Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-03-04 12:51
by Alex Belth


You mean to tell me that baseball exists outside of New York?

How is the rebuilding process coming along in Cleveland? Indians general manager, Mark Shapiro spoke with Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus at length last week.

Terry Pluto re-evaluates the Robbie Alomar trade to the Mets, and he also profiles rookie first baseman Travis Hefner, who is expected to make an impact this year for the Indians.

John Sickels reports that although Tribe fans lost one of their most cherished players in Jim Thome, they have a bonafide prospect in Hefner:

[Hafner has] worked hard to refine his swing, hone his strike zone judgment, and hit the ball to all fields, not just over the fence.

He can still be fooled on occasion, but is good at making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. Hafner destroys mediocre fastballs, and isn't an automatic out against breaking pitches. Some people say he has trouble with plus fastballs, but this hasn't been a problem in the games I've seen him play for Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma. His strike zone judgment is very good.

...Hafner has exceeded 20 homers four years in a row, while increasing his batting averages. His strikeout rate has actually dropped as he's advanced, an excellent sign for his future and statistical evidence of his drive to improve. His MLEs mark him as a .280-.300 hitter with 25-30 homer power at the major league level.

He turns 26 in June, so he has not been young for his leagues. On the other hand, it also means he is physically and emotionally mature and ready for the majors now.

The Indians picked up Hafner when they moved catcher Einar Diaz to Texas. The Rangers already have super-prospects at the corners in Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, so John Hart was willing to part with Hafner. But Hart was also willing to part with Richie Sexson, Sean Casey and Brian Giles when he was with Cleveland. It'll be interesting to see whether or not this deal comes back to bite him in the ass. Having Teixeira and Blalock around probably makes it a worth while gamble.

Only time will tell...

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