Player Reviews: The Renewables, Part 4

Moving on with my quasi-weekly player reviews:

OF Ryan Ludwick – Age 26
2004 Salary: ~$300,000
2004 EQA: .221 (50 AB)
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2006)

Injuries have put Ludwick’s career on hold. After coming over from the Rangers for Ricardo Rodriguez, Ludwick injured his right knee towards the end of the 2003 season, and wasn’t much of a factor in 2004. As things stand right now, he’s the fourth outfielder, and barring a breakout season, looks to stay that way. I like his power a lot, but with Coco Crisp and Grady Sizemore ahead of him on the depth chart, he may not get much playing time, and I’m not even considering Jody Gerut. If the Indians can deal Matt Lawton, he may get more playing time, but if Lawton is dealt, Casey Blake would probably be heading to the outfield. So it looks like Ludwick is stuck in a numbers game, or at best, stuck as a platoon outfielder in 2005.

RHRP Matt Miller – Age 32
2004 Salary: ~$300,000
2004 VORP: 16.6
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2006)

Miller, like Betancourt before him, was plucked out of minor-league free agency and became an effective reliever in the Indians’ bullpen. The sidearmer struck out an impressive 55 batters in 55.1 IP, and allowed only 42 hits. Like most gimmick pitchers, there’s a real possibility teams will figure Matt out eventually, but until they do, Miller should serve nicely a right-handed matchup guy; right-handers hit a paltry .201 against him.

SS Jhonny Peralta – Age 22
2004 Salary: ~$300,000
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2006)

Most likely the next Indians shortstop. Yes, Mark Shapiro is saying publicly that Peralta and Phillips are going to compete for the job, but I think that’s mainly to cover all his bases. Peralta had a far better year than Phillips at Buffalo, posting a major-league equivalent of .256 with the Bisons. Peralta also took home the International League MVP, which is a nice accomplishment considering the he was one of the younger players in AAA. Peralta’s most exciting aspect is his power, although it may take a year or two to manifest itself completely. Peralta is certainly not Vizquel’s equal defensively, but by the same token shouldn’t embarrass himself. While he may eventually move to third, he should be a nice major-league shortsop for the next 3-4 years.

SS Brandon Phillips – Age 23
2004 Salary: ~$300,000
Contract Status: Renewable (AE in 2006)

He recovered somewhat after his [place adjective here] 2003 campaign, in which he hit .208/.242/.311. Just looking at those numbers give me goosebumps; never mind remembering him hit that season. Right now Phillips, assuming he doesn’t beat out Peralta at shortstop, is headed back to Buffalo or will stick in Cleveland as a utility infielder. I’m hoping he doesn’t turn into Enrique Wilson v. 2.0, but that’s what it’s looking like right now. With second base an unsettled issue, Phillips may get another chance in 2006, but not likely this upcoming season; If Belliard doesn’t return, Casey Blake will play there. Coco Crisp opened a lot of eyes after an initial poor showing, and Brandon is definitely young enough to make a nice career for himself. But he has a lot to prove in order to get another chance.

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