Tag: Jayson Nix

Tampa Bay Rays: Can Jayson Nix Make the Opening Day Roster?

The Tampa Bay Rays have most of their roster spots already locked in for 2014.

Unless a player like Sean Rodriguez has a completely terrible spring, there are only two spots available on the 25-man roster. Those openings are for the final bench player and final reliever.

Jeremy Hellickson’s surgery has opened a need for a fifth starter; though that position is a temporary fill until he returns in May.

Jayson Nix is working to solidify himself for the final bench position.

Working to his advantage is his ability to play multiple positions. The majority of his career (300 games out of 405) he has played either third base (179 games) or second base (121 games). In addition, he has appeared in 83 games at shortstop and 22 games as a corner outfielder.

Being able to play multiple positions fits perfectly into the Rays’ mold. Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist are other players on the roster who provide manager Joe Maddon with the flexibility to move them around to create the best lineup overall.

So far this spring training, Maddon has been impressed with the effort of Nix, as he explained to Joe Smith from the Tampa Bay Times.

This guy is an uber professional. That’s all he’s about. He just wants to play the game, play it right, be part of a group and understand what the overall philosophy is. I’ve known him for a week, I feel like I’ve known him for the last 10 years. Any manager, any organization would love to have him within the group. He is that guy.

Injuries are an important factor that can increase the odds that Nix makes the roster.

The loss of Tim Beckham for the year creates an additional need for a versatile infielder. Rays prospect Hak-Ju Lee is recovering from a knee injury sustained last year in Triple-A Durham.

Another asset he brings to the table is consistent defense. He has a career .967 fielding percentage over his six seasons in the majors. At second base, he excels with a .988 fielding percentage.

One area of concern is the lack of offensive production.

He has a career .218/.290/.358 line. Last season, he had 80 strikeouts in 87 games with the New York Yankees.

Nix will have to edge out other infielders including Logan Forsythe and Vince Belnome, who are also competing in spring training to make the Opening Day roster.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.


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MLB Spring Training: Cleveland Indians Make Same Mistake With Orlando Cabrera

The official web site of the Cleveland Indians has Orlando Cabrera listed as the starting second baseman for the club. This confirms what has been suspected since the signing was announced last week.

For the most part, reaction to the signing has been positive. All I’m hearing about is how great a player Cabrera is and how he’s a big addition to the 2011 team. Did you know he’s been to the playoffs six of the last seven years? I’ve heard about it ad infinitum.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I really don’t see the purpose of this signing. All I see is the Indians once again refusing to just embrace the youth movement they’re trying to sell to the public. How are we supposed to believe in it when even the people in charge don’t?

Orlando Cabrera has never been a great hitter. In his 14 season career, the 36-year-old has only had an OPS+ above 100 (or above average) once, way back in 2003. Last year’s OPS+ of 78 hardly inspires confidence that Cabrera will be an average hitter in 2011.

The official Indians press release touts the fact that Cabrera is a “two-time Rawlings Gold winner.” The Gold Gloves sound great, but Cabrera’s defense has declined significantly in the past two years. His dWAR (Wins Above Replacement strictly from defense) was -2.9 in 2009 and 2010.

He may have won Gold Gloves in 2001 and 2007, but the 2011 version of Orlando Cabrera isn’t the fielder he used to be. Moving to second base isn’t going to fix everything.

The real problem with the Cabrera signing is his age. Like the Russell Branyan signing, which took playing time away from Matt LaPorta last year, the Indians keep telling us how excited they are about their young prospects while they sign veterans to play over them.

Maybe the Cabrera signing would make more sense if he were coming off of a great 2010 campaign. The fact is, he isn’t.

In the second half last year, Cabrera had a .348 OBP and a .763 OPS. Too bad in the first half he only had a .283 OBP and a .612 OPS. On the year, he was only worth 0.4 WAR, not very impressive at all.

In fact, in the past two seasons, Cabrera’s WAR has been a nice, round 0.0. Even Jayson Nix, who I don’t think has any real future with the Indians, has a 1.0 WAR in the past two seasons.

Orlando Cabrera has literally only been playing at the level of a AAA call-up in the past two years. With that being the case, what’s so wrong with just playing Jason Kipnis? He’d probably play at the same level. At the very least, the Indians should give Jayson Nix another chance to prove himself instead of bringing in Cabrera.

I know that the contract is only $1 million for one year; I know that Orlando Cabrera is great in the clubhouse and I know that he’s got great playoff pedigree, but none of that really matters. If the Indians were one piece from competing, maybe this would make sense. If this were five years ago, this signing would make sense.

As it is, the team that is constantly complaining about lack of money is just wasting it here.

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Cleveland Indians: Why Jason Kipnis Will Be a Breakout Star in 2011

With all of the attention put on the search for a third baseman, the Cleveland Indians might have just as much of a problem at second base this year.

Maybe the hole that is second base is being forgotten because some of the candidates for the third base job (Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena) are originally second basemen. This compounds the problem, though. Nix and Valbuena probably should not be starters at either position.

The only other candidate currently officially in the mix is Jason Donald. While he is a good player with a 94 OPS+ and 0.8 wins above replacement in 88 games last year, the Indians don’t seem to be married to starting him.

Instead of hoping that one of these three players suddenly establishes themselves, the Indians should see what Jason Kipnis can do with the job.

Though young, Jason Kipnis has all of the tools needed to make the transition to major league starter. He hasn’t had a batting average below .300, an on-base percentage below .385, a slugging percentage below .459 or an OPS below .847 at any minor league level.

What makes Kipnis’ performance even more impressive is that he’s done it while learning a new position. In college at Arizona State, Kipnis played center field. Transitioning from outfield to infield is difficult to say the least, and Kipnis has done very well at it.

Not only has Kipnis’ offense not suffered in the slightest during his defensive transition, he also looks like a second baseman. I watched him play numerous games at Akron this year, and I would have never guessed that he was a converted outfielder.

Admittedly, I am a defensive purist who would rather see a 2-1 game than an 11-10 one. I love watching great defense, and that’s one of the things that stood out to me about Kipnis. He fields his position well and does a good job turning the double play. Any flaws in his defense are minimal. With the level Kipnis plays at offensively, any minimal defensive flaws don’t matter enough to keep him down.

When Kipnis was called up to the Columbus Clippers for the AAA International League playoffs, he took his game to another level. In seven games, Kipnis had a 1.199 OPS and hit for the cycle during the series’ clincher.

Clearly, Jason Kipnis does not shrink away from pressure. There seems to be no reason that he wouldn’t embrace the challenge of being the Indians’ everyday second baseman and run with it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that he will get the chance out of the gate this year.

Cleveland Indians farm director Ross Atkins says that “we’ve found there’s just a lot less pressure on a young player when they start in the minors rather than have them on the Opening Day roster.”

I don’t care that he goes on to say that Jason Kipnis could be an exception to that rule; that rule is ridiculous. These players are being paid to play baseball, with the ultimate goal of making the big league club. Making the Opening Day roster should be a reward for hard work.

Maybe Atkins and the Tribe are trying to protect prospects debuting in the major league. When a young prospect struggles out of the gate, he can lose his job and be sent back to AAA. This creates immense pressure on prospects to prove themselves immediately.

Things rarely go well right out of the gate for prospects. Basically from the start, they are playing scared. Prospects press because of the fear of losing their jobs.

My point is if a team would just commit to the prospect from the start, he would be fine. Tell him that he is the starter and they are sticking with him, and then back it up. This eliminates most of the pressure problem.

This rule that young players should start the season in the minors, and then get called up doesn’t make sense. Prospects don’t become miraculously ready after a month in the minors; if they’re ready in May, then they’re ready a month earlier on Opening Day.

Hopefully, the Indians aren’t blinded by their arbitrary rules and see that Jason Kipnis is the best option they have at second base in 2011. Why delay the future for players who probably won’t be around for much longer? Let’s see what Kipnis has to offer the Tribe, now and in the future.

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Tribe Talk: Summing Up What Went So Colossally Wrong For The Indians This Season

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

With the Tribe’s disappointing 2010 season finally winding down, it’s time to take a look at each facet of the Indians’ play and take our best guesses as to what went so terribly wrong in each area specifically, and more importantly, why. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants, Lewie Pollis, The Coop, and Nino Colla, for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. What went so wrong with the defense?

Samantha Bunten: It boils down to two things: horrible, horrible errors at extremely critical points in games, and the three-headed monster known as “Nimartuena” wreaking havoc at third base.

Throw in the fact that the team’s two best defenders (Sizemore and Cabrera) were both seriously injured, and it’s not surprising the defense leads the league in errors. 

Nino Colla: Asdrubal Cabrera got hurt, Grady Sizemore got hurt, and the Indians were playing Jhonny Peralta and “Nimartuena” at third. Seriously, that’s what happened. 

Cabrera is the anchor of the infield, he makes everyone better. Sizemore is the anchor in the outfield and even when he was playing, he was hurt.

For my money, those are your two best defensive players and they missed time, one more than the other, but they still missed time. 

Then you try and make someone like Jayson Nix a third baseman and he undergoes what you should have expected, a period of adjustment.

Then you try and shuffle in Marte in random spots and how can you expect someone to play consistent defense when they aren’t playing consistently?

Then you have Valbuena, and I won’t even bother disclosing why that is a bad idea. 

For the most part, the defense was good early, then it just fell off the track. Making big errors in big spots was the biggest thing, then they just started coming in bunches as the two guys mentioned above started to drop off.

Lewie Pollis: FanGraphs’ Bryan Smith wrote a great article before the season about the Tribe’s “bold strategy” of having three natural shortstops (Cabrera, Peralta, and Valbuena) around the infield. The problem was, all three are poor defenders. 

For all his flash, Cabrera really needs to improve his range. I don’t want to relive the horrors of Peralta’s miserable glove, but it seemed somehow fitting when Jayson Nix made an error at third base the night after he was traded. 

The outfield is a mess, too. Aside from Choo (the only player on the team with a UZR over 4.0), Sizemore, Brown, Brantley, and Kearns have all left something to be desired. Then there’s Trevor Crowe’s -34.2 UZR/150 in center field.

The Coop: There’s an old adage that says good defenses are built up the middle, and if you believe that, then look no further. 

The revolving door that is the Indians’ infield is not very talented with the leather, and this is the biggest culprit for the Indians lackluster defense.

They’re not the worst I’ve ever seen, but when you grow up watching Carlos Baerga and Omar Vizquel, you have an understanding about what a good defense can do for a team. 

Stability has obviously been a problem, and that starts with the double play duo. At short, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Donald have been awful. At second, Luis Valbuena is good with the glove, but he is disastrous at the plate, and this has kept him out of the lineup. 

Meanwhile, Donald is better than he is at short, but that’s not saying much. Even tossing in third base, Jayson Nix makes Jhonny Peralta look like Brooks Robinson. 

And of course, another major reason for the poor defense is the absence of Grady Sizemore. It certainly doesn’t help to have a Gold Glover out of the lineup, personal feelings aside.


2. What went so wrong with the offense? 

Samantha Bunten: An exceptionally slow start killed momentum early to such a degree that I’m not sure the Indians ever really came back from it. 

Injuries and a revolving door of slumping players resulted in large number of roster members not seeing consistent plate appearances, which made it difficult for many of them to settle in and find their stroke. 

As a group, their pitch selection regressed from last season, as most of the lineup waffled back and forth between not being aggressive enough and waiting on walks and flailing at anything within three feet of the plate.

Also, there was a glaring lack of power hitting from the middle of the order.

Nino Colla: Early it was bad and I don’t think anyone knows why. 

Okay, so Sizemore was gone and hurt, Branyan took awhile to get going after he even got back, Peralta was up to his usual early tricks, and Cabrera was sub-par early. 

It just didn’t click from the start and then you started replacing the pieces you were counting on to be reliable and that is when your offense goes to hell in a hand-basket. Simple as that.

Lewie Pollis: Every single position player the we’ve had has either plain-old played poorly, gotten injured, or both. I have nothing more to say.

The Coop: No power hitting. You can keep your small-ball if you want. I’ll take doubles, homers, and runs batted in. 

Sure, base stealing, moving runners, and taking extra bases is important. But for as much effort as it takes for a small-ball offense to manufacturer one run, a team with some power hitters can change an entire game with one swing of the bat.

Hey, you might not necessarily guarantee yourself a playoff spot with good power numbers, but you will definitely guarantee yourself mediocrity or worse without them.

Of the teams that rank in the bottom 10 of the majors in home runs and slugging percentage, only one (San Diego) is in a pennant chase right now. The Indians have absolutely no one who strikes fear in an opposing pitcher. 

They have three guys with double-digits in home runs and probably no one that will finish with more than 100 runs batted in, and no one with a slugging percentage over .500. That’s just not going to cut it.


3. What went so wrong with the starting pitching? 

Samantha Bunten: Let’s begin with the fact that the Tribe spent way too much of the season with two guys in the rotation who didn’t belong there.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, Masterson belonged in the bullpen. At the risk of beating a dead mule, Huff should probably never have been in the majors in the first place. 

That said, starting pitching wasn’t the team’s biggest problem. The starters for the most part did a fair job, except maybe for the lack of ability to go deep into games in terms of innings. 

A team with starters who can’t go more than five or six innings requires a far stronger bullpen than the one we had. The fact that the bullpen couldn’t back up them up was probably the biggest overall problem for the starters, aside from issuing too many walks.

Nino Colla:  I don’t think anything went wrong here. It went as well you could have expected things to go if you ask me. 

This was the doom and gloom part of the team and they ended up being one of the most stable units on the club from start to finish.

They had rough patches, but they were the only thing worth watching early in the season and right now, they are showing some promise with young guys like Jeanmar Gomez and Carlos Carrasco pitching very well. 

The one thing that I think did go wrong overall was David Huff. The way his season played out was not ideal and definitely opposite of what I expected.

I thought he was going to play a major part in this rotation and establish himself as one of the guys for this team now and in the future. Now his status is in serious doubt after he’s put himself in Acta’s dog house and consistently denied doing things the organization’s way. 

I’m worried about his future because I think he has the potential to be a part of this rotation, but he may be damaging the relationship beyond repair.

Lewie Pollis: The rotation’s collective 5.3 K/9 rate was the lowest in baseball, and our 3.5 BB/9 rate was the worst in the AL. The solution is simple: throw some strikes.

The Coop: More than anything else, I believe that pitching (and getting good at pitching) takes time, patience, and experience. So at the risk of breaking your rule about not blaming youth and inexperience anymore, I believe that this is the only thing that held the Indians back. 

Other than that, I would say the starting pitching was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal year. They are definitely talented, so I think the future is very bright for the Indians’ rotation in years to come.

If I had to place blame on anything, I would say that David Huff was a major disappointment, and that the team has wasted time on having Justin Masterson in the rotation and not the bullpen (c’mon, you knew it was coming).


4. What went so wrong with the relief pitching? 

Samantha Bunten: First of all, “Kerry Wood” and “Good Bullpen” are two mutually exclusive entities. The Indians rode the sinking ship that is Kerry Wood far too long, and they ended up drowning. 

Generally speaking, the biggest problem was the ungodly number of walks issued late in games. With an offense largely unable to overcome any sort of deficit in the late innings, the last thing the bullpen should be doing is issuing free passes. 

Throw strikes. Force your opponent to swing and put the bat on the ball well enough to earn their way to first base. The Indians’ bullpen doesn’t post nearly enough strikeouts to cede as many walks as they have. 

Nino Colla: Early on I think they had no stable chain of command. Even though Perez was a semi-stable option early, the lead-up to him was weakened by him moving to that closer’s role. 

Believe it or not, whether you like him or hate him, Wood returning to the role sort of stabilized everything because Perez moved back and made the chain stronger.

Now Perez is back in the role and the options leading up to him are much stronger, which is why I think the bullpen has been very successful since that point Wood was traded. 

Particularly, Jensen Lewis and Jess Todd’s outcomes were not pleasing. I think the club mistreated Lewis and I think that situation isn’t going to end ideally. Todd’s progression in Columbus was disappointing, and I expected more from him in the major leagues.

Lewie Pollis: When a team’s closer posts a 6.30 ERA and the bullpen combines to walk almost a batter every two innings, what do you expect? 

Really, though, for a rebuilding team with no hope of contending, this shouldn’t have been where we put our resources anyway.

The Coop: Geez, it should be easier to be critical with a team this bad, but I’d say the relief pitching wasn’t too bad this year either. 

The biggest problem was that the Indians held onto Kerry Wood too long (obviously in an attempt to get some trade value for him, which now remains to be seen). However, this year’s bullpen was definitely an upgrade over the past few years. 

Depth might be the biggest “problem” with this unit. I said at the beginning of the season that I wanted Chris Perez to be the closer, and he has done a very good job with the opportunity.

I think he’s the closer of the immediate future, until a certain current starter is moved to the bullpen and groomed for the job. 

As for the other guys, Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez are certainly capable major league relievers. This is another group that I think has potential for the long-run.

5. What went so wrong with the base running? 

Samantha Bunten: This is by far the least concerning area of the Indians’ game. The base running wasn’t that bad, and it was also sort of hog-tied by the lack of hitting in that if our players can’t get themselves a single or a walk in the first place, then they won’t be getting a good jump off the bag or stealing second. Duh. 

I look at it like this: I’m all for small ball and manufacturing runs, but in order to do that successfully, you need to have the kind of lineup that boasts hitters top to bottom who consistently get themselves on base. 

And let’s face it: if anyone could actually hit the ball out of the infield with any sort of regularity, then runs would cross the plate whether the base running was exceptionally good or not. 

At the end of the day though, we can always blame Trevor.

Nino Colla: I would say this was a stronger part of the team. It is an overlooked aspect, but this club was good in this department. 

It was good to see Acta employ some tactics like hit and run and moving base runners and it was good to see some execution on the club’s part.

Of course, a lot of that had to do with the type of talent on the club vs. the talent that used to be on the club, but Acta seems like the one to do this stuff regardless. 

Choo’s aggressiveness got him into some boneheaded situations, but overall, nothing to complain about. Steve Smith seems like a solid guy at third. I would like to see Brantley run more, but he has to get on base, which is the biggest issue for him not running as much as you would like.

Lewie Pollis: I don’t think the baserunning has been that bad. Sure, Lou Marson and Matt LaPorta look like they have refrigerators on their backs while they sprint, but this is far from my biggest area of concern.

The Coop: Nothing. Jhonny Peralta had an inside-the-park home run. That trumps anything negative that you could possibly say!

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