Spring Training Battles have a lot to Offer
Now that spring training is underway for the Cleveland Indians, there is a lot to pay attention to. There are a number of key positional battles, several of the team’s top prospects in camp, and any number of players looking to lock up one of the few remaining spots on the opening day roster. Knowing this, I decided to ask the staff what they were most looking forward to. What were they planning on paying the most attention to as the Indians prepare themselves for the 2014 season? Here is what they had to say for the latest installment of the Weekly Wroundtable.
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Steve Kinsella: As spring training begins I’ll be interested in a variety of topics such as seeing Carlos Santana at 3rd base, how healthy is Shjawn Marcum, how under control is Carlos Santana, how clean is the delivery of Trevor Bauer, and keeping an eye on the Rays Jose Lobaton who may end up as the backup catcher if Santana sees significant time at 3rd base.
Those are all the surface issues that I’ll be watching but I’ll be taking a look at the bottom half of the Indians bullpen. After Axford, Shaw, Allen, Outman, and Rzypcenski there are two spots open.
One of the spots would ideally go to a young arm with options such as C.C. Lee (who should have the inside track), Brian Price, Frank Herrmann, or Vinnie Pestano. I would add Nick Hagadone to this list but barring injury to one of the two lefties (Outman & Rzypcenski) he should be getting routine innings in Columbus to start the season. As of now I’d say that the front-runners for this roster spot are Pestano and C.C. Lee.
The other spot in the bullpen should go to a project guy. I did like Scott Atchinson for his groundball ability but he is coming off a season where he attempted to rest a sore elbow which to me is never a wise decision. David Aardsma would seem to be the most likely candidate to take that spot in the pen but if his velocity doesn’t rise from its 2013 level (~91 mph – used to be ~94 mph) or drops even further he may have to prove himself more than is expected at this time. An interesting guy to keep an eye on in spring training is Matt Capps.
The wild card in this whole bullpen mix will be Carlos Carrasco who could find himself back in the bullpen if Shawn Marcum is 100% healthy and ready to take over the fifth spot in the rotation. During the winter meetings Terry Francona said that it was important not to move Carrasco from the rotation after one bad outing – that he needed to stay in the rotation and log significant innings in 2014 – for his and the teams benefit. It would seem to me that he would have to show very little velocity or control during spring training for the Indians not to break camp with him in their rotation which makes his inclusion in the bullpen mix difficult for me to add right now.
Evan Vogel: I’m watching the Carlos Santana experiment for a couple of reasons:
1) Santana at 3B would be an incredible upgrade offensively over the Chisenhall/Reynolds/Aviles mess from 2013…but only if Yan Gomes‘ production is for real. Not only does Santana need to prove himself capable as a defender at third, but so many others are impacted by his success there and Gomes’ success behind the plate…like…
2) Lonnie Chisenhall. He is far too young to be tossed aside as a failure, having dealt with inconsistent playing time and injuries over his time in Cleveland. While Santana being a capable defender at third and Gomes producing again in 2014 would make Chisenhall a bench/role player, I’m holding out hope that Chisenhall can be an effective major leaguer.
Beyond the third base and catching experiment, the battle between Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Josh Tomlin for the No.5 starter job could be quite interesting. The depth could be nice, especially after losing Ubaldo Jimenez (potentially?) and Scott Kazmir via free agency.
Additionally, I would like to enjoy Francisco Lindor walking on water, healing the sick, and multiplying fish and bread to feed all of Progressive Field…I heard people are waiting on him.
Jeff Mount: What I’m thinking about right now is the fifth starter. That is really the only roster spot left that can have a huge impact on the season, barring injury. The offense was fourth in the league with Chisenhall; either he will get better or Santana will get the bulk of the playing time at third. There’s a bench spot up for grabs, unless you believe Jason Giambi has it sewn up, but if somebody else gets that spot he will either be a fifth outfielder or a third catcher, so not exactly an impact guy. Middle relief is a little unsettled, but there are enough options available that somebody will step up.
The wrong fifth starter, though, will make about twenty per cent of the games just about unwinnable, and that is an insurmountable obstacle for a team with playoff aspirations like the Indians with playoff aspirations. The other reason that is on my mind is that none of the four main candidates is a sure thing:
Shaun Marcum had an awful year last year and may not be ready to pitch on Opening Day.
If Carlos Carrasco could string together six innings as good as the short relief stints he gave us in September he would be the leading candidate, but we have been waiting for that since 2009, so I can’t say I’m ready to bet the house on it.
We all know what Trevor Bauer put us through last year. The Indians are saying the right things, but in my mind I keep seeing him in Columbus, constantly stopping in mid-motion as though he couldn’t remember the motion he had used on the pitch before. The only good thing about that experience, except for the fact that it may have humbled him, was that he didn’t shred his arm with all the different motions.
That leaves Josh Tomlin, who I always liked. A fifth starter who can get you six innings every time out and keep his ERA in the low 4s, which Tomlin did before he got hurt, is better than at least half the fifth (and some of the fourth) starters in the American League. In other words, if Tomlin pitches like he did a couple of years ago, he can hold down the job. Is his arm ready for that? That’s why I’m still thinking about the fifth starter.
Brian Heise: It’s seems a bit repetitive at this point, but I’ll be paying the most attention to the battle at third base between Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall. I have all the confidence in the world that the fifth starter spot will shake itself out, but third base is a totally different matter. Can Santana actually play a competent third base? Can Chisenhall finally live up to his potential? Another factor that will come into play is whether or not Yan Gomes can be the everyday catcher. His status as the team’s regular catcher will have a direct impact on how much, if any, third base Santana plays this season. If Gomes struggles, Santana will be back behind the plate and Chisenhall could be back to platooning with Mike Aviles. Stay tuned on this one. It’s going to be interesting.