I Dont Knows on third

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for questions.jpgOne month from tomorrow, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training for the Indians. With that in mind, it’s never too early to start glancing at how the Opening Day roster might shape up.

This spring will have plenty of competition for multiple jobs. Cleveland has holes to fill in the rotation and bullpen, at second and third base, and up and down its bench. As things currently stand, the Tribe will have 59 players* in camp with only 25 jobs to offer.

I served as a starter and closer for my high school team back in the day, and I also manned second and third base as my main positions. Maybe I should think about finding my old glove and trying to get in baseball shape again.

Maybe not…

…the only claim to fame I have as a prep ballplayer was setting my high school’s all-time record for being hit by the pitch.

Back to the matter at hand, now seems like a good enough time to take a glance at the current crop of competitors. Obviously, the Indians could make more moves prior to Spring Training, but any pending transactions would likely be more of the Minor League contract variety.

Let’s start with…

The Rotation

Front-runners: 1. Fausto Carmona, 2. Justin Masterson, 3. Mitch Talbot, 4. Carlos Carrasco
Available jobs: One
Candidates: Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Anthoney Reyes, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Alex White

Situation: Obviously, a poor spring could push Carrasco out of the front-runners category, but right now he’s basically in a position where it’s his job to lose. Barring an offseason addition, Tomlin, Gomez and Huff appear to be the three main competitors. Reyes is a darkhorse. Martinez might have a better shot at a bullpen role and McAllister and White are more likely to see the big league rotation later this season, if needed.

Next…

The Bullpen
Front-runners:
1. Chris Perez (closer), 2. Rafael Perez, 3. Tony Sipp, 4. Jensen Lewis, 5. Joe Smith
Available jobs: Two
Candidates: Justin Germano, Doug Mathis, Joe Martinez, Vinnie Pestano, Aaron Laffey, Josh Judy, Corey Kluber, Frank Herrmann, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell 

Situation: I’m including Lewis and Smith in the front-runners group due to their recently-signed deals to avoid arbitration. Also, worth noting is the fact that Lewis and Germano are out of player options. The bullpen situation could be very fluid this spring, and obviously this season. Laffey would appear to have the leg up on one of the vacancies due to his ability to serve as a lefty long man. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe takes a chance on one of its younger relief prospects if there is a guy who really steps up with a strong spring.

Second Base

Front-runner: Jason Donald
Others candidates: Luis Valbuena, Jason Kipnis, Adam Everett, Jayson Nix

Situation: Kipnis has no Triple-A experience, minus a brief stay for the postseason, but he will certainly have a shot to make a push for the second base job this spring. It’s more likely that Kipnis opens at Triple-A and finds his way into the starting role later in the season, though. I’d list Donald as the leader in this group for the time being, but he’s also going to be considered for the opening at third.

Third Base

Front-runner: Jayson Nix
Others candidates: Jason Donald, Jack Hannahan, Adam Everett, Jared Goedert, Cord Phelps

Situation: Despite his defensive issues a year ago, Nix appears to be the front-runner for the job at third right now. That could easily change this spring. If Kipnis starts making a strong bid for the job at second, Donald could wind up in serious consideration for third. Another possibility is that third base could see more than one player in the mix during the early part of the season, buying time for the eventual promotion of top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. If the Tribe opts against youth and wants more or a placeholder until Chisenhall’s arrival, Hannahan or Everett could figure more prominently into the mix. It’s worth noting here that Nix is out of options.

The Bench

Front-runners: Austin Kearns (OF), Lou Marson (C), Adam Everett (INF), Shelley Duncan (UTIL)
Available jobs: Four
Others candidates: Paul Phillips (C), Luke Carlin (C), Jayson Nix (INF), Jason Donald (INF), Luis Valbuena (INF), Jack Hannahan (INF), Jared Goedert (INF), Cord Phelps (INF),Travis Buck (OF), Trevor Crowe (OF), Chad Huffman (OF), Jordan Brown (OF/INF)

Situation: There are four bench jobs up for grabs and two will go to a fourth outfielder (Kearns is locked into this role right now) and a backup catcher (Marson leads the pack at the moment). As things currently stand, I think Everett and Duncan have the edge for the final two roles. This is assuming a couple things. First, it’s assuming Everett doesn’t win a starting role in the infield. Second, it’s assuming center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) and catcher Carlos Santana (left knee) will indeed be healthy in time for Opening Day. If either face a setback, that obviously would drastically alter the outfield/catching situations. Kearns would become a starter in the outfielder if Sizemore is out, suddenly opening the door for two outfielders to make a push for roster spots. I’ve excluded Kipnis from the backup infield competition because I believe he’ll be at Triple-A if he doesn’t win the second base job. I like Duncan off the bench due to his ability to serve multiple roles (outfield, designated hitter, first base). It’s also worth noting that the Indians like what Duncan brings to the clubhouse. If Kearns is going to replace an outfielder on days when a tough lefty is pitching, Duncan would be there to possibly fill in for Hafner as a right-handed option for the DH spot. Then again, a guy like Crowe could be an option as a fourth outfielder if the Tribe opts to use Kearns as a right-handed DH possibility. It could take all spring to sort out the bench.

Given the current options, how would you fill the available jobs?

*When I first posted this, the number of players in camp stood at 58. It has since been updated to 59. Today, Jordan Brown (designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for Kearns) was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus and will be brought into camp as a non-roster invitee. I’ve added him to the list of bench candidates.

–JB

6 Comments

I think you may be underestimating Cord Phelps a bit. I think he has a much better chance of winning the second-base job out of spring training than Jason Kipnis, or at the very least a UIF role. The organization clearly considers Chisenhall and Kipnis to be much higher prospects than Phelps, given their pedigrees. It has always been their MO to give such prospects at least a half season at AAA, whether they appear to need it or not, to get them ready for the bigs and also to control their arbitration clock. Phelps, on the other hand, is not considered as high a prospect as the other two, and may be a bit more, for lack of a better word, expendable. If Kipnis and Chisenhall both start the season at Columbus playing second and third base, respectively, that does not leave much of a spot for Phelps. Given the choice between Phelps sitting on the bench in AAA and Phelps sitting on the bench in Cleveland, I’d rather have him in Cleveland. The kid can flat out hit for a middle infielder, and could surprise more than a few people.

If I ran the circus (assuming decent spring performances), I’d start Donald at second and Nix at third, with Phelps as the UIF. I’d give Phelps significant play time at second or third, depending on which of the two starters is struggling more. By mid-season, either Chisenhall or Kipnis (or both) should be deemed ready for the show, should a need arise. Until then, I think the trio of Donald-Nix-Phelps should be able to hold down the fort.

Phelps is definitely flying under the radar a bit, but you’re right, he’s definitely in the mix, more so at third than at second. He could also be a factor as a utility infielder off the bench, true. All good and valid points.

One reason I made sure to include Phelps and Goedert in the bench picture was due to a point you raised — the situation at Triple-A. If Kipnis and Chisenhall are at Columbus, there aren’t a lot of at-bats to go around for all those guys. That could definitely factor into the decision for the big league roster.

~JB

If the lineup stays as is, like you point out (w/a healthy Sizemore and Santana) then I really do not see a spot for Shelley Duncan on the bench with the addition of Austin Kearns. You could make the “Trot Nixon” arguement and say that Duncan loosens things up and is fun to have in the club house but it’s a stretch. Duncan offers little besides his bat and you do not really need an official back up 1st baseman, especially if Santana is going to see time there this season. Kearns, Marson, and Adam Everett are all but locks for the bench but I think the 4th spot has to go to an infielder or super utility type of guy, especially if Jayson Nix is your starting 3rd baseman (Do not be surprised to see a Donald/Nix switch in the infield either, with Donald at 3rd and Nix at 2nd). I see guys like Jack Hannahan and Cord Phelps (not Luis Valbuena) gettting serious looks for the 4th bench spot for defensive purposes.
*On a side note I really do not see Sizemore making the 25 man roster out of Spring Training, I think he will need an extra 3 – 4 weeks in extended camp, which would open the door for Duncan and/or Trevor Crowe to be on the team.

Angels could fill ALL those holes for you..2B-kendrick; C-Napoli, etc; RPs-Jepson, Kohn, Thompson; SP-Bell…There’s a lot there at the “candy store”…

Angels need only one thing…Choo

as a diehard indians fan heres what id prefer the squaf to look like this upcoming season

batting order and positions first

1.cabera-ss
2.sizmore0-cf due to all the strikeouts
3.choo-rf
4.santana-c
5.hafner-dh
6.kearns-lf
7.laporta-1b
8.donald-2b
9.everett-3b like his experience and d and hitting is on par with nix.
bench- luis valbuena, trevor crowe, if hes still apart of the orginization id prefer chris giminez due to his versatity of,1b,c, over marson, and either brantley or nix, if we pick nix one of our young outfielders needs to be traded there going to waste on the bench, and kearns provides more to our squad at this point,

rotation- im hearing they could sign kevin milwood and bartolo colon, so ill do with and without

1-carmona
2milwood
3-masterson
4-colon
5-huff

1-carmona
2masterson
3-talbot
4-huff
5-tomlin

pen

same as you boss man- perez,perez, lewis,sipp, smith
i hope we at least are competitive this year, i wish we could spend a little money to make us interesting, hell go sign johnny damon, or bring manny back, jermaine dye, there are some upgrades out there to be made, why cant we make some changes, bring the indians back to what they once were, i miss hart as our gm

I’ve had this discussion about the infield on the clevelandindians.com message board with a few people, and here’s what I’d do:

AAA: 3B: Chisenhall SS: Donald 2B: Kipnis
Tribe: 3B: Phelps SS Cabrera 2B: Nix, Utility: Everett or Hanahan

First of all, in the short term what this does is strengthen the infield defense. You’re pulling Nix off a position he’s terrible at (3rd) and putting him at a position he is at least above average at (2nd). That immediately helps the pitching staff in numerous different ways (lower BABIP, fewer base runners, fewer pitches per inning, etc).

In the long run I feel that this puts these players in the best scenario because it gives everyone playing time. We need Phelps, Kipnis and Donald to play everyday. Making Phelps or Donald a utility player to start the year does neither of them any good. I know Donald has the MLB experience and it sounds like you’re playing Nix over Donald (which sounds crazy), but Nix has no future with this club, whereas Donald might. Columbus needs a short stop and Donald needs everyday at bats.

If you keep Donald at second and Nix at third in the majors that means that Phelps is a utility player in either Columbus or Cleveland (since Chisenhall and Kipnis has 3rd and 2nd locked up). That’s not good for his development and it also weakens Cleveland’s already porous infield.

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