RHP Jason Davis – Age 24
2004 Salary: $326,800
2004 VORP: -1.8 (114.1 IP)
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2005)
For all the ability he has, Davis has yet to put it to good use. He crashed and burned early in 2004, was tried out in the bullpen late in the year, and for the time being still considered a starter. He’s still young enough where he can make a career for himself, but time is of the essence. His strikeout rates were abyssmal, and his mid-90s fastball didn’t miss many bats; he gave up 11.7 hits per 9 innings. As with a lot of young, tall, pitchers, Davis’ mechanics are his biggest issue. Fixing Jason Davis should be near the top of Carl Willis’ to-do list when February rolls around. Don’t write Davis off just yet, but by the same token, don’t expect a quick rebound either; this is going to take some time.
OF Jody Gerut – Age 27
2004 Salary: $325,600
2004 VORP: .256 (481 AB)
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2005 or 2006)
Even before his knee injury in September, Gerut was one of the few Indian hitters having a disappointing season. His power had dropped considerably, and he was hitting .252 at the time. If you split the difference between his first two campaigns, you find an average major-league fourth outfielder. Gerut was probably the teams’ best defensive player, and can play all three outfield positions well. He’s projected to be game-worthy around June, so look for Gerut some time after the All-Star Break. When he does return, the state of the outfield will dictate where and how much he plays. Sizemore and Crisp are by no means sure things in center and left, and Matt Lawton is a lame duck. Ryan Ludwick and Gerut could form a nice platoon combination eventually, but the chances of both being healthy and affordable at the same time are remote.
LHP Mariano Gomez – Age 22
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2007)
I pegged Gomez as one of my sleeper picks in my Spring Training preview. Unfortunately, a bizzare injury to a ligament in one of his fingers nagged Gomez all through the 2004 campaign. He pitched a grand total of 22.1 innings, mostly with Akron, and got smacked around. If the ligament is all right, Gomez will go back to Akron in 2005 and work his way up the organizational ladder.
RHP Jeremy Guthrie – Age 25
2004 Salary: ~$300,000
2004 VORP: 2.1 (11.2 IP)
Contract Status: Signed Through 2005 (AE in 2007)
I didn’t plan things this way, but it looks like I’m writing up all the disappointments at once. Guthrie, aside from Davis, was the biggest pitching disappointment in 2004 from a development perspective. Guthrie, who was given an organization-record bonus and a major-league contract in 2002, pitched awfully given his age and level; when a 25-year-old pitches worse in AA than he did at age 24, something is wrong. Given that the Indians are stuck with his contract, they brough Guthrie up to Cleveland in September and had him pitch in relief. I don’t believe that Guthrie is now permanently in the bullpen, but it’s looking more and more that way. Guthrie throws four pitches; one postulated reason for his regression was that he was trying to throw all of them, and in effect having success with none of them. That may be true, but I think it’s more an issue of confidence with Jeremy. It’s real easy to point to a bunch of statistics and say that he didn’t locate his pitches, but the real unknown for us outside observers is what’s going on inside a pitchers’ mind. Francisco Cruceta pitched better in Buffalo than he did in Akron; how do you explain that statistically? The same with Guthrie; if he isn’t injured, if his mechanics are still sound, if he hasn’t lost any velocity off his pitches, what other explanation can you posit?
I’ll cover Kyle Denney as part of my prospect rankings later in the winter.