As you probably know from my extra-long Clip Show yesterday, I am not opposed to Andy Marte getting one last shot in the majors. But, as I had an interesting conversation with Jacob yesterday over e-mail about the state of the Clippers and Aeros, an interesting point came to light that Jacob encouraged me to write about.
What does Jordan Brown have to do to get a shot? He’s one of the guys in the Tribe’s system of outfielders that you don’t really hear about anymore. He gets lost behind the likes of Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and even Trevor Crowe in Columbus. But, when I was writing up Clip Show yesterday, I sent Jacob the following e-mail: “Wow, I just ran his numbers for the week… Brown went 9 for 18, and since June 16th is hitting .395. Why is [Chris] Gimenez up in Cleveland again??”
I meant it as kind of a rhetorical joke, but then Jacob’s response really gave me pause: “Gimenez is up in Cleveland because he can play multiple positions in the outfield along with being a catcher and first baseman. He is an Eric Wedge specialty.” Sadly, that actually makes sense. But here’s the thing: Brown is not only just about as versatile, but he is light-years ahead of Gimenez as a hitter. So, why is Brown still stuck in Columbus?
First, for those of you who may not know Brown’s history, here’s a profile: He was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of the University of Arizona. In 91 games for Columbus this year, Brown is leading his team in hitting with a .331 average (111-for-335), 12 homers, 28 doubles, a triple, and 52 RBI. He also has an OPS of .903 (.375/.528). Brown spent all of last year in AAA as well, though he battled a knee injury early in the year and his numbers suffered. He ended up batting .281 in 109 games (420 AB), with seven home runs, 51 RBIs and 52 runs scored. He was decidedly better in the second half of 2008 after healing up his knee, hitting .311 (41-for-132) after the All-Star break, including batting .322 (38-for-87) in 23 August games.
In addition to those two stat lines, Brown has been solid every full year throughout his career. In 2006, he was voted the MVP of the Carolina league for Kinston, after hitting .290 with 15 home runs, 87 RBIs, four stolen bases and 71 runs scored in 125 games. He led the Carolina league in RBIs and total bases (222), was second in triples (7) and third in batting. He followed that up with another award-studded season in 2007 in AA, winning both the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year and MVP honors with Akron. Brown hit .333 on the year with 11 homers and 76 RBI in 127 games, and went more than two games without a hit only once that year, in mid April no less. He had 48 multiple-hit games (of 127 played, or almost 38%) and had three or more hits in 15 of those games.
Now, let’s look at a player comparison. When he was called up on 5/31, Gimenez was coming up to replace Grady Sizemore who was heading to the DL. It does not stand to reason that Gimenez was being called up because he emulates Sizemore’s skills-set. And, Trevor Crowe had been called up on 5/26, and he most definitely is a closer match to the kind of player that Sizemore is. So, if you want to look at it as a “swap for swap,” Gimenez was basically called up to replace Matt LaPorta, who was sent down on 5/26 when Crowe came up. At the time, Gimenez was hitting .235 with 6 homers and 15 RBI through 39 games with the Clippers. Brown was hitting .338.
Skipping over the first question of, “Why not keep LaPorta?” we have to ask ourselves: how is it that the team thought it would be betterfor the Indians to call up Gimenez and NOT Brown? One thing that popped into my head is that Gimenez is a right-handed bat, but that circles us back around to the question of “why not LaPorta instead, then?” LaPorta’s Columbus numbers ALSO dwarfed those of Gimenez.
This all brings me back to Jacob’s point: versatility. Let’s look at Jacob’s quote again: “Gimenez is up in Cleveland because he can play multiple positions in the outfield along with being a catcher and first baseman. He is an Eric Wedge specialty.” Well, let’s look at Jordan Brown. Brown has spent time in left field, right field, first base, and DH for the Clippers this year. So, really, the only difference is that Brown can’t catch. But, correct me if I’m wrong: the Indians currently already have two catchers, and the majority of Gimenez’s playing time with the Tribe has been in the outfield and/or at first base.
So, now, the point: Brown is one year younger than Gimenez. He’s a much more pure hitter than Gimenez (Gimenez is hitting .236 in 55 ABs with the Tribe). He plays all of the same positions, minus one where he is not really needed. Brown has nothing more to prove in AAA for a Clippers team that is not playoffs-bound. Why, again, is Chris Gimenez up in Cleveland and Jordan Brown is not? I understand the argument of “he needs to keep playing every day in AAA whereas Gimenez could sit on the bench,” but with the struggles the Tribe has had with Ben Francisco and Gimenez while Sizemore has eased himself back into the lineup, AND the fact that the Tribe was not exactly in contention for most of the last two months, would Brown not have helped the team more while also letting the team see what he could do? Enter Wedge, and his world-renowned love of the veterans.
Beyond that, it’s no secret that all eyes are on LaPorta, and that Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo are all but assured starting spots in the outfield of the near future. Brantley is also looming. Every year pushes Victor Martinez closer and closer to “full-time first baseman” with the approach of Carlos Santana. And so, with the pedigree he’s shown through this his fourth season in the minors, it begs the question: is Brown—age 25—ever really even going to get a shot, or will he go the way of Brian Giles and end up playing well for someone else?
Other Clippers Notes
- Right-hander Jess Todd reported to Columbus on Tuesday night for their game in Lehigh Valley, though he did not get into the game. Todd takes Andy Marte’s roster spot, and joins the Clippers bullpen.
- Right-hander Hector Rondon suffered his first setback in AAA last night, giving up four earned runs in five innings of work in taking the loss against the Iron Pigs (who doesn’t love minor league team names??). Rondon surrendered eight hits (including a jack) and 2 walks while striking out four.