Some Indians Questions About the Team as "Spring Training 2.0" Closes In
Next week, the Cleveland Indians as well as other Major League Baseball teams will gather for training for 2020 abbreviated season. We can't call it "spring" training now, because, well, it's no longer spring.
The Tribe will carry 60 players throughout the season, but only 30 will be active on the new Opening Day, and eventually, that number will be reduced to 26.
However, much like any other season, there are questions going into camp and Terry Francona and his coaching staff can hopefully find some answers. And they will have to do so via a bunch of intrasquad games.
Can Franmil Reyes take a regular turn in the OF? If he can, then it opens up at bats for newcomer Domingo Santana, adding another power bat (and strikeouts) to the batting order.
If he cannot, Santana may have a problem making the team. And it would also mean the brass would have to find another outfielder who can swing the bat. The current pool doesn't have anyone proven, it's made up of Jake Bauers, rookie Daniel Johnson, Bradley Zimmer, and Greg Allen.
Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff made the moves this winter based on Reyes being able to play outfield acceptably. So, it's a pretty big deal.
The development of Oscar Mercado. No doubt, Mercado had a solid rookie season a year ago, hitting .269 with 15 homers, 15 steals, and a 761 OPS.
However, there is a term called the sophomore slump for a reason.
The statistic that worries us is the strikeout to walk ratio, and Mercado accepted just 28 free passes vs. 84 whiffs. His on base percentage was just .318.
He started out very good in May and June, hitting over .300 in both months, but his on base average declined from May until it went up a bit in September, and you know what they say about April and September stats.
If Mercado doesn't perform like he did a year ago, that leaves Delino DeShields, not a good offensive player, and again players like Allen and Zimmer competing for time.
Handling the Starting Pitching. There has been speculation on how teams will handle starters, who won't be stretched out enough when the season begins.
Some think skippers will use tandem starters, such as Shane Bieber will go 3-4 innings, and then say, Adam Plutko will go three more to get the game to the actual bullpen.
We think Francona and pitching coach Carl Willis could do that while the roster is at 30 players, but we also believe they know what the strength of the team is, and they will try to get Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac stretched out as quickly as possible.
So, you might see it the first five games, but not much beyond that.
Players Not On The Big League Roster. We've already mentioned some of these players, like Allen, Zimmer, Johnson, etc. and it will be important to keep them ready should injuries occur.
The Indians are reported to be carrying several top prospects, including last year's first round pick Daniel Espino, and 19-year-old George Valera, as well as Nolan Jones and Tyler Freeman on the 60 player pool.
Their development is super important to the organization going forward, beyond the 2020 season.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because certainly Jones was thought to be ready for the majors as early as 2021, and maybe late this season.
There have been rumors of an expanded Arizona Fall League this year, so more prospects can get some playing time against players from other organizations.
That would be ideal if it can be done with the virus perhaps still looming.
No doubt, this training camp will be different, and it will also be interesting to see how it is covered and when the intrasquad games will commence.
The good news is...baseball is back!