I went to the Columbus Clippers game Saturday night. It is always interesting to watch Indians’ prospects, because sometimes there appears to be little correlation between minor league numbers and major league success. As it happened, there were a number of players on the field that are familiar to Indians fans, although the player I was hoping to see, Trevor Bauer, did not pitch. This was surprising because he had last pitched in Cleveland on Monday. I would have thought the Indians would try to keep him on a steady five-day routine.
Anyway, here’s how things looked:
T.J. House was the starting pitcher. He lasted into the seventh inning and only gave up four hits, but it never felt like he was overpowering. Over the first four innings his balls and strikes were almost equal, and it seemed like decent hitters would have worked the count and gotten him into trouble. The only guy for Scranton who seemed likely to ever see the big leagues was journeyman Dan Johnson, so this was not a great test for House. He has decent command, but there is nothing about his stuff that screams out future big leaguer.
Juan Diaz looks like a big leaguer shortstop in the field. He is built more like a center fielder, but he turned a couple of double plays that Asdrubel Cabrera would have been proud of. He’s not hiiting yet, and at age 24 may never hit enough, particularly given who’s creeping up behind him in the Indians’ system, but he has enough vale defensively that he could be a trade chip someday.
Cord Phelps always looks like a major leaguer in Columbus, but never in Cleveland. He hit two ropes last night, one that was caught, and played solid defense. I still think he would be a solid bench guy on the Indians, but time and a lot of history are against me.
Tim Fedroff may be the most likely guy to come to Cleveland this year aside from the real prospects like Bauer and Chisenhall. He plays all three outfield positions well, runs the bases well enough to pinch run, and seems to approach at bats with a decent plan. If the Indians decide to go with another bench guy, Fedroff could fill a need, although I can’t say I ever see him as a big-league regular.
The fact that Matt Carson and Cedric Hunter are getting regular playing time in Columbus speaks poorly about the Indians system depth regarding the outfield. Both are career minor leaguers whose track records don’t suggest that you would ever want them on the big league roster. Thomas Neal, whom the Indians got rid of this offseason and played for Scranton, looks like a much better player. The signings of Bourn and Swisher may have obscured the fact that the outfield is a black hole developmentally for the Indians, but this needs to be fixed.
Nick Hagadone relieved in the seventh and struck out three of the seven hitters he faced, but also walked two. The Scranton hitters were clearly overmatched, which made the two walks all the more frustrating. Hagadone clearly has the stuff of a big-league closer, but the command is not there. I would say his career is at a crossroads.
Matt LaPorta is hitting well. I had hoped the hip surgery would help his bat speed, but it didn’t look that way. Given a full season, I still feel LaPorta would hit .260 with about eighteen home runs. That may or may not be good enough for a first baseman on a contending team, and his defense will never be more than adequate. Still, he would have been better than Casey Kotchman or Shelly Duncan last year.
Finally, Lonnie Chisenhall made two errors on routine throws, including one on a force at home that allowed a run to score. He hit an absolute bomb in the fourth, the longest home run I have ever seen in Columbus. If it had been in Cleveland it would have gone into the seats in right where no one has hit one since Pronk was really mashing. Then in the eighth a side arming left-hander who will probably never see the majors made him look helpless on a three pitch strikeout. So I don’t know what to think. Right now Chisenhall reminds me a lot of Brandon Phillips when he was here, playing as though all the unmet expectations could be fixed with one swing. Phillips grew up and figured it out, although too late to help the Indians. (Although – the guy we got for Phillips was the guy we traded for the guy we traded for Chris Perez. So it wasn’t a total loss.) Whether Chisenhall will ever get it together at this point is anybody’s guess. I sure hope he does, because that swing is smooth as butter.