Indians Spring Training Update (1 of 6)- Non Roster Invitees

The Tribe have finally begun their 2012 campaign, and while most of the 2011 squad returns, the Indians front office was busy this offseason bringing in a plethora low budget role players (what a surprise). Why would we want Prince Fielder at 1B, when we could have Casey Kotchman?

Anyway, while Kotchman will be given the 1B job from day one, the Indians signed multiple “low risk- (hopefully) high reward” players, like ex-players Austin Kearns (hopefully you can stomach hearing that name) and Orlando Cabrera. The Indians have 22 non-roster invitees at camp this spring, including some old and new faces. Here’s a look at the 22 who have a chance to make the big league squad…the

Pitchers:

Dan Wheeler- Wheeler, 34, comes off a rough season in Boston, where he finished 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA in 47 games. Since entering the league in 1999 Wheeler has a 3.88 ERA,  but he has struggled with consistency. If Wheeler can put together a successful spring, I can see Wheeler being added to the back of the Indians bullpen for Opening Day. However, Wheeler also needs players like Frank Herrmann and Nick Hagadone to struggle just so there would be an opening.

Chris Ray- After 33 saves with Baltimore in 2006, Chris Ray’s career took a turn for the worst. Ray suffered multiple injuries during and following the 2007 season, and did not return to the Orioles pen until 2009, where he was 0-4 with a 7.27 ERA. However, in 2010 he put together a solid campaign with Texas and San Francisco (5-0, 3.72 ERA), which made Seattle jump a Ray during the 2011 offseason. Ray struggled with consistency as well last season, with a 4.68 ERA, and only managed to record 22 strikeouts in 32 innings. I like Wheeler more than Ray, and I think Ray will need the injury bug to strike Cleveland (please no) if he wants to avoid C-Bus.

Hector Ambriz- We all remember Rule 5 pick Ambriz, and I think it’s fair to say we don’t want him back. (sorry Hector)

Jeremy Accardo- Accardo spent the 2011 season in the Orioles bullpen, and that pretty much tells you how productive he was. Accardo had a 5.59 ERA in 37 innings, and only had 5 more strikeouts (23) than he did walks (18). The only way he makes it to Cleveland this season is if he throws lights out for Columbus.

Austin Adams- A starting pitcher for Akron a season a go, Adams went 11-10 with a 3.77 ERA. A 5th round pick of the Indians in 2009, Adams has breezed through the the farm system. While he clearly will not make the Indians rotation in April, he is a player to watch in Akron and Columbus this season, and he may get his first ML start if need be late in the season.

Chen Lee- Lee wowed in the Columbus bullpen last season, with a 2.27 ERA and a 4-0 relief record, and many fans were surprised he never replaced Herrmann in the pen. However, Lee has his chance once again this spring, and I personally believe he will be up for the challenge. With the Wheeler and Ray acquisitions, though, I think Lee is deemed to be the lead man in the C-Bus bullpen once again. Don’t forget about him, however, because I see Lee wearing a Tribe uniform at some point during the season.

Chris Seddon- A 11 year minor league journeyman, who really has zero shot at the Indians rotation. Seddon will probably join the Clippers rotation, but I’m not confident he is anything but minor league insurance. Seddon finished with a very poor 6.27 ERA in 25 triple starts last season. Not good.

Tyler Sturdevant- Sturdevant has had a solid 3 seasons within the Indians farm system (2.46 ERA in 175.1 innings), but he simply is not ready for the the big time yet. However, Sturdevant has some serious potential, and will probably battle Ray and Lee for the first bullpen callup midseason.

Robinson Tejada- Yes, this is the old KC Royal who used to give up the home runs. After spending the majority of the 2011 season in AAA, Tejada became a free agent. I don’t see Tejada having any impact what so ever in Cleveland, so honestly, I don’t see why it’s even worth writing anything more about him.

Infielders:

Jose Lopez- A former All-Star 2nd baseman, Lopez’s career has come a halt, as he hit .216 with Florida and Colorado a season ago. Lopez is still a young 28 years old, but he is not “baseball young”, as he’s played about 8 full seasons in the majors. I guess there is a chance Lopez can fall back into his All-Star ways, but it should not be expected. On the positive side of things, Lopez rarely strikes out, so at least he puts the ball in the play. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t found much green since the 2009 season.

Andy LaRoche- Once considered a great prospect, 3B Andy LaRoche has failed to produce on the big league level. LaRoche had an above average 2009 campaign in PIT, but since has struggled mightily in Pittsburgh and Oakland. The Indians already have Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall on the club, so it’s hard to see where LaRoche fits in without an injury to Supermanahan or Chisenhall. LaRoche is not the worst backup option to have, but that’s really all one can expect from him.

Christian Guzman- SS Guzman had a successful major league career from ’99-’10, and surprisingly decided to hang it up. However, after Tribe manager gave his old friend a call to give it one last try, Guzman had to say yes. While he can’t expect to pass ACab on the depth chart, he can hope to outplay Jason Donald, a player very similar to Guzman, besides their age. Guzman is the stereotypical average hitting shortstop with little pop, and for a backup, that’s just fine. If the ex-National can show that he is not too old to still play, I think he could sneak onto the club. I don’t think Guzman came back to play at Columbus.

Gregorio Petit- Petit is a career minor league utility man, with very little major league experience. I don’t think that Petit will outplay Donald or Guzman enough to make the Indians, but he will serve as a decent option for Columbus. If infielders drop like flys though, you could see Petit on the Tribe at some point this year.

Outfielders

Trevor Crowe- As the Indians former 1st round pick, Crowe had huge expectations, but he has failed to live up to them. While he may be fun to follow on Twitter, Crowe has hit a .245 clip in the majors, with only 3 home runs and 55 runs batted in 653 at bats. While he was a quality player on the terrible 2010 Indians squad, he was hurt most of last season, and only appeared in 15 games. Crowe has a chance to make the team as a utility outfielder, but I just don’t see how the team will have room long term for Crowe, or any other outfielder. With Sizemore’s injury, though, there is a chance if he outplays Carrera and Cunningham.

Chad Huffman- Huffman began the AAA season on fire, and had many Indians fans calling for him to replace Kearns (sorry again) and Duncan. However, he significantly cooled off, and only hit .246 with 13 home runs when all was said and done. Unless Huffman can hit .400 with 5 home runs during the spring, it’s back to C-Bus for the 26 year old OF.

Fred Lewis- Lewis has played six seasons in the majors, last with Cincinnati just a year ago. Lewis only hit .230 last season, but every time  he seemed to play us he was productive, even in 2010 with Toronto. Once again, as I sound like a broken record, I just don’t see how Lewis could play his way onto the roster, especially when (if) Sizemore returns.

Felix Pie- Once a top prospect with Chicago, Pie has fallen significantly, as he was a bench player in Baltimore. Pie is fast and may have his moments, but he has failed to put it all together for an entire season. Although we all love him for his name, no it’s not pronounced pie, I don’t think that will keep him on the roster. Of all five outfielders on the list, I think he may have the worst chance to stick around. Well, him and Huffman are similar….

Ryan Spilborghs- Spilborghs has played in Colorado the past seven seasons, and has actually hit a respectable .272 in 1561 AB’s. However, his lack of power and terrible 2011 season (.210) ended his long term relationship with the Rockies. Spilborghs is very well liked, and is the type of player who you’ll see signing autographs, but the Indians need hitters. If Spilborghs could hit .270 this year, and call me crazy, I think he is the best choice to take Sizemore’s spot on the Opening Day roster.

Catchers (No spots open on Tribe)

Luke Carlin- Carlin played in Columbus all of last season, hitting .213 with a .364 OBP. Carlin hit two home runs with the Indians in 2010, but even Lou Marson is a better option here because of his laser arm. Carlin seems to be a clubhouse leader in C-Bus, so I think it’s best that he stays there and mentor players before they make it to Cleveland.

Matt Pagnozzi- Pagnozzi only has 83 MLB PA’s in his career, and has only managed to hit .220 in 9 minor league seasons. Is there any need to continue? Lou Marson is looking pretty good right now.

Chun-Hsiu Chen- One of the Indians’ current best prospects, Chen has risen through the minor league ranks quickly. The 23 year old catcher may move Santana to 1st base in the future, but not now. Chen hit .262 with 16 home runs a season ago at Akron, and some people believe he could find that success in the majors years down the road. Now, however, he’s just here for the experience, and maybe the rare AB in a spring training game.

Michel Hernandez- No his first name is not a typo, it’s really M-i-c-h-e-l. The 33 year old catcher has only regularly played in one MLB season, and he still only played with Tampa Bay that year for over a month. Hernandez has played in the minors for FOURTEEN season to date, which is impressive within itself. However, his average .263 clip and below average power numbers (38 HR’s in 3071 AB’s), aren’t enough to get him on the club. I’d love to see it, and in fact I’m rooting for him, but realistically, back to AAA.

Out of all 22 players, I think 3 players with the best chance to make the team are:

RP Dan Wheeler

Utility Christian Guzman

OF Ryan Spilborghs

….with injury help, I think Chris Ray, Chen Lee, Jose Lopez, and Trevor Crowe could make the team too.

What do you think, who could make the team from this list? Put it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading.

~BD

2 Comments

Trust me, you do not want Accardo, Ray, or Pie.

I think Ray is the only one of the ex-O’s who actually have a chance to play with the Tribe this year….unless Pie has a really, really, really good spring.

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