It’s Tribe time now! Your Cleveland Indians open the 2018 season Thursday night against the Seattle Mariners. However, on Monday, the team announced their opening day lineup which included Brandon Guyer as the last player to be named.
Also making the team as a bit of a surprise was Tyler Naquin. He won over the hearts of Indians fans in 2016 with a walk-off inside the park homer against Blue Jays pitcher, Roberto Osuna.
While spring training numbers don’t mean much, Naquin had a decent spring in Arizona, hitting .286 with two home runs and 10 RBI. Those are solid numbers yet not anything extremely impressive that would signify the emergence of him as a superstar in the making.
Naquin had a tremendous rookie year in 2016 batting .296 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI in the regular season. He also had an on-base percentage of .372 and an OPS of .886, which are both above average numbers.
All this combined with a 3rd place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year voting (finishing only behind Gary Sanchez and Michael Fulmer) lead Indians fans to believe that they had a budding young superstar.
However, Naquin struggled greatly in the postseason in 2016 with his batting average dropping way down to below the Mendoza Line at .174 driving in justt two runs in the entire postseason. This was a troubling sign for the youngster and could possibly just be attributed to lack of experience.
However, Naquin’s struggles continued into the 2017 season resulted in him only receiving 40 total plate appearances and hitting just .216 in an admittedly small sample size, but Naquin’s chances were limited because of Bradley Zimmer.
With Michael Brantley on the DL again, this could be Naquin’s chance to return to the player that he was in 2016. I believe that the fluke year was last year and that Naquin will once again be an above average hitter this season. At the end of the first month of the season look for Naquin to have an above .300 batting average.
One player who didn’t make the opening day roster at the catcher position, but in my opinion will force the team to make a move is young stud, Francisco Mejia. While the Indians have two solid defensive catchers in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, neither of them can hit the baseball the way Mejia does.
Mejia is a player who two seasons ago in the minor leagues had a historic 50-game hit-streak and last season saw brief major league action. And in five seasons in the minor leagues, has been hitting .293 with 40 home runs and 245 RBI.
Mejia hit an astounding .421 this spring and is just 22 years old. Look for Mejia to have a blazing hot start in the minors and force the Indians to bring up the prospect.