hernandez only started 3 games this season and they didn't show much other than rusty stuff but decent control (considering his career BB issues). Hernandez may get another start or two after a sprained right ankle but his fate is most likely sealed one way or another. If the Tribe decides to bring him back, it will be on a very small 1-year control or even a minor league deal. Most likely, his days are numbered in Cleveland.

David Huff: Future in organization. Huff's gotten his shot with the Tribe and hasn't been very effective at all. He may or may not get another start or two before this season ends, but anything less than two gems will probably see him out of the Indians organization entirely next season. 

Others: Carlos Carrasco pitched some healthy innings for Akron down the stretch, he'll enter Spring Training as a starting rotation favorite ... Josh Tomlin will miss all of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery ... Danny Salazar has progressed enough to warrant a full season in AA Akron and may factor into the Indians' 2014 plans ... Kevin Slowey was hurt almost all year in AAA Columbus and wasn't very effective when healthy, he won't be in Cleveland next season, if even the team's organization ... Scott Barnes, Scott Maine and Chris Seddon will most likely remain in the bullpen for next season's plans.  

My guess: Masterson, Jimenez, McAllister, Carrasco, Kluber/Free Agent ; Huff removed from 40-man