A complete collapse from contention combined with September call ups leads the Cleveland Indians looking to the future, but who realistically figures into the Tribe teams of tomorrow? The Indians added infielder Cord Phelps, outfielder Vinny Rottino, starter David Huff, and reliever Scott Maine to the expanded big league roster Monday, September 3. They join previous September call ups relievers Scott Barnes, Frank Herrmann and outfielders Thomas Neal, Russ Canzler.
Looking at the individuals promoted September 3, I wonder who possesses a future with the Cleveland Indians. Personally I think Cord Phelps and David Huff maintain the greatest challenges to enjoy a big league career in Cleveland. Phelps mainly played second base for the Indians' class AAA affiliate Columbus Clippers, but in college he spent time at shortstop and third base too.
Unfortunately for Cord Phelps, all three infield positions seem locked up to at least after the 2014 season. 2012 marks second baseman Jason Kipnis's first full MLB campaign and he earned his spot for years to come. Two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera doesn't become a free agent until following the 2014 season.
"Tribe's third baseman of the future" remains a phrase used to describe youngster Lonnie Chisenhall. So far in 90 big league games between 2011 and 2012 Chisenhall bats .261 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs, and 31 RBIs.
To date David Huff's professional baseball career peaked in 2009 when Huff led the Indians in victories with 11. Overall that season he went 11-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 23 starts. A year later he went 2-11 with a 6.21 ERA in 15 starts. He started 10 games for Cleveland in 2011 going 2-6 with a 4.09 ERA. While his ERA improved in 2011, guys like Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco appear favorites for nailing down long-term starting rotation spots.
First base, outfield, and the bullpen seem the most likely areas for a player to secure a tenured roster spot. Judging by 2012 big league performances so far I think Russ Canzler owns an advantage over former starting first baseman Matt LaPorta.
Another factor working in Canzler's favor, he can additionally play left field and right field. Currently the Cleveland Indians' outfield outlook remains bleak past 2013 when right fielder Shin-Soo Choo becomes a free agent. Center fielder Michael Brantley provides the only outfield certainty beyond 2013 unless Canzler, Ezequiel Carrera, Thomas Neal, and/or Vinny Rottino prove themselves.
Personally I hope Cleveland tries to acquire an experienced outfielder via free agency. Ideally, Cleveland can come to terms on a contract extension with Shin-Soo Choo. Yes, I know that's highly unlikely. Give me a break though. I said ideally, not realistically.
Finally, let us talk about the possible openings in the bullpen. Southpaw Rafael Perez's injury plagued 2012 could cause the Indians to seriously consider a new lefty specialist to accompany Tony Sipp in the bullpen. Scott Barnes and Scott Maine provide potential lefty specialists. Closer Chris Perez can test free agency after 2014. If Perez goes elsewhere, current setup man Vinnie Pestano will likely take over the closer role. This enables an opportunity for the impressive Cody Allen to win the setup role. An Allen-Pestano pairing could probably dominate like today's Pestano-Perez duo does.
Zachary Fenell fell in love with the Cleveland Indians during the 1995 season when the Tribe powered their way to the organization's first World Series appearance since 1954. While the Indians lost some allure since the 1990s you will still find Zachary watching the games on TV, listening to them on the radio, or best yet taking in a game from the stands at Progressive Field.
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