Spring Notebook: Goodbye Goodyear, Hello Cleveland
Indians to open Major League season Tuesday
Goodbye Goodyear. Hello Cleveland.
The Cleveland Indians officially completed Spring Training with a strong 9-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. The win ensured that the Indians finished the spring season with a winning record, and the Tribe left Goodyear with a 17-16-2 record.
Given the team’s many additions this offseason, there definitely seemed to be a different vibe during this year’s Spring Training. There was legitimate excitement surrounding the team, and it also appeared, at least to an extent, that fans were legitimately interested in the spring performances of Tribe players.
While it was only Spring Training, there was still plenty of drama. Over the six-week span, we witnessed players win positions — players lose positions, players struggle — players succeed, Major League careers revitalized — Major League careers put in limbo.
With that said, let’s take one close look back at Goodyear before the Indians officially begin the Major League season on Tuesday…
Spring Training M.V.P.
Lonnie Chisenhall — Third baseman
24 G, 24-for-60 (.400/.456/.667), 15 R, 4 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K
What more can be said about what Chisenhall did this spring other than wow? Spring Training is essentially just a process where players ready themselves for the upcoming season, and if these numbers are any indication, Chisenhall is plenty ready. The left-handed hitter basically did it all this spring. He showed improved plate discipline while also providing solid power. So much hype has been given to new additions Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, but Chisenhall is somewhat of an addition himself; this is his first season that he’ll be on the Indians’ Opening Day roster. If Chisenhall does indeed take steps to cement himself as a quality Major Leaguer this season, it’s scary to think of just how potent the Indians’ infield could possibly be. Who’s crossing their fingers right now? I know I am.
News & notes
— There were plenty of surprises this spring, but I’m not sure if any was bigger than Scott Kazmir gaining the fifth starter spot for the Indians. Go ahead and say that you saw it coming — we all know you’re lying. I always believed that Kazmir was a quality minor league signing, especially when you consider what he was able to do during winter ball this offseason. However, I have to say that it just seemed farfetched to think a guy who had not started a Major League game since April 3, 2011 would have any chance of making it back into the Major Leagues. But that’s exactly what happened. Kazmir became the feel-good story of this year’s Spring Training after the left-hander posted a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings. Reports say that he consistently hit 92 miles per hour with his fastball, and that coupled with his strong performance ensured that he would have a chance to make the team’s Opening Day roster. What’s next for Kazmir? Well, that question will be answered when Kazmir makes his Indians’ debut Saturday ironically against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Was his strong spring just smoke and mirrors? The answer to question will start to come to fruition this Saturday.
— There is no word on what’s officially in store for Ezequiel Carrera, but the writing is on the wall for the outfielder. After not making the team’s Major League roster, the Indians have reportedly been attempting to trade the outfielder. If a trade is not reached, the Indians will then almost certainly designate him for assignment where they will then have 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors. Carrera had a very Carreraish Spring Training as the left-handed hitter went 12-for-43 (.279) with 11 stolen bases. He may be far from an impact Major Leaguer, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Carrera. He provides above-average defense in the outfield, and he seems to have the ability to slap the ball to all parts of the field. To me, I always saw him as a poor man’s Juan Pierre. Perhaps that’s not the greatest compliment in the world, but there is no denying that there is value in players like that. It’s hard to say what the future holds for Carrera, but his skills are serviceable, especially to a National League team.
— If Chisenhall was the most impressive player this spring, then Cord Phelps was not too far behind. In 23 games, Phelps went 18-for-48 (.375) with four doubles and three home runs. If not for Ryan Raburn, Phelps would assuredly be a member of the Indians’ 25-man roster. Even still, it appears as if the Indians will not wait long to make a change if Raburn falters in his bench role with the club. Phelps’ stock has dipped significantly in the past two years as there was once a time when some in the organization believed he could have as much potential than current Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis. However, that does not mean that Phelps does not still have value. His skill set is perfect for a utility player, and he could turn into a pretty good one once he gets a legitimate chance with the team. The Indians seem to believe this as well as they even had Phelps practicing at first base this spring in an effort to improve his versatility. For Phelps, it definitely seems as if there is a yin and a yang to his Spring Training. No, he did not earn a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster as he had hoped, but he was still able to open many eyes with his bat. He is now without a doubt the first offensive player in line for a promotion from Triple-A Columbus at some point this season.
— In the case of Chisenhall and Phelps, we as fans hope that spring statistics are a future precursor of Major League success, but what about when a player struggles? That was the case with Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis this spring. Bourn went 15-for-64 (.234) in 23 games while Kipnis finished 10-for-56 (.179) in 19 games. The numbers are certainly discouraging, but they should not be bought into too much. For Major League regulars like Bourn and Kipnis, Spring Training is simply about getting ready for the grind that is a Major League season. Both players, especially Bourn, have already had success at the Major League level, and that’s the most important thing to remember when looking at their poor spring showings.
— Francisco Lindor may still be a ways away from the Major Leagues, but you would not think that after his performance this spring. The Tribe’s top prospect went 7-for-24 (.292) in 10 games with the Major League club this spring. Lindor just turned 19 years old on November 14, so this performance is very impressive. As Tony Lastoria pointed out this weekend, Lindor is set to open the season at High-A Carolina. Given his advanced set of skills, he could rapidly progress through the team’s farm system, and it’s conceivable that he could find himself at Double-A Akron sometime this summer.
— Speaking of prospects, fellow shortstop Dorssys Paulino made his first and only appearance in a Major League Spring Training game Saturday for the Indians and proceeded to go 2-for-3 with two singles. While Lindor gets much of the hype, Paulino is an incredibly impressive prospect in his own right and the best hitting prospect in the Indians’ system. Tony Lastoria has Paulino ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the team’s system while Baseball Prospectus also offered high praise this offseason and ranked Paulino as the No. 96 prospect in all of baseball. While it may have been only one game, it was still nice to see Paulino get some playing time on Saturday. Plain and simple, no team but the Indians has the benefit of having two shortstop prospects on its roster like Lindor and Paulino. While their playing time may have been limited this spring, both players showed that they could have the ability to rapidly rise through the system.
— The Indians’ spring attendance was up this season as the team finished with 69,157 fans. In comparison, the team drew 64,412 fans last season. It’s a minimal gain, but it’s encouraging nonetheless, especially when you consider that as of March 14, Spring Training attendance around the Majors was down by 14 percent.
— Some claim the story of Ubaldo Jimenez’s improved command this spring is a myth. Think again. In 30 innings this spring, Jimenez recorded 22 strikeouts and walked seven batters. He also had two wild pitches and hit two batters. In comparison, Jimenez struck out 15 batters last spring while also walking 15. He also recorded four wild pitches and hit two batters. Hmmm… I guess this is another one of those instances where you hope that spring statistics actually do end up carrying some weight.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.
By rights he should have hit 50 points high in the minors but that was yesterday, 25 extra pounds of muscle in 4 months is working your butt off, and it will pay off in huge humbers for chiz. In life hard work usually pays off.