The emergence of Asdrubal Cabrera forced the Indians to move Jhonny Peralta to third base. Carlos Rivero could force the Indians to make Peralta the player traded in 2010. Rivero, a Venezuelan signee in 2005, has regularly been one of the youngest players in whatever league he has played in. A shortstop, many scouts believe he will be better suited at third. Rivero has batting practice power that has not generated to in-game pop. At Double-A Akron, he hit .242 in 132 games with 24 doubles, 7 homeruns, and 58 RBIs. He also walked 50 times to 73 strikeouts. Ted Kubiak, the Indians minor league defensive coordinator, believes Rivero could be an All-Star because of all the potential that oozes out of the baby-faced Rivero. In the AFL, Rivero hit .318 in 22 games, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homeruns, and 13 RBIs. He has drawn comparisons to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Peralta. The comparisons haven’t gone to his head; they just serve as motivation. He also absorbs instruction like a sponge. Rivero will be given a chance to show off his tools as he has been added to the 40-man roster.
2009 has been eye-popping in terms of Matt McBride. A catcher throughout his career, McBride spent this season in the outfield while with Double-A Akron, which made sense considering who Akron’s starting catcher was (Carlos Santana). To me the 2nd round pick in 2006 out of Lehigh (where he was a Johnny Bench Award finalist) reminds me of another versatile Indians catcher Chris Gimenez, who made it to the big leagues in 2009 playing first base and the outfield. After hitting .405 in High-A Kinston, he was promoted to Double-A Akron, though he struggled a bit (.247 in 98 games with 42 strikeouts). He did hit 29 doubles and 12 homeruns with 63 RBIs. Coming off the Eastern League championship with Akron, McBride joined some of his teammates in Peoria in the AFL. In the AFL, he has been one of the league’s best players. In 22 games, McBride hit .378 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homeruns, and 18 RBIs. He also walked 19 times with just 9 strikeouts. He won the Rising Stars game with a 2-run homer off the Nationals first round pick Drew Storen. McBride has also been nominated for the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. The award is given to the player that best exemplifies hard work, leadership, and unselfishness. With Santana destined for Triple-A Columbus (or the big leagues), McBride could be the starting catcher in Akron. Or they could team him with Santana and get him at-bats in the outfield, as the DH, and at catcher, like the Indians did with Gimenez and Wyatt Toregas in Columbus. He also could be taken in the Rule V draft, as the Indians did not add him to their 40-man roster, and could make another team’s roster out of spring training due to his versatility.
The 2009 season was a bit of a waste for Josh Rodriguez. A hamstring injury cost him most of the season, though he did make it back for Akron’s playoff surge. He played in just 33 games, while hitting .295 with 4 doubles and 12 RBIs (and 23 BB/ 30 K). Drafted as a shortstop in 2006 in the 2nd round out of Rice, Rodriguez played mostly second base with Akron. In the AFL, he has mostly played second and the outfield. He hit .222 in 15 games in the AFL with 3 doubles, a triple, a homerun, and 4 RBIs. However, he walked 5 times compared to the 23 strikeouts. The change in positions is mainly due to his lack of consistency at shortstop and the errors that have mounted each year.
Despite a disappointing first half in terms of overall offensive numbers, Nick Weglarz was still named to the Eastern League All-Star team. Overall in 2009 with Akron, he hit just .227 in 105 games with 17 doubles, 16 homeruns, and 65 RBIs. The impressive numbers are his walks compared to strikeouts (75 BB/ 78 K) for a power hitter. The 3rd round pick out of Canada in 2005 was the Canadian Olympic team’s best hitter in the Olympics in 2008, despite being the second youngest player. Many believed Weglarz was on the same track as Matt LaPorta, who graduated to the big leagues in 2009. In August, Weglarz suffered a leg injury that kept him in a boot throughout the Eastern League playoffs. While trying to play in the AFL, Weglarz was shut down due to the lingering pain and a rod was placed in his leg to stabilize the fracture. He played in just 8 games, hitting .240 with just 1 RBI. However he did walk 7 times, with just 7 strikeouts. Weglarz is expected to be ready for big league spring training, as he was added to the 40-man roster.
When Weglarz was removed from the Peoria roster, the Indians added outfielder Tim Fedroff. Fedroff spent the entire season in High-A Kinston, hitting .278 in 99 games. He added 23 doubles, 4 homeruns, and 39 RBIs. He also had 64 walks (95 K) and 13 stolen bases. At the end of the Carolina League season, Fedroff was named a post-season All-Star. The 7th round pick in 2008 out of North Carolina has good strength and plate discipline. In 10 games in the AFL, he hit just .111 with 2 RBIs.