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Optimistic offense at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

The winds of change are blowing here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as Drew Stubbs was sent packing to the Colorado Rockies for left-handed reliever, Josh Outman.

The deal in and of itself wasn’t something that should shake the ground that Cleveland Indians fans walk on, but it certainly showcases Chris Antonetti’s drive to reshape this team.

Stubbs became expendable back in November when they signed outfielder David Murphy to a two-year deal, and while there was speculation that Michael Bourn may be the better candidate to deal, it turned out that the initial belief that Stubbs would be dealt turned out to be true.

Who is Josh Outman?

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Winter Ball Notebook: Surprise wins AFL title

Oh what a week it was.

There’s plenty of news coming out of this past week’s winter ball action, but perhaps no news is bigger than the Surprise Saguaros defeating Mesa 2-0 to win the Arizona Fall League title on Saturday.

This news is particularly important for the Indians, simply because the Tribe had eight players (Tyler NaquinJoe WendleTony WoltersShawn ArmstrongTrey HaleyJeff JohnsonWill RobertsTyler Sturdevant) on Surprise’s roster.

The actual importance of an AFL Championship may be debatable, but it’s still nice that a strong contingent of Indians were part of the winning team. At the very least, these players gained valuable experience by playing in games that were weighted in importance.

A handful of these players made some positive strides during their time in the AFL, and that’s really all that an MLB team can ask for.

With that being said, here are some thoughts on deep and shallow on a number of the Indians players currently competing in the various winter leagues…

Player of the Week

Carlos Moncrief — Outfielder, Gigantes de Carolina

5 G, 6-for-21, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K

Moncrief’s numbers weren’t too impressive for the most part, but the reality is that no one Indians player really stood out in terms of performance this past week. However, the one nice thing with Moncrief was that he finally started to display some power for the first time this winter season. His two doubles and one home run were his first extra-base hits of the winter season. While much of the hype this winter has centered around Jesus Aguilar, do not overlook Moncrief. Yes, Aguilar is coming off a strong 2013 campaign, but it could be argued that Moncrief’s season was even stronger. Also, while Aguilar could factor into the Indians’ plans in 2013, the very same thing can be said for Moncrief. Any team is always searching for an athletic player who has the ability to hit for some power, and that is a perfect description for Moncrief. He is only hitting .243 (9-for-37) in 10 games a so far, and his 12 strikeouts are alarming, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn it around and have an Aguilar-esque type winter season. This past week was definitely a step in the right direction.

News & Notes

— You have to be impressed with what Tyler Naquin accomplished this fall in the AFL. Because he was a first round pick (and selected before Michael Wacha), Naquin has found himself to be the subject of much criticism as of late. To an extent, that is fair as  Naquin did show that he has some noticeable flaws in 2013, especially in regard to plate discipline (134 strikeouts in 126 games). However, this fall Naquin really was outstanding in almost every facet as he compiled a .339/.400/.417 line with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 18 RBI. He also showed improved plate discipline as he draw 11 walks and struck out 18 times. Now, it’s obviously too early to predict that Naquin will have an impact at the Major League level, but he does seem to be making progress in his development. He played almost every game this fall for Surprise, and that’s a testament to just how hot he was. Coaches usually rotate players in and out in an effort to get every player some quality at-bats, but Naquin was never out of the lineup for much more than a day at a time. That’s a testament to his performance and just how much he meant to Surprise’s AFL title win.

— The IBI’s Jim Pete and Michael Hattery recently started a “campaign” to voice their support for infielder Jose Ramirez. While I fully support that campaign, I propose launching an additional campaign for another budding Indians prospect — Joe Wendle. Wendle completed a strong AFl campaign this past week as he posted .311/.371/.492 line with four doubles, two triples, one home run and 12 RBI. What makes this even more impressive is that all of this production came in a mere 16 games. Unfortunately, Wendle was a casualty of a manager trying to get his players as much time as possible, so he never really got the opportunity to play every day. Nonetheless, his impact was still significant, which is especially impressive when you consider that he likely was never able to get into a rhythm at the plate. There are varying opinions as to what the future holds for Wendle. Some say he’s perhaps a rich man’s Cord Phelps while others think he could have an impact as significant as Jason Kipnis, minus Kipnis’ defense. I’m not sure of where exactly he falls, but his numbers are impressive enough that the Indians may want to experiment with him at some other positions other than second base. Wherever he has gone, he has posted impressive OPS numbers, so it could be that there is more than meets they eye with Wendle.

— Speaking of Jose Ramirez, what exactly is going on with the switch-hitting infielder? In 21 games in the DWL, Ramirez currently has a .267/.308/.384 line. Those numbers are really not all that concerning, but the one other area that could be somewhat worrisome is the fact that he has drawn just three walks while striking out 15 times. Keep in mind that part of Ramirez’s calling card is his ability to get on base and put up quality at-bats. However, he just has really struggled in that area so far this winter, and there does not seem to be any real reason as to why that’s the case. The one positive thing to remember here is that it’s just 21 games and 86 at-bats, so there is time for Ramirez to get it straightened out. Nonetheless, after such a strong 2013 season that ultimately resulted in a promotion with the Major League club, one would hope that Ramirez would have gotten off to a better start in winter ball.

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The Tribe Should Stay Away from Tim Hudson

Tim Hudson (photo: AP)

Tim Hudson (photo: AP)

I must confess that I was more than surprised when I heard that the Indians had more than a passing interest in free agent right-hander Tim Hudson. According to Braves beat writer Mark Bowman both the Indians and Kansas City Royals have expressed interest in bringing Tim Hudson into the fold.

There is some linkage between Terry Francona and Tim Hudson, as Francona served as the bench coach for the 2003 Oakland Athletics, as IBI beat writer Jim Berdysz has noted. Granted, I think it would be challenging to find a player in MLB who hasn’t crossed paths with the ebullient Indians manager, and come away not wanting to a part of one of his teams.

Digressing, I must confess that I have some sort of hot stove fanaticism. I find myself incredibly interested by the options the Tribe has and thus will attempt to respond as frequently as possible to any players that the Indians are substantially tied to.

Returning to Hudson question, I believe that the Indians should not pursue this route for a few different but equally important reasons.

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