The Observer looks at the top 30 of Cleveland’s hometown team:
With pitchers and catchers set to report to Spring Training camp on Feb. 20 for the Cleveland Indians, it’s time to take a look at the players going the 2012 season. This is part one of two that will look at the top 30 players for the Cleveland Indians.
#30) Rafael Perez (RP) – Age: 29, Bats: L, Throws: L
2011 Record: 5W 2L, 63 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
The lefty specialist proved himself a reliable option out of the bullpen for the Indians last year. After a 2011 campaign that saw him limiting left-handed batters to a .237 average and showing consistent improvement in his movement and control, there’s little evidence that the lefty will lose his effectiveness this season. Look for him to be a constant reliever for the Tribe.
#29) Kevin Slowey (SP) – Age: 27, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record [w/Minnesota]: 0W 8L, 59.1 IP, 6.67 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
The 27-year-old starter joins the Tribe after spending the last five seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Slowey battled injuries and ineffectiveness in his worst Major League season last year. He’s the leading candidate for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation, but he will have to show he is still capable of winning 13 games like he did in 2010 with the Twins.
#28) Jeanmar Gomez (RP) – Age: 23, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record: 5W 3L, 58.1 IP, 4.47 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
Gomez showed a flash of excellence during the second half of last season, when he went a perfect 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The 23-year-old righty succeeded with a veteran-like 2.31 BB/9, and was racking up grounders by the truckload. Gomez is likely to begin the year in the minors, but look for him to gain some valuable experience and return to the MLB as a sixth starter.
#27) Joe Smith (RP) – Age: 27, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record: 3W 3L, 67 IP, 2.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
Last year was a career year for Smith as he established himself as one of the better middle relievers in the American League. While the righty doesn’t punch out many hitters, he keeps the ball in the yard and issues only a few walks. Opponents have hit just .230 off him in 248.2 career innings, so it’s safe to say he has become a rock-solid contributor for the Tribe bullpen.
#26) Jason Donald (2B) – Age: 27, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record: .318 AVG., 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 13 Runs, .364 OBP
While Donald had only 132 at-bats, the second baseman seized his opportunities by batting .318 with a .364 OBP. With Asdrubal Cabrera locked in shortstop and Jason Kipnis penciled in at second, Donald may have to settle into a utility role for 2012. For now, he is stuck behind more promising talents, but he should have some playing time once in a while.
#25) Trevor Crowe (OF) – Age: 28, Bats: S, Throws: S
2011 Record: .214 AVG., 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 6 Runs, .313 OBP
After missing nearly all of 2011 due to shoulder surgery, Crowe will be competing against a packed, veteran-filled outfield. He provides some speed, but that comes with only minimal power and a batting average that barely wows any batting coaches. Crowe’s chance of landing a roster spot is minute and he is likely to begin 2012 in the minors or even waive.
#24) Cord Phelps (2B) – Age: 25, Bats: S, Throws: R
2011 Record: .155 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 10 Runs, .241 OBP
Like fellow prospect Jason Donald, this 25-year-old is stuck behind Jason Kipnis. Phelps has a chance of becoming a decent base-hit second baseman, but he is competing in an already packed infield. Should he lose the position battle, look for the Indians to “cut the Cord” and send Phelps back to the minors for another year. The Indians are likely to take Donald over Phelps.
#23) Shelly Duncan (OF) – Age: 32, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record: .260 AVG., 11 HRs, 47 RBIs, 29 Runs, .324 OBP
Duncan takes the slogan “If he makes contact, the ball just takes off.” The former Yankee can hit for power – as evidenced by his 30 homers in fewer than 600 at-bats – but his inability to make consistent contacts will likely prevent him from winning a starting role. Duncan will be a fourth outfielder and occasional DH, but anything else is asking for too much from the 32-year-old.
#22) Felix Pie (OF) – Age: 26, Bats: L, Throws: L
2011 Record [w/Baltimore]: .220 AVG., 0 HR, 7 RBIs, 15 Runs .264 OBP
After two promising seasons with the Orioles, Pie saw his playing time and production decline dramatically in 2011. He is no longer the promising prospect he used to be, and he has yet to establish himself as a reliable big leaguer. Don’t be surprised to see the Indians send Pie packing if he fails to make it as a non-roster invite this spring.
#21) Ezequiel Carrera (OF) – Age: 24, Bats: L, Throws: L
2011 Record: .243 AVG., 0 HR, 14 RBIs, 27 Runs, .301 OBP
Last year when the Indians were hit hard with injuries, the team turned to Carrera to take over the centerfield position. While the 24-year-old had trouble hitting for average in his first year in the MLB, he has shown plenty of speed with 10 steals in 202 at-bats. Carrera will compete for a backup job during Spring Training, but it’s most likely he will head to the minors with the return of Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley.
#20) Fred Lewis (OF) – Age: 31, Bats: L, Throws: R
2011 Record [w/Cincinnati]: .230 AVG., 3 HRs, 19 RBIs, 20 Runs, .321 OBP
The Indians will be Lewis’s fourth team in as many years, assuming he makes the roster. The 31-year-old outfielder saw his numbers decline last season. He is a versatile outfielder who can steal bases, draw walks, and hit occasional home runs, but he doesn’t have the tools to be an everyday starter. His best scenario right now is to be an extra outfielder come Opening Day.
#19) Ryan Spilborghs (OF) – Age: 32, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record [w/Colorado]: .210 AVG., 3 HRs, 22 RBIs, 22 Runs, .283 OBP
After a strong campaign in 2010, Spilborghs fell off the map in 2011 with the Rockies. He could probably reach a double-digit home run total and rack up 10-plus steals while hitting for a decent average if given a full season of starting work. That’s unlikely to happen as he is trying to compete for a roster spot. If given the chance, Spilborghs should be able to bounce back from his horrendous 2011 campaign. For now, he is a sleeper pick for the Indians.
#18) Vinnie Pestano (RP) – Age: 26, Bats: R, Throws: R
2011 Record: 1W 2L, 62 IP, 2.32 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Pestano was not just great last year, he was lights-out excellent. With only 5 innings of experience as a rookie in 2010, the 26-year-old came out of nowhere and became the most reliable arm in the Tribe’s bullpen. He posted the lowest ERA of any Indians reliever, as well as a superb 12.19 K/9 ratio. Now a proven talent, Pestano will serve as the setup man and fallback closer if anything happens to closer Chris Perez.
#17) Jack Hannahan (3B) – Age: 31, Bats: L, Throws: R
2011 Record: .250 AVG., 8 HRs, 40 RBIs, 38 Runs, .331 OBP
Hannahan seems to have found a home as Cleveland’s third baseman. While the Indians haven’t gone out and tried to sign another third baseman, Hannahan will see his minutes decline with the addition of up-and-coming youngster Lonnie Chisenhall. Thus, the odds of the fielder matching his humble .250 average and 8 homers are slim at best. Look for him to be nothing more than a mentor and a capable backup to the young Chisenhall.
#16) Travis Hafner (1B/DH) – Age: 34, Bats: L, Throws: R
2011 Record: .280 AVG., 13 HRs, 57 RBIs, 41 Runs, .361 OBP
Hafner’s year was cut short again due to injuries and failed to reach 100 game appearances. Although a .280 average with 57 RBIs is his best since 2007, the 34-year-old will have a hard time staying both healthy and productive. Even in the final year of his five-year contract, it’s hard to expect Hafner to play more than 100 games, and it’s likely to be his last year in a Tribe uniform.
#15) Casey Kotchman (1B) – Age: 28, Bats: L, Throws: L
2011 Record [w/Tampa Bay]: .306 AVG., 10 HRs, 48 RBIs, 44 Runs, .378 OBP
The former Ray is possibly the biggest addition to the Tribe this winter. The first baseman posted a career-best in almost every category after a disappointing 2010 with the Seattle Mariners. If Kotchman can steal the starting first base job from Matt LaPorta, look for him to provide hits, homers, and RBIs for the Tribe along with excellent defensive abilities.
This concludes part one of the preview of the top 30 players for the Cleveland Indians. Tune in next week for the next 15 players as we count down to Spring Training 2012.