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The Spin Cycle: Which player makes the most impact in 2014?

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JRam

JRam (photo: Lianna Holub)

In our last spin cycle, I asked the readers of Indians Baseball Insiders what the front office would do with Scott KazmirUbaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson over the offseason. It seems appropriate that we take a quick look at that poll before heading into our next one.

It’s rare that our polls ever hit a 50% majority, but this one was one not only crossed the line, but was a no-doubt-about it.

66% said that Chris Antonetti and the front office should ‘Sign Kazmir this year, then Masterson next year, and let Jimenez sign a crazy five-year deal elsewhere.’ The Indians have yet to sign any of the aforementioned starters, but news should begin matriculating sometime soon that Ubaldo Jimenez is officially a free agent.

That’s part one of the majority scenario.

Part two would be that the Indians sign lefty Scott Kazmir.

If you were to believe the rumors, the Indians aren’t likely to sign their ‘comeback player of the year’ because they are haggling over the years of the deal. Reportedly, the Indians want to sign Kaz to a one-year deal, while his agent is looking for a two-year deal.

If the Indians lose Kazmir over the years of the deal, and the years are one and two, then shame on them. Of course, rumors tend to be a little off-skew, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Coming in at a distant second was for the Indians to ‘Go for broke, and sign Kazmir, Jimenez and Masterson’ for next season. That got a whopping 11% of the vote.

Nothing else had double-digit percentages.

It seems as though most Indians fans would like to see Kazmir and Masterson with the Indians this year and beyond, while Ubaldo Jimenez can take his mercurial self elsewhere.

Now onto our next Power Poll.

While the Indians will most certainly be attacking free agency in a similar manner as last year, it’s nearly impossible to figure out which direction they may ultimately go.

Chris Antonetti made note that the Indians were going to be looking for bullpen help and for a left-handed hitter, it’s relatively clear that he’s maintaining the CIA-like stance in information giving. Since Mark Shapiro became the GM over ten years ago, the Indians’ front office has rarely given the media any sign of the direction that they are really going, and often give out misleading information.

You can see it from top to bottom in several interviews that Shapiro, Antonetti, John Mirabelli and Ross Atkins give. If you ask them about a specific player’s skills, you get a fountain of fantastic information. If you ask them about a general question about how teams handle free agency, salary or the like, they are equally giving with the information. But if you try to pin them down on what the club may be doing in the future, let’s just say that it turns into story time at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

That’s the way it should be.

With that said, it’s time to take a look at the players that are already in the Indians’ organization, while we wait to see how some things shake out here at the beginning of the Hot Stove Season.

Last season, several youngsters made an impact for the Indians throughout the season that were either rookies, or surprises from the minor league system. Corey Kluber and Yan Gomes were the two biggest names that many of us thought were going to spend the majority of the season in the minors, me included.

There were several others that came on to make different levels of positive influence on the team as well and some of them are going to mentioned in this week’s power poll for next year.

Today’s Power Poll is going to focus on ‘Which current members of the Indians’ organization who are either rookies or minor leaguers could make the biggest impact on the 2014 season?’

What’s my criteria? The players listed below all spent significant time in the minor leagues in 2013. They were either climbing the ladder as prospects, injured and didn’t play, then lost their jobs, or just plain lost their jobs. I may not hit everyone that could make an impact

Here’s the list, as it stands today:

  • Jose Ramirez: 2B, SS—I make absolutely no qualms in saying that Jose Ramirez is better than most folks give him credit for. In my first year covering the Indians for Indians Baseball Insider, I was lucky enough to talk to Tom Hamilton for a few minutes just prior to the season, and I asked him how I should evaluate what the Indians’ front office says. He smiled and said, ‘Trust what you see, not necessarily what you hear. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck.’ Jose Ramirez is a duck, or in this case, a highly valued piece ofTerry Francona’s puzzle. Will he start the year off with the Indians? Will he be a utility player or something more? Will he allow the Indians to make a move, or will he be part of a trade? It’s all unknown right now, but I get the sense that Terry Francona loves JRam, and will be doing whatever he can to get him in the lineup.
  • Trevor Bauer: SP—Trevor Bauer is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. Whenever you mention his name, the first thing that you likely think of are his eccentricities on and off the mound. You think of Bauer throwing long toss, from foul-to-foul pole. You think of Happy Gilmore, when he steps behind the mound before warming up, and fires the ball towards his catcher at mach 10. If you don’t care about the workout regimen, you may ponder his dreadful appearances with the Indians in 2013. In 17 innings pitched in four starts, he gave up 10 earned runs, while walking 16, and striking out eleven. His 5.29 ERA wasn’t horrible, but you have to be a bit concerned about his 16 walks. You also have to be a bit concerned about the fact that the Indians have seemed to allow Bauer the right to control the changes to his mechanics. Will it all click for the former top pitching prospect in baseball, or is it all over for him?
  • Lou Marson: C—Okay, so Marson isn’t really a minor leaguer, and I really have no clue with what the Indians intend to do with him, now that Yan Gomes isn’t going away any time soon. Marson still may have a shot at the big league club, however, should there be injury issues, a trade, or if Carlos Santana makes a more substantial move to first base and DH next year. If that’s the case, might Marson find his way back to Cleveland as a capable back-up?
  • Scott Barnes: RP, SP—Barnes used to be a highly thought of lefty starter, but he just couldn’t seem to be able to take the next step, so the Indians moved him to the pen. Now he’s a lefty reliever. Rich Hill proved last year that you didn’t have to be all that good to be a lefty in the bullpen. Could Barnes be Rich Hill? Alright, that wasn’t very nice to either player, so let me rephrase. Could Scott Barnes do enough in spring training to take over Rich Hill’s role in the pen?
  • Preston Guilmet: RP—One of the most interesting watches for the Indians in 2014 will be the back-end of the bullpen. Preston Guilmet has one of the most interesting resumes available heading into next season. He’s been a closer for much of his career in the minors, and his overall line is impressive. He’s 18-14, with a 2.57 ERA in nearly 300 innings of minor league ball. He’s struck out 324 batters, while walking only 64. He’s efficient, and he generally confines his mistakes to one outing, thanks to the perfect bullpen mentality. Now, he did struggle in his stint with the Indians, but when you make one appearance in July, one in August, one on September 2 and one on September 12, I don’t think that’s a fantastic indicator. Could he fill right in for Joe Smith thanks to that deceptive delivery?
  • Carlos Carrasco: RP, SP—Chris Antonetti said that Carrasco was going to get every opportunity to be a starter. Okay, I don’t think he’s lying or anything, but I have to believe that there have been discussions to test him out on a full-time basis in the pen going forward. Of course, if the Indians fail to sign Kazmir or Ubaldo, they may have to use Carrasco in the rotation. Even if they do, there’s not indicator to think that his head can be right over the long haul. He was good in the pen though. Might this be his year…finally?
  • Nick Hagadone: RP—I really shouldn’t put Hagadone here, because common sense would tell you that he’s next in line for the lefty relief role. Of course, the electric-armed reliever has closer stuff, but can’t ever seem to put it all together at the big league level. There’s clearly an opening behind Mark Rzepczynski. The question is, can he finally grab it?
  • C.C. Lee: RP—If it weren’t for Tommy John surgery in 2012, CC Lee would have been a major piece to the bullpen in 2013. The injury put him a year behind, but he did show up as a bit player late in the year. He made eight appearances. Three of them came in July, and he pitched two innings, without giving up a hit. He returned in September, and struggled a bit at times, but still didn’t lose the luster of being perhaps the best minor league bullpen arm in the system. Lee has all the moxie and all the stuff to be good, now he just needs the experience.
  • Vinnie Pestano: RP—What can you say about Pestano right now? With Perez and Joe Smith gone, it’s clear that the Tribe NEEDS him to return to 2012 form. Will he, or will arm trouble and scuffling be the end of his days of dominance? If Pestano can find it again, he’s immediately the closer. If he can’t, he may not even make the team.
  • Josh Tomlin: SP, RP—Let’s face it. When you mention the starting pitching candidates, nobody really thinks Josh Tomlin is going to be the #5 starter. Like many before him (Jeremy SowersAaron LaffeyDavid Huff…I know, Tomlin’s not a lefty…but you get my point), Tomlin doesn’t seem to have the velocity to be taken seriously. Still, he has a high IQ, is tenacious, and always seemed to find a way. If the flash-and-bank of Bauer and Carrasco whimper in 2014, can Tomlin steal their thunder?
  • Colt Hynes: RP—Hynes is an unknown commodity right now, but as a left-handed reliever, he could be a guy that’s in the mix right away.  He was mostly a reliever in the minors, and if you take away his 126 1/3 innings as a starter, his 3.59 ERA drops under 3 for his career out of the pen. In his lone time in the bigs, he gave up 17 earned runs in 17 innings of work. No, it’s not impressive, but as “Scrabble” can tell you, sometimes a change of scenery and steady work is all it takes.
  • Blake Wood: RP—Wood has some pedigree, as he was a former third rounder of the Kansas City Royals. He can’t be a free agent until 2017, but he doesn’t have any options left, and he can’t seem to find the strike zone. He can bring it, but until he finds it, he may not even be with the club through spring training. If he somehow makes it through though, he has the type of arm that could be special. There’s a long way from here to there though.
  • Matt Capps: RP—Capps signed a minor league deal with the Indians, after doing the same at the start of 2013. Injuries kept him down in 2013, but with Chris Perez and Joe Smith gone, and with no clear closer available, can Matt Capps become a factor in 2014? Many scouts believe that Capps should have never been a closer to begin with, but perhaps there is more there than meets the eye. If he can stay healthy, he’ll have a shot to make this team in the Matt Albers role.
  • Giovanni Soto: RP—Most people forget that Soto was the guy the Indians got back for Jhonny Peralty. Most people forget that Soto threw a no-hitter for the Indians organization as a starter. Heck, most people forget that Soto is with the team. Why mention him with all his health issues? He’s a lefty, and he can be really, really good.
  • Bryan Price: RP—Price is the unknown that came over from the Victor Martinez trade, and while he doesn’t grade at the top of the bullpen arms that the Indians currently have, he was pretty good in 2013. Some like him a whole lot better than I do as a major league reliever, but with the fluidity of the bullpen, he could be a factor.
  • T.J. House: SP—House is one of my favorite stories in the Indians organization. He was stuck in High A Kinston/Carolina for 2 ½ seasons. After his second full year at High A though, things changed. House took getting healthy seriously, and came into camp in the best shape of his life. He’s been a different player since. He dominated in Carolina to start the year, then finished strong in Akron in 2012. He started off the year back in Akron, but after pitching well in April, made the jump to Columbus. He didn’t dominate, but he did go 7-10 with a 4.32 ERA. He struck out 137, while walking only 57, and he has better velocity as a lefty than people think. I don’t think he’s quite ready, but he’s only 24-years old, and if he starts out with some good starts in Triple A, he could be up sooner than folks think.
  • Tyler Holt: CF—According to Tony Lastoria, Tyler Holt is the best defender in the entire Indians’ system.  I don’t disagree with that at all. Holt is a kid that continually gets better as he rises through the system. There’s nothing that stands out, other than his tenacity and that defense, but he could be a bona fide fourth or fifth outfielder, should the need arise.
  • Jesus Aguilar: 1B—There’s a lot of buzz about Aguilar, and this will happen when there is a sieve in the system for power hitting, corner position players. Not much has changed with regards to Aguilar over the years. He has good power when he isn’t striking out. He can drive in some runs, and he is improving year-to-year. The Indians could certainly use some cost-effective power, and Aguilar would certainly be that. Will this be his year, or is he a year away?
  • Carlos Moncrief: RF—Tic…Tic…Tic…BOOM!! Moncrief had a really nice year in 2013, and the upside is impressive. He had an .824 OPS in a pitcher’s league and managed to strike out less than 100 times for the first time in his full-season career. I believe he’ll play a full season in Columbus but if his numbers continue to improve, and there’s no reason to think they won’t, he could be a legitimate major league candidate at some point in 2014, and for sure in 2015. There’s 20-20 potential there, but has to maintain his progression.
  • Chun-Hsiu Chen: DH—If he were still a catcher, I’d say there was a shot, but he just isn’t a great hitter, and as a DH-only, he’s about to get swept up by a slew of prospects heading for Columbus. Let’s face it…I put Chen in here for my good buddy, Steve Orbanek.
  • Francisco Lindor: SS—If it weren’t for the back injury that ended his Double A stint a bit short, I’d have Lindor at the top of my list. He’s really…really good. How much better than JRam is he? I actually think there is some question there. No, I’m not saying JRam is better, but I am saying there can be a conversation about it. Look, Lindor is the shortstop of the future, but JRam is valued, and really good. With that said, as soon as Lindor is ready, and as soon as the shortstop position is open, the job is Lindor’s. If he’s healthy and hitting, it’ll be sooner, rather than later. If he needs time to take back, it’ll be after July. Either way, I think we see Lindor in 2014.
  • Tyler Naquin: RF/CF—I only throw Naquin in here because of something Jeff Ellis said right after they drafted Naquin. On a Smoke Signals, Ellis said that Naquin would be propelled through the system and be knocking at the Indians door in 2013, and earlier than most people think. Ellis pointed to his plus bat, and his plus defense. For one thing or another, that didn’t pan out. Naquin ended up in Double A last year, but you do have to wonder what the Indians think about him overall. Can he make the move after his nice performance in Fall ball, and a strong start to 2013? Perhaps the answer is yes. There’s a lot that likely still needs to be worked out, but there is some pedigree there, right? 
  • Kyle Crockett: RP–Crockett was a fourth rounder in 2013, and zoomed quickly through the system. The Indians moved him from Mahoning to Lake County to Akron, and he excelled at all three places. He’s another lefty, and while his stuff isn’t electric like Cody Allen‘s, he has serious skills. He has the poise you want in a reliever, and can control the strike zone. His fast ball is a low-90’s offering that he can locate well, as well as a nice slider and curve. Is he special? There’s not enough of a sample size, but so far, so good.

There are your choices. If I forgot one or two, I apologize, but mention them in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list, if there hasn’t been too many votes as of yet. Happy Veteran’s Day, and happy voting.

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