As I begin my last day at Cleveland Indians Spring Training in Goodyear, I wanted to share some observations from the last three days both about the players I have watched and the overall camp. Having spent a week at each Spring Training since 1982 with the Tribe, I feel I have some reasonable qualifications to provide insight and comparisons.
This camp has been very well run as far as a fan can observe and it has had some very nice qualities for a fan interested in the future of the Indians as well as the present. Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti have allowed some of our top young prospects to play in the main Spring Training games for at least an inning or two. This has allowed me to see Lindor, Wolters, and Naquin without guessing where they might be and finding them in the minor league camp. In past camps, you would have to fight to even see them in game situations on the practice fields. I believe that this is valuable experience for these high ceiling prospects by allowing them to play in front of larger crowds with the major league team. That allows them to sit on the bench and observe the veterans like Swisher, Bourn, and Cabrera as well as talk and interact with them during a game. I think this is good for the fans and the organization going forward.
Tyler Naquin has stood out among the youngsters simply because of his diminutive size and his “all out” style of play. He is a threat on the bases, with the bat, and with the glove. Probably not destined to be a super star, but it is very hard to picture him not making it to the big leagues at some point and having an impact.
Everyone knows the expectations of Lindor and I am sure he will meet them at some time. It is clear (actually similar to all the three youngsters mentioned) that he is not ready now and will not be ready for a year or so. But his bat stands out and he is smooth in the field. His defense will not make you forget Omar but it will be as solid as we currently see on the major league level and a bit more.
On the “bubble” side of the roster, I do not see David Huff remaining with the Tribe. He has been given numerous chances and still might prove to be a serviceable major league pitcher but not with Cleveland. I am purposely not reading the papers so I am sorry if this or other observations might be old news.
Trevor Bauer looks solid for the future and the future might be later this year. He did a decent job in the outing I watched despite giving up quite a few runs. He has major league stuff but needs to be sharp with his command to have a chance to be dominant. I think he was squeezed on some of his calls in the outing and was around the plate for the most part. That all being said, he is not ready now and might not be this year. But I have no doubt he will break into the starting rotation in the not too distant future.
Cord Phelps has made strides even since I arrived and is hitting and fielding with more confidence. I have felt for a long time that his greatest weakness is letting his emotions get the better of him when trying to play for the major league club, even in spring training. I am not sure he can do much now to salvage a roster spot, but I would love to keep him in the organization at least one more year. Not sure if that is possible.
Vinnie Pestano, probably the most loved pitcher in our pen, showed the same kinks in his armor in his first outing of the Spring (lack of command). In his second outing he had good velocity, decent command, and hitters looked more uncomfortable hitting against him. Although almost no one is concerned about Pestano, I will be much happier once he has some success this season. I have concerns but believe Vinnie will prove me wrong.
Matt Albers and Brian Shaw have settled in nicely and I think will be solid additions to the pen. I think getting them as a part of the Reds / Diamondbacks trade is huge for this year. They are not dominant but good major league pitchers.
Carrasco has had a couple of outings since I arrived and I am convinced he will help this year. But don’t expect him to break camp with the big club. I think he needs a little more time. That being said, with the way pitchers go down, he will be a major factor in how the Tribe does this year.
This is one year when I am not sure who will be the bench players at the start of the season. Maybe Francona has decided so I am sorry if this is old news but there will be an internal struggle whether to keep veterans (Giambi, Rayburn, Gomes or Marson) or the younger players (Phelps, etc.). The only bench spot assured in my mind is Mike Aviles who is a fantastic addition to the Tribe this year. Maybe the DL will swallow up a couple of those guys but hard to tell.
The last possible bullpen spot might also cut off one of the position players if they keep 13 pitchers to start the season. Hagadone and Huff are still in the running but Hagadone is much more likely.
Don’t worry about Michael Bourne’s spring. Meaningless.
Brantley and Chisenhall are ready to contribute at a high level this year.
Still worry about Jimenez. And keep worrying.
Masterson should be better than last year but not up to 2011 standards.
That’s all for now.
Stay tuned for more observations going forward.