Spring training hasn’t started, but there’s already important Cleveland Indians news coming in from Goodyear, Arizona.Â Yesterday, February 7th, Dr. Rick Parker flew to Goodyear for Carlos Santana’s 6-month post-op evaluation.
I love sports. It doesn’t matter what kind of ball, puck, stick or engine the game has: if it’s on, I’ll watch it. But even I have to admit that when that last whistle blows in the final quarter of the Super Bowl, I get a twinge of excitement that I can feel in my toes. It’s a twinge that most people feel for their significant other but mine has nothing to do with the impending Valentine’s Day holiday. It’s an excitement that builds in me from the minute that the calendar turns into the new year until the day thatÂ pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
I know, I know – there’s a reason that I cover baseball and not football for MTAF and, yes, I know that, in my first year of fantasy football I had to ask all of Twitter to help me figure out how to replace my safety that got hurt one day after I drafted him. But I did finish in 3rd place after the regular season so take THAT hard core fantasy football people! I know SOME stuff!)
This summer, I finally got to attend a Browns game and sit in the Dawg Pound. It was pre-season but it didn’t matter because we were not only in the Dawg Pound but sitting in the front row. I’ve been to many Browns games over the years but sitting in the Dawg Pound has always alluded me. I had big visions of catching Josh Cribbs as he jumped into the stands after catching a touchdown.
Cleveland only needs to look a few miles East to see the goal.Â The Tribe’s Class A affiliate, The Lake County Captains, brought home the hardware in 2010.Â And it’s some gorgeous hardware, at that.Â
The Captains finished the season a healthy 77 – 62, but still started the playoffs a heavy underdog to win it all, finishing 13 games back of the division winner, the Great Lakes Loons.Â But the Captains, after defeating the West Michigan Whitecaps two games to one in a three game series, exacted revenge on their divisional rivals by upsetting the Loons two games to one as well.
Now that baseball is starting to once again make its yearly reappearance in the forefront of our fandom, it’s time to dust off our Tribe gear and get ready for another fun season. Sure, we may not be constructed like a World Series contender (or even a .500 team, depending on who you ask), but we start this season just like we start every other. With potential. We can argue all day about whether or not an outfield starrring Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley could anchor a good team, or whether Carlos Santana is going to be the monster it looked like he was developing into before the knee injury. The one thing that’s for sure is that we have a couple bona fide players on this team, and they all have one thing in common: before they were stars, they had potential.
Sure, everybody had potential at some point. I played catcher as a youngin’ for a little league team that went undefeated and won our little championship. I was an efficient contact hitter and could send a rope to second base from my knees. I had potential. I also had knees that were five years away from sounding like a bag of microwave popcorn when kneeling and a keen interest in bad influences. I like to think that the only difference between my potential and theirs is a little bit of luck, but let’s not kid ourselves, these guys were different.
That’s why we’re here. We go to games, we read articles, we get caught up in the drama of sports because there is an elite group of people, whatever their sport, that had massive amounts of potential and found a way to use every last drop of it. The Indians have some pretty special players filling up the minor league ranks, and even out of those, three players stand out among the top prospects in all of baseball.Â Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Drew Pomeranz.
Lonnie Chisenhall is at the head of the Indians class after hitting .278 with 17 HRs and 84 RBI in 117 games that he split between A Kinston and AA Akron. He’s got a swing as smooth as an Al Green song and makes consistent, powerful contact from the left side of the plate. With an average glove at third base, and no big time player at the big league level keeping out, there’s pretty good possibility that Lonnie Chisenhall could be making a big league impact in 2011. He’s never really faced major league velocity on consistent basis, and could stand to do some more studying on left handed pitchers, but every now and then a gorgeous swing can turn a kid into a star. I think this one is a star.
My favorite part about Lonnie Chisenhall being a top prospect at third, is that we have another potential all star prospect at second, Jason Kipnis.
Kipnis is a converted outfielder who didn’t do anything last year except surprise the organization with his range at second base and hit .307 with 16 HRs and 74 RBI in 133 games, topping out in AA Akron in 2010. Between his big league eye, above average defensive ability and consistent, efficient plate appearances, look for Jason Kipnis to spend some time in the bigs this year. I’m excited about this kid, and so is ESPN’s Keith Law, who said in his Top 100 Prospects Column of Kipnis, “At worst he’s just an everyday guy at second, but there’s All-Star potential here as well.”
Now that we’ve covered a solid foundation for the Indians infield of the future, let’s take a peak at our top pitching prospect, Drew Pomeranz. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little less excited about the prospects of our pitching staff, but even going back to the 90s Tribe heydays, questionable pitching is nothing new.
Pomeranz, at 6 foot 5 and 230 pounds, is about as intimidating as it gets when he steps up to the rubber, but control issues prevent him from capitalizing on his stature like Randy Johnson did. The consensus opinion on Pomeranz is that velocity topping out in the mid 90s and mechanics as complicated as the plot of Inception will not only keep him out of the big leagues until 2012, but also probably keep him out of the top spot in the rotation.
I’m not saying that I don’t like Drew Pomeranz, because I think he could be a solid addition to the middle of the rotation by the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012, but I’m seriously excited about Chisenhall and KipniÂ And, really, you should be, too.
After all, that’s what February is for a baseball fan, being excited about potential.