Triple-A Trickledown: Columbus

Hello from Huntington Park, a beautiful downtown ballpark in Columbus, Ohio.  The Chiefs and Columbus Clippers meet for the first of eight times this season – with all eight games between the two teams coming in the next 13 days.  Here’s a look at the Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, in our latest “Triple-A Trickledown”…

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Catcher: Luke Carlin, Matt Pagnozzi

Carlos Santana has a firm grip on the starting catching job in the major leagues for Cleveland, but Lou Marson’s just 2 for 21 as the Indians’ backup.  If there’s a spot to be had in the majors, Carlin, who’s hitting .265 and has major league experience, would likely take it over Pagnozzi, who played in the majors for a bit last season but is currently hitting .215 with Columbus.  Veteran backstop Michel Hernandez is also waiting in Double-A if needed.

First Base: Beau Mills, Matt LaPorta

LaPorta, a one-time top prospect who was acquired as the centerpiece of Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia deal, has had some trouble adjusting to major league pitching to date.  But Triple-A’s been a vastly different story, with LaPorta mashing IL hurlers this season to the tune of a .333/.408/.658 slash line with 10 home runs in 31 games.  Meanwhile, full-time big league starter Casey Kotchman is at .198 with three home runs, so LaPorta may soon get another chance to prove himself.  Mills, a 25-year-old who’s a former first-round pick, has been solid but not spectacular to date, and is likely to spend the season with Columbus since he’s not on the 40-man roster.

Matt LaPorta

Second Base: Cord Phelps

Phelps has started 36 of the Clippers’ 37 games at second base this season with decent offensive numbers, but a former Clipper’s right ahead of him in the major leagues.  Jason Kipnis, who’s started all 35 games for the Indians, has excelled in the bigs with a .281 average and six home runs.  A backup spot could be open with veteran Jose Lopez off to a sub-.200 start, but the organization may want to give the 25-year-old Phelps regular at-bats and keep him in Triple-A.

Shortstop: Gregorio Petit, Justin Toole

Cleveland’s likely filed this position under “don’t worry unless there’s an injury”, because 26-year-old Asdrubal Cabrera has turned into one of the Indians’ best players in the major leagues.  The switch-hitter’s posted a .316/.414/.500 line, with 17 walks to just 9 strikeouts and 12 doubles on the season.  Petit’s hitting just .213 with limited power and patience, while the just-promoted Toole was hitting .196 with Class A-Advanced Carolina.  At Double-A Akron, shortstop Juan Diaz is hitting just .234, but he’s a 40-man roster member who was promoted for last season’s Triple-A playoffs.

Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall, Andy LaRoche

Jack Hannahan’s been above-average as Cleveland’s starting third baseman this year, but Chisenhall’s lying in wait in case of a slip-up or injury.  The 23-year-old (who’s currently on the Disabled List) was a first-round pick of the Indians in the 2008 draft and has quickly shot up the minor league system, splitting time between Triple-A and the major leagues last season.  This year, Chisenhall’s batting average and slugging percentage are second on the team, only behind Matt LaPorta.  LaRoche, a 28-year-old major league veteran, is likely here to provide organizational depth for the Indians – though it’s comforting having someone who’s played in the majors for parts of each of the last five seasons.

Lonnie Chisenhall

Outfield: Russ Canzler, Ezequial Carrera, Ben Copeland, Chad Huffman

Canzler – last year’s International League MVP – and Carrera are the two 40-man roster players here, but neither is off to an especially hot start with Columbus.  However, Cleveland’s major league outfield is somewhat of a mess, with none of the Indians’ five main outfielders posting a batting average higher than .261 or an OPS above .700.  And former star center fielder Grady Sizemore, who’s struggled in each of the last two seasons, is out until at least June after knee surgery.  All of that begs the question – what in the world are Tim Fedroff and Jared Goedert doing in Double-A?  Fedroff – 25 years old – is hitting .339 with a .430 on-base percentage after hitting .338 with Akron and .272 with Columbus last season.  Meanwhile, Goedert, who’s hit 35 home runs in the last two seasons with Columbus, is hitting an astronomical .362 with 12 extra-base hits and 20 walks.    Huffman’s having a solid season, but the 28-year-old Copeland hasn’t played or hit much so far.  Seems like the winds of change could be blowing soon…

Starting Pitchers: Eric Berger, Paolo Espino, David Huff, Corey Kluber, Chris Seddon, Kevin Slowey

Huff, Kluber and Slowey are the three 40-man starters on Columbus’ roster, with Kluber’s 2.58 ERA in seven starts providing the standout mark of the bunch.  However, the right-hander’s only pitched in three career major league games, with an 8.31 ERA, and he’s yet to pitch more than six innings in a game this season.  Huff, a 2006 first-round pick, posted a solid 4.09 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with Cleveland last year – and he’s left-handed – while Slowey, a major league veteran, has struggled with a near 6:00-ERA this season.  There’s probably not an open spot in Cleveland’s rotation in the moment, especially with Zach McAllister temporarily called up after an injury to Josh Tomlin.  But down at Akron, 22-year-old left-hander T.J. McFarland is going to be hard to ignore for much longer, at 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA in seven starts.

Relief Pitchers: Cody Allen, Hector Ambriz, Scott Barnes, Frank Herrmann, Matt Langwell, Chris Ray

The two 40-man players here are Barnes and Herrmann, a pair of left-handers who have been solid but not overwhelming statistically.  The fact that they’re left-handers could help, with the worst ERA in the bullpen belonging to Tony Sipp’s 6.94 mark.  However, Sipp sported a 3.03 mark last season, so he’ll likely get the benefit of the doubt for some time.  A perhaps-familiar name to casual fans in this bullpen could be Ray, a former Orioles closer who saved 33 games with the O’s in 2006.  But injuries set back Ray, who missed nearly all of 2008, and he’s now on his fifth organization in four years.  However, the right-hander’s 2.08 ERA this season could mean that he’s back on the right track.

Herrmann and Ray

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That’s all for now – as always, your thoughts are welcomed at kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com or jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com.

KB

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