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This Week on Wahoo's on First: Preseason Predictions and Prospect Democracy

Here’s a recap of Wahoo’s on First highlights from the final week of the Indians preseason:

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Over the course of the week we unveiled the results of our five-part preseason Indians survey, culminating with a list of 16 bold predictions for the 2013 Tribe:

Geordy Boveroux (Wahoo’s on First): The Indians draft Mark Appel fifth overall in the MLB Draft. They throw their entire bonus pool into signing him, and get him on the field by July 1. He kills it at Lake County, and storms through Kinston over the summer. As August nears, the Tribe needs a boost. Trevor Bauer has been great, with an ERA around 3.50 and a K/9 above 7.5 while limiting walks to a serviceable number, but they need just one more impact arm. When rosters expand, Antonetti surprises everyone and calls up Appel who has a David Price-like run through September and into the playoffs from the ‘pen.

We unveiled the results of our crowdsourced Indians top prospects list:

The newly acquired Trevor Bauer barely edges out previous consensus top prospect Francisco Lindor for the honor of No. 1 prospect in the organization. Bauer received 13 first-place votes, while Francisco Lindor got nine. Bauer, Lindor, and Dorssys Paulino were the only players to be named on all 23 ballots.

Brian showed that Drew Stubbs‘ strikeouts aren’t what killed his numbers in 2012—but there’s still reason for concern:

The bottom line in here is that while Stubbs was still striking out a lot, it wasn’t significantly more than his career strikeout rate and was only marginally higher than 2011 when he struck out 205 times yet still hit a reasonable .243/.321/.386. In other words, while everyone likes to point at strikeouts for the cause of Stubbs’ problems in 2012, the numbers show that simply wasn’t the case.

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Lewie used a game theory analysis to explain why Terry Francona‘s encouraging Indians hitters to swing in 3-0 counts is misguided:

In determining the rational course of action for the hitter, one must first consider the different things the pitcher can do. If the pitcher throws a ball, it’s obviously in the batter’s best interest to take ball four and walk to first base. However, if the pitcher throws a strike, the batter is still better off not swinging—this might come as a surprise, but batters who make contact on a pitch in the zone on a 3-0 count don’t do as well as the average hitter in a 3-1 count. So it doesn’t matter whether the pitcher throws a ball or a strike because the batter is better off not swinging either way.

Jeff wondered how long of a rope the organization will give certain players in 2013:

1. Ubaldo JimenezBrett Myers, and Scott Kazmir: These guys are a package deal because the level of patience for each of these guys depends a great deal on the performances of Trevor Bauer,Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Carrasco in Columbus. My guess is that the front office wants to see Bauer and Carrasco in the MLB rotation by the All-Star Break, which would mean that whoever is the low man on the totem pole when they are ready would be vulnerable, particularly since none of the incumbents is under contract beyond this year.

Geordy explained the rationale behind and domino effects of Cleveland’s moving Tony Wolters to catcher.

The Wolters move also shines some light on the development paths for the rest of the Tribe’s middle infield prospects. Its already been announced that Jose Ramirez will skip High-A and join the Double-A Akron Aeros as only a 20-year-old; Ronny Rodriguez will join him there at shortstop. While Wolters primarily catches, he will still play some second base and give Francisco Lindor the occasional off day in Kinston. Dorssys Paulino will take the reins at shortstop at Low-A Lake County, which means everything looks to shape out nicely.

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Lewie suggested that the Tribe could net solid trade returns for David Huff and Ezequiel Carrera:

Ordinarily, a team in the Tribe’s situation wouldn’t be able to extract much for either player. The Indians have zero leverage in this situation—if they don’t trade Huff and Carrera, they lose them—and we’re talking about two players who are too old to be prospects yet not good enough to crack the 25-man roster. Yet Cleveland is in a much better bargaining position than one might expect because of the caliber of the players the team is shopping.

Merritt wondered if the Indians will ever be able to find a cerebral hitter like Joey Votto:

With a slash line of .231/.348/.287 in the Midwest League, Votto looked more like Juan Pierre than a future baseball destroyer, and he knew it. He was a dead pull hitter. He was smart where a strangely small number of players aren’t: he realized that if he adjusted his hitting style to spray the ball around he could stop defensive shifts and take advantage of all the real estate baseball grants all hitters.

Steve looked at Cleveland’s plan to shape Cord Phelps into a super utility player:

The Indians won’t ask him to become (nor will they carry) a slick-fielding slap hitter. As a super utility player, he will find himself in a lineup several times a week, will be used as a pinch-hitter with the expectation to do more than lay down a sacrifice bunt, and will have to carry many different gloves in their bag.

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Evan wrote about Drew Stubbs’ untapped potential:

For what it is worth, Drew Stubbs has some pretty solid highlights since arriving full-time to MLB in 2010. He ranks eighth in stolen bases (100), 31st in runs scored (258—in front of names like Adam JonesShane VictorinoDavid WrightDustin PedroiaJimmy Rollins, and Melky Cabrera), and 46th in BABIP (.323)—so if he makes more contact, maybe he can improve his actual batting average and other numbers. Also, Stubbs hit 22 home runs and stole 30 bases in 2010 and is just a year removed from swatting 15 home runs and swiping 40 bases.

Brian took a trip down memory lane with an essay on Sudden Sam McDowell.

Long before there was CC SabathiaCliff Lee, or even Justin Masterson, another man with a lightning bolt for an arm, gifted to him at birth by the baseball gods, called Cleveland home. Ask anyone lucky enough to have seen him pitch and they will swear that he is the greatest pitcher to wear an Indians uniform not named Bob Feller. For those of us who weren’t as fortunate, he’s just another name lost in Indians lore. But, who is the man in question? It’s none other than Sudden Sam McDowell.

Lewie continued his 2013 Player Preview series with Lou Marson:

Best-case scenario: Lou Marson maintains his gaudy walk rates, rediscovers what he lost defensively, and finally grows into some respectable power. He emerges as an above-average catcher and sneaks into 100 games, giving Carlos Santana the chance to rest his knees at first base and thus helping Terry Francona keep Nick Swisher and his outfielders fresher. He becomes the most valuable second-string backstop in baseball.


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And Scott Kazmir:

Key factor: There’s a lot to be said about Scott Kazmir’s spotty control and durability, but the fundamental (and perhaps existential) question is: Can he pitch? Yes, he’s had a very impressive spring, but we’re talking about 13 innings of preseason play from a guy who hasn’t been an effective starter for more than a couple outings at a time since 2008. We won’t have an actual answer to this until he starts facing MLB hitters in games that really count.

And Matt Albers:

What to expect: It’s hard to say. Matt Albers pitched radically differently in 2012 than he has in the past and saw radically different (and also unexpected) results. I’d probably go with the Bill James projections—he’ll be a solid member of the middle relief corps, but he won’t come anywhere near the level he reached last year.

And Bryan Shaw:

Key factor: Velocity. Pitchf/x had Bryan Shaw’s 2012 fastball velocity down more than three full miles per hour from 2011, a drop so dramatic that it would give even Ubaldo Jimenez pause. As a result, opposing hitters became more selective against Shaw and made noticeably better contact when they swung—hence the drop in strikeouts and the rise in walks. Whether or not he can regain a few ticks on his fastball could mean the difference between Shaw being a solid middle reliever or a replaceable mop-up guy.


And Nick Hagadone:

Key factor: Confidence. Nick Hagadone never suffered from control problems in the minors after his switch to the bullpen, but so far he’s issued 21 free passes in just 36.1 MLB innings. It’s probably not a coincidence that this pitcher who suddenly can’t throw strikes is the same pitcher who accidentally broke his arm out of frustration. If Hagadone has a future as an MLB pitcher, especially a high-leverage one—many think he has the talent to be a setup man or possibly even a closer—he’ll need to learn to clear his head and believe in himself on the mound.

Geordy continued his Indians top prospects list with No. 7 Luigi Rodriguez:

All this being said, Rodriguez is still a guy to keep an eye on. His speed will always play well in center field and as the former infielder gets more coaching there some predict him to have a plus glove. The switch-hitter could be a mainstay at the top of the lineup if he cuts down on the strikeouts, but its hard to predict if he will be able to do so.

And No. 6 Jose Ramirez:

At only 5’9″, Ramirez will never be a power threat and he has so-so gap power at this point in his career. His hit tool looks to be plus, as evidenced by his .342 career batting average in two minor league seasons. Combine that with above-average speed and put him at a thin position like second base, and Ramirez looks to have the upside of an above-average second baseman.

Finally, Lewie recapped the results of the Wahoo’s on First fantasy draft:

Opening Day of the 2013 MLB season is just a few hours away, but it’s not just the league standings that will affected by the outcome of the first game of the season. Earlier this month, 16 Indians writers representing five different Cleveland media outlets sat down to draft players in the first-ever Wahoo’s on First fantasy league (mixed league, head-to-head points).

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