Posts By Danny Madden
Going into the 2016 season, the catching depth for the Indians is pretty thin. They’re lucky enough to have two outstanding catchers at the major league level in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. Behind the pair though, there are no viable options at Triple-A Columbus. The next player to be on the depth charts behind these two would be converted catcher Tony Wolters, but last season wasn’t very good to him.
Wolters, 23, was signed by the Indians in August of 2010. He was initially brought to the club as an infielder who had decent on-base abilities, along with solid defense. With the rise of Jason Kipnis, and infielder Joey Wendle ahead of Wolters in the depth chart, the Indians approached him about converting to a catcher due to their lack of depth in that position. In 2013, Wolters appeared in 58 games at catcher, and since then has been the primary catcher for the Double-A RubberDucks.
The Indians have proved that they are committed to their future over the last two seasons. In the last two offseasons, the Indians have extended contracts to Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes. The next guy who could be in line for a contract extension with the Tribe is flamethrower Danny Salazar.
Every team would love to have pitching depth. The Indians discovered in 2015 that they actually have quite some good depth in the upper levels of their farm system.
Among these fine pitchers, there was another guy there that was enjoying a strong season of his own, and that was southpaw Shawn Morimando.
Adam Plutko is a guy that you’ve probably not heard much of before. He’s not a top prospect. He doesn’t throw 98 mph. He wasn’t even in Double-A to start the 2015 season. After having a breakout season though, he’s going to be a name you’ll soon be familiar with.
Plutko was drafted by the Indians in the eleventh round of the 2013 draft. He initially was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2010, but opted to pitch for UCLA for a couple of years instead. Even though he was drafted a couple rounds later in 2013, he did choose to continue on in his baseball career with the Indians.
Not every pitcher in the league needs to be able to throw 95 mph to be successful. It takes more than just being able to blow it past the batter to get a guy out. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of control, and a whole lot of commitment. Ryan Merritt is the definition of a guy with impeccable control.
Merritt was drafted by the Indians in the the 16th round in the 2011 draft when he was only 19. He’s spent five seasons in the Indians system thus far and has a career ERA of 3.31. Merritt is one of the Indians’ top left-handed pitchers in their farm system.
“Pitching wins baseball,” as the old saying goes. You can never have enough pitching on a team, even with a rotation like the Indians have. After the emergence of Michael Clevinger in 2015, the depth of the Indians staff got quite a bit deeper.
Clevinger, 24, was acquired by the Indians from the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 for former Bullpen Mafia member Vinnie Pestano. Prior to being traded, Clevinger was having a rough go of it with LA. After posting an ERA of 1.88 in 5 games with their Low-A Burlington, he faltered in High-A Inland Empire with an ERA of 5.37 in 13 starts. After Pestano lost his role in Cleveland, the Tribe decided to let him have another opportunity to perform, and the Angels were interested. Thus, this allowed Cleveland to acquire Clevinger, the one time fourth round pick by the Angels in 2011.
Heading into the off-season, the Indians have a few key positions that they need filled. Most notably, these positions are in center field and right field. In order to get a quality bat, the Indians are most likely going to have to find a way to acquire such bat through a trade. In order to do this, their best chance of getting the kind of bat they want, they’ll need to tap into their strongest asset from 2015: their pitching.
Every team in baseball wants quality pitching. As the saying goes, “pitching wins baseball.” This is partially true. As we saw with the 2015 Indians and their phenomenal pitching staff, they were able to stay in contention through most of the season, even when the offense was abysmal. The only problem is that the Indians would ideally like acquire a bat without having to give up one of their top pitchers like Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, or Danny Salazar.
Among the many faults that contributed to the Indians slow start to the season, defense was a big player in it. To centralize one of the most frustrating defensive positions, the left side of the infield was the hardest to watch. Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez had started off manning the left side, but could not sustain any type of consistency in their respective decisions, and were eventually bumped from their spots. Once a change was made by removing them, the Indians season started to turn around.
This was not the season to be a shortstop not named Francisco Lindor. With the inevitable arrival of the highly touted prospect, anyone playing the position was bound to be bounced for him at some point during the season regardless of how they were playing. In regards to Ramriez, it was a blessing to finally have Lindor after the start of the season he was putting up.
Remember when Michael Bourn worked with an olympic trainer this winter? Remember when Nick Swisher was going to be a brand new player after having double knee surgery? Remember when Brandon Moss was going to the big power bat the Indians had been looking for since Travis Hafner was in his prime? Whatever happened to those guys?
Oh right, reality set in.
After watching his season fade away right in front of him, something needed to change for Cody Anderson in the winter of 2014.
Following the season where Anderson received the Bob Feller Award for being the best minor league pitcher in the Indians farm system in 2013, Anderson had the worst season of his career. Taking this tragedy to heart, Anderson took the time to understand what went wrong, made his adjustments, and came into 2015 with a different attitude.
It all started with not chopping wood in the off-season. He knew that he needed to get his agility back, and not feel so bulky on the mound.
A youth movement has passed through the Indians organization.
New faces popped up on the team throughout the season, most notably top prospect Francisco Lindor. While he provided both at the plate and on the field well over expectations, he wasn’t the only guy playing clutch defense on the left side of the infield. Giovanny Urshela also made a huge impression in his first season with the Indians.
2014 was a defensive season to forget for the Cleveland Indians. Not only did they have 116 errors, they led the MLB with the most errors among the 30 teams. Aside from Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley, almost every position had not been played very well defensively, especially third base.