In the past few weeks, really since they were in the middle of their 11 game losing streak, the Cleveland Indians are playing for next season.
They’ve released four veteran players and replaced them with younger guys, trying to get a head start on talent evaluation for 2013. We’ve seen Corey Kluber have one good start and two clinkers, Chris Seddon (who’s actually kind of veteran, he’s 28) has had one good start and one so-so outing, and Ezequiel Carrera has shown Tribe fans that leftfielders can get hits every once in a while.
However, they shouldn’t stop there. When Travis Hafner went out with a back injury, manager Manny Acta said Shelley Duncan would get the bulk of the at bats at the DH spot. Why, exactly would the team want to do that?
Look, Duncan’s a hard worker, and Acta has a soft spot for him. But he’s 32 years old, and is 3 for 22 in the month of August. Wouldn’t it be better for the future if the organization gave those at bats to someone else?
For that matter, why should Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan continue to garner playing time. These two players, and Duncan, aren’t likely to be on the roster next season. And if they are, then the front office should have a lot of explaining to do.
The Indians keep looking for the player who batted .300 a year ago, but it’s quite obvious that guy isn’t showing up. His batting average continues to hover in the .220’s, and he shows no signs of having a hot streak.
Hannahan hit .250 a year ago, but he’s a lifetime .231 hitter, and his average this season is….231! And since May 1st, he’s batting just .205. Yes, he’s excellent with the glove, but he can’t hit big league pitching consistently.
It’s time to take a good look, not a September 1st call up, at players like Matt LaPorta, Russ Canzler, and Tim Fedroff.
We are stressing not waiting until the rosters can be expanded because of the baseball axiom to ignore what you see in April and September. Tribe management can get a good look at these players for almost 50 games.
On LaPorta, to be sure some of you are saying “not again”. But the Indians front office have to find out once and for all if he can be a productive big league hitter. He can garner almost 200 at bats the rest of the season.
If he hits, great. If he doesn’t, then the ballclub can release him with a clear conscience. However, they simply have to find out.
Canzler has been on fans’ wish lists since spring training when he hit the ball with authority. Dismissed by some as a “AAAA” hitter, he’s had just three major league at bats. Let’s find out if he can be a contributor in ’13.
Fedroff is 25 and has never reached the majors despite being a .297 lifetime hitter in the minor leagues. His problem is that he’s not a power guy with only 21 HR’s in five minor league seasons.
Along the same thought, it’s also time for Jeanmar Gomez to come back up and take a regular turn in the rotation. He’s 6-2 with a 2.59 ERA at Columbus, and had a better ERA in Cleveland than Josh Tomlin, Derek Lowe, and even Ubaldo Jimenez. For a team needing starting pitching next season, he should be getting an opportunity.
It’s probably something than Acta and GM Chris Antonetti don’t want to admit, but this season has set sail and it’s time to move forward to 2013. Giving these players a chance now would be helpful in that regard.