Since most of my thoughts and comments were typed on my phone in the very bright sun, I figured I’d take an opportunity to look back and go over some of my observations.
First of all, spring training is spring training. You can’t necessarily apply regular-season metrics to players that may be trying out a new pitch, or tweaking a batting stance. I like to think that there are certain broad generalizations you can make after seeing players in camp for a few weeks. This is the ninth spring training I’ve attended; the eighth time I’ve seen the Indians in the spring. There are times I thought the team looked good coming out of camp, only to be hit by injuries and general bad luck. There are times the Indians looked absolutely terrible, but still managed to have a decent season. The only time I’ve been completely fooled is last year; I thought the Tribe looked terrible last spring, then they came out of the gate to go 30-15. They obviously regressed a bit later in the season, but it still was more than I expected of them from spring. Most of the veterans looked fine to me this year; there was nothing of great concern with any of them. I figured I’d look at some of the invitees, people competing for spots, and minor league players – who was disappointing and who impressed.
Players that were disappointing to me:
Ezequiel Carrera – He didn’t look very sharp at the plate or in the field. He had a chance to win the center field spot (pushing Michael Brantley back to left), but I can’t really see that happening out of camp. He has options left and will probably start the year at Columbus.
David Huff – Huff looked terrible in the game that I saw, although the one positive is that he made adjustments and improved as his appearance progressed. That’s always been the problem with Huff though – when he’s good, he’s awesome and when he’s terrible, you might as well just shut off the television. If he’s not locating, his pitches are flat and right over the plate – he might as well set them on a batting tee. He’s one of those players that I just don’t trust over the long term. He works well for a few spot starts, but it seems that people either figure him out, or he’s unable to locate.
Ryan Spilborghs – He had some solid years with Colorado; I thought he would come in to camp and make a strong argument for the extra outfield spot. Spilborghs has had some decent moments, but overall he just hasn’t been that impressive. He’s been playing a lot of innings too.
Players that impressed me:
Jeanmar Gomez – Thus far, he’s yet to allow an earned run during spring training. There were some hard hit outs the day I saw him, but for the most part he looked pretty good.
Jose Lopez – He’s still batting over .500 at camp and looked great. What really impressed me about Lopez is that he really hung in there during many of his at-bats. For example, he swung and missed at Yu Darvish’s first two pitches in last Tuesday’s game. He was at 0-2, and looked completely baffled; all of the sudden, he punches the next pitch into center field. He’s making a strong case to open the season in Cleveland on April 5.
Scott Barnes – Unfortunately I missed Barnes while I was there, but I keep hearing about how good he has looked this spring. Acquired in the Ryan Garko trade, Barnes could be in Cleveland sooner than we think.
Russ Canzler – He’s also hit very well so far this spring; his average is currently at .435.
I really thought that some of the outfielder invitees would step it up since there are now two spots open (Grady Sizemore’s spot and the fourth outfielder spot) but nobody has really blown me away thus far. Fred Lewis, Felix Pie, Aaron Cunningham and Spilborghs haven’t blown me away (although Pie has suffered from an injury). Shelley Duncan has looked solid (.263 avg. .364 OBP) and probably has an edge. Trevor Crowe has actually looked decent so far this spring, but he’s often in the game late (so he’s not facing the top pitchers usually) and he’s not even on the 40-man roster at this point.
Opening Day is less than three weeks away, so we’ll see how this shakes out in the very near future!