Biggest Surprises from Indians Spring Training
As we come to the end of spring training and anticipate the regular season the Indians, after completing their 25-man roster, are ready to start the journey that is the 2015 season.
Every spring, teams are just looking to get work in for their players, making sure that everyone is relatively healthy, and creating the best 25-man roster possible. While trying to take care of all those tasks, the Indians definitely experienced some ups and downs. During the spring for the Tribe, there were many players who surprised us all, and players who left all of us fans feeling flat out disappointed. So as we reach the beginning of the regular season, let’s first take a look at the biggest surprises of the spring.
Two years ago, the Indians, who had just agreed to a new TV contract, were ready to acquire talent after a string of bad seasons. First, the team decided to give OF/1B Nick Swisher a 4 year/$56 million contract to spice up the offseason and fill one of the outfield voids. After a flurry of smaller signings, the Indians were looking for one more piece (preferably a center-fielder) that could lead off and create havoc on the base paths.
Michael Bourn was that guy. After five consecutive years of 40+ stolen bases (which included two seasons of 60+ stolen bases) with the Astros and Braves, the Indians thought that they could finally get a prototypical lead-off hitter who could make a true difference during the course of games. So deep into the free agent signing period, the Indians decided to hand Bourn a 4 year/$48 million contract to be just that.
Unfortunately, so far for the Indians Bourn has not panned out to be the game changer that they thought he would be. While suffering several hamstring and wrist injuries, Bourn has truly not been himself the previous two years. In 2013, Bourn’s stolen base total dropped from 42 in 2012 to 23 that season which is a large drop from such a prolific base-stealer. There was no excuse for the drop-off that season but it was a different story last season.
In 2014, Bourn suffered hamstring injuries to both his right and left hamstrings which completely deteriorated his speed and confidence on the base paths. Also, his average continued to drop in the process from .263 in 2013 to .257 in 2014.
Heading into this spring, we had no idea what to expect from Bourn after two subpar seasons with the Indians. Well, this spring Bourny has been a huge surprise in a good way.
This spring, Bourn toned down his hurky jerky swing to something a little more conventional. He has had a good, short approach at the plate, and has looked very healthy and pain free. Bourn, in eighteen games, has had a .381 AVG/.397 OBP/.473 SLUG slash line which is a phenomenal way to start off the year.
Bourn has surprisingly been consistent this spring for the Indians and looks to finally live up to the contract the Indians gave him two off-seasons ago
When Brandon Moss started the 2014 regular season hitting .268, smashing 21 home runs, and driving in 66 runs he was voted in to the all-star game. The all-star first half put together by Moss showed everyone his true potential as a middle-of-the-order slugger.
But shortly after the all-star game, Moss suffered a serious hip injury. This injury made swinging a bat for Moss incredibly uncomfortable and his power completely deteriorated. After that astonishing first half, Moss only hit .173 with 4 home runs and 15 runs batted in due to his injury.
During the offseason, Moss had surgery on his nagging hip and the A’s were unsure of his future. So along with the rest of the fire sale, the A’s decided to trade Moss to the Indians. The deal was a straight up deal which saw 2B prospect Joey Wendle head to the A’s with Moss heading to Cleveland.
Even though Cleveland was exited to get a potential middle-of-the-order bat, they were unsure of how long it would take Moss to fully recover from the surgery. This spring, Moss has surprised me based on his performance and his incredibly quick recovery.
This spring (in 14 games), Moss has had a .275 AVG/.310 OBP/.700 SLUG slash line. He has mashed a ton during the spring and is ready to be the bopper in the middle of the order that the Indians thought he would be when they traded for him back in December.
After the Indians signed Gavin Floyd to a 1 year/$4 million ($6 million in incentives) contract earlier in the offseason there was an open vacancy for the 5th spot in the rotation. With candidates T.J. House and Danny Salazar chomping at the bit to take the remaining rotation spot McAllister (with no minor league options remaining) was ticketed for a spot in the bullpen when the unthinkable happened.
Earlier this spring, SP Gavin Floyd re-injured his right elbow during a bullpen session and is probably going to be out for the majority of the season. So now there were two spots open in the starting rotation after the injury.
With the two spots left everyone outside of the Indians organization thought that SP T.J. House and SP Danny Salazar were ticketed to take and run with those spots. After last season, we all knew that House and Salazar were more than capable of taking the rains and help sure up the back end of the starting rotation. But again, the unthinkable happened.
Danny Salazar, with his incredible stuff and experience in the Indians rotation, was primed for a breakout season. But, unfortunately, Salazar underperformed during the spring and was sent down to Triple-A last week.
So, now McAllister finally had a legitimate shot to crack the starting rotation after being demoted and then sent to the bullpen last season. McAllister showed his potential with a strong showing down the stretch in the bullpen posting a 2.77 ERA in 7 games.
With a even bigger opportunity to make the rotation, McAllister took advantage. In 7 games this spring, McAllister has gone 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and a 28K/4BB ratio. With this wonderful stat line McAllister has officially landed a spot in the Indians rotation.
These players have shocked many of us during spring training with their surprising performances and as a fan base we all hope these spring performances can translate into the regular season and beyond.
By: Gabe Cohn
Follow me on Twitter: @CSTGabe