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.

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