Winter Ball Notebook: Cabrera heats up
What a week it’s been.
First, the Cleveland Indians signed Mark Reynolds to be their new starting first baseman, and then there was Tuesday’s blockbuster deal that led to the Indians acquiring right-handed starter Trevor Bauer.
With all the free agency hoopla, it’s easy to forget that there’s still a lot of Tribe players competing in the Dominican, Venezuelan and Puerto Rican winter leagues as well as the Australian Baseball League.
So, with that being said, here are some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to Indians players competing in the various winter leagues this past week…
— Speaking of trades, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is a player who was linked to a number of trade discussions but was ultimately not moved. The switch-hitting shortstop made his winter league debut this past Saturday in the VWL. Cabrera has only played in three games so far this winter, but he’s been impressive in those games as he has gone 6-for-13 with two RBI. The importance of winter league statistics is often downplayed, and they may very well mean nothing, but it’s nice to see a Major League regular like Cabrera get some time in. That may result in him just being even more prepared for spring training, which is always a good thing especially since Cabrera has struggled with his weight in the past.
— While we’re on the subject of shortstops, Ronny Rodriguez made his debut as a pinch runner for Estrellas de Oriente of the DWL this past Sunday. He then pinch hit in a contest on Thursday where he managed to get a single in his lone at-bat. Estrellas de Oriente is actually the second team that Rodriguez has competed on so far this fall and winter season as he was a big part of this year’s Scottsdale Scorpions squad in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, Rodriguez hit .239 with three triples and seven RBI in 18 games with the Scorpions. Strikeouts were also a bit of an issue for Rodriguez in the AFL as he struck out 17 times and walked only twice. Because of that, it’s nice to see him see more action in the DWL. The right-handed hitter will probably spend the majority of the 2012 season at Double-A Akron, so it’s only a matter of time before he gets on the radar of the Major League club. Plate discipline remains his greatest flaw, however, and the DWL should provide him with some opportunities to continue to work on it.
— In 15 games, Andrew Campbell has really been impressive in the ABL. Overall, he has gone 16-for-48 with a home run and four RBI. He played in 33 games last season with the AZL Indians and Single-A Mahoning Valley, but his numbers unfortunately left a lot to be desired (.172/.248/.224). As stated on numerous occasions, it’s easy to buy into winter league numbers too much, and they often are a poor reflection of a player’s actual ability. That notion can also be applied to Campbell, but it’s still impressive to see him hitting at such an impressive clip, regardless of what the competition level may be in the ABL. He’s still only 20 years old, so maybe there is something more than meets the eye.
— A lot of relievers have been outstanding this winter, and right-hander Matt Langwell has been no exception. In 10 games and 12 1/3 innings in the PWL so far, Langwell has a 0.73 ERA and has struck out 11 while walking five. As the IPI’s Jim Piascik noted in his Thursday piece on prospects to watch, Langwell has been one of the most consistent performers in the Indians system as he owns a 3.06 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 9.1 SO/9, and 3.1 BB/9 in 293 2/3 minor league innings. Because of his lack of overpowering stuff, Langwell always seems to be overlooked in regard to players that could impact the big league club. However, he’s succeeded at every level, and his winter performance continues to indicate that, so 2013 may be the year that Langwell finally reaches the Major Leagues.
— Right-hander Rob Bryson has been equally impressive this winter season. In 11 games and 11 1/3 innings in the PWL, Bryson has a 0.00 ERA as well as 15 strikeouts against seven walks. Unfortunately Bryson has seen his stock fall in recent years since being acquired by the Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia trade. Injuries have taken their toll and while he is 25 years old, he has never pitched above the Double-A level. The numbers have still been impressive at almost every minor league stop though, so maybe there is some hope that he may still crack into the big leagues with the Indians.
— Ezequiel Carrera has had an outstanding winter campaign so far. In 21 games in the VWL, the left-handed hitting Carrera has gone 25-for-80 with two doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBI, 14 walks and 14 strikeouts. He’s also stolen six bases. Everything that Carrera has done this winter is somewhat indicative of why he will likely have a good shot at earning a spot on the Indians 2013 opening day roster. He’s not without his flaws, but his ability to hit line drives combined with his speed does ensure that he has value to the big league club.
— Carlos Santana has still been scuffling somewhat for Leones del Escogido of the DWL. After going 3-for-4 in last Saturday’s contest, the switch-hitting Santana has proceeded to go 1-for-8 in two games since. Overall, Santana has gone 10-for-47 with two RBI in 13 games. The numbers certainly leave a lot to be desired, but it’s still a very small sample size. Also, considering that Santana is already an established Major League player, he could be using his time in the DWL differently from other players. For Santana, his time in the DWL may just be an opportunity for him to tweak or refine his swing, which if that is the case, the poor start becomes more understandable.
— As the Winter Notebook comes to a close, let’s not forget about Jose Ramirez. He’s been brilliant all winter, and his performance was recognized with his spot in the Dominican Winter League All-Star Game on Tuesday. Ramirez went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored in his two at-bats in the All-Star Game. Overall, Ramirez has gone 38-for-117 (.325) in 32 games this winter. The numbers have dipped a bit since his torrid start, but the average is still well above .300, which is always a plus.
Stats as of 12/14/12
Steve can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.