Three Things the Cleveland Indians Could Really Use Going Right This Spring Training
Tuesday was the day that many fans had been waiting all offseason for, as Cleveland Indians pitchers and catchers officially reported to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona.
There is plenty of naysayers who feel that another offseason of cutting payroll means that the team will again be on the outside looking in at the playoffs come October.
The team did go out and fill a couple of positions of need, signing second basemen Cesar Hernandez, and trading for hard throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase.
While it has not been made official reports are the team is going to sign outfielder Domingo Santana to add to the mix of an outfield that is a work in progress as the spring begins.
The Indians themselves are confident that they are still a team very capable of winning 90 or more games, which again should put them in the mix to challenge for at least a wild card spot in the American League.
Today we will take a look at some things that, if they go the Indians way, can put them in a position to be back in the postseason mix and make some of those upset fans believers once again.
1. Cesar Hernandez Brings Stability to the Second Base Position
The last few years the Indians have had to watch as Jason Kipnis has suffered a number of injuries which has limited him from being the player he was even back just four years ago when he was a spark plug in 2016.
Last season the team did get 121 games out of Kipnis, and he hit .245 with 17 homers and 65 runs batted in.
It clearly wasn’t enough for the Indians to pickup Kipnis’ $16.5 million dollar club option for this season.
Enter Hernandez, who comes to the team on a one-year deal worth $6.5 million at the age of 29.
Hernandez was a workhorse at second last year for the Phillies, playing in 161 games, hitting .279 with 14 homers and 71 runs batted in.
For what the Indians paid for a one-year deal they would gladly take those numbers (or even better) but one of the keys is him staying healthy and playing well over 80 percent of the games this year at second.
2. Two Outfielders Step Up and Claim the Corner Spots
The Indians have a number of options when it comes to their outfield in 2020, but none of the options right now are written in pen six weeks before opening day.
Santana likely has been promised an opportunity where if he steps up this spring and can hit and not be a liability in right field, he will get a shot to play there on a regular basis.
The team also will give slugger Franmil Reyes a chance in the outfield this spring, and Reyes lost 18 pounds this offseason looking to be more agile given the chance to play defense.
The Indians also have the following players with the hopes of one (or two) of them stepping up: Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Daniel Johnson, Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen.
There’s a lot of players on the roster with a lot of upside potential, if two of them can show they deserve a majority of the playing time in left and right, it will solve a lot of headaches and stress for the coaching staff.
3. The Pen Turns Into an Area of Strength
After an awful 2018, the Indians bullpen stepped up last season as a bright spot, more so in the first half when they were at or near the top of baseball as a unit.
The use of the pen seemed to catch up in the second half as the unit fell off some, and closer Brad Hand also struggled after having a long perfect streak of saves in the first half.
The team this offseason did acquire Clase, who has been clocked at throwing over 100 MPH. Add James Karinchak to the mix, and the pen could turn into a power unit that has the ability to blow away hitters late in games.
Adam Cimber, Oliver Perez, and Nick Wittgren are already penciled in as guys that can come in and get guys out when needed.
One thing that will dramatically chance the game is the new three batter rule, and managers can’t just have a reliever come in for one batter and go back to the pen.
If this unit can regain it’s form from the first half of 2019, they have a chance to be very good in 2020.