Meet the Tribe: The Cleveland Indians' Position Players

Chris KreitzerSenior Analyst IFebruary 17, 2009

Tribe No. 1 Prospect Carlos Santana (pictured right) seems ready for another Tribe preview, so here goes...

And now, the much anticipated Part Two Position Player version of Meet the Tribe! Most of the information here has been recited ad nauseam all over the newspapers and internet, but what can one more guy's opinion hurt?



79 Chris Gimenez

Chris was added to the 40-man roster in December before the Rule 5 draft. He is a jack of all trades-type player, possessing the ability to play Catcher, First, Third, and both corner outfield positions.

Gimenez was moved to catcher in 2006 but probably won't see much time there in the majors as an Indian with Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach blocking that path, along with super prospect Carlos Santana behind him in Double A. He is an excellent on base guy and will likely gain more power the more experience he gains.

Best case-scenario for this 26-year-old would be a role as a super utility guy for the Tribe in 2010, or possibly if injuries occur in 2009.

Interesting Tidbit...Won Single A Carolina Home Run Derby in 2007.


41 Victor Martinez

Groin and elbow problems sidelined Victor for most of 2008, as he only appeared in 73 games. The elbow seemed to be the toughest injury to overcome, as he only hit two home runs in 266 at bats and slugged a pedestrian .365, way below his season averages.

This a big year for V-Mart as he is just two years away from free agency and needs to demonstrate his durability. Manager Eric Wedge has stated that he will catch all of Fausto Carmona's starts and have an increased workload at first base. Expect to see the Victor of old as he returns to the elite AL hitter he always has been.

Interesting Tidbit: His favorite movie is Catch Me If You Can.


77 Carlos Santana

Traded from Dodgers with Jon Meloan in Casey Blake deal. Soon to be 23-year-old has torn up the minors, batting .330 between two Single A clubs in 2008 while belting 20 home runs and driving in 115 RBI, resulting in an MVP award. Santana is a switch hitter and apparently has that natural sweet sound radiating off his bat when he makes contact.

An athletic guy who continues to grow, this Dominican has a strong arm and is assimilating to the catching position quite well in only his second year behind the dish (converted third baseman/outfielder). Look for Carlos to be the Indians' starting catcher in 2011, if not as early as the second half of 2010.

Interesting Tidbit: No. 1 rated prospect in Indians organization (five star) by Baseball America.


10 Kelly Shoppach

Shoppach had a breakout 2008 season, leading all American League catchers with 21 home runs in only 352 at bats. Along with being Cliff Lee's personal catcher, Kelly will see more time behind the dish with Victor seeing an increased workload at first base. He needs to cut down on the K's, as over one-third of his at bats resulted in strikeouts (133). Another season like 2008, and Shoppach will not have to worry about splitting time again.

Interesting Tidbit: His favorite athlete growing up was Bo Jackson.


76 Wyatt Toregas

This 26-year-old has the defensive tools to be a major league catcher right now, but needs to find consistency with his bat. Batted .219 in Triple A before being demoted and refocused his game. Played great in Akron, hitting .296 with 12 home runs.

Probably projects to be a backup in the majors, but will probably be the first call-up if Martinez or Shoppach get hurt, which is a better option than 2008 clunkers Yamid Haad and Sal Fasano.

Interesting Tidbit: Wrestled and played golf in high school.


Non-Roster Invite

65 Damaso Espino

Espino is primarily in camp to help catch all of the pitchers on the roster and add possible minor league depth. Batted .275 in Double A Akron and also played in 13 games for Triple A Omaha (Royals).

Interesting Tidbit: May play for Panama in 2009 World Baseball Classic.



29 Josh Barfield

Spring Training will be a big transition period for Josh, as he will be asked to expand his game into playing more positions (SS, 3B, Outfield). He has the athleticism and speed to succeed as a 25th man, as I am sure the alternative (Columbus) would not be acceptable.

Barfield needs to show some glimpses of his 2006 year with the Padres to ever be considered an everyday player again. Still only 26, should embrace the challenge of making the team and not sulk about the predicament. Should break camp with the Big League club.

Interesting Tidbit: Father Jesse played 12 seasons in the majors, hitting 241 career home runs.


13 Asdrubal Cabrera

It was a tale of two seasons of A-Cab. Before the All-Star break, he looked chubby and unmotivated, batting .184 with one HR and 14 RBI in 158 at bats. He was subsequently sent down to get in shape and see how he would react to the demotion. Cabrera rebounded quite nicely, batting a cool .320 with five home runs and 33 RBI in 194 ABs.

Still only 23 years old, should bounce back to an average AL second baseman with above average defensive ability.

Interesting Tidbit: Turned an unassisted triple play against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, only the 14th in baseball history.


11 Jamey Carroll

Carroll fit in quite nicely with his new team last year, hitting .277 in 113 games. Carroll demonstrated his versatility as he split time between 3B and 2B, filling the role as the Tribe's main utility man. He should see some time in the corner outfield positions in 2009 as well. Made only nine errors all year.

Interesting Tidbit: Member of University of Evansville (Ind.) Hall of Fame (former teammate Sal Fasano is in there too; a must visit for any Tribe or mustache fan).


7 Mark DeRosa

Acquired on New Year's Eve from the Chicago Cubs for three minor league pitchers. DeRosa had a career year in 2008, hitting .285 while belting 21 HRs and 87 RBI. Will bat second in the lineup and will be relied upon to add another spark to the top of the lineup. Played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots last season, but will primarily be used at third base in 2009.

Known to be a great teammate and leader, the 34-year-old is in the last season of his existing contract.

Interesting Tidbit: Married to model Heidi Miller.


25 Ryan Garko

Garko struggled mightily in 2008, but his final 2008 numbers don't paint an accurate picture. He hit a lowly .241 in 85 games before the All-Star game, but rebounded afterwards, hitting .319 in 57 games after.

His last 10 games pretty much saved his season, as he hit a mind-boggling .514 with three home runs and 15 RBI over his final 10 games of the 2008 season. Garko raised his batting average 20 points over the last 12 games, a simply amazing feat.

Manager Eric Wedge stated in January that Garko may even take a few balls out in the outfield this spring to see if he could play there in a pinch (gulp). Look for Ryan to get 400-500 at bats between playing first base and DH. As his power numbers rise (only 14 HRs in 2008), his playing time will rise as well.

Interesting Tidbit: Enjoys chugging Budweisers.


15 Andy Marte

The main prospect acquired in the Coco Crisp trade of 2006, Marte has been a complete flop. With the chance to play third every day after Casey Blake was traded, he batted .244 after the break in 156 at bats. Still only 25, his baseball career will probably continue elsewhere as he can only play one position (third) and doesn't do that very well.

If Marte has a good spring, look for the Indians to try to trade him, as he is out of options and probably won't go to Triple A if he clears waivers, as they have a good-looking prospect (Wes Hodges) expected to start there. The Andy Marte Experiment seems to be over.

Interesting Tidbit: Favorite TV show is Deal or No Deal.


2 Jhonny Peralta

Jhonny had a great 2008, batting .276 with 23 HRs and 89 RBI in 154 games at the age of 26. He is emerging as one of the best hitting shortstops in the league, and hit especially well in the cleanup slot. Played primarily third base in winter ball and will eventually slide over to the position in 2010.

Team constantly says he is superb at making the routine play, but his lack of range has been a concern ever since he replaced Omar Vizquel in 2005.

Interesting Tidbit: Reason his name is spelled "Jhonny" is because father misspelled "Johnny" on his birth certificate.


1 Luis Valbuena

Luis was part of the three-team trade that brought him from Seattle (along with Joe Smith from the Mets) for Franklin Gutierrez. Valbuena batted over .300 and hit 11 HRs in 452 at bats between Double A and Triple A. This 23-year-old projects to be an above average defender and a possible candidate for second base for the big club in 2010. He is a left-handed hitter and played in 18 games for the Mariners in 2008.

Interesting Tidbit: Teammate in Venezuelan winter ball was Asdrubal Cabrera.


Non-Roster Invites

68 Michael Aubrey

Former first round pick got his first taste of the big leagues in 2008, hitting .200 in 45 at bats with two home runs. Was taken off 40-man roster and seems to be primarily an in-between Majors/AAA player. Health was always a concern and seems to have eroded his prospect potential. Will start the year in Columbus and probably hope to become a minor league free agent in 2010.

Interesting Tidbit: Favorite TV show is Grey's Anatomy.


67 Jordan Brown

Brown won back-to-back minor league MVPs in 2006 and 2007 (high A and AA). Only hit seven HRs in 2008, so his prospect status has taken a hit. Was taken off 40-man roster and not selected in the Rule 5 draft, so look for Jordan to have a bounce-back season. If he can ever develop power, would become a candidate to play for the Indians in the latter portion of 2009. Look for Brown to be Columbus' opening day first baseman.

Interesting Tidbit: Still only 25 years old.


4 Tony Graffanino

Signed on Feb. 15 to help fill in when WBC participants leave. Had 89 at bats for Triple A Buffalo (Indians) last year and batted .315. Plays all over the infield and corner positions. Long shot to make major league club. Has a career .267 batting average with six teams over his 15-year major league career.

Interesting Tidbit: Likes New York-style pizza.


26 Andy Cannizaro

Looking to be utility guy for Triple A Columbus. Batted .321 in 84 at bats for Triple A Buffalo (Indians). Familiar with Columbus, as he played there in parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons. 30-year-old looking to keep his minor league career afloat.

Interesting Tidbit: Was an All-American in 2001 with Tulane.


66 Stephen Head

25-year-old is an excellent fielder at first and outfield, projecting to be a bench guy in Triple A. Hit .290 with 13 home runs in Akron, so his power is not quite where the Indians would like it to be. Similar to Jordan Brown as he is a college guy kind of stuck in no man's land not being on the 40-man roster. There seems to be a real logjam between him, Aubrey, and Brown.

Interesting Tidbit: Attended the University of Mississippi.


68 Wes Hodges

Wes had an outstanding 2008 in Akron as he batted .290 with 18 HRs and 97 RBI. Top 10 prospect projects to be in contention for third base position in 2010. Needs to work on his defense as he is a big guy that lacks some range. Drafted in the second round in 2007 out of Georgia Tech, he looks to be in the starting lineup in Triple A in 2009, meaning three minor league levels in three years in the Indians organization.

Interesting Tidbit: Played in the 2008 Futures game at Yankee Stadium during the All-Star weekend in 2008.


73 Jesus Merchan

27-year-old was brought in to compete for the shortstop job at Triple A Columbus. Batted an impressive .339 with four HRs and 72 RBI in Triple A Tucson (Diamondbacks) in 2008.

Interesting Tidbit: Named after God's only son.


78 Beau Mills

22-year-old slugged 21 HRs and drove in 90 RBI while posting a .293 average in Single A Kinston in 2008, earning him the MVP of the league. An average defender, Mills possesses the right determination the Tribe is looking for in their players, resulting in his Spring Training Invite.

Slotted to start the season at first for Double A Akron, Mills is a top 10 prospect and the Indians' first baseman of the future. Beau was the 13th overall selection in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Interesting Tidbit: Father Brad played in the majors with the Montreal Expos and is currently the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox.


8 Wilson Valdez

Has appeared in 111 games in the majors for Dodgers, Mariners, and Padres, compiling a career .211 batting average. Will battle Jesus and Cannizaro for a spot in Columbus. Valdez split the 2008 season playing in Korea and Japan. With the Kia Tigers (Korea) he batted .218 with 13 stolen bases in 47 games, while batting .256 with four stolen bases in 29 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (Japan).

Interesting Tidbit: Nickname is "el gatito" meaning kitten.



17 Shin-Soo Choo

The Tribe's starting right fielder for 2009, Choo batted .309 with 14 HRs and 66 RBI in 94 games in the big leagues last season. Most of the damage was done after the All-Star break, as he slammed 11 of the home runs in just 210 at bats while batting .343.

Choo is an average outfielder and regaining his arm strength, finally being totally healed from Tommy John surgery. Seems to be a much better hitter against righties, but still hit .286 against left-handed pitching. Choo will be a big key to the success of the 2009 Indians and will be counted on to drive in runs toward the bottom end of the order.

Interesting Tidbit: Traded to the Indians for guitar-wielding first baseman Ben Broussard.


62 Trevor Crowe

Crowe is a former first round pick who has experienced inconsistency and injuries in his four years in the organization. An average defender, Crowe seems to be more of a fourth outfielder rather than an everyday guy, but he did bat .302 with nine HRs between Akron and Buffalo last season.

This 25-year-old switch hitter will probably be the first call-up if any of the outfielders are injured, as he is on the 40-man roster. Will start in center field for Triple A Columbus in 2009.

Interesting Tidbit: Father David played on the PGA Tour.


20 David Dellucci

In the final year of his three-year deal that is paying him over $3.5 million to sit on the bench. 35-year-old hit .238 with 11 HRs and 47 RBI in 113 games for the Tribe. Not a great fielder with a weak arm, Dellucci will be a left-handed hitter off the bench to spell Ben Francisco and Choo from time to time. If he struggles, don't be surprised for the Indians to cut bait and eat his way too large of a contract.

Interesting Tidbit: Won a World Series ring as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.


12 Ben Francisco

Ben was forced into batting all over the lineup in 2008. He hit 15 HRs and drove in 54 RBI while batting .266 in left and right field. Really struggled after the All-Start break, hitting only .236 in his last 57 games. An average defender, the 2009 season will be an important one for Francisco to determine if he is an everyday ball player or just a guy with some pop off the bench.

Interesting Tidbit: High school teammates with Tribe first baseman Ryan Garko.


24 Grady Sizemore

Grady had another superb season in 2008, batting .268 with 33 HRs and 90 RBI while stealing 38 bases from the leadoff spot. Was again named to the AL All-Star team and collected his second Gold Glove. Only batted .247 over his final 53 games, but still posted a .343 on base percentage. Sizemore also struggled against lefties, batting just .224.

Sizemore will eventually be moved down to the three hole when a better leadoff hitting alternative is presented. Still only 26 years old, Grady has become one of the top 10 players in all of baseball. Thankfully is signed through the 2012 season.

Interesting Tidbit: Was recruited out of high school by the University of Washington to play quarterback.


Non-Roster Invites

61 Michael Brantley

Brantley was the player to be named in the CC Sabathia trade from the Brewers that also netted the Indians Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, and Zach Jackson. Brantley has an uncanny ability to get on base, posting a .319 batting average and a .395 on base percentage in Double A Huntsville (Brewers) as a 21-year-old. Struck out only 27 times in 420 at bats last season, demonstrating amazing plate discipline.

Plays a decent outfield and figures to play all three positions in Columbus in 2009. Has all the tools to be a future leadoff hitter.

Interesting Tidbit: Father Mickey Brantley played in the major leagues for the Seattle Mariners.


71 Matt LaPorta

The centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, LaPorta projects to be a major power hitter for years to come. He was a first round pick by the Brewers in 2007; he hit 20 HRs and drove in 66 RBI while batting .288 in just 302 at bats in Double A Huntsville (Brewers). Will focus primarily on left field in Columbus, but will be an option in right and first base as well.

LaPorta was a member of Team USA in the 2008 Olympics and also appeared in the Futures game during All-Star weekend. Has developed great pitch recognition, allowing his patience at the plate to result in good hitters' counts and walks. Is often compared to Pat Burrell.

Interesting Tidbit: Led the NCAA in home runs as a sophomore at the University of Florida.

Designated Hitters

48 Travis Hafner

Travis had a 2008 to forget. Lingering shoulder pain limited Pronk to just 198 at bats. He didn't fare well at all, hitting .197 with five HRs and 24 RBI. Surgery was not performed on his shoulder until the offseason, so it is no guarantee that he will be 100 percent healthy come Feb. 25.

After an average-looking 2007 for Hafner's standards, he will be looking to rebound and get back to the elite slugger ole No. 48 was. Expect Travis to sit against tough lefties, have a day or two off a week, and hopefully slug 30-35 home runs again in 2009.

Interesting Tidbit: Lives in Cleveland year round.


Look for one more post this week, and then Tribe Times is off to Goodyear, Arizona! I will be attending the Feb. 26 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, so look for a bunch of info the following week with video and pictures. Golfing in February will be a nice perk as well.


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