Recently, Baseball America discussed the Minor Leaguers that opted for free agency at the end of the season. As you can see, the list had a handful of players from the Indians’ system:
RHP: Joe Martinez (AAA), Adam Miller (AA), Jason Rice (AAA)
LHP: Jeremy Sowers (AA)
C: Juan Apodaca (AA), Michel Hernandez (AA), Raul Padron (AA), Paul Phillips (AAA)
1B: Nick Johnson (AAA)
2B: Cristo Arnal (AAA), Argenis Reyes (AAA)
OF: John Drennen (AA) (not mentioned – Travis Buck)
Let’s take a look at these players and see if there are any the Indians should try to retain, or if they should let them walk. I’m going to do this in two parts; one post on pitchers, and one on position players.
Joe Martinez – Martinez has had a couple of very brief stints at the Major League level, but never pitched about Triple-A while with the Indians organization. A 12th round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2005, Martinez was actually drafted in the 44th round in 2001 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but chose not to sign. He arrived in the Indians’ system in January of 2011; the Indians gave his team at the time, the Pittsburgh Pirates, cash considerations.
The 28-year-old Martinez was 8-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 101 strikeouts with the Columbus Clippers this past season. His numbers have never really been incredible, but Martinez was a big part of the Clippers’ second straight national title in 2011. Martinez pitched seven solid innings during the title game against the Omaha Storm Chasers; the Clippers won 8-3. Prior to the title match, Martinez was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA during the International League postseason. Martinez’s departure probably doesn’t mean much to the Major League club, since he probably wasn’t in the running for a spot anyway. He came up big for Columbus during the playoffs though, so I almost hope the Indians are able to keep him at Triple-A.
Adam Miller – I talked about Adam Miller earlier this season in a “what ever happened to” post. To briefly recap, Miller suffered from a devastating hand injury and was forced to completely modify his pitching motion. At the age of 26, he tried to reinvent himself in the minors. He spent time between Kinston and Akron in 2011, going 1-5 with a 5.93 ERA and 25 strikeouts. (What’s sad is that during one of his healthy, peak seasons, he struck out 161 with a 2.84 ERA). Perhaps Miller just needs more time to adjust to his new motion, although it’s quite obvious he’ll never be the pitcher he once was. It’s probably time to cut ties and move on.
Jason Rice – He spent a very minor amount of time with the Clippers in 2011; he played most of the season for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He was traded to the Oakland Athletics on August 31, and was claimed off waivers about a week later by the Indians on September 6. The Indians designated him for assignment on September 13 and he was outrighted to Columbus on September 19. With Pawtucket, he was 4-5 with a 3.69 ERA and 89 strikeouts. 2011 was Rice’s first year at Triple-A, and he seems to have maintained a steady performance as he rose from Single-A between 2009-2011. It may be worth it for the Indians to try and sign him to a Major League deal with an invite to spring training.
Jeremy Sowers – I’m sure everyone (unfortunately) remembers Jeremy Sowers. A soft throwing pitcher who was the Indians’ first round selection in the 2004 draft (6th player selected overall), Sowers never really panned out. If you want to make yourself feel really terrible, think about some of the players that the Indians passed on, that were drafted after Sowers – Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Phil Hughes, Gio Gonzalez, Huston Street…really any of those would have been preferable to Sowers. Sowers did have a few flashes of greatness; it seemed like he was good for at least one time through the batting order before everyone figured him out. In 2006 with Triple-A Buffalo, he went 9-1 with a 1.39 ERA. He was outrighted and removed from the 40-man roster prior to the 2010 season. Sowers suffered from shoulder problems over the past season or two as well. I would cut ties with Sowers. I don’t think his pitches fool anyone, and the shoulder troubles have kept him from pitching any significant number of innings since 2009.