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.