This week's edition of Five Questions with Ross Atkins was done via a phone conversation.
Q) Akron 3B Jared Goedert just had his 21-game hit streak come to an end, just one hit shy of tying the franchise record. He is a solid defender at third base who is a bit overshadowed by prospect Lonnie Chisenhall (first-round 2008). What does Goedert need to do to in order to continue moving through the system and how is Chisenhall's progress?
A) Jared's hitting streak was impressive, as has been his season so far. With Lonnie's (strained right shoulder) injury, it gave Jared more everyday time at third base, where he has been a good defender. Lonnie was having a strong start to the season (batting .358 on April 25th) before his arm began to bother him (and it dropped to .261), so there appears to be a direct correlation between the two. Now, that's he's feeling better, we look for him to pick up where he left off.
Q) We've asked you previously about the incredible run RHP Frank Herrmann is having at Triple-A Columbus, going 3-0 with a 0.31 ERA in 19 appearances. Yet, when a reliever was needed last week, Jensen Lewis rejoined the Indians.
A) Frank is indeed having a fine season at Columbus, and his numbers demand a lot of consideration (for a major league promotion). The big difference between he and Jensen right now are that Jensen is on on the 40-man roster and has a track record in the big leagues.
Q) Double-A Akron has gone from having one of the worst pitching staff's in the Eastern League to suddenly boasting three of the organization's top starters in LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, RHP Alex White and LHP Nick Hagadone. Can you quickly discuss the strengths of the trio of new hurlers expected to make an immediate impact on the Aeros.
A) All three promotions were made based on individual assessments of what was best for the player, and all three were ready to move to the next level and be challenged. However, if the by-product of their promotions helps the team overall, then it's a win-win situation.
Q) Despite those top three pitchers in Akron, there's one guy quietly having a good season who few fans have ever heard of in RHP Paolo Espino (6-2, 3.45 ERA). Yet, he was recently moved to the bullpen when Nick Hagadone was promoted to Akron.
A) Paolo has enjoyed a good start to the season. However, with Nick Hagadone's promotion to Akron earlier in the week, he will now piggy back with Hagadone (who remains on a strict 80-pitch limit) and come in the game in a relief role. Paolo is one of those players who is going to have to continually out-perform his competition because his ceiling isn't as high as others.
Q) 2B Jason Kipnis is having a solid start to the season at high Class-A Kinston, batting .299 in 47 games with eight doubles, three triples, six home runs and 30 RBI. Is he close to moving or does he need a full season at Kinston? He appears to be blocked at Double-A Akron by 2B Cord Phelps, who is batting .301 in 49 games with eight doubles, three triples, two homers and 23 RBI.
A) In a situation where you have two players at the same position performing well, the biggest question is whether the player at the higher level (in this case Phelps) ready for the next step not only offensively, but defensively as well? With both players young in their professional baseball careers, it won't hurt to have them spend a full season at their respective levels. However, their performances over the next few months could dictate a move, a bridge we'll cross when we get there.