Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lets Talk Shop

Honestly, is there anyone hotter than Kelly Shoppach right now? Last night's back-breaking two out, two run homer off of Kevin Slowey was a thing of beauty on several levels. Slowey has been the Twins best pitcher of late, coming off a complete game shutout in his last start. If you saw the homer, the pitch was spotted well, low and away, but Shop went with it and took it over the baggie in right, putting the Tribe on top for good 3-1 on their way to a 5-1 win. Coming into the game, The Shop-Vac was hitting .389 since the all-star break, good for fifth in the AL. He has four pizzas in his last five games, and his batting average now sits at a healthy .277 (through Saturday), up 27 points July 21st.

The natural talk these days is that with the Tribe getting little to no production from their bevy of first base options (Ryan Garko, AAA Michael Aubrey and Jordan Brown who hot for little power)and Casey Blake now gone to the left coast, Victor Martinez could be headed to first with Shoppach becoming the regular catcher in 2009. There is no doubt that Shop is forcing the hand of the Indians brass. He clearly is an everyday major league catcher. If you look at the position throughout MLB, you find me 10 better catchers than Kelly Shoppach right now. Here's a quick list of guys in the conversation:

Yankees - Jorge Posada and Pudge The Cancer - Yes, they are both better players, but long-term, you'd rather have the younger Shop than two guys who are at the end of their careers.

Red Sox - Jason Varitek - I don't care what Red Sox Nation says about the impact of Varitek in the clubhouse, they'd take Shop over Tek right now 100% for 2009.

White Sox - AJ Pierzynski - Having a career year. Probably has the edge over Shop on experience. He's a veteran, but not old.

Twins - Joe Mauer - Next.

Braves - Brian McCann - An offensive young stud.

Cubs - Geovanny Soto - A Rookie All-star. Age 25, hitting .275, 17 HR, 60 RBI. But who's to say Shop couldn't do the same if he were an everyday catcher in that Cubs lineup?

Pirates - Ryan Doumit - Like Shop, finally getting his first taste of everyday action. Showing his raw-power. He and Shop may be a wash.

Dodgers - Russell Martin - Like with Mauer, No contest here.

So what do the Indians do in 2009 at the catching position? A lot of it falls on what else happens in the offseason. There is no doubt that wholesale changes must be made. There are huge holes at 1B, 3B, and at least one corner OF spot. But if you can get a guy like an Adam Dunn for left field, there is no reason for Shoppach to be catching four-five games a week, with Victor at first, also serving as a two-game a week guy behind the dish.

Some will say Vic the Stick loses value as a first basemen, which is a statement of merit. He goes from being a top three player at his position (Catcher) to Casey Kotchman, high average, not enough power guy, at his new position (1B). But does that matter if Victor is back to his pre-injury form as the most clutch hitter the Indians have? A guy who will hit over .300 and drive in 100 runs?

Just some thoughts...The beauty of this is that Kelly Shoppach is forcing his way onto the field with his play. Something Mark Shapiro and his crew only wished they could see from guys like Shin-Soo Choo, Andy Marte, Ryan Garko, and Franklin Gutierrez this season.

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