Inbox: Prospecting for gold in the Minors
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions
One plus to being a runner, beyond all the health benefits, is learning your way around. After more than three months of running in my new town, I've become an expert on the local streets. I know all the shortcuts.
Great for me. Bad for my wife. I'm now the worst kind of backseat driver. When she's behind the wheel, I'm constantly offering my two cents. "No, no, turn here," I'll say. "Trust me. This way is so much faster." I'm not sure she always agrees that my scenic routes actually save us much time, though.
One place I'm still learning my way around, however, is downtown Cleveland. That will surely change once I'm making the frequent commute to Progressive Field in the years ahead. And, in May, I plan on giving myself a crash course in the city's layout by running the Cleveland Marathon -- a 26.2-mile tour.
More than three months remain until the race, so I'm challenging any of my running readers to run the marathon, too. Who's with me? Anyone? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you're planning on taking part. For now, here's this week's Indians Inbox ...
Hey Jordan, with MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects revealed last week, I'm sure I am not the only Indians fan disappointed that only third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was featured on the list. In the wake of trades involving All-Stars and Cy Young Award winners, I would expect the Tribe to have received its fair share of TOP prospects in return. Your thoughts?
-- Thomas C., Powell, Ohio
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
You're right, Thomas, you were hardly the lone Tribe fan to e-mail me after MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo unveiled his Top 50 Prospects list. One thing you have to keep in mind, though, is the fact that many of the players acquired by the Indians in the recent trades you reference are no longer considered prospects.
As part of the 2008 deal that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, Cleveland obtained highly-touted prospects Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta. Both are in the Majors with the Indians now. A third player obtained in that trade, pitcher Rob Bryson, enjoyed a solid 2010 showing in the Minors after missing nearly all of '09 following shoulder surgery.
The '09 trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies netted Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson -- all current members of the Tribe. In that deal, the Indians also acquired righty Jason Knapp, who was not included in Mayo's Top 50 list, but is considered one of Cleveland's top prospects at the moment.
If you want to look at the 2009 trade that sent Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, too, consider that right-hander Justin Masterson -- acquired in that deal -- is currently in the Tribe's rotation. Cleveland also obtained lefty Nick Hagadone in the V-Mart trade, and he is widely considered one of the Indians' Top 10 prospects.
Given that many of those trades produced players currently in the Majors -- plus the fact that catcher Carlos Santana is no longer considered a prospect -- it really wasn't much of a surprise that Chisenhall was the only Tribe farmhand to make the cut. Had the list been extended to 100 players, I'd wager that you would've also seen the names Jason Kipnis, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White.
ESPN's Keith Law recently ranked the Tribe's farm system 17th overall in the Major Leagues. What are your thoughts on his analysis? If you disagree with Law, on behalf of the fans, write a respectable e-mail between colleagues with a healthy, "I disagree with you, SIR."
-- Mason F., Richland, Wash.
I don't need to send Keith that type of e-mail, Mason. He and I have known each other for a few years now and we actually discussed his recent evaluation of the Indians' farm system. Know that Law has seen many of Cleveland's key prospects first-hand, which obviously plays a big role in his ranking.
Is Law's ranking law? (See what I did there?) No, of course not. It's his opinion, based on what he has seen of Cleveland's prospects compared to those in other organizations. If you prefer to go the Baseball America route, maybe it will bring some comfort to know that the publication rated Cleveland's farm system seventh overall in the big leagues.
The bottom line is there are varying views of where the Indians stack up right now. There are some solid players (Chisenhall, Kipnis and White, for example) who could be in the Majors this season. There are others (Pomeranz being the most prominent) who could rise to The Show by 2012. The Indians also have a bevy of solid relief prospects.
The feeling that many of these experts share is that the Indians have a good crop of players who could rise fast through a farm system. That said, those players do not always have the tools that cry "future superstar." The great thing about these lists is they are hardly 100-percent accurate.
There is debate on the Indians message board and by fans in general about bringing Kipnis and Chisenhall up to the Majors right away. The naysayers claim they're not "ready". The promoters want to know how management knows if a player is ready for the Majors when they are facing Triple-A pitchers who aren't ready for the Majors themselves?
-- Scott D., Sheffield Lake, Ohio
That is certainly something every team has to balance. Teams want to make sure players are developed right and not rushed to the big leagues, but at the same time clubs don't want to hold a player back if he seems ready. Kipnis might be ready to steal the second-base job, and Chisenhall might be ready to claim third, but the Indians want to keep them on a proper development path.
That is why you will likely see Kipnis and Chisenhall at Triple-A Columbus to open the season. A big reason for that is due to their development on defense. Kipnis is still working on converting to second after entering the system as an outfielder. Chisenhall continues to fine-tune his skills at third after originally serving as a shortstop.
Both Kipnis and Chisenhall have shown that their bats might indeed be ready for the Majors, but there is more to the game than just offense. Santana was in a similar position at the beginning of last season. His bat was ready for the big leagues, but the Tribe kept the catcher in the Minors to start the year in order to continue his development behind the plate. Santana was deemed ready by June. Kipnis and Chisenhall might follow a similar path.
Good to have you here in C-Town! Recently I read that the Washington Nationals have had talks with the Tribe's front office about a trade involving Grady Sizemore or Fausto Carmona. If this is so, would you say the front office is just investigating possibilities or should we stop buying Sizemore/Carmona gear with the Indians' logo on it?
-- Andy M., Sagamore Hills, Ohio
Feel free to buy as much Sizemore and Carmona Indians gear as you see fit. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti emphatically shot down those trade rumors last week. Antonetti said no such talks had taken place between the teams. It is not uncommon for clubs to call and ask about the possible availability of players, and this very well may have happened in the case of Sizemore and Carmona, but the Indians have no intention of trading either player right now.
Did the Indians show interest in Justin Duchscherer?
-- Ryan M., Lakewood, Ohio
All you need to know is that the $4.5 million Duchscherer could earn through incentives in his reported deal with the Orioles is too rich for the Indians right now. Cleveland is interested in adding some starting pitching depth, but the club will likely limit its search to players willing to come to camp on a Minor League deal.
Do you think it would make sense for the Indians to sign Kevin Millwood over Jeremy Bonderman?
-- Anthony C. Hopkinton, Mass.
The Indians have reportedly shown interest in Millwood and he certainly fits the team's desire to potentially land a veteran starter with an ability to eat up innings. As noted in the previous question, though, it might hinge on Millwood's willingness to accept a Minor League contract or a big league deal with a low base salary. Bonderman could be a risk due to his recent health history, but it might be easier to bring him into the fold on a Minor League contract. Of course, he might also do just that with the Tigers.
And finally, I couldn't resist this one...
If you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself? I know I would. I'd smother myself in relish and mustard and wash myself down with an ice cold Budweiser.
-- Jay, Columbus
Harry? Is that you? I do know this. If I were a scientist, you know what I'd clone? Hot dogs. Imagine a world with an endless supply of hot dogs. You could eat a hot dog anytime you wanted!