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Inbox: Have infield prospects broken through?

Inbox: Have infield prospects broken through?

After five seasons, tens of thousands of questions received and a few too many "Weekend at Bernie's 2" references, it's time for me to get ready to throw an "Under New Ownership" sign in front of the Indians Inbox.

My role with MLB.com is shifting from that of your devoted Tribe scribe to one involving more national features and columns, which means I'll no longer be using this space to answer your Indians-related inquiries. This week, you'll begin seeing more of Jordan Bastian's byline on Indians.com. We've sneaked Jordan, a native Chicagoan, back across the border from Toronto, where he has spent the last five years covering the Blue Jays for MLB.com. He's a good writer and a dogged reporter, and he's hungry to earn your respect. I hope and trust you'll read him regularly, follow him on Twitter (@MLBastian) and treat him as well as you've treated me.

I am pleased to be leaving this beat in such capable hands, and I am doubly pleased to inform you that our reader-writer relationship doesn't end here. For one, I'll continue to handle the Inbox duties for the next couple of weeks, leading up to the Winter Meetings. But I'll also remain Cleveland-based and continue to weigh in, year-round, on all things Tribe on my CastroTurf blog and my Twitter account, @Castrovince. And you'll, of course, continue to see my writing at MLB.com and Indians.com.

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Having been born and raised here in Cleveland, covering my hometown team has been a thrill, made all the better by our banter in this space and on the blog. I want to thank you, sincerely, for putting up with my diversions and digressions, politely pointing out and correcting my few (and by few, I mean many) mistakes and voicing your appreciation for the hard work, late hours and crazy travel that go into doing this job right. I hope you've had as much fun as I have, because, in the end, that's what it's all about.

All right, enough with the programming note. Let's get back to work.

Have a question about the Indians?
Jordan BastianE-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Question:

After scuffling for years, both Jared Goedert and Josh Rodriguez blossomed last year at Triple-A Columbus. Are either in the team's plans for 2011?
-- Doug K., Hagerstown, Md.

Both those guys are Rule 5 Draft eligible, both turned in strong 2010 seasons after enduring injuries and ineffectiveness in '08 and '09, and both have a better chance of breaking into the big leagues as utility players than as everyday options.

Goedert was a true source of fascination with the pop he showed in the first half at Double-A Akron and Columbus, but his numbers tailed off considerably in the second half, and he was shaky defensively at third. He had a .918 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he saw some time at first. He could eventually emerge as a corner infield utility option, akin to the role Andy Marte played this past year, but with limited space on the roster, I'm not sure the Indians will protect him.

Rodriguez is also on the protection bubble. After beginning the season in Akron, he hit .293 with 23 doubles, 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 86 games with Columbus. His ability to play short, second, third and the outfield is a big plus and might go a long way toward him getting 40-man protection. We all know how much the Indians value versatility.

While we're on the Rule 5 topic -- an apropos one, given that the Indians must make their roster decisions by the end of the week -- it's worth noting that left-hander Nick Hagadone and right-handers Adam Miller, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Josh Judy are all intriguing candidates for protection. It's not outside of the realm of possibility that the Indians will protect all five of those pitchers. Hagadone, Kluber and McAllister are all recent trade acquisitions, Miller is working his way back from four finger surgeries, and Judy is an emerging relief option.

Is there a service requirement to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft? I see many of the best prospects missing from the 40-man roster.
-- Lou K., Durham, N.C.

Yes. Players signed before they turn 19 are eligible after they've been in the organization for five years, if they're not on the 40-man. Those signed at 19 or older are eligible after four years, if they're not on the 40-man.

From the stats I've seen so far, it looks like Marte either matched or beat the numbers of Jayson Nix, and he's younger. Since Marte definitely has the better glove, was it just personality that made him more expendable? Perhaps the Tribe just became too impatient with him over the long haul, giving up more for him than they spent on Nix? Or was it because Nix is more versatile as a utility infielder?
-- Rob F., Ashtabula, Ohio

The Indians ran out of time with Marte. Or maybe he ran out of time with them. Either way, the issue here was not patience, as Cleveland showed plenty of that. The issue was that Marte is arbitration-eligible. The club saw no sense in offering a substantial raise to a guy who has not made adjustments at the Major League level and who underperformed so thoroughly and consistently over the past five years. Hard to blame them for that.

Marte, who owns a .635 career OPS in 301 games, is now a Minor League free agent. Nix is considered the top internal candidate at third base, but he has a lot of work to do at the position this winter if he's going to stick.

I was looking at the new uniform combinations and was wondering whether the team is trying to phase out the Chief Wahoo logo, as it will no longer be on the primary road cap. I think the block "C" is very bland-looking and wish they would just stick with Chief Wahoo.
-- Nick Q., Twinsburg, Ohio

Well, in one sense, I see where you're coming from, Nick, as Wahoo has moved to the road alternate cap. But in another sense, let's remember that Wahoo remains on the Indians' primary home cap, and the logo is on the left sleeve of all four Tribe uniforms. So if you love Wahoo, he's easily found. And if you hate him, well, just focus on the players' right biceps instead of the left, I guess.

Speaking of jerseys...

I am a huge Tribe fan and have been for a long time. I loved the team during the good times and more so during the bad. I want to get a new Indians jersey to show my Tribe pride, but I don't know what player to represent, especially since they might not be here for the long haul. I want to go on a limb and get the Carlos Santana jersey, because he is young and has a lot potential, but I'm not sure if he is even signed to a long-term deal. Who do you think has biggest chance of staying with the Tribe long-term?
-- Pablo D., Fremont, Calif.

Before I answer this question, I must follow procedure and offer the surgeon general's warning on these matters, which is that there are no sure things in sports jersey purchases. When my nephew turned 6 a couple of years ago and I bought him a replica Grady Sizemore jersey, I had no idea that I should have paired it with a replica set of crutches.

But at least Sizemore's still on the team. When covering the National League Championship Series a few weeks ago, I saw a few Phillies fans wearing their Cliff Lee jerseys from last fall. Embarrassing? Perhaps. But they were just trying to get some return on their ill-fated investment.

Anyway, as far as Indians jerseys are concerned, Santana would seem to be the safest bet, as he's a major talent and under Tribe control for six more seasons. Getting six years out of a replica jersey is about the equivalent of getting 150,000 miles out of a car. If you do it, you've done all right.

Not sure I like the newly unveiled alternate uniforms. Any chance the Indians plan on bringing back the red uniforms from the late 1970s? I think they look good. I mean, really good. Hey everyone, come see how good they look!
-- Jason G., Harrisburg, Pa.

I don't know you, Jason, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest you've probably had better ideas. Regardless, "Anchorman" references are always encouraged.

I just want to clear this up. Assuming Carlos "Supernatural" Santana is not physically able to be the Opening Day catcher and we don't sign another Mike Redmond, is it going to be Lou Marson who will hold the spot in the meantime? Because Lou may be an awful hitter, but he seems to be stellar behind the plate.
-- Buck, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Indians are operating this offseason under the assumption that Santana will be good to go by Opening Day. That said, if their treatment of the Matt LaPorta rehab situation last winter -- when Russell Branyan was brought in at the beginning of spring camp -- is any indication, there's always a chance that they might make a play for a veteran option at the bottom of the free-agent barrel, should Santana take a step back in his recovery.

But for now, I see the Indians sticking with what they've got behind the plate. As you mentioned, Marson is a highly capable defender behind the plate at the big league level, but he obviously needs quite a bit of fine-tuning at the plate if he's ever going to be more than a backup. He would have an opportunity to play more than the average backup here, because Santana is expected to see some time at first base, a la Victor Martinez, to take the wear and tear off his body.

And finally...

Now that ESPN has dismissed Joe Morgan, are you going to throw your hat in the ring to be a commentator on "Sunday Night Baseball"? (George: "I could do something in sports. ... Maybe I could be an announcer. Like a color man. You know how I always make those interesting comments during a game?" Jerry: "Well, they tend to give those jobs to ex-ballplayers and people that are, you know, in broadcasting.")
-- John L., San Diego

It's a fine suggestion, John. But I'm afraid I don't have the flash to succeed in such a role. Maybe if I had a cool catchphrase, such as "Gene Tenace at the plate ... WHAMMY!"

That's all for this week, folks. I've got two more Inboxes in me, set to run Nov. 22 and 29, so please keep the questions coming for me and for Jordan.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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