The Cleveland Indians organization finally made the move we all knew was coming the moment 1B/DH Travis Hafner hit the disabled list with another shoulder injury. The club promoted LF/1B/DH Matt LaPorta from Triple-A. LaPorta has crushed minor league pitching almost constantly since being the seventh overall selection in the 2007 draft. The right-handed batter was traded from Milwaukee to Cleveland in last year’s C.C. Sabathia deal.
He has massive power and could make an immediate impact in the Indians lineup, given appropriate playing time from manager Eric Wedge. LaPorta was hitting .333/.414/.640 with five homers in 75 at-bats for Triple-A Columbus. His walk rate has been constantly improving, which is encouraging, but you can expect him to strikeout 20-25 percent of the time.
LaPorta struggles against off-speed pitches so he’s going to see a lot of them early on in his MLB career. His career minor-league average is .292 but don’t expect him to hit for a high average right away. The power, though, should be there right from the get-go. He may get platooned early on, but he’s never really hit southpaws all that well with a career .237/.327/.452 line against them (compared to righties at .311/.407/.626).
The club also recalled infielder Luis Valbuena. He was picked up from the Seattle organization in the J.J. Putz trade this past off-season, which also saw outfielder Franklin Gutierrez head to Seattle. Valbuena has a little bit more pop in his bat than current Indians infielder Asdrubal Cabrera – who was also obtained from Seattle in an earlier trade back in 2006 – which can actually be a bad thing as he tries to muscle up from time-to-time. Valbuena has the chance to offer some stolen bases and a little pop, while also providing a respectable average. In other words, he’ll given a little bit of everything but he’s not going to be a star.
*For an extra bit of info… Here is an interview I did with Matt LaPorta shortly before the Brewers selected him with the seventh overall pick in 2007.