Archive for the ‘Cleveland Indians’ category

Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

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Don’t the San Francisco Giants Have Enough Over-the-Hill Outfielders Already?

March 20, 2019

The Giants just signed Matt Joyce, now age 34 (he turns 35 in August), to a minor league deal.  Big Whoop!

The Indians released Joyce from his minor league deal with the Tribe on March 19th.  That follows a season in Oakland in 2018 in which he slashed .208/.322/.353.  It’s hard to imagine him having much left, although he did hit well in both 2016 and 2017.

Presumably, Joyce will start the year at AAA Sacramento and get a major league shot if he plays well and someone of the major league roster doesn’t (or gets hurt).

Needless to say, signing Joyce does little to improve the Giants’ outfield situation, which looks pretty bleak as of this writing.  Mike Gerber and Steven Duggar are hitting well in Spring Training, and Gerardo Parra has been O.K.  After that, no one has impressed.  Additionally, Gerber isn’t expected to make the major league team out of Spring Training.

As I’ve said before, there is still time for the Giants to make a move between today and the March 28 season opener in San Diego.  Time is running out, and the fact that the Giants just signed Joyce doesn’t suggest they have a bigger deal in the works.

Is Corey Kluber a Legitimate Hall of Fame Candidate?

February 12, 2019

I was looking at Corey Kluber‘s career stats the other day, and I wondered if what he has accomplished in the last five years has made him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.  The short answer is no, not yet.

The player Kluber currently looks most like is Johan Santana.  Santana was MLB’s best pitcher for the five seasons between 2004 and 2008.  However, arm problems then ruined his career, and he finished 139-78.

Santana appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, but he received only 10 votes and was dropped from the 2019 ballot.  I definitely think that in 25 or 30 years, the Hall of Fame’s Veteran’s Committee (or whatever they call it now or then) will notice that Santana’s career record looks an awful lot like Dizzy Dean‘s and maybe even Sandy Koufax‘s.  However, Santana might be hurt by pitching in the heart of the PEDs ERA.

Corey Kluber will be 33 this upcoming season, but he’s bigger than Santana, so maybe his arm will hold out better.  He’s probably only one more CY Young caliber season (i.e., on a par with four of his last five seasons) and another 55 career wins from what it would require for him to be a sure thing to reach the Hall of Fame eventually.

Oliver Drake’s Ongoing Odyssey and Other Minnesota Twins Notes

December 29, 2018

In the aftermath of the Twins’ signing of Nelson Cruz for $14.3 million for 2019, I was looking at the Twins’ now surplus of right-handed power bats, and I happened to notice that Oliver Drake had a very successful 19 relief appearance run (2.21 ERA) for the Twins last season but is no longer with the team.

Drake played for five different major league teams last year and six since the start of the 2017 season.  The reason for this is obvious: Drake has great stuff and has success in AAA, but he has command issues and was awful at the major league level last year until the Twins selected him off waivers.  Drake started the season for the Brewers, was ineffective and then sold to the Indians, probably for a box of crackerjack.  He pitched poorly in Cleveland, and the Angels selected him off the waiver wire on May 31st.  Drake didn’t pitch well in Anaheim, and was selected off waivers by the Blue Jays in July 26th.  Ditto in Toronto, and the Twins claimed him off waivers on August 3rd.

Despite finally pitching well in the Twin Cities, the Twins tried to pass him through waivers again in late October/early November, and the Rays grabbed him.  The Rays tried to pass him through waivers at the end of the month, and the Blue Jays once again grabbed him.  At least once the regular season ended, Drake’s subsequent travels were virtual, rather than real, and Drake is presumably sitting at home waiting to see whom he ends up with in its time to start Spring Training.

With service in parts of four major league seasons now, but only about 2.5 years of major league service time, Drake isn’t yet arbitration eligible but is certainly out of minor league options.  What that means is that, unless he is first released, the last team to claim him off waivers will likely have to give him a major league contract in the $565,000 to $575,000 range.

Well, that’s small potatoes in today’s game, particularly for a pitcher with his potential.  However, the Twins didn’t think he was worth that modest guarantee, and the Rays didn’t think so either once they obtained somebody they liked better for their 40-man roster, almost certainly because he can’t be sent down to the minors if he’s ineffective without passing him through waivers yet again.  He’s also going into his age 32 season, so many teams may doubt he’ll ever have sufficient command to take advantage of his plus stuff at the major league level.

Drake was originally a 43rd round draft pick out of the U.S. Naval Academy.  He now has a career major league ERA of 4.59 with 151 Ks in 137.1 innings pitched and a WHIP of 1.46.  He’s good enough that a lot of teams want him at the right price, but don’t seem to be willing to give him any guarantees.

With the signing of Nelson Cruz and the earlier claiming off waivers and signing of C.J. Cron for $4.8M, the Twins are now officially overloaded with defensively challenged, right-handed hitting sluggers.  Cruz and Cron will get plenty of playing time because of their 2019 salaries unless either gets hurt, but the Twins also have Miguel Sano, who is too young and has too much potential to give up on yet, and also Tyler Austin, who came over from the Yankees when the Twins traded Lance Lynn at the 2018 trade deadline.  With the corner outfield slots taken up by young lefty hitters Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, one would have to think the Twins would be willing to listen to trade offers for Austin.

Austin is already 27 and hasn’t established himself as a major league regular yet.  He doesn’t hit for average or draw many walks, but he sure has right-handed power with 24 HRs in only 404 major league plate appearances.  He wouldn’t be a bad fit for the San Francisco Giants, who could use another corner outfielder with right-handed power.

Because Austin is out of options, maybe the Twins would be willing to trade him to Giants for minor league reliever (and personal favorite) Tyler Rogers.  Tyler’s twin brother Taylor has had three successful seasons as a reliever for the Twins, and the Tyler has been mighty good at AAA the last two seasons.  Obviously, there would be some great PR for the Twins to have twin relievers pitching on their major league roster to start the 2019 season.  That said, the Twins will probably hold on to Austin since he cheap and provides insurance if Cruz, Cron or somebody else gets hurt.

I have to say that I like the fact that the Twins are active every off-season, seeking out deals at the right price that might reasonably make the team better.  It didn’t work in 2018, but if you keep trying every off-season, it may well work eventually.

Houston Astros Reach Deal with Michael Brantley

December 18, 2018

It’s being reported that the Astros have reached a two-year deal with Michael Brantley for $32 million.  It’s less than the three years and $45 million that mlbtraderumors.com predicted and significantly less than the three-year $50 million deal the Phillies gave Andrew McCutchen about a week ago.

It feels like the trend the last few off-seasons is that the first of similar players like McCutchen and Brantley to sign gets the better deal.  It also fits in with the recent trend that teams are going to squeeze the second tier free agents like Brantley much more than in the past.

Brantley is coming off a fine 2018 and he still runs well.  But he’ll be 32 in 2019, and he missed a lot of playing time to injuries in 2016 and 2017.  In my mind this feels like a fair deal in terms of the fact that there are a wide range of outcomes for what Brantley’s performance will be over the next two seasons.  It could be a great deal for the Astros if Brantley is healthy and productive, or it could be a waste of $25M to $30M if he gets hurt again or suddenly gets old.

I was very pleased to see that the Mets have signed Rajai Davis to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  Davis, now 38, has had a remarkable major league career for a player of his modest professional beginnings.

The Pirates originally drafted Davis in the 38th round, and the Bucs thought so little of him that they included him as the trade piece in a 2007 deal in which they received Matt Morris and all of what was then a very large $12M remaining salary commitment through 2008.  Morris was dreadful for the Pirates, and Davis was immediately useful to the SF Giants.

Unfortunately, Davis got off to a slow start (1 for 18) in 2008, and the A’s claimed him off waivers.  Davis had probably his best major league season for the A’s in 2009, and that firmly established Davis as a major league player in the eyes of MLB teams.  Davis’ base-stealing ability is elite, but, alas, he’s never gotten on base enough to take full advantage of it.

Davis has never been a star, but he’s always been good enough to stick around and play regularly more often than not during the last decade.  The fact that he’s still around at age 38 is a testament to his abilities to take advantage of the opportunities that were finally afforded to him and to play at a consistently decent level that least one major league team thought he was a low cost way to plug a gap in the outfield.  He’s also been able to stay healthy when many other outfielders have not.

Seattle Mariners Dump More Salary (with Help from the Rays and Indians)

December 14, 2018

Yesterday’s three-way trade between the Mariners, Rays and Indians was wonderfully complex.  The Mariners continued their rebuild, trading away Carlos Santana‘s age 33 and 34 seasons for Edwin Encarnacion‘s age 36 season and the 77th pick in the 2019 Draft (the Indians’ Round B Competitive Balance pick), while saving a total of $10 million of future salary commitments.

The Indians got Santana and also also 23 year old 1B/LF Jake Bauers from the Rays.  Bauers got a lot of playing time with the Rays in 2018, but he was pretty awful, and he looks like he’ll need a full year in AAA in 2019.  Still, he’s young and he’s got some talent.  Although the Indians took on salary in the trade, it actually frees up salary space for them in 2019, because Santana will cost the Tribe about $10 million less this coming season than Encarnacion would have.

The Rays got 3B Yandy Diaz and right-handed reliever Cole Sulser in the exchange and sent $5 million to the Mariners to almost balance out the $6 million the M’s sent to the Indians to defray part of the $35 million still owed to Santana.  Got all of that?

Yandy Diaz looks like the most interesting player in the trade.  Although he is already 27 and hasn’t played much in the majors, a lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s Cuban defector who lost a couple of seasons in the immigration process.  He looks like he can play adequate defense at third, and his career AAA slash line is .319/.415/.432 in more than 1,200 plate appearances.  If he can add some power, he could still potentially be a dark horse All-Star candidate at the hot corner.

It’s anticipated that the Mariners will soon trade away Encarnacion, possibly to the Rays in a future transaction.  If so, I’d guess the Mariners will have to include about $10M to get much of value in return.

We already knew that the M’s were firmly committed to rebuilding and dumping salary, but the trade is also a clear sign that both the Rays and the Indians intend to compete in 2019 within the limits of their small revenues.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Andrew McCutchen for $50 Million

December 12, 2018

The Phillies have reportedly reached a three year deal with Andrew McCutchen that promises him $50 million.  Although it’s not much more than the $45M guarantee mlbtraderumors.com predicted, it feels like a lot for a 32 year old outfielder who can no longer play center field and had an OPS under .800 last season.

Fangraphs says that McCutchen was worth roughly $21M in 2018 and $29M in 2019 (he gets on base, drawing 95 walks last season, despite a declining batting average and power numbers), and the Phillies are obviously trying to put together a winning team in 2019 and 2020, so the deal makes a certain amount of sense.  It also suggests that the Phillies probably won’t be the winner in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes if they’ve now agreed to pay this kind of money for another right fielder.

The signing is obviously good for Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock, who are roughly in the same group of free agent outfielders as McCutchen, but not so good for Harper who now has one less team willing to bid up his final free agent contract.

There haven’t been a lot of signings so far, but the McCutchen and Patrick Corbin signings don’t suggest that this will be as tough an off-season for free agents as last off-season was.