With one business week of spring ball completed for the Tribe in Goodyear, Arizona, I would like to update position battles, risers/fallers and overall performance. Granted, we’re dealing with a very small sample size right now, a measly four-game outlook. However, they’re still observations to be made and these four games can be very telling for the future.
The biggest storylines coming from Goodyear are the health of some key Indians pitchers. Carlos Carrasco is listed as day-to-day, Mike Clevinger is, of course, out 6-8 weeks, Aaron Civale is listed as day-to-day and newcomer Emmanuel Clase could be out 8-12 weeks following the MRI. Clase was the main prize from the Corey Kluber trade. He would’ve brought some desperately needed firepower to a bullpen who had an average fastball velocity of just over 91mph last year. Clase’s absence opens up one extra bullpen spot for a few candidates to battle for. The bullpen appeared to have seven guys fairly set with one spot left and Clase’s injury allows for one more to slide in. I assume the pen will be eight because Tito has said he prefers an eight men pen compared to seven. The most likely candidates are Phil Maton, James Hoyt, Cam Hill and Jefry Rodriguez.
Cam Hill is a non-roster invite who had a lackluster performance in Columbus last year. He has made a good impression on the coaching staff this spring, but ultimately, he seems to be destined for the minors but could get an opportunity down the road. Rodriguez came into camp with a real opportunity to either make the rotation or the bullpen. He has started two games this spring. The first start, he went two innings, walking one, striking one out and allowing one solo homer. It was a very ‘meh’ start. His second start, he walked the first two batters then gave up a three-run shot. He has nearly a month to turn it around, but as of right now, he is playing his way straight to Columbus. I think the final two spots will fairly easily go to Phil Maton and James Hoyt. Each had quality time in the big leagues last year and have had impressive springs. I believe Hoyt and Maton will do just fine until Clase could work his way back.
The rotation is doing fairly well.
Once Civale and Carrasco kick their day-to-day issues, they should join Bieber, Zach Plesac and Adam Plutko to makeup the rotation. That is until Clevinger is back to regain his spot, thus kicking out one of the young starters. My personal pick would be Plesac over Plutko. He’s looked good this spring and was better than Plutko last year.
The infield appears fairly locked up.
The only real question marks are what the lineup will look like and who will win the utility infield job between Christian Arroyo and Yu Chang. Arroyo has outperformed Chang thus far and has no minor league options so he would be my pick to keep as much talent possible in the organization.
Now that we’ve wrapped up the fairly cut and dry things, we get to the absolute mess that is the outfield and DH spot. Oscar Mercado and Franmil Reyes are definite starters. Reyes slimmed down, got stronger and looks like an all-star. I thought Jordan Luplow would win a spot, but he hasn’t played as much so I’m not sure if the coaching staff agrees with me. Although there’s plenty of time for that to change. Bradley Zimmer has looked good and even when his bat isn’t hot, his glove is valuable. If his bat is good, he’s an all-star. Bobby Bradley has looked good, but he’s only a DH. Jake Bauers is 1-6 so far this spring and I’m near the end of my line in terms of buying into the hype for him.
We’ll see how the rest of springs pans out, but I’d bet on Mercado, Luplow and Zimmer in the outfield and Reyes at DH with DeShields as a utility outfielder with Bradley on the active roster as a first baseman or DH. I’m still confident in this team and believe they are a lot deeper than even the guys I mentioned.