Weekly Wroundtable 3.3: Rookie Invasion

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Hey readers, it’s time for another edition of the Weekly Wroundtable.  Joining us this week were representatives from “Did the Tribe Win Last Night?” and “It’s Pronounced ‘Lajaway'”.

Here’s this week’s topic…

The Indians have recently promoted Kyle Crockett, Jose Ramirez and Jesus Aguilar, and Trevor Bauer will be promoted for his first non-spot start on Tuesday.  It remains to be seen whether any of them will stick in the majors, but the Indians have a few other prospects on the horizon that might be capable of making a major-league debut within the next month or so.
 
You have just taken over for Chris Antonetti, and ownership is inexplicably pressuring you to promote two new prospects that have never played a game in the major leagues.  Who do you promote, who do you trade/demote/release to make room for them, and why?  Your prospects must stick in the majors when the players currently on the DL are activated, but Giambi and Morgan are fair game to trade, demote or release.
Evan Vogel (Wahoo’s on First):
With Francisco Lindor performing well at Double-A and the Indians wavering on the line of competitiveness and fading away, it may be worth bringing the slick-fielding shortstop up for good in early June – after the Super Two period has passed. He would need to stay up if the Indians bring him, which would fit the requirements here, but the Indians would need to find a taker for Asdrubal Cabrera. The Pirates (.538 OPS) and Reds (.546 OPS) haven’t had much help offensively at the shortstop position, while having the talent to compete in 2014. While the Indians wouldn’t be able to get much for Cabrera right now due to his struggles over the last couple of seasons, now would be a good time to sell, as the 28 year-old switch-hitter had a .444 average and 1.262 OPS over his last nine games entering Saturday’s game against Oakland. Both teams are loaded with solid, young pitching, and the Tribe could take on some of that depth while assisting a team more capable of contending this season.
Giambi, 43, has no role on a club that has at-bats to give to versatile players. In an era where so many teams are utilizing the designated hitter spot by rotating players to keep them fresh, the Indians don’t have the luxury of rostering a one-trick pony. Giambi has value to a rebuilding team that is loaded with young talent, as he can provide leadership and other overrated, immeasurable tools. If he wants to wear a uniform and take up space while being mostly useless, put him in a coaching role now.
Nyjer Morgan is a good 4th outfielder because he doesn’t have to play everyday and he has produced this season, as well as in the past. For the Indians, though, he is a 5th outfielder who has taken on a larger role due to injuries. They weren’t getting that type of production when Aaron Cunningham or Matt Carson were up the last two seasons, so this abilities are well-above average when compared to alternatives.
Trevor Bauer needs to be in the rotation. Josh Tomlin has options. Tomlin, who has pitched well, is 29 and hasn’t been anything more than a back-end starter his entire career. You don’t let potential rot in Triple-A for mediocrity. Tomlin, if valuable to the franchise, can continue to be depth or take on a long-relief role out of the bullpen with Danny Salazar being demoted and Carlos Carrasco and John Axford being useless in their doghouse roles.
Ed Carroll (Wahoo’s on First):

ALL THE ROOKIES

After a professional-but-likely-terse discussion with ownership, where I voice my vehement protests to its descision, I would likely avoid calling up two real prospects in the organzation’s long-term plans, opting instead to call up onetime top prospect Adam Miller, and give a chance to a player who isn’t really a prospect at all (though he certainly once was), as a slight reward for his hard work and in the hopes you might get a useful bullpen arm in the process. I’m admittedly sentimental about Miller, who is nowhere near the pitcher he was before the injuries. He rejoined the Indians organzation after a season away, but if it doesn’t work out, you gave the guy his big-league shot and no worse for the wear. The other guy is a prospect, but Tyler Naquin could potentially fill an immediate void on the Indians roster. The bat isn’t quite there yet, and he’s more valuable if he’s in centerfield as opposed to a corner spot, but given the recent rash of bangs and bruses in the Indians outfield (and with small-sample wonder Nyjer Morgan on the DL), Naquin could take over LF and let Brantley take a few days at DH, and slide over to CF when Bourn needs a day off. It’s certainly possible big-league pitching overwhelms Naquin at this point, but if ownership really wants to see a glimpse of the future, they should probably be aware it’s often painful to rush something when it isn’t ready.

Brian Heise (Wahoo’s on First):

This is easy. UNLEASH THE KRAKEN!!! Err… the Lindor. Unleash the Lindor. If I had to do it, why not call up the most exciting prospect in the organization? At the very least it would draw interest and make people want to come to the ballpark. Actually, if we’re going that route then why not call up Clint Frazier while we’re at it? Sure, he’s nowhere near ready, but honestly, no one else really is either. At least by calling up Lindor and Frazier we could have some fun with these moves.

Mike Brandyberry (Did the Tribe Win Last Night?):
If Cleveland continues to struggle and falls out of contention, I actually think that delays Francisco Lindor’s promotion. If they are winning, and they felt he could bring something to the team, they’d promote him. But if they are out of it, and Akron is winning, why promote him and start accumulating service time toward arbitration? As long as Cleveland is struggling and Akron is winning, I think Lindor will stay in Akron and play every day. If the RubberDucks make a playoff run, Lindor may not make his MLB debut until the last home stand, or possibly even Opening Day 2015.
For the most part, guys that can help this roster have all already been given at least a small opportunity (Trevor Bauer, Jose Ramirez, Jesus Aguilar, Kyle Crockett). The one prospect I could see being promoted that could help the roster, that already has not been promoted, is Shawn Armstrong. He’s only 23-years old, a hard-throwing right-hander at Akron that has been the back end of the bullpen with Crockett. If John Axford, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman continue to struggle, the Indians are going to be forced to make a tough decision or two in regards to those guys. Armstrong is a guy who can get lefties and righties out and could move into a role like what Bryan Shaw or Cody Allen had a year ago, as the two of them move to the back end.

Adam Hintz (It’s Pronounced ‘Lajaway’)

Others have already said the most prudent answer to this question: there are no easy answers or quick fixes down on the farm. The only thing that can happen by a knee-jerk reaction promotion is a messing up of service time for big guys like Lindor and Cody Anderson.
But at the same time, in this scenario, I am under pressure to do something right now, which means common sense goes out the window. In the next week, I am going to promote Francisco Lindor from AA Akron and Giovanny Urshela from AAA Columbus.
Before I tell you how I plan to use these players, I should probably justify these selections. Lindor is a no-brainer, even if his bat is not quite major league ready. He has the glove and the pedigree to excite the fan base during what is looking like a lost season. The Indians should look to trade Asdrubal Cabrera as quickly as possible, because Lindor is going to be my everyday SS in the near future. Besides, can Lindor’s “not yet ready” bat be worse than Jose Ramirez? I say no.
Urshela is kind of a surprise pick, but the Indians desperately need some right handed hitting that actually works. Ryan Raburn has been atrocious this year, and I’m about ready to cut ties with him. Gio is kind of an unfinished product who will not help the defense, but in a DH/3B platoon against lefties, he could be a shot in the arm with a little bit of luck.
To make room for these two players, I’m sending Jose Ramirez down to AAA and designating Raburn for assignment. Lindor will be used sparingly at first while the team works Kipnis back into the every day lineup, but trading Cabrera needs to be done — even if it is to the hated Tigers. This will allow Lindor to get his feet under him in the majors before being thrown to the wolves, but everything I’ve seen from the kid is encouraging.
Urshela will be more of a platoon player, only really seeing action against lefties. He will play for Chisenhall, Santana, or Swisher at this point, until one of the latter two gets their bat going. He may flame out, he may not be ready, but he’s been on fire this season (.914 OPS at AA, .790 OPS at AAA) and he deserves a look for now.
Overall, though, the team should just sit tight and take its lumps… there ain’t no one on the farm who is gonna save the day.
Matthew Bretz (Wahoo’s on First):
Well when this question was first posed I had one name that quickly came to mind…and of course within the hour the Indians preceded to call him up and he made his MLB debut not long after.  I’m of course talking about TJ House.  Bauer has clearly pitched well in AAA and is more than deserving of the callup to replace Salazar in the rotation, but part of me really wanted House to get that call.  Was a big money mid/late round pick for the Tribe out of High School and would be great to see a starting pitcher drafted by us actually make something of himself in Cleveland.  He’s been nearly as good as Bauer to this point and fully expect to see him making a start or two (at least) for the Tribe at some point. Could be a nice doubleheader/26th guy to add.
With House off the table I’d turn to Giovanny Urshela like others have. I think most would agree the biggest issue the Tribe has been their abysmal defense, particularly their infield defense.  Cabrera is stuck at SS for the time being and Kipnis will be at 2B when he comes back. Swisher for better or worse is the 1B.  The one spot we could really improve is 3B.  Santana has been better than I thought but still just not up to par. Chiz hardly plays there and when he does looks rusty.  Urshela could come up and help out even if only playing part-time against lefties.  With the absence of many other options I’d turn to a guy that can at least improve (greatly) an area that has been a huge Achilles heel.  He’s unfortunately not on the 40-man, but personally would have no issue with designating Giambi.  At this point there’s not much he brings.  If they really wanted to keep him around for “vet presence” then put him on the 60-day DL, or make him an assistant coach of some sort.  The defense absolutely has to improve and Urshela can help.
The only other prospect with no experience I’d consider turning to this early would be Roberto Perez.  Unfortunately he’s on the DL at the moment but he was on fire up to that point.  OPS over 1.000 and playing his usual solid defense behind the plate.  I know, I know, we already have a backup catcher in Carlos Santana (just threw up in my mouth saying that).  Maybe it’s just me, but I find it pretty coincidental that the year Santana has come down with “hitting amnesia” is the same year he is trying to play three different positions for the first time (four if you count DH, which I don’t).  You’re giving him way too much to focus on. Taking away the backup catching duties is something that is likely going to happen eventually, I’d go ahead and start as soon as Perez is ready.  He, like Urshela, could also be used in a bit of a platoon situation and also would greatly improve the overall team defense.
I know brining up Lindor is tempting. He is without a doubt my favorite prospect and never been so happy with a draft pick as I was when we took him (I’d have taken him 1st overall that year).  That said, I just don’t like the idea of a panic move to call up a guy who we need to be a cornerstone of this franchise for years to come.  Sure he could come up and probably be Alcides Escobar (all glove with a struggling bat). But give him the time he needs and bring him up when he’s ready and could be the next Jimmy Rollins. Let’s not have Lindor become the next Marte, LaPorta, Phillips, Donald, etc.  Give him the time he needs, like we did with Santana and Kipnis.  Besides, Cabrera has actually been half way decent to this point and a very pleasant surprise.  Let him keep this up thru July…could be a very solid trade piece, and THEN you can call up Lindor.
Stephanie Liscio (It’s Pronounced ‘Lajaway’):

For the past year, I’ve heard people clamoring for the Indians to promote Francisco Lindor to the major leagues.  Some of them may have even been calling for it before his promotion to Double-A Akron, because it’s always a good idea to send a 19-year-old kid from A-ball straight to the majors.  I started to realize why people were so fixated on a Lindor call-up – because people were so dissatisfied with Asdrubal Cabrera, they were willing to either expedite his departure, or fantasize about a time when he’s no longer there.

So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when the Indians are playing poorly, people start to focus on prospects.  During some seasons, you tend to do it because you can sense the fire sale looming around the corner, and you’re thinking about the people that will take the place of the departed players.  Other times, you think about prospects because you’re tired of watching the product on the field, and would give anything to see something different.  Something that makes you think that the future is brighter than what you’re seeing now.

While the season is not yet lost, I’m not sure I’d want to bother starting the service clock on players when the Indians are still trying to pull themselves out of the basement.  So I’d probably go with a couple of fringe prospects, more than likely a couple of pitchers.  I don’t think one or two minor league prospects will save (or even necessarily help) this offense, so they might as well see what they have in terms of pitching.  They could cycle out a couple of the fringe bullpen arms (although they just did this with CC Lee) and replace them.

Katrina Putnam (Wahoo’s on First):

I would pressure the owners to stop pressuring me to make such a poor decision. Panic in Cleveland is no reason to cause chaos in the minor leagues and hurt the development of your best prospects. No one — and I mean absolutely no one, Lindor fans — is ready to make a permanent leap to the majors. Yes, there are players who are hot right now, but it’s a lot more difficult to keep them hot when they’re facing much harder competition.

That said, based on the current major league roster, I would probably call up a catcher and an outfielder. Tyler Naquin is hitting .289/.351/.747 in Akron, and while those numbers aren’t blowing anyone away, he can also run. He’s 9-for-11 in stolen bases this season, and could at least provide some value both defensively and on the basepaths. Although he’s a bit of a dark horse, I’d also select Tony Wolters. He hasn’t been a catcher for long, but Roberto Perez is on the DL, and Wolters has done a nice job with his transition from second base. He’s thrown out 42 percent of base-stealers this year, and is hitting .298/.350/.359 for Akron. He could relieve Santana of backup catcher duties, and even fill in at second base when needed. Of course, both of these moves would be absurd for player development reasons, so maybe I’d just hand in my resignation letter and hope the Diamondbacks job opens up soon instead…

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