Memo to the Tribe FO: Moves the Organization Should (and Should Not) Make

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Now that the dust has settled a bit—and it’s quite clear that the only playoffs anyone in the Tribe’s organization should be worried about are at the AA level—Jacob and I thought we might take a moment to draft a few notes for Mark Shapiro and Co about the minor league system and the near future. From playing time for certain players to roster protection moves for others, we aim to offer up our ideas for the best course of action for the rest of the 2009 season. Please note that we won’t be discussing the potential for further waiver-trades at the ML level, but instead are focusing on guys down in the ranks a bit.

DP: Call up Jordan Brown and give him every-day at bats for the Tribe.

It’s no secret that I’ve been lobbying hard for Brown for most of the last month or so, especially given the fact that Chris Gimenez continues to languish in the majors. Brown has been the Clippers’ best hitter for literally the entire season, and he plays both corner outfield positions as well as first base. There is literally no reason that he remains in Columbus and Gimenez remains in Cleveland. Between those three positions, there are enough at-bats to go around that Brown could see regular playing time. I would argue it’s as important to see what the team has in Brown as it is a guy like Matt LaPorta. Brown has hit at every level he’s played at in the minors, and has won two MVP awards at various levels. He deserves a shot, and why not now?

JR: Don’t forget about 3B Lonnie Chisenhall in Class A Kinston.

Last year’s first-round draft pick, the 20-year-old Chisenhall is having a solid yet not spectacular season for the Kinston Indians in the Carolina League. In a pitching-heavy league, Chisenhall is now batting .276 with 18 home runs and 77 RBI but has been most impressive is his power with runners on base. He slugged his fourth grand slam of the season Monday night and is now batting .322 in 202 at bats with men on base this season. Additionally, in his first full year the hot corner, he struggled early in committing 15 errors in his first 41 games but since has just six errors in 56 games. In the long-term discussion at third base, Chisenhall has to be in the mix along with guys like Wes Hodges, Andy Marte and Jhonny Peralta, and should be in Akron by the end of this season. He will undoubtedly begin 2010 with the Double-A Aeros, and thus theoretically could compete for a starting 3B job for Cleveland in Spring Training 2011. He turns 21 in October and thus the potential for him is still very much untapped.

DP: Leave Hector Rondon in AAA to finish the year. Don’t call him up, but don’t send him back down either.

Rondon has pitched very well for Columbus in his first handful of starts. And, with both the Clippers and Indians well out of any playoff contention in their respective leagues, I believe there’s no reason to rush him to Cleveland, and along those same lines there are plenty of reasons to simply let him finish the year in Columbus and then to shut him down. Rondon is literally THE BEST PITCHING PROSPECT THE TRIBE HAS. He’s 21, and has already thrown a combined 101 innings between Akron and Columbus. He’s slated to make roughly six more starts (at 6.0 innings per start, another 36 innings or so). I’m sure it would be tempting to see what he could do against major legaue hitting, and/or also to send him down to Akron to let him get another start or two in during the AA playoffs. But, I ask: why rush him to the majors for a non-contender and risk killing his confidence, all while also risking injury by throwing him more innings than is needed? Let him finish the Clippers’ schedule, and then shut him down.

JR: Keep Nick Weglarz, Beau Mills and Carlos Santana in Akron for the rest of the playoffs.

These three sluggers have been with the Aeros all-season long but as much as Tribe fans want to see these players finish out in Columbus or Cleveland, they could all develop together in a playoff atmosphere in the Eastern League. Akron currently stands at 69-42 and thus is only 11 wins away (with 31 games left) of becoming the first team in Eastern League history to win 80 games in five consecutive seasons. By comparison, 80 wins in an 142-game schedule is equivalent to 92 wins in baseball and the last team to win that many in a row were the New York Yankees from 2001-2007. Weglarz (.387 on-base), Mills (33 multi-hit games) and Santana (current 13-game hitting streak) are all having good seasons for the Aeros and thus finishing out for a hopeful championship will do wonders in terms of their progression. They all will hopefully began 2010 with Columbus, but for now a playoff run with Jeanmar Gomez, Matt McBride, Eric Berger and company will mean a lot.

DP: Leave Michael Brantley in AAA until the AA playoffs, and then send him down to play in more meaningful games with Akron.

Brantley isn’t quite ready for prime time, yet. His “leadoff man” numbers are decent: through 90 games, he has a .346 OBP (including 51 walks against only 42 Ks), has scored 70 runs, and is 37-for-41 in stolen bases, which is good enough for second in the IL in total steals and second in steal-success-rate at 90.2% (one player in the IL is 16-for-16, so take that stat for what it is). Add in his great defense in centerfield, and it might be tempting to bring him up to play a bit in September. Here’s why I think that’s a bad idea: Brantley worked his way through a hamstring injury earlier this year, and his batting average still needs some work (.262). In addition, with Grady Sizemore continuing to play (even though perhaps it doesn’t make sense for him to risk further injury), there are not going to be every-day at-bats for Brantley, which is something he sorely needs. This is why I also suggest the Tribe Brass sends him down to Akron once Columbus’s season is done, so that he can continue to play in semi-meaningful games and get every-day playing time.

JR: Protect RHP StevenWright from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.

Just yesterday I saw an early list of the possible Rule 5 Draft players in the organization that would have to be placed on the 40-man roster in order to be spared joining a new organization for cash. The catch is that these players would have to make the opposing big league squad, but in the case of the Cleveland Indians many decisions will be made in the coming months. One such guy I think is a must-keep is former second-round pick Steven Wright out of Hawaii. The 24-year-old is in his first full season as a reliever in Akron this year and has done a wonderful job as a do-it-all guy both in the set-up and middle relief roles for manager Mike Sarbaugh. In 21 relief outings he is now 7-0 with a 2.18 ERA while saving one game and in his 41.1 innings pitched he has struck out 34, walked just 13 and held batters to a .227 average against. I know there are a lot of players in Columbus and Cleveland right now that will compete for relief roles next season, but Wright can only help in the coming years as a tough as nails reliever.

  • Isis

    What is Nick Weglarz BA, HR, @ RBI stats?

  • Andrew S
  • Lars

    Slighlty off topic, but here’s another one… have the assistant GM not be a crybaby wimp who has to run to daddy Bart after a relatively hard hitting interview from Bruce Hooley (of all people… DP knows of my strong dislike of Bruce). Check out 971thefan.com for audio of yesterday’s interview and today’s podcast for email response. Timings are about 1:30 for interview yesterday, 1:50 for first email from Bart, late in the 2 pm hour for Hooley’s response… and then kicking off today’s show.

    Oh and one more – FIRE ERIC WEDGE with or without ownership consent because he’ll just ruin any of the aforementioned guys when they get to the majors anyway.

    I’m fed up and am usually the most optimistc tribe fan out there.

  • AMC

    Sounds like a bunch of very reasonable suggestions. That said, I’m sure Shaprio and Wedge will manage to screw a lot of it up.

  • Paul

    Actually, I am glad that Dolan told the truth. It’s rare when anyone in sports admits their decision (or ANY decision) was about the money. SALARY CAP IN MLB NOW!!!!

  • Isis

    Brantley and LaPorta have NOTHING else to prove in the minors, and should be getting the precious at-bats right now at the major league level. They are of age, came at great expense, and need to begin the process of seeing whether they can be part of the future core (or not). Coddling them is not the answer.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Weglarz is batting .233 with 15 home runs and 64 RBI in 98 games played. His 72 walks lead the Eastern League (and are seventh in minor league baseball) while his aforementioned .387 on-base percentage ranks 10th.

  • DK

    @5 agreed

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP Diesel

    While I’m sure this is a trick so that Isis can slam (the still only in AA and not coming up anytime soon) Weglarz:

    .233 (73-313) in 98 games with 17 doubles, 2 triples, 15 homers (.444 SLG%), and 64 RBI. 72 walks against 68 Ks (.387 OBP). OPS of .831.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP Diesel

    I disagree about Brantley. He still needs to prove he can hit for some semblence of average in AAA before I’d say he has “NOTHING left to prove.”

    FWIW, LaPorta has also been slumping something awful the past few weeks. It’s not like either of these guys are wasting away here (I would argue that Brown, if anyone, has the least to prove in AAA), and to be honest since we know Wedge won’t give them every-day ABs I’d rather they continue to get them in AAA without running their MLB service clocks.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Michael Brantley is batting .262 with a .346 on-base percentage in 99 games. He has walked more times than he has struck out (51 to 42) and has 17 doubles, a triple and five home runs.

    Matt LaPorta is batting just .139 (5-36) in his past 10 games with zero home runs and one RBI. Prior to this poor stretch, he had batted .381 (24-63) in a 17-game stretch with four home runs and 15 RBI. Overall in his past 27 games he is thus batting a very respectable .293 (29-99).

  • dwhit

    Great analysis. The only thing I would disagree with is Brantley. I say we shelve Grady starting in September so he can get surgery and start recovering and get Brantley up here to get some ABs to get him acclimated for next year.

  • JD

    It’s been said above, but I agree. Brantley could use a bit more time cooking in the oven. There’s no need to rush him…he’s only 22, so he’s a bit head of the age/level curve.

  • http://www.whalertly.com/wordpress barga

    my only issue with bringing anybody up at this point is that they will get dejected. Seriously, with the current status of the Indians, there is no way a player can not feel like crap when playing for them.

  • http://www.whalertly.com/clippers barga

    @11 you can notice that LaPorta took a nose dive when they started moving him around again

  • http://cleveland.com zeppelin1

    Just get rid ofWedge.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP Diesel

    Columbus isn’t exactly tearing it up, so it’s not like losing would get to these guys.

  • http://www.whalertly.com/clippers barga

    It isn’t just losing, but losing with people you don’t know that well
    granted, the Indians are basically columbus +4 right now, so wouldn’t be too bad

  • Isis

    DP-It’s not a trick, it’s only to point out that Jacob leaving out Weglarz BA is more than misleading, it’s intentional. If you guys and Shap are gonna bring up Weglarz as part of the future core, then don’t hide the information to make it look like you want it to.

    I’m not going to slam Weglarz, I’ve never seen him play. I’m only asking WHAT IN CREATION is everyone touting about a guy hitting .233 in AA? If that’s a crown jewel of this organization’s farm system………..get serious, get real, and call it like it IS.

  • Isis

    @Jacob#7: where does his .233 BA rank in the Eastern Leauge??

  • szaboja

    1) They won’t call up Brown until Sept., as he’s not on the 40-man.

    2) Saw an old Tribe Rule 5-er this week, playing for Gwinnett (Braves AAA) vs. Clippers – remember Brian Barton?

  • JD

    @ Isis –

    Yeah, it hasn’t been a great season for Weglarz, but it hasn’t been a COMPLETE bust. Slash stats of .233/.387/.444 give you an OPS of .831, and that OBP is amazing given the low batting average.

    There’s reasons to be optimistic here – he’s show great plate discipline and good raw power at a *very* young age (he’s only 21) in his first year at AA. Is he a blue-chip, 100% can’t miss prospect? Nope. But there’s still plenty to like here.

  • strawman

    @Isis#19. have you even seen weglarz play? harmon killebrew’s lifetime batting average was 256. he also hit 573 home runs. I’m not directly comparing or saying weglarz will do that, but their games and how they are important are similar. weglarz had a torrid april and if you take that out of the equation, his average would be much better. the guy can slug, has slugged at levels higher than AA (look at his international track record). his plate discipline is top notch (as evidenced by the high OBP, yet the low BA). do some research before you tell others to “get serious, get real.” kid’s 20.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Nick Weglarz is also 6-3, 255-lbs. He is a physical specimen out there on the playing field and thus a .233 batting average and a pair of extended slumps in his first stint above Single-A are nothing to fret about. He will begin next year in Columbus and we will see how long his average continues to hang around there. If his batting average jumps up to a solid .260, then his on-base will be hovering around insane levels at .420 and thus if that is the only thing people are complaining about, he will be just fine.

  • http://www.whalertly.com/clippers barga

    Brown is out tonight, he hurt his shoulder
    my theory is that he is moving up and they are just not having him play tonight

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP Diesel

    As others have pointed out, Isis, what we like about Weglarz is his OBP and discipline. Despite his struggles at the plate average-wise, he’s still walking more than he’s striking out. It’s not like he’s going all Branyan up there or anything. Plus, with the logjam of outfielders, there’s no reason to rush him anywhere.

  • Illmatic8

    Great post. Its obvious that you have a strong understanding of the Tribe’s farm system. Good to see.

  • Howard Roarke

    Nothing much said that isn’t known.

    Giminez is not “languish[ing] in the majors.” Shoppach is gone this offseason and the Indians need to see if Giminez can catch, or if they need to bring in a veteran for next year. And possibly Marson can play next year – in September he’ll be up with a lot of other guys.

    Realistically, Rondon and LaPorta are the only guys in the minors that can play for the Indians next year and play more then part-time.

    Santana’s bat is great and he has a nice arm, but I’m not sure about what I’ve seen of him as a catcher in Akron after a dozen games. As far as the other Akron players go – I’m not terribly impressed with any of the position players, but Jeanmar Gomez may prove to be a keeper as a stating pitcher. And of course, Vinnie Pestano with his 24 saves might prove to be a possibility for a bullpen that has stunk for 5 of the 7 seasons that the Shapiro/Wedge inept machine has been running.

    I remain skeptical of Brantley being anything more then a pinch runner and defensive outfield replacement. A guy hitting .260 in Triple-A is nothing to write home about. As far as him (and Weglarz) getting a lot of walks…that nice…but pitchers in the majors have far, far better control, or they don’t stick.

    I see last night that Carrasco won last night ginving up 5 earned runs in 7-2/3 innings last night, to keep his Triple-A ERA over 5. He has all the earmarks of a pitcher the Indians love so well – they tell the fans he’s a #2 or 3 starter, then fawn over him like they do Peralta and Sizemore, making little suggestions – nothing he has to do anytime soon, giving him lots of playing time, and making sure he’s happy. …probably giving him a multi-million dollar contract if he has 3 or 4 good games to end out a season.

    Because the parent Indians stick so, the fans focus this year is on the minors. And because most people don’t see the players in the minors, the fans pick up all the things the Indians front office has guys like Terry Pluto write. So one has to wonder – if the Indians are so full of quality prospects in the minors, why did they have to get low minor leaguers when they dumped Victor and Lee’s salaries? How come they didn’t get a bunch of guys like Masterson – young, cheap players from a teams bullpen or a position player sitting behind and established major leaguer?

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