Monday, March 27, 2017

One week left - What we know, what we don't know and what prospects may break through this year

Here is what we know and here is something to think about.

Austin Jackson has made the team
Shawn Armstrong has probably made the team
A lot of people who we didn't think would make the team out of spring training didn't.

Here is what we don't know:

Will the Indians carry an extra relief pitcher if they DL Carlos Carrasco?
Does Austin Jackson making the opening day roster mean that another OFer expected to make the team (Naquin?  Almonte?) will be sent to the minors or does it mean that Brantley or Chisenhall will be DL'd to start the season?
Who will be our utility infielder?
Who will replace Kipnis in the starting lineup?

All these are things we don't know and hope to find out in this last week.  Obviously things can change quickly if someone comes up lame but we are pretty set at every position on the roster if something goes wrong this week.

Something to think about:  Which rookies will be on roster in August  and having a big impact by August?

My guess is, if we are where we think we should be, there will be a new bat added to the roster by August 1st.   But while a trade would be nice we could also do this with a rookie. In addition, others may make their mark in the minors and get a chance.   Let's look at potential breakout prospects and see what their chances are of impacting the Indians in 2017.

Bradley Zimmer - All you have to know about him is that he can impact the game in so many ways.   His bat, his arm, his legs.   If the Indians need anything this year it is another solid OFer.   Zimmer could be that guy.   An outfield of Branlety, Zimmer and a platoon in right of Chisenhall and Guyer is a pretty solid OF.   Naquin as the 4th OFer (meaning no Almonte or Jackson) would be not only great for this year but for the future, as well.   If the OF is going to evolve this year, it will be due to the promotion of Zimmer and Naquin-like (or better) success by Zimmer this summer.

Yandy Diaz - Another reason not to trade for a bat in July, Diaz has the potential to impact the game, especially if either Santana or Encarnacion go do for any amount of time and Diaz can DH.  If they can live with so-so defense, he could be in the starting lineup opening day.

Shawn Armstrong - This is a make-or-break year for Armstrong.   Either he is the 7th guy in the BP or he is a shutdown reliever.  Time will tell.   If it is the former, he gives us the additional righty we need in case we have injuries.

Giovanny Urshela - I remember the comic strip where the scientist was writing a formula on the board and you say "...and then a miracle happened".  This is Urshela.   I mean, the guy can field with the best of them.   But why can't he hit and, more importantly, can he be selective?  Ozzie Smith learned to hit, Omar Vizquel learned to hit and it made valuable defenders so much more valuable.   There are a number of thirdbasemen who are more doubles than HR hitters and they survive in the majors.  If a miracle happens he might be a useful part this year for the Indians and may even be our opening day thirdbaseman if we feel we have enough offense.   His ability to impact the season, however, will be with his bat.   His glove can't break out but his bat can and, if it does, he is immediately an above-average (or well above replacement, if you will) major league thirdbaseman. 

For these first three guys, them breaking out also gives us trade chips IF we decide to go the trade route come July.

Erik Gonzalez - He can hit a little and is a good fielder.   Guys like that (I think of Jose Oquendo of the Cardinals) are much more valuable in the utility role than they are as a trade chip.   Even if he breaks out this year with his bat you have to keep this guy on your team as he instantly becomes an average-to-above-average major leaguer at 2B and SS and OK as an emergency guy at 3B and in the OF.   Frankly, in the 7th game of the WS, down to my last out, I would rather have Gonzalez up at the plate than Michael Martinez.  That's all that needs to be said here.   Plus, I think his trade value doesn't even become high enough if he shows hitting improvement unless a potential trading partner very much overvalues him.   He is the classic guy who becomes a piece of a trade (but not the centerpiece) and then breaks out.   He needs to stay here and, by August, be our utility guy.   As a utility guy, he can have only a small impact so that is why I see him not being very impactful this year.  Now, if Lindor goes down with an injury early, then Gonzalez will likely be the most impactful prospect this year for the Indians, no matter what the other guys on this list do.

Kyle Crockett - People don't mention him but he could play a crucial role this year if Miller or Logan are shelved for any length of time.   He appears to be getting how to pitch in the majors.   Time will tell.

Joseph Colon - The biggest flash-in-the-pan candidate, I think he has no impact on our season.   Yet, he could still help out for a few games if he gets it together in Columbus.  He obviously worked hard to get to the majors in the first place so there is some hope.

Mike Clevinger - I think he needs another full season in AAA.   If he impacts the team this year it will be as a reliever and that is a decision that can be made in August.  Otherwise, unless we REALLY need him to relieve, he should spend the entire season in AAA and get a late August/September callup with a chance to relieve in the playoffs, if needed. 

Adam Plutko - He is a depth guy for the rotation.   He will give you a chance to win most nights out and he should make some meaningful starts in Cleveland this year unless we are extremely lucky.   That being said, if he steps up, he could be #2 behind Zimmer as the prospect most likely to make a significant impact on the Tribe this year. 

Ryan Merritt - He is another depth starter who can make a positive impact if some starters go down.   I just don't know if his stuff can hold up through a major part of the season in Cleveland.  

Shawn Morimando - Here is the sleeper for breakout guy of the year.   He knows what he has to work on and it is all mechanical.   It is these guys who only need tweaks or to develop a gimick who have the largest chance of breakout success.  If Morimando learns his lessons well you might see a jump in his prospect status to the point where he can mega-help the Indians this year. 

Greg Allen - I think he is a year away from impacting the Indians and, even at that, he might only have a minor impact.  Still, if he does break out he might be brought up as an extra outfielder and even make the playoff roster as a PR/defensive replacement. 

That is really it.   Guys like Julian Merryweather, Cameron Hill, Rob Kaminsky, Nellie Rodriguez, Perci Garner and even long shots to make an impact like Mike Papi (another "and then a miracle happens" guy), Louis Head, Nick Pasquale, Michael Peoples, and others might make token, yet valuable (see Ryan Merritt last year) appearances this year, but they will not likely impact the team either because of their limited experience, abilities or lack of an opportunity as guys are stacked up ahead of them on the depth charts. 

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