I tend to rant a lot about the Cleveland Indians, my hometown team. And, truthfully, I actually think the club’s capable of winning as many as 87 games this season (click here for the extended version or here for just the conclusion).
I’ve gone over this in my head dozens of times, probably dedicating way too much time for something I’ll never understand, let alone control. But I just don’t get it. Lopez, 28, hasn’t been a viable big leaguer since 2009, and then he was barely a league average starter. He owns a pathetic walk rate, 3.7% in 3862 PAs, has been 19% below the league average offensively during his nine-year career, is an average defender (at best), and his career OBP, .293, is, well, laughably bad.
If I had to say something positive about him – only if you held a gun to my head – I guess he can handle three positions decently (first, second, and third bases). But that’s about it.
On the other, Cord Phelps is just wasting away in Triple-A.
Admittedly, he does not have a lot of fans in the scouting community, but he does have plenty in the statistical world. In parts of three seasons in Triple-A (815 PA), he has hit .302/.376/.495, with solid peripherals: 10.2% walk rate, 17.5% strikeout rate, and doubles-power. He’s also split time between second base and shortstop.
With Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis locked in for at least the next couple of years – and Lonnie Chisenhall too, hopefully – it would make sense that the organization is grooming Phelps as a super-utility-type, something that’s been rumored in the Cleveland scene for a while.
Phelps is clearly the better player, by a large margin. So what’s keeping him locked away in the minor leagues?
Is it because the team wants him to gain more experience? Well, he’s approaching about a season-and-a-half worth of Triple-A plate appearances, is already 25-years-old, and has proved he can handle minor league pitching. So it can’t logically be that, right?
Lopez has 21 plate appearances thus far. Prorate that amount over the course of the season – about 160 PAs – add in the impending Travis Hafner injury along with the other dings and dents a team goes through during a season and it’s not unreasonable to expect him to get 250 PAs. That’s approaching super-utility status even with Jason Donald on the roster at the same time.
Look, the difference in terms of wins between Lopez and Phelps is probably one, maybe two. It’s not a significant amount, but it could push the team a little closer to their playoff aspirations. If Phelps stays down in the minors it not only decreases what value he may have in a potential trade, but the team still doesn’t know if he can be anything more than a utility-type.
There’s so many questions I have on this.
Simply put, I’m flummoxed.
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