The Tweeners

Here’s a list of a few players that probably won’t make the club, but should be key pieces of the 2005 Indians.

C/1B Ryan Garko

If Garko terrorizes the International League, the Indians have a dilemma. Not only do they have to decide whether to bring him up, but they have to figure out how they can use him. Let’s assume that Garko can play two positions (three if you count DH as a position): catcher and first base. The knock on Ryan is that he’s not very good defensively behind the plate. That, combined with the fact that the Indians already have Victor Martinez and Josh Bard on the roster leads me to believe that, barring an injury, he isn’t catching for the Indians any time soon. First base is then the easiest avenue for Ryan to reach Cleveland, but he’s also blocked there. Ben Broussard probably won’t be around for too much longer, but he’s not an offensive albatross. Travis Hafner is probably the full-time DH from here on out, so unless they’re comfortable platooning Ryan with Broussard, Hafner, or both, Garko’s stuck in Buffalo. Compounding things is Michael Aubrey, who could be ready for the bigs by next year. Garko may end up like the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, blocked in his organization by other players. Or maybe the Indians can shoehorn him on the roster as a Matt LeCroy (or even a Josh Phelps) type of player.

RHP Jason Davis

Closer or starter? At this point, Davis is the 6th starter on the staff. Given the injury histories of the rotation members, he might get 10-15 starts before the year’s out. Upper 90s heat tends to make clubs turn guys Davis into closers, and I see his potential there as well. But he still has a lot kinks in his delivery to work out; pitching in shorter spurts isn’t going to completely hide those flaws. Davis still has an option, so the Indians still have some time to think about his some more, whether that be as the 12th pitcher on the staff or in Buffalo. My guess: he fills in for Scott Elarton, loses his job, then finishes the year as a key setup man after a stint with the Bisons.

RHP Kaz Tadano

Like Davis, the Indians still don’t know what to make of Tadano. That’s where the similarities between the pitchers end. Tadano has pretty good control. His issue keeping him from starting is his durability. He may end up having a career similar to his countryman Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who was tried as a starter initially, then settled down into a setup role. Tadano is probably ticketed to Buffalo again, and will probably stay in the rotation as an insurance policy.

2B/SS Brandon Phillips

Reading between the lines, I think Jhonny Peralta is the favorite to win the shortstop job. That leaves Brandon back in Buffalo, where he’ll probably stay unless Peralta or Belliard gets hurt. It’s hard to believe it’s been two seasons since Brandon was essentially given the second base job going into the 2003 season. Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and Phillips will have to bide his time. I wouldn’t surprised if he gets dealt sometime during or after this season, especially if Peralta has a good year. The Indians have Alex Cora for another year, and have a 2006 option on Ronnie Belliard. Neither is what I’d call a long-term solution, but Phillips may not be one either.

OF Grady Sizemore

It’s not his fault, but if Juan Gonzalez is healthy, Grady is going to Buffalo. Personally I’d take him over Coco Crisp, but that isn’t happening. Sizemore is an outstanding fielder, the best the Indians have in the system besides perhaps Franklin Gutierrez, and he wasn’t overpowered at the plate last season. Unlike the other players on this list, Sizemore is going to get his shot sooner or later.

OF Ryan Ludwick

Injuries are the reason Ludwick is on this list. His golden opportunity was last year, when Alex Escobar was flopping in the majors. Now it may be too late for anything beyond a complementary role for Ryan. He should be the fourth outfielder no matter if Gonzalez makes the club or not. He should get fairly regular at-bats against left-handed pitching, but a lot of injuries will have to happen for him to become a regular starter.

RHP Jeremy Guthrie

He’s probably going to Buffalo as well. Guthrie’s career fell off a cliff in late 2003, when he was hammered by AAA hitting. The experience carried over to 2004, where he struggled in AA a year after he dominated there. Now he’s way down on the list of starter candidates, and may be hard-pressed to win a bullpen job.

RHP Fernando Cabrera

Like Sizemore, Cabrera is on this list because there isn’t room for him on the major-league roster. He adjusted well to his new role as a reliever last season, and is pretty much ready for the majors. If the Indians need a reliever early in the year, Cabrera should be the first one called up.

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