Tribe Youth Need to Take Advantage of New Opportunities

By: T.J. Zuppe

As the calendar flips from July to August in Cleveland, the term rebuilding and evaluation has become a staple in the Indians vernacular. For the past three seasons, the final stretch of the season has been roughly the same.

The Indians will have another two-month audition this season to look at young players, and give themselves an idea of who will be part of their core in the near future.

The process started once again in Cleveland for the Tribe, with the trade of first-baseman Russell Branyan before the All-Star break, and now recently with the dealing of third-baseman Jhonny Peralta. Neither seemed to fit into the Indians future plans, and were dealt as a means to open opportunities for younger Indians players.

Either players looking for their first shot with the big club, or others looking to revitalize the opinions of the Indians brass and management, it is certain that over the next two months, they will have several opportunities to impress.

“We’re going to take a look at the internal options we have here,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We know what we’re doing; there is a plan in place.”

Will those options be able to take advantage?

Indians Outfielder Trevor Crowe

Take the case of outfielder Trevor Crowe. Crowe, at one time for the Indians, was expected to compete and eventually become the Tribe’s leadoff hitter of the future. Due to lackluster performance throughout his first couple chances at the big-league level, his stock has fallen in the organization, and was seemingly faded out of the Indians’ future plans.

However, with recent injuries to centerfielder Grady Sizemore, and the ineffectiveness of young-prospect Michael Brantley, the 26-year old Crowe is once again getting an open audition to prove his worth in the bigs.

On Wednesday night against the Yankees, Crowe collected three-hits in four at-bats, while leading off for the Indians. It was the third time this season he accomplished that feat. He also made a stellar play in centerfield, going back and flagging down a ball in deep center in the Indians 8-0 loss at the hands of New York.

On the season, Crowe is hitting .264 in 254 at bats, and has registered some pretty clutch two-out hits this season for the Tribe.

In his last 14 games, Crowe is 17-49 (.378) with four doubles, a triple, a homerun and six runs batted in.

Other youngsters who will earn more playing time include catcher Carlos Santana, who has already made an impact at the big-league level with his stick (.269 – 6 HR – 21 RBI), and also surprisingly, his strong throwing arm behind the dish, gunning down would-be base-stealers.

Also in the mix are infielders Jason Donald (.262 – 2HR – 18 RBI), and Luis Valbuena, who will get their shot at the openings at second and third in the Indians’ infield, after the trade of Peralta.

Can Luis Valbuena Take Advantage of New Playing Time?

“(Valbuena) found his stroke down there (in Columbus),” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. Valbuena was demoted to Class-AAA Columbus earlier this season after only hitting .164 in Cleveland, but was brought back after hitting .313 for the Clippers.

It will be up to Valbuena, however, at the major league level to prove he is deserving of that opportunity, and worthy of taking at-bats away from infielders Andy Marte and Jayson Nix at third, and filling it at second.

This time of year is extremely important to the Indians’ youth. They can provide hope to the future to the Indians’ faithful, but also, and more importantly, begin to put a stamp on their careers in the major leagues, proving they are worthy of such high praise.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

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