There is no doubt that the big question coming out of spring training has been the roster shuffle that the Russell Branyan signing has created. The Indians brass, including both Manny Acta and Mark Shapiro, have indicated that Branyan will be a starter, and likely at first base.
"We didn't sign him to be a backup," said Acta.The domino effect would then move Matt LaPorta to left field, and bump Michael Brantley back to triple A for more seasoning. This seems to go against the grain of the Tribe thinking this past offseason. The line of thinking being that the Indians were going to use the season to try and figure out what they have with regards to youth.
With that said, a scenario that would see Russell Branyan starting at first base against right-handed pitchers (75% of the starts), Matt LaPorta starting in left-field and at first base against lefties to spell Branyan, Trevor Crowe spelling LaPorta when he's playing first, Travis Hafner healthy and DH-ing, and Michael Brantley starting the season in Triple A Columbus begins to make sense. There's a two-fold way of thinking about this.
First, the chances of LaPorta, Hafner and Branyan staying healthy aren't at all likely. LaPorta doesn't have a consistent history of injury, but Hafner and Branyan do, and they aren't getting any younger. With this scenario, Brantley would likely get a call-up rather quickly, while continuing to improve his wares as a Clipper.
The second reason is a bit more obscure, but a common scenario in today's major leagues. Tony Lastoria had a nice piece yesterday about Michael Brantley with regards to his service time as a major league player. To make a long story short, if Brantley were to be called up in the first week of June, the Indians would gain a full year with regards to arbitration and free agency. My point here is that in a rebuild year, why waste that year in a do-nothing season. Instead, leave him in Columbus and pull him up when he can actually mean something.
Still, if Brantley earns a spot on the roster, he should be there, and you never can count on injures, can you.
Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera are going to enter the 2011 season arbitration-eligible. According to Anthony Castrovince at MLB.com,
"The Indians believe they have the future financial flexibility to investigate long-term deals for their emerging core players. I'd count Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo in that boat, and I'm sure the Indians will look into the possibility of extending them. Both Choo and Cabrera will be arbitration-eligible at season's end, which means they'll be due for a nice raise. They're not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season."AC wrote that before Choo signed with agent Scott Boras, according to LA Times scribe Dylan Hernandez, on Twitter.
Within the Scott Boras mission statement is likely the quote, "Thou shalt become a free-agent at your earliest possible convenience so that thou can line the Boras pockets with an abundance of cash." I'm not sure which Boras clients have ever signed any sort of extension that takes them beyond their free-agent date (which for Choo, will be after the 2013 season), but if it's not zero, it's certainly close. Not only that, but now Choo's arbitration-eligible years become increasingly interesting as well. With Boras as Choo's agent, might the Indians be willing to deal Choo for a similar player with a better agent? I'm not sure how smart that would be, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is at least on the table.
Choo has stated that,
"I really want to stay long-term. I have good teammates here. A good team. Everything I like. I feel at home here. I like the Indians."Gee, I haven't heard that before.
Choo left Octagon Marketing and agent Alan Nero, who is currently Asdrubal Cabrera's agent. Nero does have history in dealing with the Indians, having worked out a long-term extension for Victor Martinez in 2005, as opposed to going to route of arbitration with the former Indians' catcher. Look for the Indians to sign Cabrera at some point soon to a four-year extension, with a fifth year option. As for Choo? Look out, this could get ugly.
Fans have been clamoring for Grady Sizemore to move down the batting order for years, and it looks like it is finally going to happen. Manny Acta told reporters late last week that he discussed the move with Sizemore, and that the returning center fielder was on board:
"I think it's best for the team that Grady hit in the second spot. I wanted to make sure we gave him the respect he deserved, so I talked to him and gave him time to digest it. He's OK with it."So, does Sizemore fit in the two-hole? Most saw Grady as a #3 or #4 hitter, saw the #2 slot may not seem like the right place for the veteran slugger. You generally want a lefty, so Sizemore fits here. You also want a guy that mirrors the lead-off hitter in getting on base. Well, check there as well, since Grady mirrors the former lead-off hitter quite well. You want a guy that can avoid double-plays, and Sizemore's speed is effective here. Really, the only area that could cause trouble is making contact. He does strike out a bunch, even though his OBP is always high. That said, I think it will help Sizemore with regards to his strikeouts, and overall, he'll be a better than average #2 type hitter.
My real question is with regards to Asdrubal Cabrera, who I also think is an ideal #2 type hitter. Sure, Sizemore will likely drive in more runs, but will Cabrera get on base enough to make that effective? Perhaps this is a first move in the long-term plans of Acta. Ultimately, Michael Brantley is going to lead-off for this team, with Cabrera batting second. Ultimately, Shin-Soo Choo will stay in the #3 slot, and I believe Sizemore will bat clean-up. Even if Sizemore is #3 and Choo is #4, it's still going to be a lineup that produces a whole bunch of runs.
It's good to see the Indians and Acta doing what makes sense, and not just stay status-quo to prove a point.
Doing the laundry:
For those that haven't done so already, make sure you check out Tony Lastoria's 2010 annual, 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More. Here's the press release:
The 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More book is now available for purchase at www.IndiansProspectInsider.com for $19.95 plus shipping and handling. The book will also be available at many popular on-line stores such as Amazon.com in the coming weeks, and in several of the Indians major league and minor league team shops throughout the coming season.For those that aren't familiar with Tony's site, make sure you do. It's really the best organizational site on the net. I'll be doing some reporting there throughout the year as a beat reporter for Kinston, and I look forward to helping out there as much as I can.
The book is 214 pages in length and features detailed scouting reports for 165+ players in the system, covering almost every player who played stateside in the Indians farm system last year. Included in those 165+ players are scouting reports for the Top 100 players in the system, reports for every draft pick from last year's draft, and reports for the Top 10 Latin players coming stateside this year that primarily played in the Dominican Summer League last season. Scouting reports for Rule 5 picks Chuck Lofgren and Hector Ambriz are also included.
In addition to the scouting reports, lots of other useful information is included such as a listing showing the Top 100 prospects by position, rankings history of the Top 50 from 2007-2009, complete affiliate information, 2009 Draft results, projected 2010 full season opening day minor league rosters, 2010-2013 Rule 5 Draft eligibles, Rule 5 FAQ, 2009 released player listing, 2009 transactions recap from Columbus to Arizona, 2010 minor league spring training schedule, 2010 minor league schedule grid, and more!
Whether you are a casual follower or a long time diehard of the minor leagues this book is for both the beginners and experts, and is the most complete and detailed reference guide on the Cleveland Indians prospects around. For more details or to place an order, please go to www.IndiansProspectInsider.com.
Glad to see Patrick McManamon reporting for AOL Fanhouse. For those that followed Patrick at either the Akron-Beacon journal and/or www.ohio.com, he's continued his insight in even greater earnest at the ever-growing Fanhouse. That makes the third huge loss for the ABJ over the last year, with Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst having left for the Plain Dealer. Gee, I wonder well Sheldon Ocker will end up?
The All-Aught Indians: The All-Aught Indians will be continuing throughout the rest of spring training. It's a 25-man roster that should mimic an actual baseball team. For example, I can't put Kenny Lofton in at Left Field or as a back-up outfielder, because he was never really the primary guy at either for an entire season. To be considered, you have to have actually done it. Unfortunately for Kenny, his best years with the club were primarily prior to the Aughts, and he wasn't the primary left fielder in 2007, therefore, he's off the roster. However, a guy like Manny Ramirez was the primary position-holder at right field during his only aught season, so his monster season and the sieve that took over right field after he left left him as the top at his slot for the decade. Position players will wrap up early this week, and the pitching staff will start thereafter.
The Sunday Big³ at the B³: This will be my new Sunday piece. After bringing over The Sunday Drive from my past blogs, it was time to put it to bed. Saturday and Sunday mornings are still my favorite times to write, and you'll find the bulk of it here in some form or fashion. Looking forward to developing The Big³ in weeks and years to come.
Here's to a beautiful week for spring training!