Next week, I’ll be back with an original column, concentrating on some players that have surfaced since this review was written, along with comments on minor-league vets and Rule 5 candidates.

(Originally posted on July 15 and July 22, 2003 at this address)

Reviewing the 40-Man Roster: The Half-Way Point

In addition to adding stats to practically all the players in the organization, I’m also adding some commentary on each individual player. I’m starting with the players currently on the 40-man roster (and the disabled list), and I’ll do this twice a season to give future readers some sort of baseline on which to judge that particular player. Next week, I’ll start on the 2003 Rule 5 class (players eligible for the Rule 5 draft), and then work my way down towards the short-season players.

The Pitchers

(Stats through July 7, 2003)

Brian Anderson (Age 31) Starter

CLE 99.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 36 SO, 20 BB, .292 BAA

2003 Salary: $1.5M

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Doing exactly what the Indians wanted of him, and even more. He’s scattered several good to great starts throughout the first couple months, and has made himself a commodity this July. While the temptation to trade him is justified, the Indians have the luxury of waiting until the right deal comes along. Anderson is a local guy, and would even accept a bullpen role with Indians in the future, although I find that hard to believe. However, just about every contender needs a pitcher, and come the end of July, some prospects may be available that wouldn’t normally be.

Danys Baez (Age 25) Closer

CLE 42.0 IP, 3.43 ERA, 34 SO, 13 BB, .203 BAA

2003 Salary: $5.125M

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

He’s had his blowups, including a total meltdown against the Mariners early in the year, but for the most part has been an effective albeit overpaid closer. His contract is up at the end of the year, and may or may not be eligible for arbitration, so his salary will continue to go up from now on. With at least $12M (1/4 of the team salary) invested in Baez and Wickman next year, Baez might be shopped after the season.

Update (9-15-03): Baez is no longer the closer, and I’m beginning to doubt whether he’ll be with the team next year.

Jason Bere (Age 32) Starter

2003 Salary: $1M

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Pitched only two games before his season was ended with an arm injury. The Indians only owe him $1M, but it’s still wasted money.

Rafael Betancourt (Age 28) Long Relief

BUF 6.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 6 SO, 3 BB

AKR 45.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 75 SO, 13 BB

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Another flyer that has paid dividends, Betancourt can be a useful spare part in what’s becoming a pretty good bullpen. Like Casey Blake, he’ll be very affordable for the next couple years, as he’s just made his MLB debut and has at least two more seasons making the minimum. Whether he’ll be around is another story, however, and it looks like the Indians are using the rest of the season to find out. Along with Jason Boyd and Jack Cressend, Betancourt has shown that you don’t have to spend millions or trade prospects in order to have an effective bullpen.

Jason Boyd (Age 30) 7th/8th Innings Specialist

CLE 30.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 22 SO, 13 BB, .182 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

One of the bigger surprises of the season, Boyd solidified the bullpen after its horrendous April. He’s made himself into a part of the bullpen’s future, and a big reason why Dan Miceli was traded away.

Fernando Cabrera (Age 21) AA Closer

AA 84.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 88 SO, 31 BB, .231 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Just moved to closer in Akron after a pretty good stint as a starter. I’m not a fan of making good starters into closers, but with all of the starters in the high minors, Cabrera will get to Cleveland much faster as a bullpen arm. He certainly has the prerequisites of the perfect closer: outstanding K/BB ratio, a blazing fastball with a very good curve. How far he progresses as a closer will determine how long Baez sticks around. As it is, he probably needs an entire season as a closer, and that means he probably won’t be ready until sometime during the 2004 season.

Jack Cressend (Age 28) Long Relief

CLE 2.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 2 SO, 0 BB, .222 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Technically he’s still rehabbing his arm from last season’s surgery, but his recovery is almost complete. When completely healthy, his fastball will gain a mph or two. The Indians claimed him off waivers last winter when the Twins tried to sneak him off their 40-man roster, another “free talent” pickup that’s contributing in the bullpen.

Francisco Cruceta (Age 21) AA Starter

AA 90.0 IP, 3.20 ERA, 75 SO, 37 BB, .234 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

A high-ceiling arm, Cruceta is a very raw talent right now, and is working on some mechanical issues. There’s no real reason to rush him to Cleveland, so his ETA will be 2004 or later. If he develops, he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter. The other player in the Paul Shuey trade, but in the future we may refer to that trade as the Cruceta trade.

Jason Davis (Age 23) Starter

CLE 99.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 53 SO, 28 BB, .276 BAA

2003 Salary: $301,100

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

The most consistent of the rookie arms thus far, and the owner of an impressive fastball and a very good sinker. The mediocre numbers you see are a product of a downright horrible first couple of starts; since then, he’s pitched on par with C.C. Sabathia. The scary thing is that he’s still projectable, only one year removed from Kinston. The Indians should err on the side of caution and shut him down in late August or early September, for he’s on pace to throw over 200 innings, bad pizza for a rookie starter.

Dave Elder (Age 26) Long Relief

CLE 2.1 IP, 19.29 ERA, 3 SO, 4 BB, .417 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Sidelined with rotator cuff tendonitis, Elder is done for the 2003 season. During his 2002 stint with the Indians, he was pretty impressive, and he should be back next year to fight for a spot in the bullpen. Any production the Indians get from him will be gravy, since he was what Cleveland got for the infamous John Rocker in 2002.

Jeremy Guthrie (Age 24) AAA Starter

BUF 50.1 IP, 6.79 ERA, 31 SO, 12 BB, .325 BAA

AKR 62.2 IP, 1.44 ERA, 35 SO, 14 BB, .196 BAA

2003 Salary: NA

Signed through: 2006

A tale of two affiliates. Jeremy blew through the Eastern League, and has been hit hard by AAA. Jeremy is in his first year of professional baseball, so he’ll be treated with kid gloves, and probably won’t see Cleveland this year, not even as a September call-up. Assuming he figures out AAA hitters, he’s a possibility to break camp next year with the big club.

Alex Herrera (Age 26) LOOGY

CLE 6.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 5 SO, 5 BB, .174 BAA

BUF 37.0 IP, 5.35 ERA, 33 SO, 31 BB, .221 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Once considered a top prospect, Alex aged three years before the 2002 season. Now those microscopic numbers he put up in the low minors indicated domination by an older player rather than lights-out stuff. However, his stuff is still good, judging by his BAA; it’s his walks that have killed him thus far. The Indians have brought him up to be the token match up guy, and also to find out once and for all if he can get major league hitters out. If not, he may be headed off the 40-man roster, for the Indians once again have a lot of minor-leaguers to protect for the Rule 5 Draft.

Cliff Lee (Age 24) AAA Starter

CLE 6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 SO, 3 BB, .150 BAA

BUF 29.2 IP, 2.12 ERA, 29 SO, 14 BB, .243 BAA

AKR 12.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 13 SO, 4 BB, .167 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Would have started the year with Cleveland, but an oblique muscle sidelined him for two months. Now he has a hernia problem, and the Indians are trying to let him finish the year without aggravating the injury. Lee is probably the best of this year’s crop of starting pitchers. He has four quality pitches, but sometimes has issues locating them. Along with Billy Traber and C.C. Sabathia, Lee could give the Indians three southpaws with three totally different pitching styles.

Terry Mulholland (Age 40) Innings Eater Extraordinaire

CLE 52.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 20 SO, 24 BB, .292 BAA

2003 Salary:

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Has been extremely valuable to the Indians, in that he’s eaten the innings that the Indians don’t want their younger players to. He’s even put up a respectable ERA. Look for him to snag a start or two in September, when some young arms are shut down. A much better “salary dump” than Lee Stevens.

David Riske (Age 26) 8th Inning Specialist

CLE 42.0 IP, 2.88 IP, 43 SO, 11 BB, .215 BAA

2003 Salary: $314,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Finally healthy, Riske is delivering on the promise he showed a couple of years ago. For now, he’s one of the best set-up men in the league, and he’s going to be affordable for another couple of years. A big contributor to his success this year has been the development of a splitter, and has made his fastball that much tougher to get on top of.

C.C. Sabathia (Age 22) Starter

CLE 110.0 IP, 3.27 ERA, 72 SO, 36 BB, .248 BAA

2003 Salary: $1.1M

Signed through: 2005 (TO for 2006)

Built off last year’s second-half success, and has put it all together. Even though the Indians had to be represented in the All-Star game, Sabathia certainly was worthy of the selection. Now the biggest issue with Sabathia is keeping his innings and weight down. He’s on pace to throw 220 innings this year, and he’s only 22, still the youngest member of the pitching staff. While he’s in his third season, the statistics tell us that any pitcher under 25 has an elevated chance of arm injury, especially when combined with high pitch counts and high inning totals.

Carl Sadler (Age 26) AAA Reliever

BUF 23.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, 11 SO, 12 BB, .323 BAA

2003 Salary: $303,200

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Yes, those numbers are ugly. Sadler has been probably the biggest pitching disappointment of the season. If Herrera (or someone else) works out, expect him to be Outrighted after the season, if not sooner. At his age, being smacked around by AAA hitting is not a good sign.

Jason Stanford (Age 26) AAA Starter

BUF 99.0 IP, 3.18 ERA, 82 SO, 21 BB, .257 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

One of the nicer stories around, Jason was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indians, and has worked his way up the ladder, defying the odds at each rung. His upside is probably as a 5th starter, but with the Indians, he may not get much of a shot at the rotation. He’d be a nice fit as a long-man/spot starter. However, I’m not going to bet against him if he’s got this far already.

Brian Tallet (Age 25) AAA Starter

BUF 70.0 IP, 4.76 ERA, 59 SO, 31 BB, .260 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

A bit of a disappointment thus far. He’s really picked a bad time to have a below-average season, as Billy Traber has solidified a rotation spot in Cleveland, and Jason Stanford is probably ahead of him on the depth chart now. With more pitching coming from below, Tallet needs to come back with a good July and August in order to keep himself in the rotation hunt, or he may find himself shipped off to another organization or tossed into the bullpen.

Billy Traber (Age 23) Starter

CLE 57.0 IP, 4.89 ERA, 49 SO, 29 BB, .291 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He’s finally been added to the rotation, and has responded pretty well. He was put into the bullpen as a long-man to begin the season, and was adequate, but has shown that he’s much more valuable pitching every fifth day. Last week, he mystified the Yankees in a one-hit gem, but has scattered in a shelling or two. At age 23, he’s a polished pitcher, and the Moyer comparisons only get stronger the more quality outings he puts together.

Jake Westbrook (Age 25) Starter/Long-man

CLE 61.1 IP, 4.55 ERA, 24 SO, 22 BB, .298 BAA

2003 Salary: $305,500

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

For now, he’s back in the rotation after an exile to the bullpen. He’s one year removed from an arm injury, and the Indians don’t want him to pile up that many innings. Westbrook is a ground ball pitcher, and when he’s on, he’s something to watch. If he can build back his arm strength, he could be a useful back-of-rotation or bullpen arm.

Bob Wickman (Age 34) Closer

DNP (Injured)

2003 Salary: $6.0M

Signed through: 2004 (TO for 2005)

With Baez being the closer of the present, and Cabrera being the closer of the future, Wickman may find himself playing out his contract as a set-up man. He had Tommy John Surgery after the 2002 season, and looks to be on pace to contribute next year. If the Indians find a buyer for him (and his contract), they won’t hesitate to send him on his way.

Mark Wohlers (Age 33) 8th Inning Specialist

DNP (Injured)

2003 Salary: $2.6M

Signed through: 2003 (TO for 2004)

The easiest decision Mark Shapiro will make this off-season will be to turn down Wohlers’ 2004 option with a $1.0M buyout instead of paying an exorbitant $8.0M to retain his services for 2004. He wasn’t really needed last year, and Shapiro seems to have learned his lesson on giving role players multi-year contracts. After he is exorcised from the team, only Wickman, Gutierrez, and Lawton remain on the salary dump to-do list.

The Hitters

(Stats through July 7)

Josh Bard (Age 25) AAA Catcher

CLE 206 AB, .228/.280/.316, 9 2B, 3 HR

2003 Salary: $302,100

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Recently optioned to Buffalo, for two reasons. One, he still has some offensive deficiencies, and two, the Indians wanted to see what Victor Martinez can do. At this point, Bard projects as a very capable backup catcher, unless he suddenly ups his OPS 100 points or so. He is a very accomplished defensive catcher, so the Indians may experiment in the future with spotting Martinez at DH once or twice a week.

Casey Blake (Age 29)

CLE 268 AB, .269/.331/.451, 19 2B, 10 HR

2003 Salary: $330,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Blake, after a bad start, has really done a good job at third, providing decent defense with some power, exactly what the Indians needed from him. If he can put these numbers up consistently for the next couple of years, the Indians can afford to be patient with Peralta/Smith/Whitney or whoever is the current “Third Baseman of the Future”. A minor-league free agent from the Twins system, Blake will be a bargain for the next two years.

Milton Bradley (Age 25) Center Fielder

CLE 266 AB, .346/.451/.534, 27 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $314,300

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible or Renewable Contract)

Easily the best player on the Indians, and should have been an All-Star based on his numbers. Milton has finally delivered on the 5-tool promise he showed during his Montreal days, and has become the leader of the new Indians. As always, his baggage continues to follow him, and may have been a big reason why he was left off the All-Star team. That’s unfortunate, because it takes away from people seeing how talented he is. One of the more intense players in baseball, I don’t see any regression from him, especially since the All-Star snub.

Ben Broussard (Age 26) First Baseman

CLE 157 AB, .255/.330/.414, 8 2B, 5 HR

2003 Salary: $303,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

I’m not entirely sold on him yet, but he has shown some signs of breaking out. When Travis Hafner, his main competition, went down with a foot injury, Broussard has given the Indians occasional power along with a decent average. He’s kept the strikeouts in check, although his walks are down a little from his minor-league averages. With Matt Lawton gone for a month, the Indians have an opportunity to place Broussard and Hafner in the lineup together and make a real comparison.

Ellis Burks (Age 38) Designated Hitter

CLE 198 AB, .258/.355/.414, 11 2B, 6 HR

2003 Salary: $7.167M

Signed through: 2003 (TO for 2004)

May have played his last game as an Indian. Although his presence in the clubhouse has been very much needed, and he’s expressed an interest in returning, Burks’ contract is really unnecessary, especially as a DH. With Travis Hafner and a slew of outfielders (including Matt Lawton), the Indians won’t have a problem in finding someone to DH. Having said that, Burks is one of those guys you want to make an exception for; he’s one of the good guys in baseball. Deciding whether or not to pick up Burks’ 2004 option will be one of Shapiro’s toughest decisions after the season.

Ryan Church (Age 24) AA Outfielder

AKR 247 AB, .259/.337/.462, 13 2B, 11 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

This season has been tough for Ryan, as he’s had to struggle through injuries from the start. Currently on the DL for a couple weeks because of a hand injury. A converted pitcher, Ryan as a very good outfield arm, and is looked at as major-league right fielder. With Jody Gerut’s emergence, and all of the other outfield prospects in AAA and AA, his path to the Indians is full of hurdles, but he’s made it onto the 40-man roster, and will certainly get a look in September.

Covelli Crisp (Age 23) Left Fielder

CLE 102 AB, .225/.286/.314, 3 2B, 0 HR

BUF 225 AB, .360/.434/.511, 19 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He isn’t going to be a center fielder if the Indians can help it, so he’s going to have to cause enough havoc on the bases to justify him playing a corner outfield position. The way things look, he has the rest of the year to prove his worth. If he does stick, he’ll give the Indians an outfield with exceptional range. Left field is probably the best place for Crisp considering his lack of arm strength. With Escobar, Church, and Sizemore close, Coco may eventually lose his starting job if his on-base numbers don’t improve quickly.

Alex Escobar (Age 24) AAA Outfielder

BUF 313 AB, .243/.291/.438, 15 2B, 14 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Tons of potential, and tons of strikeouts. Escobar is basically on a one-year rehab assignment after various problems kept him from taking a single at-bat in 2002, including political unrest in his native Venezuela. After a horrendous start to the season, Escobar has slowly began to put up respectable and even promising numbers. This is his last option year, and the Indians have to carry him on their roster in 2004, which is why the Indians want to accumulate as many at-bats in Buffalo as possible. A center fielder with Alex’s power is very rare, and the Indians are going to give him every opportunity to succeed.

Luis Garcia (Age 24) AAA First Baseman

BUF 276 AB, .236/.277/.399, 22 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)


Unless Garcia comes back with a monster second-half in Buffalo, he may be stuck there for a while. With Broussard and Hafner in Cleveland, as well as others such as Matt Knox and Michael Aubrey below him, Luis didn’t have much of an opportunity to make the club, and the window is closing rapidly. His plate discipline has been Escobar-like (67 SO, 14 BB) without the home runs or the knee injury excuse.

Update (9-15-03): Luis Garcia has been outrighted off the 40-man roster, so he’ll stay with the organization for the time being.

Jody Gerut (Age 25) Right Fielder

CLE 194 AB, .278/.329/.515, 17 2B, 9 HR

BUF 65 AB, .277/.377/.585, 5 2B, 5 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Probably the biggest surprise of the year. The one thing Gerut lacked as an outfielder was power, and he came in Spring Training with it. Although he was sent to Buffalo to start the season, he was the first outfielder recalled (over Crisp), and has responded by putting up numbers that makes him a Rookie of the Year candidate. Along with his very nice slugging percentage, Gerut is an outstanding all-around fielder, and is a very polished baseball player. The Indians may have found themselves a core player.

Ricky Gutierrez (Age 33) Infielder

CLE 33 AB, .242/.316/.333, 3 2B, 0 HR

2003 Salary: $3.916M

Signed through: 2004 (TO for 2005)

Coming back from the spinal injury last year is very commendable, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be a useful infielder, much less worth the money he’s getting this year and next year. He no longer has the range to play short, and doesn’t have enough power to play third on a regular basis, so he’ll probably be an expensive utility player until his contract is up.

Travis Hafner (Age 26) Designated Hitter/First Baseman

CLE 104 AB, .221/.289/.423, 9 2B, 4 HR

BUF 85 AB, .294/.459/.412, 4 2B, 0 HR

2003 Salary: $302,200

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Hafner started slow, got injured, and then lost his job to Ben Broussard. With the Lawton injury, Hafner’s going to get a chance to DH for at least a month. In his short rehab stint at Buffalo, he took 25! walks along with 23 SO. In a perfect world, the Indians would like Hafner to DH, as his first base skills are marginal at best. But with Lawton presumably returning next year, he may have to beat out Broussard in order to get playing time

Tim Laker (Age 33) Backup Catcher

CLE 93 AB, .247/.278/.387, 7 2B, 2 HR

2003 Salary: $400,000

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

A pretty serviceable backup, especially considering all he’s went through in the past year. Whether he’ll be back next year will depend on what role the Indians see Josh Bard playing, which is hopefully the backup to Victor Martinez.

Matt Lawton (Age 31) Designated Hitter/Stationary Object

CLE 311 AB, .248/.342/.434, 16 2B, 14 HR

2003 Salary: $6.75M

Signed through: 2005

Matt was on his way to having a career year, and thoughts began flying around that Shapiro could trade him if he ate his Wheaties. But, alas; Lawton dislocated a finger while swinging a bat, and is out until the middle to end of August. So it looks like the long-awaited trade may have to wait until 2004. While Lawton is a nice bat to have in the lineup, his being here really doesn’t mesh with what the Indians are doing.

Update (9-15-03): Lawton is done for the season, as his finger still hasn’t healed. Meh.

Ryan Ludwick (Age 25) Corner Outfielder/DH

PCL (OKL) 317 AB, .303/.372/.558, 24 2B, 17 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Picked up from the Rangers for Shane Spencer and Ricardo Rodriguez, Ludwick is a much needed right-handed power bat. Rodriguez is a steep price to pay, but he’s displayed legitimate power numbers through every stop in the minors, and gives the Indians something they really didn’t have before. He isn’t the on-base machine that Hafner can be, but probably projects as having a bit more power. For now, he’ll alternate between the outfield and DH, one more piece of Shapiro’s master plan to acquire every masher the Rangers have.

Victor Martinez (Age 24) Catcher

CLE 26 AB, .231/.259/.308, 2 2B, 0 HR

BUF 274 AB, .328/.395/.474, 19 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Victor had absolutely nothing to prove offensively in Buffalo, so now he’s in the majors. Thus far, Victor has seen a lot of off-speed pitches, as his reputation has preceded him to Cleveland. When (not if) he adjusts, he’ll be one of the best offensive catchers in the league. His defensive game is not as good as Bard’s is, but he’s closed the gap a little, which should be enough to make him the permanent catcher.

John McDonald (Age 28) Utility Infielder

CLE 123 AB, .252/.288/.341, 6 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $314,400

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

The same rules apply to John as has been his entire career:

1) He’s an outstanding defensive player

2) He can’t hit for average or for power

So he’ll remain a weekend warrior with Cleveland until he gets too expensive, which may start happening soon, if he does in fact qualify for arbitration. With Vizquel’s recent knee problems and Phillips’ recent demotion, this may be John’s last chance to play everyday in an Indians uniform.

Jhonny Peralta (Age 21) Shortstop/Third Baseman

CLE 34 AB, .176/.222/.176, 0 2B, 0 2B

BUF 237 AB, .257/.310/.329, 12 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Peralta is probably the most underrated prospect in the system, partly because he came from the DSL, and partly because no one really knows at what position he’s going to end up. Right now, he’s the youngest position player in the American League, and he really isn’t ready yet. He has the range and arm to play third or short, but he may grow out of shortstop and develop enough power to play the hot corner. While Vizquel is rehabbing his knee, Peralta will suffice defensively at short, and won’t hit. Don’t write him off, though; in a couple years, you might not recognize the finished product.

Brandon Phillips (Age 22) Second Baseman

CLE 280 AB, .211/.242/.307, 13 2B, 4 HR

2003 Salary: $300,900

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Brandon Phillips was not demoted to Buffalo because of his defense (which was stellar) or his attitude (which was great). He was demoted because he had huge holes in his swing, and they needed to be fixed in a low-pressure environment. Too many times we expect plug-and-play pieces to the puzzle direct from the minors, but in most cases, prospects take a while (and sometimes a demotion) to become what we think they’ll be. In retrospect, the Indians got a little greedy with Phillips, and should have let him spend a couple months in Buffalo perfecting his swing before calling him up to Cleveland. They did this with Victor Martinez, although for a different reason. True, seeing John McDonald at second everyday may frustrate fans (me included), but it will pay off in the long run, when games will actually mean something more beyond player development opportunities.

Angel Santos (Age 23) Middle Infielder

PAW 228 AB, .237/.340/.355, 9 2B, 6 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

The PTBNL from the Jamie Brown trade to Boston, Santos is a very interesting prospect. He’ll take a walk, will hit for power, and is young enough to allow for some improvement. Added to the 40-man Roster in the wake of Ricky Gutierrez having more problems with his spinal cord, he should provide what Gutierrez did for a fraction of the cost, and could eventually make John McDonald expendable. And he’s 10 times better than…

Zach Sorensen (Age 26) Utility Player/Placeholder

CLE 22 AB, .182/.280/.316, 0 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He can’t hit, and he isn’t known for his glove, so why is he up here? Well, mainly because the Indians don’t want to bring a real prospect up only to have him sit on the bench, and because he can easily be outrighted at a moments’ notice. Or maybe Shapiro wanted to validate the 1998 Draft by bringing up the 2nd Round pick up. Well, CC Sabathia was the 1st Round pick in 1998, so it can’t be that. Maybe it’s because he can play a zillion positions and isn’t really good at any of them. In other words, Bill Selby’s successor. Ugh.

Omar Vizquel (Age 36) Shortstop

CLE 231 AB, .255/.332/.351, 12 2B, 2 HR

2003 Salary: $5.75M

Signed through: 2004 (Mutual Option for 2005)

Vizquel is out at least a month with a knee problem, the latest victim of the contagious Veteran Disease that’s ravished this team. In all probability, Vizquel will be back for the 2004 season, but it’s doubtful he’ll stick around beyond that. He’s still a magician at short, but he’s lost a step or two, and the average will probably continue to decline. It would be nice to have at least one of the main cogs of the mid-90s teams to retire as an Indian, though I have a feeling Omar wants to stick around as long as he can play. Regardless, it’s still a pleasure to watch Vizquel play the game. If he played 10 years ago, he’d have a ticket to the Hall of Fame, but with today’s slugger shortstops, he’s a marginal candidate at best.

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