Before I get into this any deeper, I want to make it clear that I completely trust Terry Francona and I am still amazed the magic he worked last season.
With that being said, the everyday lineup could use some work.
Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana are both on the DL for now, but they should be coming back within the next week or so. Coincidentally, the two have also gone through some immense struggles at the plate this season, so this “vacation” to the DL might be something both of them need to get themselves going again. For the sake of argument, we will assume that this lineup reflects the roster when these two guys get back.
The 2014 Indians season has already seen its fair share of surprises, both positive and negative. Michael Brantley has emerged as one of the top outfielders in the American League this season, Lonnie Chisenhall has found his hitting stroke (.360 batting average), and both David Murphy and Mike Aviles have impressed in the first two months of the season.
On the flip-side, Swisher and Santana, as I mentioned before, have gotten very little done at the plate this season, while Jason Kipnis had a relatively long trip to the DL and has seen his average float around the .220’s.
This roller coaster of a season has called for numerous roster changes, demotions, call-ups, and tough decisions for manager Terry Francona. Naturally, so much turmoil amidst the Tribe offense leads to some backlash from the fans. On that note, let’s take a look at what the everyday lineup should look like…for the next few weeks at least.
1. Michael Bourn – CF
No changes here. After an early trip to the DL, Bourn has really started to heat up lately. The center fielder has his average all the way up to .294 and has even started to flash some power. He leads the team in triples by a wide margin with 5 and has been showing more aggressiveness in stealing bases lately as well. For now, he is looking like the ideal leadoff hitter to get the lineup started.
2. Lonnie Chisenhall – 3B
Here is my first change in the lineup. It is time to start trusting Chisenahall and his seemingly new-found hitting ability. The guy is hitting .360. He has some decent speed, and with an OBP of over .400, he fits perfectly at the top of the lineup. Trusting him in the second spot in the lineup also means that he will need to start getting more chances against left-handed starting pitchers, which is completely necessary. Chisenhall could also serve as a designated hitter here for a bit of a break from third base, with Mike Aviles, who has also been hitting well, holding down the hot corner as a replacement.
3. Michael Brantley – LF
Brantley has been the Tribe’s best all-around hitter this year, and there is no doubt about that. The 3-hole fits Brantley very well, as hitting in the clutch is one of his strong suites. Jason Kipnis occupied the three spot before he went to the DL, but with the way Brantley has been hitting, it would be very hard to earn that position back. If the rest of the season continues as it has, Brantley will be the focal point of this Tribe offense for a while.
4. Jason Kipnis – 2B
Kipnis is still just coming back from his trip to the DL, so it will likely take a couple more games before he finds some consistency, but a bat like Kipnis’ deserves to be in a high-pressure spot in the lineup everyday. While he has had a rough start to the 2014 season, I doubt it will be long before we start to see that same All Star that led our offense last season. While having Kipnis in the cleanup spot means the first four slots in the order are occupied by lefties, it is still the best option to have these guys leading off instead of thrusting another hitter into the top of the order just for being a right handed hitter.
5. Carlos Santana – DH
While Santana has struggled mightily at the plate this season, I still think he is closer than anyone else on this roster to breaking out of his slump. Santana has a very powerful swing that is perfect for the middle of the batting order, and it is just a matter of time before he figures things out again. At the beginning of the season I predicted that Santana would finish with around 25 home runs, and, while that is seeming more and more out of reach now, he still has the strength to shoot at least 20 over the fence by the end of the season. Hopefully, this time off will let him readjust himself at the plate.
6. David Murphy – RF
Murphy has been one of the pleasant surprises this season, hitting .282 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI. The six-hole should treat Murphy well, as it is a position that requires the ability to drive in runs and extend rallies. Murphy has definitely shown his strength in those areas this season, as he ranks second on the team in RBI and has had his fair share of clutch hits. Because the lineup is dominated by left handed hitters like Murphy, Ryan Raburn will should still see some action in replace of Murphy, particularly later in games and against left handed pitchers.
7. Yan Gomes – C
Gomes adds some much needed right-handed pop to the lineup and should continue to hit from his normal place towards the bottom of the lineup. The recipient of a six-year deal will soon find himself moving up in the batting order when more players come and go, but for now, Gomes is best suited towards the bottom. After all, the pressures of being an everyday catcher are a lot to handle for a relatively young player, so it is best to put him in a more low-pressure batting situation where he still has the capability to deliver some clutch hits.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
Asdrubal is a tough player to figure out. Recently, he has been volatile at the plate, which is why he has been put in so many different places in the lineup. Whenever Francona places him towards the top, namely in the 2-hole, he seems to put too much pressure on himself, resulting in mainly frustration. Cabrera is not the same player we watched in 2011, and it is time to fully accept that. Cabrera is best suited for the bottom of the order right now, where he can put less pressure on himself and maybe figure out a thing or two. He should definitely remain as an everyday starter though, as his talent at shortstop is a staple in the Indians’ defense.
9. Nick Swisher – 1B
Talk about sending a message to a player. Swisher has been disappointing this year to say the least. Until he figures things out, the nine-slot is where Swisher should be. He has not shown any power or contact hitting ability so far this year, so there is no reason why he should be hitting near the top 4 in the lineup. Swisher still owns a decent OBP of .312, so he can still get on base at a reasonable rate for the top of the order that would follow him, but he cannot be relied on for driving in runs until he figures things out.
By Jay Cannon