Weekend Update 4/19
April 19, 2008
To recap, I wrote this on Thursday:
Francisco was understandably disappointed to not make the Indians opening day roster, and it has shown early on. He has struckout three times in each of the last two games, and he now has a team high 17 strikeouts in 49 at bats. This is not the kind of hitter he is, and clearly shows how much he is pressing. He has been getting some extra work in with coaches, with the main focus to get him to relax and stay within himself, but so far nothing has worked. At this point there is not much else to do except hope he catches a spark and it gets him going.
Francisco's troubles and frustration bring to light a problem with the organization at the moment. In the last few years, the Indians have sent some of their big league ready prospects in a return trip to Buffalo because they opted to sign or keep an over-the-hill veteran. This is clearly something that has to stop, as it is frustrating the players and also is creating a ridiculous logjam in the upper levels of the system. Players like Francisco should be on a major league roster, there just is no excuse for it. And this problem not only is in Buffalo, but is shared throughout the system all the way down to Kinston. A lot of players are being forced to repeat a level because the Triple-A and major league team is loaded with a bunch of retread veterans trying to hang onto their baseball careers. The Indians fascination with depth has certainly reached the overkill stage.
After writing that I got a ton of e-mail replies challenging my opinion on the situation.
First things first, Francisco is merely an example here. I mentioned his struggles and how he was disappointed with being back in Buffalo, and in doing so felt it was a good opportunity to get some thoughts out on the philosophy of the organization and how they handle their players. I could substitute Francisco with a lot of players. It could be Randy Newsom or Jeff Stevens, two relievers who should be in Buffalo but are in Akron because of guys like Elarton, Harris, Bauer and Ginter in Buffalo. I could mention guys like Trevor Crowe or Ryan Goleski who should be in Buffalo, but instead they are in Akron because Jason Tyner and Jason Cooper are in Buffalo. These are just a few other examples, as the choices on how to handle the guys between Akron and Buffalo trickles down to Kinston as there are some guys there who may deserve to be in Akron.
The point of all this is that the system is top heavy, and mostly the result of a ridiculous fascination with "depth" with minor league contract signings like Jeff Harris, Matt Ginter, Scott Elarton, Rick Bauer, Aaron Herr, Danny Sandoval, Jason Tyner and so on. Now, some minor league vet signings make sense to fill gaps (Herr at 3B, Sandoval at SS), but it is overkill on the Buffalo roster. And, as a result of that, it creates a big logjam that trickles down to Akron and Kinston.....all for what exactly? If the Indians need to rely on guys like Bauer, Ginter, etc at some point, we are in trouble.
While my rant is an opinion of the situation, there is some basis behind it. I talked to a lot of players during and after spring training this year. Lots. I have talked to several of the players who were released, and several of the players who were assigned to full season clubs. I have heard from all sides of the spectrum, but one of the common themes in those conversations on and off the record is that a lot of players are frustrated with where they were placed this year. Some shrug it off, others don't. Yes, this sort of reaction is to be expected as everyone believes they should be a level higher than they are, and they will still be a professional and go out and do their best, but the point is the frustration is legit and concerning. All because of the logjam created by so many needless "depth" pieces stashed away at Buffalo or stuck on the Cleveland roster.
The Indians player development staff does an unbelievable job in getting these guys prepared to compete and understanding what they need to do to get better and meet the expectations of the organization. But I really believe the infatuation by the major league staff to have so much "veteran" depth at the Triple-A level is handcuffing the player development staff somewhat by creating a huge logjam of players we need to find out about and start making some decisions on. Is Ryan Goleski a worthwhile prospect? Is Michael Aubrey worth keeping on the roster this year or in Cleveland next year? Is Trevor Crowe ready for the next level? Is Jeff Stevens the next Jensen Lewis? Is Ben Francisco a better player than Jason Michaels? Bottom line, how do we find these things out unless they are challenged and pushed a little more?
These are just a few examples of questions we will not find out about unless we push these guys along. But, it seems all too often of late we don't find out for sure one way or the other and they eventually run out of time here and end up in another organization, or they only get a shot because of an injury to someone on the major league or Triple-A roster.
I have interviews with Jerad Head, Paolo Espino and Carlton Smith from my trip to Woodbridge, VA last weekend set to post sometime tomorrow or Monday.
Also, I was in Lake County tonight to see the Captains play. Left-handed start Ryan Miller was filthy, as was the relief combo of Josh Judy and Vinnie Pestano. I talked briefly to a scout in attendance, and he said that this pitching staff from top to bottom is something to be excited about. Some real gems. And, I certainly believe it. They may not score many runs this year, but this pitching staff is going to be a blast to follow all year.
I also talked to Matt Brown, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Archer tonight, and will have player features on them next week sometime.
Next weekend, I will see Akron in action.