Puddle Jumping (2/14): Tribe, Billy Butler, Joaquin Benoit and Chris Sale

Welcome to Puddle Jumping!

Going forward and every so often (hopefully at least once a week) I will link to various AL Central related articles and news items from a variety of different sources. In most cases I will also provide some thoughts, analysis or reaction to each of the links because I’m not a fan of simply regurgitating some links.

To kick off Puddle Jumping, I decided to go with a “local” feel and focus on some content from the other FanSided AL Central sites.

God bless Jon Rudder for his optimism about the Cleveland Indians. I admire fans and writers that can start to get fired up about their team despite all the evidence that they’re probably not going to be very good. From my perspective, Grady Sizemore just isn’t the same player that he once was and I don’t think all of his decline can be attributed to the injuries. It’s hard to not like Shin Soo Choo considering he is probably the division’s best all-around outfielder and Carlos Santana figures to be a force the moment he gets back in the lineup, but beyond that what do they have? Matt LaPorta might start to figure it out and could be a decent asset. Asdrubal Cabrera is a solid major league SS but doesn’t stand out in any one area and lacks game changing speed or power. I know Fausto Carmona gets quite a bit of love from some folks, but to me he’s a back of the rotation guy with peripheral stats that don’t suggest much of a ceiling. He’s put together 1 good, 1 average and 3 bad seasons far and it hasn’t been a smooth ride thus far. Chris Perez had a nice year as the team’s closer last year but he clearly falls behind Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan (if healthy) in the division. He could fall to 4th best in the AL Central if Chris Sale winds up closing games in Chicago. I’d slot him ahead of Valerde in Detroit, but there is something to be said for the fact that “Papa Grande” has been a well above average reliever in 7 of his 8 major league seasons.

Again, I admire the optimism but the reality is that the Indians will once again be battling the Royals for 4th place.

Speaking of the Royals, Gage Matthews broke down Billy Butler‘s offensive performance as a 1B and as a DH in a recent article. Back in 2009 when Mike Jacobs was the starting 1B and Billy was the primary DH I wrote a similar article showing that Butler hit much better while playing in the field. The Royals quickly figured this out and since neither Jacobs or Butler could field very well, they did the right thing and made the switch. The difference between then and now is that Kila Ka’aihue is a more capable fielder than Butler while Billy is more experienced and mature as a hittier and professional ballplayer. The other huge factor is Eric Hosmer who happens to be  a very good defensive 1B and far more natural athlete. Hosmer figures to break into the major leagues as early as this summer and that coupled with the need to see what Kila can do means it is time for the Royals to slot Billy into the role of full-time DH. Hopefully he will embrace and adapt to the position because he is a very exciting player to watch at the plate.

When the Detroit Tigers signed Joaquin Benoit to a 3-year $16.5 million contract I was taken aback. I think it is foolish for any team to give a reliever – who is not going to be a closer – a 3+ year contract with a hefty price tag. Relievers are, by and large, schizophrenic in their results and performances from year to year. They are also imminently replaceable as a commodity if you have shrewd scouting, an organizational pitching philosophy and a quality coaching staff. John Parent does an excellent job of citing the reason why the Tigers signed him and the impact his addition has on the rest of their bullpen. I completely agree with his assessment, but it doesn’t change the fact that Detroit vastly overpaid in the process. Then again, compared to Rafael Soriano‘s 3-year $35 million deal with the Yankees, Benoit looks like a bargain.

Southside Showdown has been without a capable captain for much of its lifespan but now the site has two quality and capable writers to lead the site forward. Travis was kind enough to touch on a player that is near and dear to my heart, Chris Sale. Last year as the draft was approaching I was hoping the Royals would take him 4th overall and there were indications in the week leading up to the draft that my hope was going to become a reality. Then things started to shift and Christian Colon‘s name started to creep into the mix. When the Royals actually selected Colon I reeled off a string of profanities in a live Call to the Pen draft chat. I was not happy because I felt Dayton Moore and Kansas City settled for an inferior player. Colon did his part to show that I was wrong in my assessment of him, but no matter how things turn out and no matter what he does as a player, he will never have the ceiling and potential of Chris Sale. Of course Sale, proceeded to blow through the minors and then pitch 23.1 innings in the majors with an outstanding 229 ERA+ as a 21-year old. I’ve always thought of Chris Sale as a starter, but Travis is wise to caution fans (and me) with the example of Joba Chamberlain and I have to admit I am intrigued to see what he could do as the team’s closer.

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Topics: AL Central, Billy Butler, Chicago White Sox, Chris Sale, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Joaquin Benoit, Kansas City Royals

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