Found April 23, 2012 on Death, Taxes, and Rebuilding:

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By: Eric Grinnell

The Indians just finished their road trip, where they were an impressive 7-2. On the week, the Tribewas 4-2 to put there overall record at 8-6, good for 3rd in the AL Central. There were lots of good things this week, so let’s get to them!

1. I got on Josh Tomlin pretty good in last week’s MMTT. I said that I was really worried about him due to his 2011 post-All-Star break traditional stats and 2011 full season advanced stats. But he pitched a hell of a game on Thursday against King Felix and the Mariners. Tomlin essentially matched King Felix, and went 8.0 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, 0 walks, 1 earned run, and striking out 7 (keep in mind the Mariners offense isn’t all that bad anymore). Tomlin’s performance kept the Tribe in the game and provided them the opportunity to win the game in the 9th. He got some help with some really nice plays by Casey Kotchman and Jason Donald, but overall, it was probably Tomlin’s best performance since early April or May last season.

2. I also got on Chris Perez pretty good after his blown save on Opening Day. But Perez has been awesome since Opening Day. He’s pitched 6.1 scoreless innings, only allowed 3 hits, 2 walks, struck out 5, and been a perfect 6/6 on save opportunities. His low K-rate is still a little concerning, but otherwise, Perez has been lights out.

3. In last week’s MMTT, I wrote that I thought Michael Brantley looked a little lost with his approach. But I think he looked much better this week. He still takes a lot of pitches, some that seem very hittable, but that’s his MO. But his numbers over the last week have been much better. In the last week, Brantley has hit .292/.346/.375/.721 with 2 doubles, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base. Overall, I think he is putting up much better at bats and I think we’ll start to see his numbers come around in the next couple weeks.

4. One thing that I haven’t heard many people talk about is that the Indians defense has been really solid. The stats don’t really show it (the Indians rank 15th in the league with 9 errors, but the 7th team only has 7), but I think the defense has been really solid. There were multiple nice plays made on the road trip and I think many players have been really solid.

5. The first person that I think has been solid on defense is Jason Kipnis. Kipnis was seen as a question mark defensively coming into the season, but Kipnis has been solid. Kipnis has 1 error, a fielding percentage of .986, and a UZR of -.7. He’s not going to make anyone forget about Robbie Alomar, but he has been solid and better than expected.

6. Casey Kotchman’s defense has been as advertised. Kotchman has 1 error, a fielding percentage of .993, and a UZR of -1.2. Kotchman made several nice plays in the Mariners series. Although Kotchman has been pretty disappointing on offense, I can’t say I have any complaints on defense.

7. I thought Jason Donald did a decent job filing in at shortstop this week. Again, Donald hasn’t been amazing by any stretch, but he did a solid job. People have always questioned whether or not Donald could play short effectively, and while I don’t think he could ever be a regular shortstop, I think he showed that he can play the position well enough to give Asdrubal a rest every week or so. Donald also had a couple nice plays against the Mariners, making a nice leaping catch and a nice play deep in the hole.

8. If there is one person that has been disappointing on defense so far it’s surprisingly Jack Hannahan. Hannahan already has 4 errors on the season, and he only had 5 all last year. So Hannahan hasn’t been his normal self. But luckily, Hannahan has been a monster on offense. He again had several clutch hits and still has a crazy line of .341/.429/.488/.916 with 1 homer and 11 RBIs. It’s crazy to say, but I think Hannahan has been the MVP so far.

9. I was really impressed with Nick Hagadone. Hagadone got called up when Asdrubal Cabrera got put on the bereavement list, and pitched really well. In his 3 appearances, Hagadone allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 earned run, and struck out 4 over 3.1 innings. Hagadone showed off his mid 90s fastball and impressive slider. I really hope the Indians keep Hagadone up and DFA Dan Wheeler once Asdrubal Cabrera comes back next week.

10. I was pretty excited to watch the Mariners and A’s. I’ve always enjoyed west coast trips and I always love watching teams play that we only see 2 or 3 times a year. But this year, I was especially excited to see the Mariners. I wrote in My MLB Preview that the Mariners have a really interesting collection of young talent in Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Jesus Montero. Smoak was acquired from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal, Montero was acquired from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda deal, and Dustin Ackley was the 2nd overall pick in 2009. All were highly regarded prospects and are finally in the bigs together. After watching the 3 game series, the one thought I took away is that Montero needs to switch to DH. There have always been questions about his ability to catch throughout his minor league career, and boy did I see why in the series—Montero just did not look like a big league catcher. He didn’t get in front of balls well, seemed like he got changed up with a few calls, and just didn’t make simple catches that a big league catcher makes.

On the other hand, man are the A’s bad. Their roster is honestly one of the worst I can remember in recent years. The only player that was exciting to see was Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes was the Cuban defect that made a bunch of noise this past winter with his Crazy Promotional Video. The A’s were able to sign him to a 4-year $36 million dollar deal. I was pretty impressed with Cespedes and look forward to seeing more of him.

11. One sad observation from this week’s games was the poor attendance in nearly every game. Everyone knows that the Indians are struggling to get people into the stands, but we saw this weekend it is not just a Cleveland problem. In the 3 game series with the Mariners, the high attendance was 12,942 (on Thursday). In fact, the game on Wednesday had the lowest attendance (11,343) in Safeco Field history.

In the 3 game series with the Athletics, the high attendance was 25,000+. This isn’t a bad number, but consider that these were weekend games. On Friday, attendance was only 14,000+. Oakland is pretty unique, because they have a notoriously awful stadium and a similarly awful team. But still, it is sad to see these numbers.

12. Last week I talked about a couple minor league players at Lake County and Columbus so I figured this week I’d talk about a few players at Carolina (A+) and Akron (AA). Most of the Indians big name prospects are at Lake County or Columbus, but there are still a few in Carolina and Akron. One of those names at Carolina is first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who is off to a great start. The Carolina Mudcats play in the Carolina League, which is know to be very pitcher friendly, but Aguilar has an impressive line of .353/.433/.529/.962 with 6 doubles and 1 home run. Aguilar also has an impressive walk to strikeout rate, 6:8. Aguilar really broke out in 2011, flashing a ton of raw power with the Captains, and it is really encouraging to see him start off well with Carolina. Another big name at Carolina is shortstop Tony Wolters. I rated Wolters as the Indians #9 prospect, but some have them as high as #3. Unlike Aguilar, Wolters is off to a slow start. Wolters has a line of .102/.159/.136/.295. Wolters spent all of 2011 at short-season Mahoning Valley, so the Tribe really challenged him by sending to Carolina. Wolters is still 19, and playing in A+ for a 19 year old is really a tough challenge. I have to imagine that if Wolters continues to struggle the Tribe brass will send him down to Lake County once short-season ball starts.

Akron is probably the weakest Indians minor league team. There are a few guys there that were once highly regarded prospects, but no one to get really excited about. But one of those once highly regarded prospect is off to a great start. Reliever Bryce Stowell was a big name back in 2010, when he blew through the Tribe system. Stowell has a live arm, and has even reportedly touched triple digits. But injuries led Stowell to a really disappointing 2011. But it appears Stowell is back. So far, Stowell has pitched 7.0 scoreless innings, where he’s only allowed 3 hits. But what’s really impressive, is that Stowell has struck out 15 and walked none. Look for him to be moved up to Columbus soon. Another once highly regarded prospect at Akron is Nick Weglarz. Weglarz was a fixture of Top 10 Indians Prospect lists the last few years. But constant injuries have really caused him to drop. Weglarz season so far has furthered the disappointment. He has an ugly line of .171/.293/.286/.579 with only 1 home run and 1 double. Weglarz also has an ugly walk to strikeout rate of 5:16. Weglarz is 24 and has spent time at Akron since 2009, so you really have to wonder if he’s reaching the end of the line.

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