It’s been a long four months since the Arizona Fall League and any Indians played competitively, stateside anyways.
Finally on Friday, 2,000-plus miles from Cleveland, winter is officially over as the Indians and Reds will take the field in Goodyear.
With the World Baseball Classic returning this year, there are a few Indians that will benefit from Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, leaving the team for a bit. There’s a few other members of the little wigwam that have the chance to impress Terry Francona and his crew.
RHP Danny Salazar– Salazar stands to benefit a little from the departures of two key bullpen members. The 6’0, 190 right hander was 4-0 in six starts at AA Akron last year, with a 1.85 ERA. He’s already been on the 40 man roster for over a year, so the Indians have been impressed with him for some time, despite missing a year with arm surgery. He was back in full force last year, hitting the high 90s with his fastball along with great strides with his slider and changeup. Despite being a quality starter last year, he’s likely a mid-rotation guy at best, based on his size and injury history. He could have a huge impact in the back of the bullpen and could see a few innings out of the pen in spring training.
LHP T.J. House – Just added to the 40 man this off-season, and rightfully so after rebounding from a rough season, House gets a look in his first big league camp. A lot of people feel that House is a back end starter at best, and that still may be so. The most impressive thing about House’s 2012 season can’t be quantified in numbers, though he posted career bests in just about every statistical category. His mental toughness really showed last year. After being knocked around at Kinston in 2011, normally a pitcher-friendly spot in the Carolina League, it looked like he had hit a wall as a prospect. Mike Hargrove spoke at the New York Penn League All-Star game in Mahoning Valley last summer and said that the thing that separates career minor leaguers and guys who get the call to the show, is mental toughness. House improved his fastball control and his slider last year. But his grit and mental edge really improved and those are qualities that will impress a guy like Francona.
RHP Trey Haley – It’s a shame Haley has already been shut down for just a short time in camp, because he is coming off of a great Arizona Fall League performance that saw him really come out as a pitcher, rather than a thrower. For the time being, even before the injury, the Indians seemed pretty comfortable on keeping him as a reliever. He needs to get back on the mound and see some action while Perez and Pestano are gone, because he has a chance to get the call to Cleveland this summer, or be a key arm involved in a trade.
Both Matt Langwell and Preston Guilmet were invited to big league camp for the first time as well and should see some innings. Guilmet has two championship rings and clinched the final out of both. They will likely end up heading to Columbus to start the year and don’t quite have the trade value Haley does. Neither has overpowering stuff, but I’ve always admired Guilmet’s approach on the mound and his funky, over the top delivery. New pitching coach Mickey Callaway is very familiar with Guilmet and might have an eye on him to see how he does in his first big league camp.
Jesus Aguilar and Tim Fedroff are the only position players of note to get invited to big league camp. Fedroff is there by virtue of being added to the 40 man roster this off-season, but is obviously very well blocked now by Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn. Ezequiel Carerra also seems to have lost out on an opportunity as well. Even Ryan Raburn has a shot to claim a utility spot and get some time in the outfield.
Carerra is what he is at this point of his career, a speedy outfielder with little to zero pop and can really only play center or left, but isn’t a superior defender. Fedroff has a tad more pop, though not a ton but much less speed. If Fedroff spends any time in Cleveland this season, things will have gone extremely wrong at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. He doesn’t have much trade value, but at some point this year he’ll be blocking Tyler Holt, who may just be a right handed version with Fedroff with more speed and less pop. If LeVon Washington stays healthy this year, he could benefit from Fedroff being traded or moved in favor of moving Holt to Columbus at some point.
This is an important year for Aguilar too. A good camp could really cement him as a prospect with a real chance at reaching his potential upside. If he has a bad camp, it’s not the end of the world for him obviously, but at this point, he’s a good internal option to take over at DH or even first base next season, depending on how this year shakes out obviously. He’ll need a good season though to prove he has a shot at doing that, or just end up being an organizational bat that the Indians will perpetually hope pans out for power. A good big league camp would go a long way towards Aguilar proving as the former.
With that being said, let the games begin this weekend!
You can read more of Justin’s insights on the Indians and their prospects at LakeCounty-Sentinel.com