Four Overlooked Players for the Cleveland Indians as Spring Training Gets Going
Exhibition games (we love that baseball calls them that) have started in both Florida and Arizona, and that means fans can start analyzing box scores.
They don't mean a heck of a lot because we don't know what opposing pitchers are working on, nor do we know if hitters are trying to hit the ball the other way, or trying a different approach.
Anyway, here is a look at four players on the Indians' spring training roster who seem to have been overlooked coming into training camp, but have real possibilities of making the final 26 man roster at the end of March.
Jake Bauers: Bauers is a former top 100 prospect (2017 and 2018 with Tampa Bay) who came over in the deal which sent Yandy Diaz to the Rays.
At AAA, he had a 780 OPS, mostly built on a .363 on base percentage.
He was getting a lot of playing time in the outfield at the start of the season, but was hitting just .245 with a .316 OBP at the All Star break.
And he seemed too patient, which didn't help his cause. For example, when he was ahead in the count 3-1, he was just 3 for 14.
Terry Francona had a talk with Bauers at the end of the season about being more consistent in his work habits. We will see if the left-handed hitter, who isn't yet 25 years old takes it to heart.
He probably has the inside track to come north with Tyler Naquin hurt, but he is going to have to produce to insure that.
Jefry Rodriguez: People forget that it was Rodriguez who was the first starting pitcher called up when Mike Clevinger was hurt in his second start of the year.
In his first four starts, he went at least 5-2/3 innings and allowing less than three runs in each. In his last three outings, he didn't get past the fifth and then was shelved with a shoulder strain.
The right-hander won't turn 27 until July, and if he is healthy, it wouldn't be a surprise to find him in the rotation to start the season, beating out one of this trio--Adam Plutko, Zach Plesac, or Aaron Civale.
Mike Freeman: The veteran did a solid job as the Indians' utility man a year ago, but as usually happens to 32-year-olds who aren't regulars he was designated for assignment when the season ended to open up a roster spot.
Freeman hit .272 with a 752 OPS in 75 games a year ago, and provided the Tribe with professional at bats. He's adequate with the glove, can play a decent shortstop, and can even do a decent job in left field.
He's fighting an uphill climb, with Christian Arroyo out of options, to head north with the team, but at the worst, he will be ready if needed at Columbus.
Phil Maton: Outside of the first half of last season in San Diego (21 games, 7.77 ERA), the soon to be 27-year-old (on Opening Day) has been a serviceable big league pitcher.
He had a 4.19 ERA in 43 innings in 2017, and a 4.37 ERA in 47-1/3 innings in 2018, and had a 2.92 ERA in eight appearances with the Tribe last year.
He has fanned over a batter per inning in his career, but has also allowed more than a hit per inning.
Still, we think he stands a good chance of opening the year in Cleveland.
These guys could be keys for the 2020 Indians, but no one is really talking about them right now. We will see if that changes as exhibition play continues.