It is not a secret that the Cleveland Indians’ offense needs to score more runs, and unfortunately consistency is not in their arsenal.
In two of their last three games, the Tribe has scored double digits, getting a dozen against the Twins on Wednesday night and 11 yesterday vs. the Yankees. That’s the good news.
However, in the last 11 games, Cleveland has been shutout four times, including being no-hit for the third this season, the first time in MLB history a team has done that. Included in that span, besides the no-no, the Indians were one hit, three hit, and four hit.
That’s a whole lot of ineptitude.
On an every night basis, interim skipper DeMarlo Hale trots out a lineup with as many as five or six batters who would at best be called mediocre. Is that in the name of development? Because at this point, we think most people would say players like Oscar Mercado or Bradley Zimmer aren’t going to become players who hit well enough to be in there everyday.
Now, what if we told you the organization has two players at AAA who have OPS of over 875 this season in the minor leagues. Wouldn’t you think the organization would like to take a look at these guys as the regular season winds down?
Cleveland is 7th in the American League in home runs, but in 9th in runs scored, mostly because they rank 13th in the league in on base percentage and batting average.
And down at Columbus, the organization has a player who has compiled a .413 on base percentage in 66 games between the AA and AAA levels in 24-year-old Steven Kwan, a fifth round pick in 2018.
A left-handed hitter, in his minor league career he has reached base 38% of the time, but the only year he’s been under .400 was in 2019 at Lynchburg. He hit .337 at Akron this year (950 OPS) and .339 in 15 games with the Clippers.
He also has a little pop as well with 28 extra base hits in 287 plate appearances. The big club has only two players (Myles Straw and Jose Ramirez) who get on base more than 35% of the time, so they could use more hitters who avoid making outs.
They could certainly use an outfielder who hits with power and has a good batting average, and Oscar Gonzalez, who is just 23, certainly fits that bill.
A right-handed bat, Gonzalez has hit .300 with 28 homers and 76 RBIs (886 OPS) in 112 games, 63 of them at the AAA level. He has a .548 slugging percentage and has struck out just (relatively in today’s game) 97 times in 459 plate appearances this season.
As a comparison, Bobby Bradley has fanned over 148 times in four different minor league seasons.
What is Gonzalez’ problem offensively? He simply doesn’t walk. He’s drawn just 21 free passes this season, and that’s a career high! However, he continues to hit for a solid batting average, .276 in Columbus this season, and a lifetime minor league .282 mark.
Although we are a big believer in strikeout/walk ratio as a measure of success in the big leagues, there are guys in the majors who succeed despite not walking. Tim Anderson of the White Sox comes to mind.
Anderson averages 166 strikeouts and 24 walks per season, yet has a career .284 batting average, and won a batting title in 2019, hitting .335. Another weird stat about Anderson is that the year he set a career high in walks (2018 with 30), he had his lowest batting average at .240.
Why didn’t (or won’t) the Indians take a look at these two players, who might have helped the offense because their skill set in the minor leagues seems to be the very thing the parent club could use.
Quite frankly, wouldn’t it make the last two weeks of the season more exciting if we could watch this duo get some big league time instead of seeing players who have been decidedly mediocre for two or three years running.
This organization lives in fear at times, and this is one of those times. Kwan and Gonzalez deserve a shot these last two weeks. It would be good for them and the organization moving forward.