Tiiiime, is not on my side.

New job, new life.  Less time to write, blog, plan, etc.  I’m just going to go ahead and point you in a direction for great information on the Indians.  I still plan to drop in from time to time and write about the Tribe, but most of my thoughts are sticking in my head these days.

Check out these sites, phenomenal write-ups about the Tribe.

Tony Lastoria’s Indians’ Prospect Insider
Paul Cousineau’s The Dia Tribe
Anthony Castrovince’s CastroTurf

Tony & Paul currently host a show on BlogTalkRadio that covers all areas of the Cleveland Indians, and usually features a call-in or two from current Indians’ prospects.  A great show last week featured the cream-of-the-crop of Cleveland Sports’ Writing, Terry Pluto.  Be sure to check it out.

Lake County Captains, First-Half Contenders

After collecting the first-half division crown, the Lake County Captains fell victim to the 2nd-half of the season (much as a result of many of the key players being promoted to Kinston).  Their first-half record was 41-29 while the second-half record was 34-36.  They look to rebound next season with a fresh set of faces, many coming from close-by Mahoning Valley.

As stated in my post below, barring any players jumping a level of the minor league system, here’s the lineup I expect to see to start the year in Lake County.

1) Isaias Velasquez – SS
2) Tim Fedroff – CF
3) Cord Phelps – 2B
4) Lonnie Chisenhall – 3B
5) Jeremie Tice – 1B
6) Juan Valdes – DH
7) Ryan Blair – RF
8) Robert Alcombrack – C
9) Ramon Hernandez – LF

* While I expect Chisenhall to still get a good amount of games at SS, and Tice to get a decent amount of games at 1B, I expect both to be making position changes at some point next season.  Not only will it help them with versatility, it might help accelerate them throughout the minor league system.  Phelps will be playing exclusively at 2B, and looks to be the Indians best prospect at that respected position, and if he contributes early, he might be fast-tracked through the minors.

The New Look of the K-Tribe

After failing to make the postseason, the K-Tribe looks to rebound with a new set of faces in Kinston this year.  The likely promotion of Mills, Weglarz, etc. will put a lot of young players in Kinston who many of the fans have yet to hear about.  Even though there are players with great potential in the likes of Lonnie Chisenhall, Tim Fedroff, and Cord Phelps who could potentially skip Lake County and head straight to Kinston, the history of this organization moving players slowly through the ranks will likely have them starting in Lake County.  Barring any players skipping a system or two, here is what I think the normal lineup will be for the Kinston Indians.

1) Karexon Sanchez – 2B
2) Matthew Brown – RF
3) Matt McBride – LF
4) Richard Martinez – C
5) Todd Martin – 1B
6) Roman Pena – CF
7) Brock Simpson – DH
8) Dustin Realini – 3B
9) Ron Rivas – SS

* With the lack of impact players in the lineup above, Chisenhall, Fedroff, Phelps, Tice, Valdes, etc. could make a quick jump to Kinston. If the K-Tribe expects to be in contention with the players above, they’re going to have to really breakout this year.  We won’t hear much about most of these players except from the Minor League Magazine show on STO as the K-Tribe is the only team affiliated with the Indians not stationed in Ohio.

Akron Aeros Look to Head Back to Eastern League Finals

The Akron Aeros will have almost a completely different roster headed into next season as most of the key players will head to the Huntington Bank Stadium in Columbus, but there will be a lot of new, young, high-caliber talent headed to Akron.  The Aeros headed into the Eastern League Finals last season, but fell to the AA-Affiliate of the Yankees.  With the new players added to the roster, the Aeros look to head back to the Eastern League Finals.

Here is the roster I expect to see the Aeros put on the field on most days…

1) John Drennen – CF
2) Carlos Santana – C
3) Beau Mills – 1B
4) Nick Weglarz – LF
5) Jared Goedert – 3B
6) Matt Whitney – DH
7) Carlos Rivero – SS
8) Ryan Goleski – RF
9) Niuman Romero – 2B

* Goleski could be used as a 4th OF for the Columbus Clippers next season, while Niuman Romero could be picked up by another team as he is a minor league free agent who will likely not be added to the 40-man roster.  However, I think Romero will re-sign with us and be penciled in as the every day 2B at Akron.

* John Drennen could be on his last legs at Akron next season.  After a pretty decent rookie campaign, he’s become nothing more than a footnote on the career of Roger Clemens (homering off of him while Clemens was making his comeback).  If he doesn’t excel this year at AA, he likely will never see AAA in a Tribe uniform.  The lack of a leadoff hitter might allow Drennen to be used as the leadoff hitter.

* If Goleski and Romero aren’t on the team at Akron other potential replacements are Roman Pena or Lucas Montero.

Columbus Clippers, AAA Title Contender

After acquiring Michael Brantley to complete the CC Sabathia trade, I’ve decided to break down what I believe will be the core starting lineups for each level of the Indians’ minor league system.  Being that it will be the first year the Indians will be affiliated with Columbus at the new Huntington Bank Stadium, Indians fans and the people of Columbus together have a lot to be excited about.

For the most part, the Indians Major League team is intact.  They will likely look to add a solid infielder at any position and move the rest around accordingly.  However, I think the key player will likely be that of a second baseman or third baseman.  If the player is a second baseman, expect Asdrubal Cabrera to move to SS and Jhonny Peralta to 3B.  If the player is a third baseman, Andy Marte will be on his way out, and the rest of the infield will likely stay the same.  I also look for the Indians to try to add a closer in the likes of a Huston Street through a trade, potentially sending Ryan Garko or Kelly Shoppach the other way.

Here is the lineup I expect the Columbus Clippers, at this point in time, to be putting on the field on a pretty regular basis.

1) Michael Brantley – CF
2) Trevor Crowe – RF
3) Matt LaPorta – LF
4) Wes Hodges – 3B
5) Jordan Brown – DH / 1B
6) Stephen Head – 1B / DH
7) Chris Gimenez – C
8) Josh Rodriguez – SS
9) Josh Barfield – 2B

* Backup C – Wyatt Toregas
* Unless Chris Gimenez is rostered, he could be lost to the Rule 5 draft.

I believe Michael Aubrey will either be with the major league club next season, or on his way out through a trade.  If he’s not, Stephen Head could find himself again in AA. With the year he had at Akron, it’d be a shame to send him back down.  Head brings as much defensively as Aubrey, and his bat seems to have caught up with Aubrey’s as well.  If both are healthy, they’ve become almost an identical player.

As for the rotation, there’s far too much speculation as to who will make the ML club and who will be in AAA.  JD Martin will more than likely be a starter for the Clippers next season while the others are up in the air.  Potentially the others are David Huff, Scott Lewis, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Bryan Bullington, Frank Herrmann, and with a potential big comeback, Chuck Lofgren.

Minor League Free Agents

The list of minor league free agents for the Cleveland Indians will be
released on October 15th, but according to the Indians Top Prospects
blog, the list is as follows.

Pitchers (9): T.J. Burton
(RHP), Eddie Buzachero (RHP), Matt Ginter (RHP), John Halama (LHP),
Jeff Harris (RHP), Juan Lara (LHP), Preston Larrison (RHP), J.D. Martin
(RHP) Jeff Weaver (RHP)

Catchers (3):
Armando Camacaro, Damaso Espino, Yamid Haad

First basemen (1): Matt Whitney

Second Basemen (2):
Andy Cannizaro, Brandon Chaves

Shortstops (1):
Niuman Romero

Third Basemen (2):
Morgan Ensberg, Tony Graffanino,

Outfielders (5):
Jason Cooper, Andy Gonzalez, Todd Linden, Nathan Panther, Bronson Sardinha

In my mind there are potentially 3-6 players that we should plan to re-sign.  The rest could all potentially be re-signed if need be, but none of the rest are necessities and probably just filler if signed.

First off, I think we need to add JD Martin to the 40-man roster, therefore trumping the minor league free agency he would be granted.  If he isn’t added to the 40-man, he’d likely sign on with another team as a minor league free agent with an invitation to the Major League camp.  I think he’s shown healthy enough over the past year to now have a chance on this club.

I would also try hard to re-sign Niuman Romero. I think he played over his head this year and wouldn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster, but with our lack of depth at middle infield in our minor league system, he might have a future somewhere with this team.  He’d probably be a utility guy, but it’d be nice to have a utility guy that can handle the bat a little bit like Romero.

Other potential guys we should attempt to sign are Matt Whitney, TJ Burton, Bubbie Buzachero, and Andy Cannizaro.  Burton and Buzachero are potentially good enough to make a Major League ballclub, and it’d be nice to have that bullpen depth still within our system.  Matt Whitney had a down year in Akron, and may not ever be the same, but he still has great power potential and could play first, third, and DH at Columbus.  The only reason at all to keep a near 30-year old Cannizaro is our lack of depth at 2B.  He’s a slick defender and had a good stick at Buffalo this year after we picked him up.  However if Barfield starts the year at Columbus, no need to hold onto Cannizaro.

The rest are just taking up room in our system.  With how many solid core players are going to be moving up in each level of our system, we can just cut ties with the rest.  Let me just wish the best of luck to Juan Lara in whatever he does with the rest of his life.  His injury in his homeland was indeed tragic, and I hope he can find success somewhere in life even if it is outside of baseball.

Player To Be Named, Please…

Now that the Brewers have indeed made the postseason, the Indians should have their choice of the PTBNL in the CC Sabathia trade.  In hindsight, it looks like the Indians made the right deal with trading Sabathia when they did.  We would have received two first-round picks in return for Sabathia walking, but they would have been low enough in the draft that we likely couldn’t have received anyone as productive as LaPorta.  Couple that in with a fireballer in Bryson, the PTBNL, and Jackson who has been very solid for us in the last couple months.  In the end, Shapiro looks to have made out okay.  Fans who were expecting another Colon-type deal were definitely dreaming, as the Expos were looking for any way to go all out that season… deals like that just won’t happen anymore.

For long it has been speculated that the Indians were scouting between two players.  The speedy outfielder Michael Brantley who was named the minor leaguer with the best strike-zone discipline in the Brewers system by Baseball America, and the Milwaukee Brewers 2007 MiLB player of the year, third basemen Taylor Green.

Statistically both players put up good seasons, again.  Brantley was at AA – Huntsville alongside former teammate Matt LaPorta, and other minor league superstars in the likes of Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel.  Green was at High-A Brevard County and showed high enough power to compete in the A+ home run derby, finishing second.  The Indians choosing to wait until the end of the season to pick the player ended up being a good plan, as both players were injured for small portions of the season.

Brantley’s stat line is as follows…
In 106 games he batted .319 with 17 2B, 2 3B, and 4 HR with 40 RBI.  He also stole 28 bases while only being caught 8 times.  The most impressive stat of Brantley’s was that he struck out just 27 times in those 106 games, and walked 50 giving him an OBP of .395.  He turned 21 on May 15, and would likely start the season at AAA Columbus if he were the player.

Green’s stat line is as follows…
In 114 games he batted .289 with 19 2B and 15 HR with 73 RBI.  He stole 4 bases being caught 2 times.  He also showed good plate discipline striking out 59 times, but walking 61 times for a .382 OBP.  Green will turn 22 on November 2, and would likely start the year at AA Akron if he were the player.

In my opinion, both are very solid players, but my gut tells me Taylor Green would work better in our system.  He reminds me quite a bit of Chase Utley in his swing, and the way he plays the game.  If he can’t play 2nd base, then I think we’d have to pass on him.  However, if he can indeed play 2nd base, I think he’s our guy hands down.  The other players in our system at 2B are Nuiman Romero and Jared Goedert.  Goedert broke through last season, but struggled mightily this year at Kinston and will 23 soon.  Romero broke through this year, but looked to be playing above his head.  Green has had back-to-back very good seasons and would give us some solid offense out of a position we usually don’t get offense from.  With our glut of OF in our minor league system, Brantley might be just another face in the crowd. 

However, Brantley does bring something to our team that we aren’t used to seeing.  He’s a legit leadoff hitter who puts the bat on the ball, draws walks, and doesn’t strike out.  I still feel Crowe is a better option than Brantley, but maybe our front office isn’t sold on Crowe and think Brantley would be a good insurance plan.

According to Peter Gammons, the Indians will take Michael Brantley.  

40-Man Moves

Over the past twenty-four hours the Indians have announced two moves to the 40-man roster.  Brad Snyder, a 26-year old Bellevue, OH native was claimed by the Chicago Cubs.  Snyder, a former first-round pick, and rated one of the top 5-tool players in the draft, never lived up to his hype.  He only made one appearance in an Indians uniform and didn’t see the field.  Snyder will not likely be added to the Cubs 40-man roster, once again exposing him to the Rule 5 draft, but he is highly unlikely to be snatched up by another team.  Snyder’s biggest problem seemed to be contact with the ball as he averaged over a strikeout per game in every level of his minor league career, and didn’t bat higher than .263 in the last two seasons at AAA Buffalo.

Reid Santos, a 26-year old from Hawaii and a former 13th round pick by the Indians was also claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays when the Indians attempted to move him off of their 40-man roster.  A former starter with an 8-3 record last season at Akron, he became strictly a reliever this year and had a 4-3 record with a 4.89 ERA between Buffalo and Akron.

The Indians 40-man roster now stands at 38 and expects to get lighter after the season.  Other potential roster casualties could include Brian Slocum, Tom Mastny, Bryan Bullington, and David Dellucci.  Players who have contracts that expire after the season that will likely not be re-signed include Juan Rincon, Brendan Donnelley, and Sal Fasano.

In the next few days I will post who I feel will be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

A Week’s Worth of Wins

What a game tonight for the Tribe finally taking it to Josh Beckett and the Red Sox.  Zach Jackson picks up his first win in a Tribe uniform, and he deserved it pitching six innings allowing two earned.

Another great 9th inning for Jensen Lewis as he took down the heart of the Sawx order.

That’s seven in a row, yet again, and the above .500 mark looks like a real opportunity for this team.

After the CC trade, I predicted an 82-80 season and was called crazy by many.  Looks well within reach,  Go Tribe!