The Cleveland Indians have had a successful winter, filling a hole at First Base in picking up wham-or-whiffer Mark Reynolds, as well as gaining some talented pitching in hot prospect Trevor Bauer. Not to mention, they added a huge asset in Nick Swisher.
Last season, the Indians had Travis Hafner, who, according to GM Chris Antonetti, could be back in a Tribe Uniform.
I hope not.
An position player can have five major tools: hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, play good defense, and have a good arm. Hafner, whose categorized position was “DH,” was paid a hefty amount of money to, in theory, play 20% of the game of baseball. Hafner had one job: hit for power. He did not. He injured himself every time he touched first base, and he was not an asset to the team.
This season, the Indians will have many possibilities to take Pronk’s place in the order in that “DH” hole. Candidates from outside the organization include Jim Thome, Juan Rivera, and a few smaller names (including Hafner and fellow Free Agent Grady Sizemore). However, I expect the Designated Hitter spot, to be filled in Eric Wedge‘s favorite way, through a platoon. The Indians have offensive threats on the roster in Mike Aviles, Tim Fedroff, Chris McGuiness, Mike McDade, Yan Gomes, and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Matt LaPorta. Because I do not believe the Indians will splurge on a free agent DH, I will briefly discuss each of those in-house names, go through some numbers, and, afterwards, decide what the most likely scenario will be. Or just scroll down to my projected Opening Day lineup if you don’t want to read about the DH possibilities.
Mike Aviles R/R (2B, SS, 3B): A career .277 hitter with a .308 OBP. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much power, with a mere 39 home runs over roughly four seasons. He was streaky with Boston last season, but we don’t have to make a commitment to him as an every day player with Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall in the lineup. We could ride his hot streaks and find an alternative for his cold streaks. But middle infield is not usually a position for a DH.
Chris McGuiness L/L (1B): Ranked in the upper teens of the Indians Top 20 Prospects, McGuiness was picked in the Rule 5 Draft this past winter. He’s never had a major league at-bat, but he hit .268 with a .366 OBP while jacking 23 homers and 77 RBIs with Texas’s AA affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders, last season. He is stuck on the 25-man roster if we choose to keep him, and his pop and plate discipline may land him a more regular spot in the DH roulette. His left-handedness is not helping him against our next candidate.
Mike McDade S/R (1B): Claimed off waivers this winter from Toronto, McDade is young and has an impressive Minor League resume. In 118 games last season, McDade totaled a .285 batting average with a .360 OBP. His SO/BB ratio is significantly worse than McGuiness, however. In camp, he too will be given a chance to prove that he can bat from both sides against Major League pitching. If not, he’ll valuable to keep in Columbus in case Reynolds goes down with an injury.
Tim Fedroff L/R (OF) Drafted in the 5th round by Cleveland from UNC in 2008, Fedroff has given Indians fans reason to be excited with his Minor League performance for the past three seasons. He spent about half the season in Akron, with the latter portion in Columbus. He totaled a .316 average, contributing to a .394 OBP, as well as 12 home runs. Fedroff should find a place on the team as a fourth Outfielder, and with that, a piece of the DH circle.
Yan Gomes R/R (C,1B,3B) Gomes is my favorite to win the backup catcher spot over Lou Marson. He had an underwhelming start to his big league career last season in Toronto, posting a .204/.264/.367 line with 6 homers. His AAA statistics, however, are impressive. In 79 games with the Las Vegas 51′s last season, Gomes posted .328/.380/.557 with 13 homers and 55 RBI. I believe his versatility and bat will allow him to take Marson’s job, especially because regular catcher Carlos Santana is vastly improving as a defensively.
Matt LaPorta R/R (1B, OF): Yeah, he’s still here. LaPorta was the key piece in the deal that sent Tribe Ace CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. He’s a career .238 hitter with 31 homers in roughly two seasons worth of games. LaPorta has not panned out to what we thought he would be, at all. I don’t believe there’s any doubt that he’s an average Major Leaguer, but he’s 28. We’ll see what he does in the Cactus League, and perhaps a manager not named Manny Acta will give him a shot. Personally, I hope not, given the younger names with higher ceilings on this list. And no, I did not choose to save the best for last when listing these players.
I suppose the point of this article was to familiarize you all with some names within the organization that we’ll likely see in Cleveland at some point this season. My prediction for the opening day DH is McGuiness, with Gomes being the 2nd catcher, especially when Carlos Santana moves to the DH spot to give his legs a rest. Expect Reynolds, Stubbs, Chisenhall, Kipnis, and Swisher to fill the spot on other days, as well.
NOW FOR THE FUN PART!
Projected Opening Day Lineup
Jason Kipnis 2B (L)
Michael Brantley LF (L)
Asdrubal Cabrera SS (S)
Nick Swisher RF (S)
Mark Reynolds 1B (R)
Carlos Santana C (S)
Chris McGuiness DH (L)
Drew Stubbs CF (R)
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B (L)
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