Friday, April 21, 2017

The Case to SIgn Luis Robert

OK, I just looked in my wallet and I have $22 so I don't think I would be much help.   Yeah, there are a couple of credit cards but I checked my limit and I don't think, even if I max them out, that would make much of a dent, either.

So, when I say what I am about to say I am playing with someone else's money.  

Nevertheless, the Indians need to sign Luis Robert.  Period.

Remember that the Indians will not have a first round pick this year and, likely, will get a low competitive balance pick meaning their first two picks will be at the end of the second round and after it.  Teams can save money in the first round if they get their draftee to sign for below slot.  But we don't have a first round pick and our second round pick will be low enough that the bonus slot for that pick is pretty low.  So, in essence, they will have very little money to play with in the draft this year. 

Cleveland is and always will be a small market team.   We need to build from within and so we need to keep the pipeline of prospects coming.   A draft year such as this (loss of a first round pick and low second round slot) can really put a hole in that pipeline.    So we need to augment our lack of first round pick with a first round amateur talent like Robert and augment that with a high profile foreign professional signing after the season. 

The Indians have never come close to signing the top international amateur prospect except for maybe Danys Baez.     It is time for the Indians not to just dip their toe in that water but to do a belly flop from the high board into their international bonus pool.     This is the year to do it and shopping in the bargain basement at Macy's is not going to  get us there. 

Sign Robert.  Please. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 18th - Tax day not too taxing at all

Good pitching dominates for the Indians and their affiliates tonight.

Columbus - Ryan Merritt and relievers pitch a shutout.  Merritt with a bounceback performance that puts his ERA squarely back into Merritt country.

Akron - The bullpen failed but DJ Brown was solid, albeit not out there lon enough. 

Lynchburg - Pannone and McKenzie were almost unhittable.  McKenzie looked a little wild at times, especially in the 5th inning when he walked a guy on 4 pitches, wild pitched him to second and wild pickoff attempt him to 3rd base before he struck out the side, ending with 8 Ks in the game.  Lynchburg pitchers held the Mudcats to one unearned run on six hits in 14 innings in the doubleheader.  Total pitching domination.   Nice to see out of the co-aces of this team.

Lake County - Aaron Civale got on the Shane Bieber bus and rode it to a dominating performance as Lake County pitchers gave the organization its third shutout of the evening. 

Akron was the only team in our minor leagues that gave up an earned run tonight...and we had some hitting, too. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

12 games in --- thoughts so far

By the end of this week 1/10 of the season will be over. 

So what I have I seen so far?

Brantley -  Right now Michael Brantley looks like a former very good player, a former all-star, who has had his skills diminished by a serious shoulder injury.   To me, this means one of two things:

(1) He is getting by on guile and experience and this is as good, essentially, as it's going to get with him.

(2) He is still knocking off the rust from a long layoff from baseball and will only get stronger as the season goes on.

Well, the Indians truly know which one it is, or highly suspect which one it is.  Let's hope it is (2) as if it is (1) I doubt that they ever acknowledge it, even to themselves, and so we will be left for a long time to come with an easy out in the middle of the order.

Encarnacion - There is no way in hell that this guy is done, right?  I mean 39 homers per year for a while.   Again, like Brantley, he looks like a former star player getting by on experience.   I think in his case he breaks out of it big time this week and what we have see so far is his idea of a slump. 

Diaz - All you have to do is look at the peripherals to see that he needs more minor league refinement.   I can't wait for a healthy..

Kipnis - Looking at him so far in the minors he looks good.   He looks like he is not having shoulder troubles at all.   Then again, neither does Brantley and when I saw McGwire toward the end of his career when his production fell of a cliff, neither did least to my eye.  We don't need walking wounded, per se, but right now I would rather have him than Diaz.

Gomes - What can you say?  Offensively, he JUST PLAIN SUCKS.  Either he has just not gotten in the rhythm yet or he is done.   I would say he has until the end of May and if he hasn't figured it out by then sending to the minors....probably for good.

Starting Pitching - Kluber and Tomlin do not look sharp right now.  Bauer, Salazar and Carrasco have their innings/games where they look good.   It is too early to make any judgements but, gut feeling, I think they are OK physically and mentally.   I think they will all get stronger as the season gets along.  For those worried about Tomlin, I think he has gone through these things before.  

Bullpen - So far no red flags but the jury is still out.  Miller was not sharp last night in relief of Kluber and Shaw has his moments.   Goody looks better than Armstrong for the last spot but, frankly, I would rather have a veteran like Blanton than either of them. 

Bench - I still see this, counting the OF platoons, as a strength of this tea.   Still have to sort out the outfielders but I don't think I would change a thing about the construction of this bench. 

So, at 5-7 it doesn't look good so far   But, at this point, the record doesn't mean anything.  It is how we are playing.   If things work out and guys stay/get healthy, we will look like the team of last year, only better.

Just like we planned.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Early minor league statistical trends

Ok, I admit I have been very busy and haven't had a chance to see a game on MiLB TV yet.   Still, just looking at the statistical trends from our prospects (excluding minor league veterans) here is what I see so far.

Columbus -

Hitters - Zimmer is showing a good OPS and SB rate.  His K rate of 25% is still a little high but improving.   Erik Gonzalez struggled early but is starting to come around.   Nellie Rodriguez is still struggling.

Pitchers - You can't get any better than Clevinger has been.  Our bullpen depth looks very good but the starting pitching depth, which I rated as one of the best in baseball, is looking pretty shaky as Merritt has been mediocre and Plutko and Morimando have just been B-A-D.

Akron -

Hitters - Mejia has been great.   Chang has a great OPS, especially if he can stay as a middle infielder.  Papi looks good on paper with a high OBP but if you look at his ABs he looks like he is just slapping at the ball (no XBH so far).  I have see n a couple of his ABs and he just looks like he is trying to make solid contact and has given up all efforts to make HR contact.   Bradley, like Nellie Rodriguez at AAA, is struggling mightily.

Pitchers -  Some of our 2nd tier prospects (Lugo, Peoples) are looking solid.  Some of the other pitching prospects (Merryweather, Kaminsky) are not looking sharp early.

Lynchburg -

Hitters - Looking at the lineup there is not a single solid hitting prospect on this team.  A few guys are hitting well but none even qualify as 2nd tier prospects so their early statistical success has less meaning.   Now, they sustain that success for a whole we are talking!.

Pitchers - Pannone has been Clevinger-like so far.   McKenzie is doing well for his age and Chiang has been his usual solid, unspectacular, 2nd/3rd tier prospect self. 

Lake County -

Hitters - Chu, Capel and Jose Medina have surprised.  Overall I thought this team would not hit well but they have. 

Pitchers - Bieber and Civale have been as advertised (too good for this league).   Aiken, Hillman and Garza have struggled early and Aiken's control and Hillman's overall bad results are truly troubling.  Miniard has been OK but his peripherals are not that good.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Minor League Season Begins Tonight...we hope

As there is rain in the forecast for every city that Indians' minor league affiliates play in tonight, this post may be premature.   There is at least a 50-50 chance that no Indians' minor league team will play tonight.

That being said, it is the official opening of the MiLB season and with that comes the excitement of prospects breaking out and our minor league teams having great seasons.

Who will be this year's Francisco Mejia and will Mejia, himself, continue to look like a star? 

Who will break through to the majors and what impact will they have on the Indians' season?

Although it doesn't mean everything, who the Indians tab as their opening night minor league starters does give a glimpse as to who they think could be the best pitching prospects on each team.   Here are our opening day starters:

Columbus: Mike Clevinger
Akron: Julian Merryweather
Lynchburg: still TBD
Lake County: Micah Miniard

Wow, everyone but Clevinger is a huge surprise to me and the fact that Lynchburg hasn't named a starter yet is really interesting.  Could it be the result of an injury to their opening night starter and now they are scrambling to see who they will plug in there (bullpen day?).  Could it be that they will start with a piggy-back situation and they just don't know which of the two guys will actually start the game?  Some other reason? 

Merryweather and Miniard are clearly highly regarded prospects but I would have thought that other guys (Civale or Bieber at LC, Kaminsky at Akron) might have been better choices.  The former two have some warts on their game and don't seem to be as polished at the latter three.

In any case, rain or potential red flags on these pitching staffs based on who is tabbed to start the openers can't blunt my enthusiasm for the start of the minor league season.

Go Clippers, Rubber Ducks, Hillcats and Captains! 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

And the beat keeps going

The Indians win again making it the first time since 1998 that they swept a series to begin the season. 

They are hitting on all cylinders now.  Obviously baseball is a game of streaks so I am sure they will have bad stretches this year but right now their good stretch coincided with the Rangers bad stretch.

And it is a different guy each night on the offense.  And all the relievers have contributed to the success.  And the starting pitching, while not dominant, shows signs of becoming dominant.   

Plus, as icing on the cake the Cavaliers beat the Celtics to move back ahead of Boston for the first overall seed in the East in the playoffs.

This is, indeed a great time to be an Indians' fan.

All's right with the Cleveland sports world

As people in Cleveland move through their busy days today, all Cleveland sports fans, if they have the time and ability to do so, should take a moment and reflect back on the last few days.   The Cavs win two, the Indians win two in relatively dramatic fashion with all (except for Jason Kipnis) of the principal parts of the team making significant contributions. 

It doesn't get any better than this in the regular season.   Unless..

The Cavs beat Boston tonight and the Indians sweep the Rangers tonight.  

However, even if that doesn't happen, it is a great time to be a Cleveland sports fan.   Times like the last couple of years don't come along that often in Cleveland and I am enjoying this moment today for all current and, especially, the past Cleveland sports fans who supported their teams for their entire lifetimes and never had a moment like this to celebrate.

So I celebrate it for them.   Go Cavs!  Go Indians!  And thanks for the memories the last few years.