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Canzler Has Proven All He Can at Minor League Level

Canzler Has Proven All He Can at Minor League Level

| On 27, Oct 2012

After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today we analyze a player that will most likely see an increased role in 2013, versus the role they had in 2012.

Better late, than never, I suppose.

Many were the voices that called for a right handed power bat in the Indians lineup in 2012, Russ Canzler could very well be that bat. He has spent very little time at the Major League level, but the time he’s spent he’s played well. 2013 might be his chance to prove what he can do with the big boys.

With the failed experiments of Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham in 2012, left field has really become an open position for the Indians. The current internal options for the Indians are Canzler, Matt LaPorta and Ezequiel Carrera. LaPorta had his chances and flopped. That leaves Carrera and Canzler. Both are good hitters that have potential, but Canzler is clearly the better option of the two given the Indians current situation. Carrera is a light hitting lefty. The Indians lineup was full of light hitting lefties in 2012. What the Indians need is a hitter with some power, and a guy that can hit from the right side to counter all those lefties. Canzler is that guy.

In 26 games (18 starts) in 2012, Canzler smacked out 25 hits. He banged out two singles in his Indians debut against the Rangers on September 1st. Against the Twins on September 7th he had arguably his best game of the season. He had three hits, three RBI, and crushed his first career home run. Against the White Sox in Chicago late in September, Canzler had his best series. He amassed six hits in three games, drove in four RBI, scored three runs and hit home runs in back to back games. He spent that time moving between left field, first base, and designated hitter. All three of those positions are weak points for the Indians going into this offseason.

Canzler was drafted in the 30th round of the 2004 draft by the Chicago Cubs. It would take him five and a half years to make it past the A-level. Despite batting .270 or higher three times, and slugging .543 in his first A season, he was unable to advance in the Cubs system. He was granted free agency in 2010, and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. There he was able to flourish, advancing to Triple-A in his second season.

Canzler spent the last two seasons in Triple-A. He played for the Durham Bulls in the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2011. After 2011, he was acquired via trade last offseason by the Cleveland Indians and sent to the Columbus Clippers when he did not make the Tribe out of spring training. Between those two stops, he played 261 games.

In that time, he hit 40 home runs, drove in 162 runs, scored 146 runs, and slugged .508. In 2011, he won the International League MVP when he hit 18 home runs with 40 doubles and a slash line of .314/.401/.530 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The season before, in Double-A Canzler smacked 21 home runs while hitting .287/.372/.566. In 2012 with Columbus, he smacked 22 dingers and hit 36 doubles. He’s got the power potential for sure, and the International League MVP brings along some prestige.

Some former IL MVP winners include Indians great Jim Thome, former Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta, and an Indian flashback from the 1980’s Brett Butler. Other former winners are Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Jim Rice. While Canzler is not ready to be compared to these All-Stars and Hall of Famers, but the IL MVP gives the kid some credibility.

Options on the free agent market, for a power hitting right hander in the Indians price range really doesn’t exist. Names like Nick Swisher and B.J. Upton will likely be too pricey. Torii Hunter may be available, but do the Indians really want to take a chance on a player that is 37-years old? The better option is to slide Canzler into that role and spend the money they have on a pitching and a first baseman. There are several candidates that fit the Indians profile at first base. Mike Napoli, Carlos Lee, and Lance Berkman are all righties with power.

Russ Canzler has done all he can do at the minor league level. In his September call up, he performed admirably and proved he deserves a chance in the Indians lineup. With the failed performances of signees in 2012, and the limited resources available to the Indians, Canzler is a very affordable commodity. If he fails, it cost the team nothing. If he succeeds, the team found a diamond in the rough that could provide stability at position that has long been a place of instability at Progressive Field.

Photo: Getty Images