Sunday, December 23, 2012

Getting Busy on a Lazy Sunday

“Your boys have been busy lately.” A pretty simple, seemingly innocuous one-line e-mail that I received from a friend of mine earlier this week. With no context attached, the mind is left to wonder exactly what he was referring to, but being that I don’t have kids and the friend is a big baseball fan (albeit a Mets fan), it was crystal clear to me exactly what he was getting at; the Indians are making an uncharacteristic amount of noise this offseason. The Indians have been linked, at one time or another, to Justin Upton, Dee Gordon, Kevin Youkilis, Shane Victorino, Edwin Jackson, Jason Bay and others from outside the organization, and speculation is rampant that everyone from Justin Masterson to Asdrubal Cabrera to Vinnie Pestano could make their way off of the North Shore during the silly season© (copyright Paul Cousineau). Unlike years past, there has also been actual player movement, as the Indians have inked Mark Reynolds to a free agent deal and of course made the blockbuster trade that sent the S.S. Choo steaming south to Cincy in return for Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer. At press time, nothing was settled on the Nick Swisher front but the Indians have reportedly made him an offer somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years and $50+ million to settle their current RF dilema. They’ve also recruited him with an unorthodox series of stunts to include a video pitch featuring Thad Matta, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer imploring the former Buckeye to “come home” to play in Cleveland. No word on whether or not hologram Woody Hayes was available. So with my crazy international travel schedule finally winding down for the foreseeable future, let’s take a look at some of the Indians related links here on the last Lazy Sunday before Christmas.

The biggest news of course was the three-team trade that sent Choo, Tony Sipp, Jason Donald and Lars Anderson out of the organization with Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers heading to Cleveland. Learning about the trade only after it was completed, my first thought was to wonder what else the Indians gave up. I assumed that the reports were inaccurate, as I’d have been happy if the Indians were able to acquire Bauer for Choo straight up. The fact that they added a talented defender with potential at the plate in Stubbs was pure gravy. It’s nearly impossible to look at this trade as it stands today as anything but a win for the Indians. They were able to take an asset that they were clearly not going to be in control of beyond 2013 (Choo) and flip it for 9 years’ worth of control of two talented players, one of which is a young pitcher with top of the rotation potential. A young pitcher under club control with top of the rotation potential just happened to be the #1 item on every rational Indians fan’s shopping list this offseason, so the fact that Antonetti was able to check that off without dealing his most valuable asset (Asdrubal) has to be considered a major coup. The deal was almost universally regarded as a big win for the Indians in the media, something you rarely see these days. Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus broke down the deal for all three teams, and had no hesitation in considering the Indians the big winner:

This isn’t Colon for Lee, Phillips, and Sizemore, but it might be one of the best swaps the Indians—who have a somewhat spotty recent trade record—have made since. It’s rare that I have no reservations about pronouncing a trade an unqualified win for one team—there’s so much info we’re missing about most transactions that I get twitchy just typing that—but this is one of those times. Cleveland just made the kind of move that should help shorten the dry spell between competitive Indians teams.

ESPN’s Keith Law feels similarly that the Indians came out on top on the deal, and he’s a guy who’s been critical of the front office in the past. The decision to deal Bauer was so unpopular in Arizona, GM Kevin Towers had his Wikipedia page altered by an angry fan to reflect Towers’ supposed “secret mission to destroy the Diamondbacks.” If you’re looking for a slightly more educated (but less funny) perspective from someone who knows the Diamondbacks organization well, beat writer Nick Piecoro breaks down the trade from Arizona’s perspective, and he’s downright confused by the deal. The bottom line is that the Indians are a better team today than they were before the trade went down, to say nothing of 2014 and beyond.
This all begs the question as to why exactly the Diamondbacks were willing to part with the #3 pick in the 2011 draft, a draft that was universally lauded as one of the more loaded in recent memory. Why would Arizona give up 6 years of club control over their organizational pitcher of the year in 2012? The 21-year old Bauer has already made his major league debut, going 1-2 in his 4 starts in the desert last year with 17 K, 13 BB and 11 ER allowed in 16 1/3 IP. Those numbers aren’t pretty, but when you look at his overall minor league line (13-4 with a 3.00 ERA, 200 K and 73 BB in 156 IP) and also consider that he strained his groin in his first major league start and tried to pitch through it, the brief MLB struggles can be overlooked. But Bauer’s problems with the big league club in Arizona went beyond his poor showing on the mound. Bauer has been thrown under the bus by his former teammates and coaches going back to last season, where he was criticized about everything from wearing his headphones to warm up to throwing too much long-toss on game days to shaking off his catcher too often. Bauer was labeled as a malcontent, someone who didn’t fit it with his teammates for one reason or another and was thus doomed to failure in the Diamondbacks clubhouse. Arizona seemed downright eager to rid themselves of their talented young righty, and the last time an organization seemed a little too eager to dump a talented pitcher the Indians ended up with Ubaldo Jimenez. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson soured on Bauer early on in the process, calling him out publicly last March during spring training less than a year after Bauer was drafted into the organization. Could Bauer really be that difficult of a personality that he managed to alienate an entire organization in less than a year?

Obviously, I’ve not spent time in the Arizona Diamondbacks locker room. I’ve seen Trevor Bauer pitch a couple of times on TV and I follow him on twitter. It seems that much of the trouble Bauer ran into stems from locking horns with the veterans in the clubhouse, and I’m guessing that much of that comes from his dealings with catcher Miguel Montero. Bauer famously shook off Montero on the first pitch of his professional career, and proceeded to repeat that process a number of times throughout the game. Montero didn’t like that and voiced his dislike to Bauer and the rest of the team, and things seemed to run downhill from there. So while I’m far from an expert on the inner workings of the Arizona clubhouse, I do have a significant amount of experience as a catcher when it comes to stubborn pitchers who have their own way of doing things. And I can speak from that experience when I say that Montero shares the blame in this situation, and probably is more responsible for the friction than Bauer. Bauer is known as a very cerebral guy, someone who has a very good idea about what he wants to do on the mound and how he wants to do it. It’s on Montero, the veteran catcher, to sit with Bauer and formulate a game plan, not just go out and call the pitches he sees fit to call and expect the rookie to fall in line. Bauer has ten (10!) pitches that he can throw, including a number that he more or less invented himself. If Bauer feels like he’s got a hitter set up for his inverted-gyroball-screwball-knuckler or whatever, he should have a chance to throw it. If the pitch gets hammered over the leftfield fence or sails to the backstop, then it’s time for Montero and Bauer to sit down and talk about scrapping the IGSK in favor of the more traditional curveball. But for Montero to just go out and say “listen Meat, throw what I call when I call it and we’ll all go home happy” is incredibly arrogant and obstinate. Even if Montero is calling the right pitch in the right situation, it’s important for Bauer to understand why that is the right pitch in the right situation, and that’s a discussion best had in the clubhouse while breaking down video. It’s not a conversation suited for the mound in the middle of a game, and it is certainly not a conversation that Montero should be having with members of the Arizona media.

The pitcher-catcher relationship is a delicate one that can take entire seasons to develop, and for Montero to assume that he has Bauer’s repertoire and psyche all figured out before Bauer throws a major league pitch is simply not realistic. Now, if this was the middle of Bauer’s 2nd season and he was still continually clashing with his catcher, I’d say there’s a more serious problem at work. But until proven otherwise, I’m going to go out on a limb and hold the veteran catcher responsible for his actions, because if there’s one guy in this situation with the experience to know better, it’s Montero. Some lessons are harder to learn than others. If Bauer goes out and ignores the scouting report on a particular hitter and gets lit up, I bet he’ll be listening to his catcher the next time around. Being 21 and talented (for those young enough to remember) is usually accompanied by a feeling of invincibility, and sometimes that feeling isn’t shaken until the player is proven to be a mere mortal. Nothing I’m hearing out of Bauer’s brief tenure in Arizona screams “malcontent” to me. What I hear suggests that he was a 21-year old rookie with a couple of personality quirks in a veteran clubhouse. Until proven otherwise, I’m going to assume that he can not only fit in but thrive in Cleveland, and all it will take is some good coaching and some patience from his teammates. I’m all-in on Trevor Bauer, a guy who immediately becomes the #2 prospect in the Indians organization and the most talented pitcher in Cleveland. But it must be a chilly day in Hell, because I can’t believe I’m sitting here defending a pitcher who shakes off his catcher, but here we are.

The second player of note that the Indians acquired in the deal is centerfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati. Stubbs is a 28-year old former 1st round pick who has been up and down with the bat in his 3+ year major league career, but is universally lauded for his glove in CF. In Stubbs’ first full major league season back in 2010, he hit .255/.329/.444 with 22 HR and 30 SB, and looked like he had “future star” written all over him. But the 105 OPS+ he put up that season represents his career high, as he regressed to a 86 OPS+ in 2011 and then down to just a 61 OPS+ last year. He’s striking out more, walking less and hitting fewer home runs. Stubbs baserunning and defense helps make him a less than useless player, but less than useless is hardly the benchmark we would like set for centerfield at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. At the very least, Stubbs will play a more than capable centerfield, allowing leadoff hitter Michael Brantley to slide over to LF where his plus range will help make up for his below-average arm, and the Indians suddenly have two above-average outfielders roaming the grass in Progressive field. There’s still hope for Stubbs’ bat, as his BABIP of .290 last year was more than 30 points lower than his current career mark of .323. There’s still a lot of swing and miss in his game, but his underlying raw power offers an opportunity for a bounceback season if he can put the bat on the ball with a little more consistency. Even if his BABIP just progresses back to his career average he’ll be better than last year, and if he can be just average with the bat, his defense and baserunning will help make him a solid addition to the club. Adding Stubbs in addition to Bauer in the Choo deal really makes the trade a home run for Chris Antonetti.  

So this all begs the question…are the Indians done trading their veterans? Are Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and company safe for at least one more season? The market for Perez seems somewhat less than enthusiastic, but Cabrera should still have a number of suitors if he’s put on the market. To that end, I’m again going to reference Diamondbacks beat writer Nick Piecoro who penned an article “rationalizing” the Bauer trade. Piecoro feels like giving up on Bauer was a difficult and unfortunate decision, but when looking around at the shortstop landscape the Diamondbacks had virtually no choice. The talented SS’s around the league are either locked up with their respective teams or would be too expensive in an open market, so trading for a guy like Gregorious was the only option available to Arizona. Even if the Indians end up signing Nick Swisher, they’re still not a good bet to make the playoffs. If someone comes along with a “Godfather” offer for Asdrubal, I still think the Indians should take it. They were reportedly asking for more for Asdrubal than for Choo, a demand that makes perfect sense in terms of club control and positional scarcity, so I see absolutely no reason to back down from that bargaining stance. If the right offer isn’t on the table, there’s no hurry to move him. But if a team comes along offering multiple elite prospects who are close to big league ready, especially if at least one of those prospects is a starting pitcher, I think Antonetti needs to be ready to pull the trigger on another deal. That’s saying nothing about Chris Perez, who should be out of town on the first thing moving as soon as a remotely viable offer is put on the table. So are the Indians done dealing? Maybe, but if so it won’t be for lack of trying.

For those who didn’t notice, the Rule 5 Draft took place back on December 6. The Indians selected a position player, but lost a pair of arms as well. With the 5th pick in the draft, the Indians selected 1B Chris McGuiness from the Texas Rangers. McGuiness will turn 25 in April and hit .268/.366/.474 with 23 HR and 77 RBI for AA Frisco last season. He went on to tear up the Arizona Fall League, hitting .283/.370/.467 with 4 HR and 27 RBI en route to the offseason league’s MVP award. I’d be lying if I told you that I’d ever seen him swing a bat, so I’m going entirely off of scouting reports from others here. The overall book on him is that he has a good eye at the plate and at least gap power, but it’s unlikely that he’ll hit enough to be an everyday 1B in the major leagues. Then again, Casey Kotchman doesn’t hit enough to be an everyday 1B in the major leagues, and yet that’s who the Indians trotted out most of the time in 2012. McGuiness has a career minor league OPS of .814, and will join Matt LaPorta, Yan Gomes and Mike McDade in the fight for at bats at DH and 1B behind starter Mark Reynolds. He hits from the left side, does a nice job getting on base and has a little pop, but if McGuiness is on the 25-man roster for the entire season it’s because something went wrong at the big league level for the Indians in 2013.

The two players the Indians lost are both pitchers, one a starter and one a reliever. Hector Rondon was the 2nd overall pick by the Chicago Cubs, and the Orioles tabbed southpaw starter T.J. McFarland with the 12th selection. Rondon of course was one of the top prospects in the Indians organization back in 2009, when the 21-year old was coming off of a solid season spent between AA Akron and AAA Columbus. The wheels fell off for Rondon after that season though, as he went down early in 2010 with a torn ligament requiring Tommy John surgery, and followed that up with a fractured elbow that conspired to limit him to just 10 innings of work in the past two seasons. Rondon has been mounting a comeback as a reliever though, and has worked 20 innings in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, posting a 4.50 ERA while striking out 17 and walking 6. His fastball velocity is back up in the low-90’s, and he’s getting a feel for his changeup again. I always thought that without his curveball taking a significant step forward that he’d end up in the bullpen eventually, so the move to the pen may have been inevitable regardless of the injury issues. The Cubs can start him off in a long relief role to help build up his arm strength, and if he succeeds there then they can start getting him into more high leverage situations. I can’t see Rondon ever starting at this point in his career, but he can still be an effective reliever and stands a better than average chance of remaining on the Cubs 25-man roster for the entire season.

In addition to Rondon, the Indians had lefthanded starter T.J. McFarland selected in the Rule 5 Draft. McFarland split his 2012 season between Akron and Columbus, going a combined 16-8 with a 4.03 ERA, 96 K and 45 BB in 163 IP. As those raw numbers would indicate, McFarland is more of a command and control guy than a big strikeout pitcher. He keeps the ball on the ground and in the ballpark, and is a good athlete with a clean, easily repeatable delivery. He projects as an innings-eating #4 or #5 at the major league level, and while he may get knocked around a little initially I think there’s a good chance he can stick in the show for all of 2013. The former 4th round pick won’t turn 24 until June, and he’s the guy that I predicted that the Indians would lose in the Rule 5 Draft this year. The talent evaluators in the organization clearly saw McFarland’s potential as lower than that of fellow southpaw T.J. House, as House was added to the 40-man over McFarland despite being younger than McFarland and having pitched 2012 primarily in AA Akron. Time will tell if the Indians made the right decision, as McFarland and House will inevitably be compared against one another throughout the rest of their respective careers.

Late Friday night, the Indians announced that they had signed lefthanded pitcher Scott Kazmir to a minor league deal. Kazmir is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and in 5 starts has gone 0-2 with a 4.37 ERA, 27 K and just 8 BB in 22 2/3 IP. I love the K/BB ratio, and while I’m not exactly penciling Kazmir into a spot in the rotation just yet there’s really no downside here. It’s a minor league deal for very little money, so if Kazmir is able to recapture any of the magic that helped him lead the league in strikeouts back in 2007, great. If not, no big deal. Kazmir has thrown just 1 2/3 inning since 2010, and if he does make the club it’s probably as a matchup lefty out of the bullpen. With both Tony Sipp and Raffy Perez having departed the North Shore, there just happens to be an opening for a southpaw out of the bullpen. Ideally, the talented Nick Hagadone seizes the job out of spring training and never looks back. But if not, Kazmir has a shot not only to make the team but to contribute in a key role. Not bad for a minor league signing in December.

The last personnel move we’re going to discuss today is the free agent acquisition of 1B Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is famous for two things; prodigious power and insanely high strikeout totals. He led the NL in K’s for three straight seasons while with the Diamondbacks (over 200 K’s each time) and then came over to the junior circuit in 2011 and again led the league with 196 punchouts. He’s also averaged nearly 33 bombs from the right side of the plate over the last 5 seasons, bringing some badly-needed righthanded power to the middle of the Indians lineup. Fans that look at Reynolds and see nothing more than a whiff machine are shortsighted; he walks quite a bit in addition to the strikeouts, and the lowest OPS+ he’s ever posted in a full season is 96. Even back in 2010 when Reynolds failed to bat even .200, he still posted a .320 OBP and .433 SLG by virtue of his 83 BB and 32 HR. Would I prefer fewer strikeouts? Sure, who wouldn’t? But if Reynolds steps in and goes for a .225/.335/.480 line with 30 HR, I’m going to be pretty happy with how Antonetti spent $6 million of Larry Dolan’s dollars this offseason. He’s an average to slightly below average fielder at one of the least important defensive positions on the field, and I have no trouble seeing him as a net upgrade from Casey Kotchman no matter how many times he strikes out.

Everyone around here likes to look back to the glory days of Indians history, and Anthony Castrovice is no different. Castro decided to reach back to the grand old year of 1988, when the 6th-place Indians went 78-84 the year before “Major League” was released. Not exactly the glory days you were thinking of? Castro’s entertaining trip down memory lane was prompted by the fact that the ’88 club included no fewer than five present-day managers in the dugout, including current Tribe skipper Terry Francona (the team’s primary DH). Rangers manager Ron Washington played in 69 games as a utility infielder, Charlie Manuel of the Phillies was the hitting coach, Boston’s John Farrell won 14 games in the rotation and current Padres skipper Buddy Black pitched out of both the rotation and the bullpen. For those of you foolishly harboring any doubt regarding Castrovice’s childhood love of the Tribe, I implore you to read the 1,400 words poured out from a special place in his heart on that 1988 team. If you’re anything like me and names like Cory Snyder, Tom Candiotti, Greg Swindell, Brook Jacoby and Pat Tabler put a smile on your face, you’ll enjoy the piece on one of the classic Indians teams of the 1980’s. I actually have a long and somewhat entertaining story about my irrational dislike for Ron Washington that stems from the August 11, 1988 contest, but that’s a story best left for another day. Anyway, prepare to lose about 4 hrs on looking up players and stats from those awful, horrible, bungling but somehow memorable 1980’s Indians squads. So with that time waster out there, apologize to your bosses and significant others for me and enjoy the rest of your Lazy Sunday.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Prospect Draft on a Lazy Sunday

Francisco Lindor

True confessions time…I did not anticipate posting a Lazy Sunday today. Without going into too much detail, I’m in the midst of the craziest travel month of my life, one that sees me waking up on this Lazy Sunday from the (almost) Highlands of Scotland, in beautiful Stirling. If that city name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the site of the famous (or infamous if you’re English, I suppose) Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace’s first major victory over English forces in his war for Scottish independence. It was portrayed (inaccurately of course) in the movie Braveheart, in which they somehow omitted the bridge entirely, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, with an insane international travel schedule that will have me in every corner of her Majesty’s United Kingdom for a week and a half, I didn’t really think I’d have a chance to put up an article this week. And with the Winter Meetings full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying nothing, there wasn't a lot of actual Tribe news this week. No, I don't count being "linked" to a free agent real news. But we were all bailed out by a brilliant idea from esteemed colleague Adam Van Arsdale, formerly of

Adam e-mailed me early this week with an idea; the two of us would have a “draft” consisting solely of Indians prospects, assembling our own 25-man rosters out of the organization. No MLB experience allowed (sorry Cody Allen). We conducted the draft this past week over e-mail, and I had more fun with this than any human being really should have. I built a draft board. I went to a war room to call in picks. I called the picks in to my own desk at work and then listened to the voice mails. I started designing uniforms for my fake team. OK, I didn’t really go quite that far, but I really did have a blast with this process, and I’m extremely grateful that Adam was smart and creative enough to come up with it, because I never would have. Please let us know in the comments what you think of the premise, and feel free to break down our teams and offer up your opinion as to who’s squad would win a 7 game series and who’s would be better over the course of 162 games. For the purposes of the article, we’ll pick up our e-mail chain right after I graciously offered Adam the choice between picking first or taking picks 2/3…

Adam Van Arsdale (AVA)
I think the 2nd and 3rd pick are more interesting...but for simplicity, I'll go first.

#1) Francisco Lindor - The Tribe's consensus top pick, a potential blue-chip shortstop, is an easy choice to start off my squad.

That sound you hear is my heart breaking at the thought of not having Francisco Lindor on my fictional Indians prospect team. That's how much I love him. Anyway, moving on to the #2 and #3 picks...

The Office of the Fake Commissioner is proud to announce that Al selects RHPs Danny Salazar and Mitch Brown. While not the #2/3 prospects in the organization, the Indians lack of quality SP depth in the minors causes me to try and lock down two of the better arms right off the bat to anchor my rotation. Salazar was outstanding last year for AA Akron, helping the Aeros win the Eastern League championship. Brown is young and has no experience outside of the complex leagues, but he's an advanced HS arm with a deep arsenal and a chance to move quickly through the system (think a very poor man's Dylan Bundy). While I considered taking a bat with at least one of these picks, the lack of SP depth caused me to double-dip and snatch the top two arms on my board. And yes, I have a draft board...I'm almost embarrassed about how much time I've spent on this fictional draft already and we're barely out of the 1st round.

Ronny Rodriguez
Those were the top two pitchers off my not quite fully existent draft board...

(A quick rule filling out the rosters, a player can be assigned any position in the field that he spent time at in the previous two seasons, but you can't assign him to a new position. In other words, even though I am about to select Paulino, who I might like to put at 3B, since he has only logged time in the field at SS as a pro, it is either SS or DH for him.)

With my top two pitcher choices off the table, I think I'm going to have to go heavy for offense with picks 4 and 5.

#4) Dorssys Paulino - He is probably not going to be a SS in the long run, but he has only logged time there in his career so far, so I'm taking him strictly for his bat and putting him at DH (also to prevent you from grabbing him).

#5) Ronny Rodriguez - Make it 3 for 3 for me and shortstops. But in Ronny's case, he logged 45 games at 2B last year, so he is my double play partner with Lindor for now.

Aaaaah! My strategy was just blown out of the water. After you took Lindor at 1-1, I was positive that I could get at least one of those two. Time to completely readjust my board. You know what they say, no battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy.

Our little exercise here has already made me realize one thing; there's a complete lack of power bats in the system right now. I wanted to use this pick on a middle of the order bopper, but I can't really think of one. So instead I'm going with a high-ceiling, high-risk outfielder...that's right, it's #WASHTIME!

#6 pick: Washington, LeVon-OF
If he's healthy, it's a steal. If not, I just wasted a really good pick. Washington has as much upside as anyone in the system, save possibly Lindor. He’s the fastest player in the system and has more than just gap power. The issue with Wash is health of course, as he’s been unable to play more than 79 games in a season so far in his brief career.

And now to make sure that there's someone to move Washington around the bases, I'm going to select the guy with the prettiest swing in the organization not named Chisenhall.

#7 pick: Smith, Jordan-OF
I'm not sure how I'm going to fit both of these guys in the same OF, as Washington's arm is Sizemore-esque and Smith is more of a DH than an OF, but we'll burn that bridge when we get there.

I think Washtime could be a good pick. I'll be interested to see how Smith does this season. You are certainly right about the total deficit of power across the system, as well. I'm optimistic there will be more power in Lake County this coming season, but it is likely to take a while to trickle up the system.

I don't want you to pull too far ahead of me on the pitching front, but...I'll instead go with:

#8 - OF: Tyler Naquin - I was underwhelmed by his 2012 performance, but scouts still seem high on his long-term hit ability. Couple that with passable defense and a strong arm at any of the three OF positions, and I've got another up-the-middle roster spot taken. 

#9 - CF: Luigi Rodriguez - Once again I have selected two guys that play (or can play) the same position. Rodriguez has approach issues to work on at the plate, but showed improvements last year as a teenager in Lake County while flashing interesting power/speed numbers. If Naquin and Rodriguez both pan out, Naquin has the arm to be a satisfactory corner OFer on the defensive side, and hopefully enough of a hit tool to be average at the plate. Rodriguez, meanwhile, could be a nice top of the order, CFer down the road.

Your move...

You're killing me. I was debating on selecting one of those two, and ultimately decided that I'd wait and take whichever one you didn't. Now I'm regretting the Smith pick. Very few balls are going to touch the grass in your OF, especially with Naquin in RF. So now that you've gone and done that, I'm coming right back at you and taking the top lefthanded starter off the board with my first pick.

T.J. House
Pick #10: T.J. House, LHP
House was nails down the stretch for Akron, and the Indians clearly value him ahead of other guys in the org as evidenced by his inclusion on the 40-man roster this offseason. He's an athletic strike thrower who has the ability to pitch deep into games, and really took a big leap for me last year when he lost 25lbs in the offseason and started throwing from his old 3/4 delivery.

With my next pick I'm going to reach a little bit to secure the best available bat in the system. I'm not sure where I'm going to play him in the field, but again, we'll worry about that later.

Pick #11: Jorge Martinez-3B/DH
Martinez posted a .957 OPS in the Arizona League as a 19-year old, and if not for the superstar profile that Dorssys Paulino flashed at an even younger age, would be getting a lot more publicity right now. Well, that and the fact he plays 3B like he's wearing a frying pan on his left hand instead of a glove.

I was having the same debate...but then I decided I liked both of them to a greater degree that I could settle on a pitching choice.

But at #12 and #13 I'll go with....
#12 - Dylan Baker
#13 - Kieran Lovegrove
These are choices grounded in optimism. Optimism that some of our newest pitching acquisitions (Baker, 5th round, 2012 draft; Lovegrove, 3rd round, 2012 draft) will have better luck than some of our older pitching prospects. Lovegrove and Baker both got some attention from scouts during their short-season debuts and both flashed potential in brief stints. I am hoping they find their way to Lake County to start the 2013 season and rack up Ks while keeping runners off base for the Captains. Not an inspiring #1 and #2 pitcher for my squad, but it is what it is.

Well done. More upside than current production, but that's what this is all about. I'm going to stick with offense here, and use picks #14 and 15 on Jesus Aguilar and Tim Fedroff. The fact that Aguilar has lasted this long tells you everything you need to know about how we feel about him; his power is more BP than in-game at this stage of his career. He can really turn around a fastball, as he had a few hits off of uber-prospect Dylan Bundy last year to include one in the futures game. But he struggles to recognize and hit offspeed stuff and there are real questions about how he'll hit at the next level. But considering he'll be hitting off of inexperienced guys like Lovegrove and Baker, I'm a little more comfortable with the selection :)

Fedroff is the grizzled old vet of my group, and while he doesn't offer the dazzling potential of a Paulino or Washington, he's a steady producer who you can count on to put the bat on the ball and get on base consistently, and he can play all three OF positions if I need him to.

Dillon Howard
Hmm...I think I am going to stick with the pitching upside candidates.

I'll go:
#16 - Elvis Araujo. He underperformed last season in Lake County, but 6'6" lefties do not grow on trees, and I am willing to give him something of a pass as a developmental year. Despite his struggles at times, I like that he kept the ball in the park.

#17 - Dillon Howard. Speaking of giving a prospect a pass, Dillon Howard was dreadful in his pro debut last season. This, after having been highly touted and paid above slot money in the 2011 draft. Scouting reports were nearly as bad as the actual result, with reports on his velocity being way down. I am hoping for something of a rebound in his second full pro season, given the potential that was recognized by many others not too long ago.

I was really high on both of those guys prior to last season. Not sure what happened with Araujo, as I expected him to have a breakout season. Howard was even worse, and if that velo drop is permanent, it was a wasted pick by the Indians in the 2nd round. That much of a drop though has to have an explanation, and hopefully one that can be fixed.

As far as my picks, I'm going to (finally) lock down the middle of my infield. Neither of these guys should have made it this long in the draft, and they only did because of our funky little 2-person league here, so I'm going to pull the trigger on Tony Wolters and Jose Ramirez with picks #17 and 18. Wolters will play SS for me and Ramirez will be at 2B, and I'm thrilled to get both of these guys. It's a step below your Lindor/Rodriguez middle infield, but I'm still pretty excited for my guys.

Eric Haase
The 2-person/25-man roster draft definitely has some quirks. I am going to follow your lead and move towards finishing my infield. 

#20 - Eric Haase, C: Yet another high-risk, (maybe) high reward pick from me. The Indians have been slow with Haase as a high school pick out of a Northern state, but scouts have been impressed with his plate approach and power potential. I would like to see him start the year in Lake County and get into real action this season.

#21 - Giovanny Urshela, 3B: Scouts seem to universally praise Urshela's defense and universally believe his plate approach is going to be brutally exploited at the AA level by better breaking stuff. I like the idea of a strong defense corner infielder and was impressed by his second half adjustments in pitching-friendly Carolina last year. He actually put up equivalent power numbers to Aguilar in the same environment.

Ok, my heart is officially broken. Haase is one of my favorite players in the org, and I was counting on stealing him in one of the later rounds. I fell in love with him during spring training last year watching him smoke balls off the RF fence with a simple, compact swing that generated more opposite field power than I thought possible out of a kid his size. Really, really, really excited about this kid. I love catchers regardless, but his offense/defense profile has me drooling. Let's move on before he decides to take a restraining order out on me.

I knew you'd take Urshela. Love the glove, cautiously optimistic on the bat after (as you said) last year's improvement in a pitcher-friendly environment.

With the 22nd pick, I'm going to try and steal another guy you like and select OF Carlos Moncrief. Love the power/speed combo and the cannon throwing arm in RF, and he's another guy that can play all three OF positions.

With #23, I'm going to take a guy expressly to counter your team and select catcher Roberto Perez. You've got a ton of speed on your roster, and I need a guy who can shut down your running game. Plus I'm getting sick of losing my favorite guys to you, and want to ensure I get my boy 'Berto. His offensive profile is below-average, but he can take a walk and his defense makes up for the offensive shortcomings. He may never be a starter in the show, but he’s got a chance to have a long career as a defense-oriented backup.

Argh....Carlos Moncrief is my Eric Haase. I recognize he's got significant holes that stack the odds against him....but I love his tools. I was hoping to take him as my RF. Ok...calming my nerves. I am going to go with the following:

Austin Adams
#24: Austin Adams, RHP - Following a minor breakout season in 2011, in which Adams transitioned into a full-time starter and struck out nearly a batter an inning (with the help of a mid-90s fastball), Adams 2012 season was derailed by a shoulder impingement that required surgery. That is obviously not a good sign for a converted starting pitcher, but I am willing to make the gamble on the strength of his raw stuff as a 5th starter or potential bullpen role.

#25: Anthony Santander, OF - My team is going to need a Spanish-speaking coach (and possibly a high school guidance counselor) given the heavy dose of young, international free agents I am filling the roster with. Santander was not an unknown coming out of Venezuela, having signed a six-figure bonus, but nevertheless he showed better potential than scouts anticipated last year with the Indians Arizona rookie-league squad. As a 17-year old, Santander's .305/.381/.494 batting line revealed a potentially strong set of fundamentals. It will be interesting to see how much the Indians challenge Santander with their placement this coming season and whether he is able to continue his 2012 caliber of play.

Ha! I'd be lying if I said I didn't do that on purpose. What are the rules for post-draft trading? I'll give you Moncrief and a PTBNL for Haase.

Like them both. Adams can always play SS for you in a pinch, if all of your 15 shortstops get hurt (still bitter). The only thing that scares me about him is that it was a shoulder, not an elbow, and shoulders are much more difficult to come back from (I know from experience). Santander was another guy I really wanted, love his potential and approach as a 17 year old.

I'm going to make another move to shore up my rotation here first and use the #26 pick to select lefty T.J. McFarland* with the 26th pick. Another guy who pounds the strike zone and does a nice job keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark, he had a solid year at AAA Columbus and was (for me) a surprise non-add to the 40-man roster. If anyone gets selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Indians, I think it's McFarland.
*Edit: McFarland was in fact selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this week. There's still a chance he's returned to the Indians at some point this year though, so for now I'm going to keep him on my squad.

With pick #27, I'm going to take 1B/C Chun Chen. His HR power fell off last year, but he hit plenty of doubles and gets on base. As catchers go, he's a decent first baseman, but that's why I have Roberto 
Perez. Chen can DH or play 1B to give Aguilar a rest, and it gets another bat in my lineup.

Bryce Stowell
Ooh...this seems to be getting personal. And I don't seem to have a 1B. Much like the real organization, first base will just have to wait.

#28: CC Lee, RHP - Another pitcher coming off an injury, Lee has averaged 11Ks per 9 innings throughout his minor league career. Once healthy, I imagine it will take little time for him to find his way into Cleveland's bullpen rotation, particularly if part of Cleveland's backend gets traded this off-season.

#29: Bryce Stowell, RHP - Stowell has been less consistent than CC Lee, but has put up even bigger strikeout numbers. Coming back from injury last season, Stowell struck out 44 batters in just 29 innings for Akron, giving him the highest K-rate of any pitcher in the organization.

I wonder if the Indians haven't picked up a legit 1B/LF prospect because they assume that's easy to do, and they've concentrated on up the middle talent which is traditionally more difficult to procure. They have a nice stable of MI, CF and C, but not much in the corners. Anyway, I digress.

You and I think very much alike. Those are my two favorite relievers in the system, but with the position being as deep as it is I was willing to wait. Now that you've broken the seal now though, allow me to select RP Shawn Armstrong with pick #30. Armstrong impressed across three levels last year, posting a 1.55 ERA in 67 2/3 IP with 78 K. I'll be happy to call him my closer.

Jordan Cooper
Pick #31 is another personal fav, a guy I might be higher on than some. Jordan Cooper, RHP out of Wichita State. He went 9-7 with a 3.54 ERA for Carolina last year, and he's my sleeper pick for breakout player of the year in the system in 2013. Again, probably higher than he is on your board, but he's one of those guys I'd really kick myself for if I missed out on him.

I'm glad to hear you are high on Cooper. We could use a few more pitching prospects. I feel it is getting unfair of me to go on without someone at 1B. And yet...I don't like my options.

So I will go:
#32: Alex Monsalve, C - Monsalve has nice size and showed progress in 2012 both behind the plate (21>26 CS%, 20>10 PB) and at the plate. He has done well in the AFL this off-season, hopefully setting him up for something of a real breakout in 2013. As it stands, he'll be my backup catcher.

#33: D'Vone McClure, OF - You took my other toolsy OF choice, so I'll take 2012 draftee McClure to serve as my 4th OF. I imagine he won't see action till Mahoning Valley gets started, but he could be interesting to follow late in the summer.

I'm irrationally low on Monsalve. I just don't see what some people see on him, especially Jonathan Mayo who consistently ranks him in the top-10 in the organization. He's too lackadaisical behind the plate for my taste, and I admit that is a personal bias. Love McClure though, and he was definitely a target of mine.

Continuing to build my bullpen, I'm going to take righty Tyler Sturdevant with pick #34, and lefty Eric Berger with pick #35. Sturdevant came back healthy last season to finish at AAA, and his cutter is a legit strikeout pitch. There are several relievers in the system I like more than Berger, but he has the distinct advantage of being able to deliver a baseball with his left hand. None of the other relievers I like are able to do that, so in order to play a matchup game that Mike Hargarove would love, I'm going to need at least one southpaw in the pen.

Trey Haley
I was hoping to nab Berger for the back of my pen/swing-starter later in the draft. I would like to see him in Cleveland this year to see what he can do.

#36 - Robel Garcia, MI - Continuing my trend of stockpiling young, international middle infielders, I'll go with Garcia, despite his terrible 2012 campaign. After mashing the ball in the AZL in 2011, Garcia was outmatched throughout the entire season in Lake County. The placement was aggressive, though, and I'm hoping for a rebound in 2013. 

#37 - Trey Haley, RHP - It is hard to know what to make of Haley given his inconsistency, injuries, periodic dreadfulness and impressive raw stuff. Last season he finally seemed to be putting some of it together, though, with 49Ks in 38 innings. And he is still just 22.

If I didn't take Berger, I was going to take Haley. The lefty thing trumped the 100 MPH fastball thing, but barely.

#38 - Tyler Holt, OF - Another guy with the defensive chops to play CF, and a burner off the bench. He stole 29 bases last year and posted a .340 OBP. He's a hard worker and had a solid AFL campaign as well.

#39 - Alex Lavisky, C - With Roberto Perez as my starter, I need a hitter as my backup C. Lavisky has prodigious power, but it hasn't shown up in game situations yet because he simply strikes out too much. The raw tools are there for him to be an impact catcher on both sides of the dish, but his hit tool needs to take a big step forward for that to happen. Still, I like the tools and the intangibles, and I plan on hiring Dave Wallace as part of my coaching staff to help him along.

You are not kidding about the lack of left-handers.

#40 - Giovanni Soto, LHP - Soto will serve the long-man relief/6th starter role for me. Soto's numbers coming back from injury last season were not great, and his raw stuff is not equivalent to some others, but he has had success.

#41 - Matt Packer, LHP - Packer probably bumps Adams out of my rotation and occupies the 5th starter spot. Again, the raw stuff, particularly his fastball, raises doubts. Thus far he has found success by utilizing his changeup against weak competition. This season should be a good test for him. His control gives him the potential to turn into something Tomlin-esque, though.

Justin Toole
I see Soto as a future Raffy Perez. They even look physically similar. The velo just isn't there to consistently miss bats in the show, but I think he can be a two-pitch guy out of the bullpen. Packer never walks anyone and keeps the ball in the ballpark. What's not to like?

#42 - Grant Sides, RP - 2.22 ERA, 75 K and 34 BB in 65 IP between Lake County and Carolina. Allowed just one home run. Yes please.

#43 - Justin Toole, 1B/2B/3B/SS/C/LF/CF/RF/RP - He's a high-character, high-effort guy who's great in the clubhouse and can play any position on the field. Literally, any position on the field. I could not in good conscience field a team without Justin Toole on it. Plus, he won the Bob Feller Award as the top prep pitcher in the state of Iowa. Bob Feller!

If he hadn't gotten a few ABs in Cleveland last year, I go with yet another SS, Juan Diaz. Instead...

#44 - Claudio Bautista, MI - How can I not select still one more young, Latin, middle-infielder. I actually know very little about Bautista, except that he was 18 all of last season, showed decent fundamentals at the plate, good speed, surprised with 6 HRs. I'll be interested where he gets placed in 2013.

#45 - Mason Radeke, RHP - Another guy who can serve as a bullpen/rotation swing pitcher, Radeke had a sneakily good 2012. In 115 innings (split between 13 starts and 18 relief outings), Radeke struck out 119 batters and had a 4.5:1 K/BB ratio. His hit rate (7.5/9IP) is unlikely to be sustainable, but I expect to hear a bit more about Radeke this season.

Cole Cook
Yeah, I would have taken Diaz off the board by now as well. I don't know much about Bautista either, but I also love Radeke. Specifically, I love Radeke's strikeout ratio.

#46 - Yan Gomes, 1B/C - I'm taking the best remaining bat available (as far as I can tell) with no worry about position because I have Toole Time to play wherever, whenever. Gomes has a career .828 OPS in the minors, and although that was slightly inflated by his Las Vegas numbers last year it's still pretty solid. This also means I'm going with an 11-man pitching staff.

#47 - Cole Cook, RP/SP - Since I am going with the 11 man staff, I need a reliever who can be stretched out if necessary, and that guy is going to be Cook. One of the more entertaining follows on Twitter in the system, Cook had a quietly solid campaign in 2012, posting a 2.64 ERA with 64 K and 26 BB in 78 1/3 IP between four levels, including 12 scoreless innings in AAA.

I probably should have drafted Gomes earlier to be my first baseman. Oh well. Instead I'll go with:

#48 - Lars Anderson, 1B - It came down to a choice between Adam Abraham and Anderson for this pick. Abraham is the organizational soldier, and though half a year older, has more than 1000 fewer plate appearances in the minors. He is also more versatile and on a better trajectory. But I'll go with Anderson, his pedigree, and his solid fundamentals. Not a great sign that I'm picking my starting 1B 48th in the draft.

#49 - Loek Van Mil, RHP - Guilty pleasure territory here. There are better arms available, but no bigger arms. Van Mil's performance as a 7'1" reclamation project last year was eye-opening. If the Indians can get consistency out of him, he is a real weapon given his size and the different perspective he forces hitters to confront.

I can't believe you didn't use his full name. Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil. I spell the whole thing out in all of my articles, simply because I want my broadcaster to have to call him by his full name when he comes lumbering in from the bullpen. I can just imagine the look on a hitters face when Zydrunas Illgauskus comes in to face him in the 8th inning of a game...priceless.

Options abound here to fill my final bullpen slot, which shows you just how much bullpen depth there is in the system and why you should always trade RP at their peak value. I considered Fabio Martinez, because he throws high-90's heat and his name is almost as cool as Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil. Thought about Bryan Price and Jeff Johnson, but ultimately narrowed my choice down to either Cody Anderson or Rob Bryson. Drumroll please....

Rob Bryson
#50 - Rob Bryson, RP - He's another guy I like more than most, because I think his control problems last year were an abberation. It jumped more than 2 walks per 9, and I think he has some of the best raw stuff in the system with his fastball/slider combo so if he can start pitching in the strike zone again, this is a solid selection. If he keeps walking more than 5/9, then I wasted my last pick.

Wait, last pick? Hang on just a second, this team needs a manager!

#51 - Dave Wallace, Carolina - Although former Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez is tempting, I have too many catchers on my squad not to take Wallace. He's a high-energy, entertaining guy who's fun to listen to in the dugout, and the highlight of my spring training trip is always getting to talk to Wallace about the catchers in the system. Plus, Mudcats radio guy Darren Headrick comes as a package deal, and I very much enjoy his work as well. Headrick is a first-class guy who treats me right every time I see the Mudcats play, even if he is an SEC football fan.

Tony Wolters
So here's my final squad:

1.      Washington-CF*
2.      Wolters-SS*
3.      Chen-DH
4.      Aguilar-1B
5.      Smith-RF*
6.      Martinez-3B
7.      Fedroff-LF*
8.      Ramirez-2B
9.      Perez-C

BN: Moncrief*
BN: Holt
BN: Lavisky
BN: Toole
BN:  Gomes

1.      Salazar
2.      Brown
3.      House
4.      McFarland
5.      Cooper

CL: Armstrong
SU: Berger
SU: Sturdevant
SU: Sides
SU: Bryson
LR: Cook

Manager: Wallace

I'll probably have Moncrief start in RF against some righties, sliding Smith to DH. I have too many C/1B types, and would need to make a move if one of my infielders went down. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with my squad.
Luigi Rodriguez
So here's my final squad:
1.      L. Rodriguez-CF(s)
2.      D. Paulino -DH
3.      F. Lindor-SS(s)
4.      R. Rodriguez -2B
5.      T. Naquin -RF*
6.      G. Urshela -3B
7.      L. Anderson -1B*
8.      A. Santander-LF(s)
9.      E. Haase -C

4OF: D. McClure
BC: A. Monsalve
UI: R. Garcia
UI: C. Bautista

1.      D. Baker
2.      K. Lovegrove
3.      E. Araujo
4.      D. Howard
5.      M. Packer
6.    A. Adams

CL: C.C. Lee
SU: B. Stowell
SU: T. Haley
SU: M. Radeke
SU:  L. Van Mil
LR: G. Soto

Manager: Albert Belle (that’s right)
My squad is absurdly young. If you leave out the relief pitchers, the average playing age for 2012 was 19. Only Lars Anderson played last season at an official age over 20. That might be hopeful, but it probably is not a great sign.
So there you have it, folks. That’s easily the most enjoyable “article” I’ve ever written, and I hope it was half as much fun to read as it was for me to write. Big thanks again to Adam for not only participating, but for coming up with the idea in the first place. Let us know in the comments below what you think of our squads. Where did we reach for guys? What picks were the best? Or if you don’t already, click below to follow Adam and myself on Twitter and berate us on there instead.