(Originally posted on June 27, 2003 at this address)

Part I: Cleaning Out Shapiro’s Closet

In one of the more bizarre trades in recent memory, Mark Shapiro moved Karim Garcia and Dan Miceli for apparently nothing more than a small sum of cash or an insignificant player. According to most accounts, Garcia was the player Shapiro was interested in trading, and Miceli was added to get the deal done. (For our purposes, I’ll ignore Miceli as the basis for this trade, as he’s pretty much proven over the course of his career that he’s your garden-variety reliever.) It’s pretty obvious that the deal was done to clear space on the 25-man roster, rather than a salary dump. Coco Crisp was going to be squeezed off the 25-man roster, so Shapiro had a couple of questions to answer:

1) Was Karim Garcia a long-term solution for the Indians?

2) If not, is any increased trade value accrued by playing Garcia worth Coco spending that time in Buffalo?

Obviously, Shapiro answered “no” to the first question. Garcia would have been arbitration-eligible at the end of the year, and eligible for free agency after the 2004 season. It obviously wasn’t worth playing Garcia for two years, taking playing time away from Sizemore, Crisp, Church, and Escobar and seeing Garcia walk just before the team was ready to contend again. This also was an evaluative question as well; Even with Garcia’s monster second-half last year, his career On-Base Percentage is horrendous. The track record for impatient sluggers is not a good one. Note that I’m not equating impatience with strikeouts; rather with the lack of walks. When pitchers figure out that Garcia will swing at just about anything near the strike zone, what’s stopping them from avoiding throwing one close?

Question 2 was tough to answer. If Shapiro had played Garcia for a month, and Karim hit 8 or 9 home runs, the trade value for him would have been much higher, no doubt about it. But was it worth keeping Coco Crisp in Buffalo for a month on the off chance that Karim became a valuable commodity? If Karim was already not in the future plans, why keep him if there’s a possibility of cutting him loose? So the trade happened, and Karim joined a cast of thousands in the Yankee outfield.

And so Coco Crisp will get to play everyday, whether that be in left field or as the designated hitter. If he takes this opportunity to assert himself as a major weapon at the top of the order, the trade will have been a success. Only time will tell, and the Indians have the luxury of taking it.

Part II: A Short Introduction to the Minors

I’ve received a couple suggestions that I include statistics with the player profile, and I’ve started to do so. For some examples, visit the profiles of Milton Bradley, Alex Escobar, and Danys Baez. I’m just not capable of typing out everything about the player, so I stuck to the basics: AB, BA/OBP/SLG, HR, 2B, and SB for the hitters, and IP, ERA, SO, and BB for the pitchers (I may add opponents’ BA in the future for the pitchers). I’ve also included their age (very important for evaluating prospects), as well as an abbreviation of the league they’re in. Some may recognize the abbreviations, but the vast majority of you probably don’t. So here’s a quick introduction to the minor league system, starting at AAA.

AAA

International League (IL)

Pacific Coast League (PCL)

The Indians’ AAA affiliate is the Buffalo Bisons, and they play in the International League. For the most part, AAA is made up of older players that have been in professional baseball for a while. While the Indians were in contention in the late 1990s, Buffalo was stocked with older pitchers and hitters (Jeff Manto, Jason Jacome, Dave Burba, etc) that management could call up and plug in if needed. Recently however, Buffalo’s roster has been almost entirely made up of players 25 years old or younger (Victor Martinez, Coco Crisp, Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee, etc). The average age in AAA is around 23 to 25.

AA

Eastern League (EAST)

Southern League (SOU)

Texas League (TEX)

The Indians’ AA affiliate is the Akron Aeros, and they play in the Eastern League. In recent years, a lot of clubs kept their top prospects here and then sent them to the majors, avoiding AAA. The Indians haven’t necessarily followed this model, although they have made exceptions (Jason Davis, CC Sabathia). The average age is usually 22-23. Grady Sizemore is 20, and he’s more than holding his own; this is why he’s considered a very good prospect, and why other older players putting up similar numbers aren’t.

A+ (Advanced A)

Carolina League (CAR)

California League (CAL)

Florida State League (FSL)

The Indians’ A+ affiliate is the Kinston Indians of the Carolina League. These players could have come directly from the short-season leagues, or from the full season Low A leagues. Usually players are 21-22 years old, although you’ll see some older college players here. The jump from here to AA is probably the most difficult jump in professional baseball, so this is where you separate the real prospects from the pretenders.

A- (Low A)

South Atlantic League (SAL)

Midwest League (MID)

The Indians’ A- affiliate is the Lake County Captains of the South Atlantic League (although they may move to the Midwest League next year). This is the lowest full-season league in professional baseball. Many of these players come from the short-season leagues, and are experiencing a full season for the first time. Players are usually 19-21 years old, although again you’ll see older college players.

SSA (Short-season A)

New York-Penn League (NYPL)

Northwest League (NWL)

The Indians’ SSA affiliate is the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York-Penn League. The season starts in mid-June, just after the draft. The vast majority of players in SSA come from college programs, most of them 20-21 years old.

R+ (Advanced Rookie)

Appalachian League (APP)

Pioneer League (PIO)

The Indians’ Advanced Rookie affiliate is the Burlington Indians of the Appalachian League. The season stats in mid-June, just after the draft. Most of the players at Burlington are high school picks, graduates of the Dominican and Venezuelan academies, as well as a few JUCO draft picks. Because the Indians do not have a “Low Rookie” team, a lot of high school picks and DSL/VSL products are playing against players 1-2 years older.

R- (Low Rookie)

Gulf Coast League (GCL)

Arizona League (AZL)

The Indians do not have a Low Rookie team. Most players in the GCL and AZL are very raw high school or DSL/VSL players 18-19 years old.

Foreign Academies

Dominican Summer League (DSL)

Venezuelan Summer League (VSL)

The Indians have two DSL teams and one VSL team. These players are usually 16-18 years old, and can only spend a maximum 3 years in the academies.

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