Here are the highlights from Wahoo’s on First this week:
The dream scenario for both the Indians and their fans would be Ubaldo Jimenez returning to his 2010 form and having his name tossed around in the Cy Young Award discussion all while the Indians are comfortably holding a playoff spot through the end of August. At the end of the year a flurry of moves are completed: the Indians pick up the 2014 option which Jimenez voids, he receives a qualifying offer but declines, he signs as a free agent with another team and Cleveland is rewarded with a supplemental pick at the end of the first round.
Brian argued that the Indians’ new slogan suggests that the Tribe is “waging a marketing war” on Cleveland’s other sports teams:
What makes the “Tribe Town” campaign so daring is the fact that Cleveland has for several years been thought of as a football city. The city of Cleveland is “Browns Town.” Attempting to take down arguably the city’s most beloved franchise is a bold move, especially at this current juncture. With a new owner and new front office regime calling the shots, there is reason to once again be excited about the Browns’ future despite the 14 years that preceded. The Indians don’t care about any of that. They see an opportunity in front of them to take this city by storm and aren’t about to pass it up.
Stephanie Liscio (It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”): Add in the fact that Lohse is 34, and there’s no way the Indians should do a multi-year deal on this. I’d almost consider a one-year deal with some incentives, but is that even worth losing a fourth-round pick? Since he’s already missed a couple of weeks of spring training and would need time to get ready, I think I’d just pass on this one.
The decision of when to start Giambi at DH will depend on how often Francona decides to start Stubbs against right-handed pitching. Stubbs has struggled against same-handed pitchers in his career, posting a career slash line of .228/.301/.355 an OPS of .656 but his speed and defense bring a lot of value to the Indians that will prohibit them from sitting him versus every right handed starting pitcher.
Brian looked for reasons for optimism in the Tribe’s first games of Spring Training:
While Spring Training serves mainly as a way for a team to work itself into game shape and build camaraderie, it also helps to raise the expectations of the fanbase and provide a sense of hope for the six long months that are to come. So while the Indians’ starting rotation might still have several question marks and holes left to be filled, the investment in the everyday lineup seems to be paying dividends.
Steve talked about the Cleveland lineup’s new, more patient look:
Scoring runs is predicated on the ability to get on base and the Indians have quite a few guys that take a lot of pitches and are willing to take their walks. They will try to take advantage of these baserunners by pushing runs across the plate and getting to the opposition’s middle relief often which in turn will force a lot of pitching changes. The likely outcome may or may not be more victories, but it will certainly lead to longer games—and more baseball is never a bad thing.
The move to first also allows the Tribe to field their best possible defensive outfield. While the team could have played Swisher in right, Brantley on left, and Bourn in center, Swisher’s move to first allows Drew Stubbs to slide over to right field. Bourn was the top center fielder in baseball based on UZR, OOZ, and DRS last season, and should have won a Gold Glove award. Stubbs is too good defensively to be relegated to the fourth outfielder spot, and although he hasn’t played right field since Triple-A, he should make the move with no trouble.
Geordy continued his top Indians prospects list with No. 11 Danny Salazar:
At only 6’0″ Salazar doesn’t have the height of an ideal starting pitcher, but the velocity he can maintain on his fastball definitely makes up for his shortcomings. While before surgery Salazar was sitting in the low-90s, his fastball can now comfortably sit between 94-96 mph and he’s touched it up to as high as 99 at times. Salazar credits the velocity increase to his rehab as he was determined to get back on the mound.
Wolters is the furthest along of the Tribe’s noteworthy middle infield prospects, but he also is now the lowest in terms of potential impact. Wolters will never be a prospect who will excite scouts with his tools, but he’s that quintessential scrappy middle infielder with enough of a solid all-around game to warrant a roster spot.
Brian counted down his March Indians Power Rankings:
1. Michael Bourn: As the final piece of the Indians offseason puzzle (at least for now), Michael Bourn helps represent a seismic shift in the way in which the Indians have operated and how we as fans have viewed the team since the Dolans took over at the start of the previous decade. Bourn’s signing came out of nowhere and helped cap off a major overhaul of the team. Now, with this arsenal of weapons led by Bourn at the top of the lineup, the fans have a reason to be both optimistic and hopeful that better days may be closer than we thought.
Katrina looked at how Jason Giambi can help the Indians:
But it isn’t his batting prowess that makes Giambi desirable to the Indians’ front office. At this point in his career, most of his contributions to the team are intangibles. He is able to provide veteran leadership, and that’s what Francona is most interested in. His experience and knowledge of the game are invaluable to young players like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall. One of the biggest complaints about last year’s team was that it lacked leaders in the clubhouse. Giambi is the perfect person to fill that role, and according to reports from spring training, he’s already begun to help his teammates and give advice whenever it’s needed. Francona believes that he can have a positive influence on the Tribe’s less-experienced players and improve the way they play the game.
Lewie continued his 2013 Player Preview series with Michael Brantley:
Key factor: Power. Brantley’s got plus contact ability for sure and he made some real gains in plate discipline last year, but he lacks pop in his bat. Last season was the first time his slugging percentage had ever topped .400 (and just barely so!), and he’s never had an ISO over .118. It takes a truly exceptional talent in another area of hitting for a player to be a true standout without more pop, so unless he bulks up—and as he enters his age-26 season, he very well could—Brantley’s probably just about reached his ceiling.
Key factor: Defense. You pretty much know what you’re going to get from Bourn offensively—a roughly league-average batting line and a ton of stolen bases—but though popular perception of his glove is quite positive, the consensus isn’t so clear. Defensive metrics are notoriously noisy and often internally inconsistent. Though every other major system raved about Bourn’s defense in 2012, FRAA put his glove at within a run of a league-average center fielder. And as recently as 2011 the metrics unanimously rated him as a below-average fielder.
Stubbs’ .290 BABIP last year was about in line with the league average, but it was a big drop from his norm—as a fast runner with raw power he’s the kind of hitter who could reasonably sustain an unusually high BABIP, and he had done so for the first three years of his career. It’s possible that his diminished hit rate was just a one-time fluke, but some changes in his batted-ball profile (particularly the drop in his line drive rate) were consistent with the idea that he’s making weaker contact.
Key factor: Power. In some ways you know what to expect from Reynolds each year—a batting average in the low .200′s and an on-base percentage in the low-to-mid .300′s. The question is how hard he pummels the ball when he makes contact. Looking at the last five years, Reynolds’ slugging percentage has jumped at least 50 points in one direction or another every season.
Finally, Brian continued his Fantasy Forecast series with a look at Drew Stubbs:
Over the past three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Stubbs has stolen 100 bases, roughly 33.33333 stolen bases on average. In a world that continues to diminish the value of the stolen base, Stubbs is one of the few players (along with Bourn) who can be relied upon to get you them in mass quantities. For his career, Stubbs has an 80% success rate which is respectable but it does mean he’s not a for sure thing when he takes off.