Breaking Down the Cleveland Indians’ 2020 Player Pool
We’re now one step closer to going wheels-up on the 2020 baseball season.
With Spring Training: The Sequel set to begin later this week, all MLB teams were asked to submit their respective 60-man player pools Sunday afternoon. This pool includes each team’s 40-man roster, as well as 20 other players who’ll transition to an alternate training site.
For the most part, there aren’t too many surprises on the Cleveland Indians’ active roster. Likewise, fans should recognize several of the Tribe’s top prospects within the list of off-site players. Really, the only surprise was that Cleveland left five spots open, opting for a 55-man player pool to start spring training.
With the official list submitted, let’s dive through it and address some of the key talking points we’ll be focusing on in the year ahead. Keep in mind, while Cleveland will open the season with an active roster of 30 players, it gets trimmed twice in the span of a month. After two weeks, the roster shrinks to 28 players, and then down to 26 two weeks after that.
Infielders (7) -- Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez, César Hernández, Christian Arroyo, Yu Chang, Mike Freeman
This area of the roster played out pretty much how you’d expect.
Cleveland’s infield of four switch hitters looks set to go. Arroyo, Chang and Freeman will battle it out to make it as utility players, with Arroyo looking like the current odds-on favorite to be the last one standing once the roster shrinks to 26 players.
Catchers (3) -- Roberto Pérez, Sandy León, Beau Taylor
As with the infield, there’s nothing terribly surprising about the Indians’ setup at backstop. The only real question is how often manager Terry Francona rotates Pérez, who’s coming off a career year, and León, who brings little to the table offensively.
Sure, León wasn’t a massive offseason investment. Still, you’d still like to think the Indians want to see him play more than just 10-12 games this summer.
Outfielders (10) -- Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, Oscar Mercado, Franmil Reyes, Domingo Santana, Tyler Naquin, Jake Bauers, Daniel Johnson, Delino DeShields Jr., Bradley Zimmer
If you’re wondering where the Indians will eventually start their roster trimming, look no further than the outfield. Cleveland obviously isn’t going to carry this many outfielders even with a 30-man roster, so some of these names will eventually be moved to the off-site team.
As far as sure things go, Mercado, Luplow and Reyes qualify, while Santana is likely to find his way on the roster as a DH. DeShields’ speed and veteran presence should help him land a utility spot, as well.
From there, Cleveland has some work to do. Luplow needs a platoon partner, with Naquin currently seeing the best odds to secure that gig. However, the most intriguing name here is Johnson.
There isn’t much left for Johnson to do in the minors, and many anticipated him making his big league debut sometime this summer. Will the Indians prioritize him over Zimmer or Bauers?
It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Rotation (9) -- Mike Clevinger, Logan Allen, Shane Bieber, Scott Moss, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Adam Plutko, Jefry Rodriguez, Zach Plesac
The first thing that hops out from this list is that Carrasco appears to be opting in for the season despite qualifying as a high-risk player. Though he would’ve been able to sit out this year while still netting his salary and service time, he’ll instead be back on the mound in 2020.
60 games allows for a lot of creativity with your rotation, so we’ll see how Francona decides to proceed with this group.
Bullpen (11) -- Brad Hand, James Karinchak, Hunter Wood, Adam Cimber, James Hoyt, Phil Maton, Oliver Pérez, Nick Wittgren, Anthony Gose, Cam Hill, Dominic Leone
The biggest call-out here is the end of some spring training drama -- relief prospect Karinchak will indeed be in the pen this season.
Outside of his presence, Cleveland’s relief corps shapes out as expected. Gose, Hill and Leone are each arriving as minor league invitees. However, one of the three could sneak onto the opening day roster. If asked to make my bet, I’ll take Hill.
Off-Site Team (15) -- Nolan Jones (3B), Tyler Freeman (SS), George Valera (OF), Daniel Espino (RHP), Ethan Hankins (RHP), Sam Hentges (LHP), Triston McKenzie (RHP), Jean Carlos Mejia (RHP), Eli Morgan (RHP), Kyle Nelson (LHP), Nick Sandlin (RHP), Bo Naylor (C), Aaron Bracho (2B), Bobby Bradley (1B), Ernie Clement (SS)
To be honest, this aspect of the Indians' roster is really what prompts the most questions. The most important one is obvious -- will off-site training be enough to ensure some of the team’s best prospects properly develop?
Close your eyes and point anywhere on this list, and you’ll find someone this question applies to.
Jones, the top prospect on the farm, has yet to take a pitch in Triple-A.
McKenzie, once the prize piece of Cleveland’s farm system, hasn’t pitched a live game inning since August of 2018.
Bradley could be on a big league roster if it weren’t for his issues with the whiffs.
Freeman, Valera, Naylor, Hankins and Espino all rank highly among the Indians’ prospects, but have yet to advance beyond the lowest tiers of the minors.
Shortstop Brayan Rocchio, one of the best prospects on the farm, isn’t even listed here.
Each of these players could be a factor for Cleveland in the coming years. However, it remains to be seen if they can keep their respective progress on the right path through a summer of off-site scrimmages. Or, in Rocchio’s case, a summer of no activity at all.
Regardless, we now have a clear idea of who’ll be vying for a spot on the opening day roster and which prospects Cleveland will keep tabs on nearby. With that out of the way we’re now finally prepped for the return of Indians baseball.