Da Clip Show: Keeping an Eye on the Tribe’s AAA Squad – 4/26/11

Clip Show aims to be your weekly update for all things Columbus Clippers. Check back each Tuesday afternoon for team records, roster updates, and performance updates on some of the brightest prospects in the Tribe system.
Aaaand, we’re back in our normal Tuesday time slot. Many thanks to Andrew for pinch-hitting for me last week while I was on vacation. Thanks to Mother Nature’s Constant Barrage of Rainfall, it probably felt at times for the Clippers’ players like they, too, have been on vacation. Two more rain-outs in the short span between last week’s column and today. The good news? The Clippers won all the games they were able to play, and considering the state of flux of the rotations in Cleveland and by extension Columbus, rest days off aren’t all bad. In addition, the club is on the road all week down south, so hopefully they’ll avoid the weather issues and be able to keep this rhythm going.

This Week: 4-0
Season Record: 13-5, 1st place (of four) in ILW (International League West)

Results
4/21 vs. Louisville – Clippers 19, Bats 3; WP McAllister (3-0)
4/22 vs. Louisville – postponed, rain
4/23 vs. Indianapolis – postponed, rain
4/24 vs. Indianapolis – Clippers 6, Indians 4; WP Lewis (1-0)
4/25 vs. Indianapolis – Clippers 6, Indians 1; WP White (1-0)
4/25 vs. Indianapolis – Clippers 6, Indians 5; WP Lewis (2-0)

Roster News
4/21 INF/OF Travis Buck optioned from Cleveland
4/21 OF Bubba Bell assigned to Mahoning Valley

4/25 INF Jason Donald transferred to Akron on MLB rehab assignment

OF: Jordan Brown, Travis Buck, Ezequiel Carrera, Jerad Head, Chad Huffman
IF: Lonnie Chisenhall, Wes Hodges, Jason Kipnis, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena
C: Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips
SP: David Huff, Corey Kluber, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Alex White
RP: Scott Barnes (L), Frank Herrmann (R), Josh Judy (R), Jensen Lewis (R), Zach Putnam (R), Carlton Smith (R), Jess Todd (R)

DL: RHP Hector Ambriz (torn right elbow ligament); OF Nick Weglarz (torn left knee meniscus); INF Nick Johnson (right wrist soreness); RHP Anthony Reyes (torn right elbow ligament); RHP Hector Rondon (torn right elbow ligament), LHP Jeremy Sowers (left shoulder)

Upcoming Schedule/Probables*
*subject to change
4/26 @ Gwinett, David Huff
4/27 @ Gwinett, Scott Barnes
4/28 @ Gwinett, Zach McAllister
4/29 @ Gwinett, Corey Kluber
4/30 @ Charlotte, Alex White
5/01 @ Charlotte, David Huff
5/02 @ Charlotte, Joe Martinez

Players To Watch
I’m going to break this out a bit this time around. Rather than just looking at the “good” vs. the “bad”, let’s look at it in the context of the guys we’re really focused in on as potentially helping the Tribe in the next couple of years. So, we’re breaking it out as “Prospects” vs. “Not So Much Prospects as Just Players”. This week we’ll just focus on the prospects.

Prospects

Hitters

If you read this column regularly, you probably know of my glowing reviews of 2B Cord Phelps. The kid has done nothing but hit since getting promoted last summer, and honestly he’s done it in pretty big shadow considering most everyone else considers Jason Kipnis to be the better 2B prospect. That hasn’t phased Phelps, though, as the switch-hitter continues to be solid at the dish. This week wasn’t his best, with just three hits in 11 at-bats (.273), but his average still sits at .317 for the year through 17 games.

Speaking of 2B Jason Kipnis, how have things been going? As Andrew pointed out last week, he isn’t off to the start that everyone expected, especially after his welcome to AAA during the playoffs last season. Two hits in 13 at-bats (.154) in four games this week didn’t help much. Kipnis is struggling to hit for average, sitting at .232 through 16 games. He also has just four extra base hits.

Unfortunately, Kipnis’s numbers look better than the guy who most everyone is scope-locked onto in terms of the infield. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall’s initiation to AAA hasn’t been smooth. The Chiz went 4-for-17 (.235) this week, and his average for the year actually went up. He’s now hitting just .213 in 16 games, and has just one home run during that span.

In the outfield, the only guy who can be considered a prospect continues to be Ezequiel Carrera, and Zeke continues to get the job done at the top of the lineup. Despite going 3-for-15 (.200) this week, Carrera is still hitting .298 for the year out of the top spot in the lineup. His nine walks give him an OBP of .394, and he’s been successful in seven steals against just one caught-stealing. His defense in centerfield has been great, as well.

Pitchers

Despite a lack-luster won/lost record of just 1-0, the early returns for RHP Alex White have been nothing short of great. He’s made four starts to lead the club, and each one has been solid. He’s worked at least five innings in all four starts (23.2 IP through four starts also leads the team), and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start (seven runs allowed, total). In his second start, he allowed just two runs, but neither were earned. So, his ERA currently sits at a blistering 1.90. More encouraging is the fact that White has fanned 28 hitters against just five walks allowed. More of that, please!

Hard to say whether or not RHP Corey Kluber is technically a “prospect,” but he’s close enough for our needs here. His pitching, however, has been less than stellar thus far, as the kid has made three starts and gotten roughed up. He’s pitching just 13.0 innings in those three starts, and has allowed 11 runs (nine earned, ERA: 6.23). His 10 walks are a bit alarming, as well.

Andrew touches on RHP Zach Putnam last week, and the kid just keeps getting it done. In a two-inning relief stint on Sunday, Putnam was solid, allowing a hit and a walk while fanning three. His ERA dropped to 0.87 in 10.3 IP so far this year, and opposing hitters are hitting just .167 off of him thus far.

Two guys who have experience from last season’s championship run and are still in the running for bullpen spots in Cleveland down the road are RHPs Frank Herrmann and Josh Judy. First and foremost, much to the chagrin of my wife, on opening day we noticed that the Clippers have embraced calling Frank “The Herrmannator” which as you know is something I long advocated for last year. That having been said, he’s struggled to regain his AAA form of last year, having worked 4.0 IP thus far while allowing three earned runs (6.75 ERA) and a WHIP of 2.25. Judy, on the other hand, has been decent but not great, with a 2-1 record and two saves out of the pen in eight appearances. He’s allowed three earned runs in 8.1 IP (3.24 ERA), but has been the victim of the long ball twice already. His 13 K’s over that span are nice, however.

A Quick Word…

…about Chad Huffman. You didn’t see him above because I don’t truly consider him a prospect. But, I wanted to give him his own section today, as Huffman was named the IL Batter of the Week yesterday after going 7-for-15 (.467) with a double, FOUR home runs, and 13 (!!) RBI. In four games. He also scored six runs. If you’re scoring at home, that’s over three runs a game driven in, and a 1.333 slugging percentage. He had a five-game stretch between 4/16 and 4/21 where he went 10-for-20 (.500) with the same power numbers, 14 RBI, and eight runs scored.

For the season in 16 games played, Huffman is just 16-for-56 for a .250 average, which really illustrates how insane his little stretch was. In his 36 at-bats outside of that five-game blitz, he’s hitting just 6-for-36 (.167) with just two doubles, one home run, and one RBI. Huffman has three seasons above .280 in terms of average in his minor league career (2006-2008), but they were at lower levels. He’s about to turn 26, so his “prospect” status isn’t high or anything, but if he can continue to hit a little bit he provides a shred of insurance against any outfield injuries at the MLB level.

And Finally…

…the Clippers kick off an eight-game road trip today in Gwinnett. They play four each in Gwinnett and Charlotte, before coming back home. They will then open an eight-game home stand, during which hopefully the crazy weather Ohio has been victim to will have moved on and the Clippers will have better luck playing in normal conditions. Or playing at all, for that matter.

Before the eight games at home in early May, the Clippers will have started off with 17 of their first 26 games on the road. Yikes!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    As I was reading this, I was wondering if you were going to mention Huffman at all. Glad to see you included him in some form (hard not to). This tear he is on is simply unreal. I agree he’s probably not a prospect, and you always have to be wary of small sample sizes, but he is putting together quality at bat after quality at bat. And since the OF is low on prospects to begin with as you pointed out a couple weeks ago, he could at some point get his cup o’ coffee while serving as a place holder. I’m hoping he can keep this up.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Encouraging to see White doing as well as he is. Not so much about Chisenhall and Kipnis. Sigh.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I can understand Chisenhall and chalk it up to an adjustment period. What I don’t get is why Kipnis is off to such a slow start. Watching him last year, everything about him just oozed big time prospect. And not that this slow start means he’s not, but it’s puzzling. I really expected him to jump out to a blazing start like he had when he got called up last year. It’s just not coming together for him right now.

  • Reggie Ruckus

    I’m not worried about Chiz and Kipnis yet. It’s early and the weather has been terrible. White looks like the real deal and I hope that if the Indians need to DL Carrasco he gets the call. Has anyone been to Huntington this season? I don’t think they’ve played one game at home where they had decent weather. Shame too because it’s a great park with a great on field product and fantastic game day employees.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    ‘I hope that if the Indians need to DL Carrasco he gets the call’

    Should probably read Jon’s piece from this morning.

  • tolbuck

    I wonder if Kipnis’s slow start may be weather related. He is from Illinois, but it has been 6 years since he played up north during April. And this April has been raw.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP

    I’ve been to Huntington once, Ruckus. Opening Day. It was high-40’s to low-50’s, cloudy, windy, and rainy. Ugh.

  • Reggie Ruckus

    @ DP, Yep, I was there for that one too. I can’t wait to go back but I won’t be buying tickets too far in advance this time. We had similar weather last year when we went to Opening Day. She’s informed me she’s never going to another opener.

    Will Bubba Bell return to Columbus or is this is a similar move to when Wyatt Toregas was banished last year?

  • REEPJP

    @Reggie….I went to the opener two years ago (the first game in Huntington) and it was 75°, sunny, and I even got a sunburn…I am in the don’t buy tickets until the day before (especially for minor league ball)crowd….’cause you never know what you’re gonna get.

    I know the Clip’s don’t have the food offering of Canal Park, but it seems like we have enough people from Cbus that a WFNY South gathering might get a decent turnout….maybe we should wait for a Pronk or Grady rehab stint….oops…and I was trying to be positive this year!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Funny you should mention that, REEP. It’s in the works. I was going to put one together last summer, but the time got away from me. Will keep you all posted!