I Dont Knows on third
One month from tomorrow, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training for the Indians. With that in mind, it’s never too early to start glancing at how the Opening Day roster might shape up.
This spring will have plenty of competition for multiple jobs. Cleveland has holes to fill in the rotation and bullpen, at second and third base, and up and down its bench. As things currently stand, the Tribe will have 59 players* in camp with only 25 jobs to offer.
I served as a starter and closer for my high school team back in the day, and I also manned second and third base as my main positions. Maybe I should think about finding my old glove and trying to get in baseball shape again.
…the only claim to fame I have as a prep ballplayer was setting my high school’s all-time record for being hit by the pitch.
Back to the matter at hand, now seems like a good enough time to take a glance at the current crop of competitors. Obviously, the Indians could make more moves prior to Spring Training, but any pending transactions would likely be more of the Minor League contract variety.
Let’s start with…
Front-runners: 1. Fausto Carmona, 2. Justin Masterson, 3. Mitch Talbot, 4. Carlos Carrasco
Available jobs: One
Candidates: Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Anthoney Reyes, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Alex White
Situation: Obviously, a poor spring could push Carrasco out of the front-runners category, but right now he’s basically in a position where it’s his job to lose. Barring an offseason addition, Tomlin, Gomez and Huff appear to be the three main competitors. Reyes is a darkhorse. Martinez might have a better shot at a bullpen role and McAllister and White are more likely to see the big league rotation later this season, if needed.
Front-runners: 1. Chris Perez (closer), 2. Rafael Perez, 3. Tony Sipp, 4. Jensen Lewis, 5. Joe Smith
Available jobs: Two
Candidates: Justin Germano, Doug Mathis, Joe Martinez, Vinnie Pestano, Aaron Laffey, Josh Judy, Corey Kluber, Frank Herrmann, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell
Situation: I’m including Lewis and Smith in the front-runners group due to their recently-signed deals to avoid arbitration. Also, worth noting is the fact that Lewis and Germano are out of player options. The bullpen situation could be very fluid this spring, and obviously this season. Laffey would appear to have the leg up on one of the vacancies due to his ability to serve as a lefty long man. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe takes a chance on one of its younger relief prospects if there is a guy who really steps up with a strong spring.
Front-runner: Jason Donald
Others candidates: Luis Valbuena, Jason Kipnis, Adam Everett, Jayson Nix
Situation: Kipnis has no Triple-A experience, minus a brief stay for the postseason, but he will certainly have a shot to make a push for the second base job this spring. It’s more likely that Kipnis opens at Triple-A and finds his way into the starting role later in the season, though. I’d list Donald as the leader in this group for the time being, but he’s also going to be considered for the opening at third.
Front-runner: Jayson Nix
Others candidates: Jason Donald, Jack Hannahan, Adam Everett, Jared Goedert, Cord Phelps
Situation: Despite his defensive issues a year ago, Nix appears to be the front-runner for the job at third right now. That could easily change this spring. If Kipnis starts making a strong bid for the job at second, Donald could wind up in serious consideration for third. Another possibility is that third base could see more than one player in the mix during the early part of the season, buying time for the eventual promotion of top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. If the Tribe opts against youth and wants more or a placeholder until Chisenhall’s arrival, Hannahan or Everett could figure more prominently into the mix. It’s worth noting here that Nix is out of options.
Front-runners: Austin Kearns (OF), Lou Marson (C), Adam Everett (INF), Shelley Duncan (UTIL)
Available jobs: Four
Others candidates: Paul Phillips (C), Luke Carlin (C), Jayson Nix (INF), Jason Donald (INF), Luis Valbuena (INF), Jack Hannahan (INF), Jared Goedert (INF), Cord Phelps (INF),Travis Buck (OF), Trevor Crowe (OF), Chad Huffman (OF), Jordan Brown (OF/INF)
Situation: There are four bench jobs up for grabs and two will go to a fourth outfielder (Kearns is locked into this role right now) and a backup catcher (Marson leads the pack at the moment). As things currently stand, I think Everett and Duncan have the edge for the final two roles. This is assuming a couple things. First, it’s assuming Everett doesn’t win a starting role in the infield. Second, it’s assuming center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) and catcher Carlos Santana (left knee) will indeed be healthy in time for Opening Day. If either face a setback, that obviously would drastically alter the outfield/catching situations. Kearns would become a starter in the outfielder if Sizemore is out, suddenly opening the door for two outfielders to make a push for roster spots. I’ve excluded Kipnis from the backup infield competition because I believe he’ll be at Triple-A if he doesn’t win the second base job. I like Duncan off the bench due to his ability to serve multiple roles (outfield, designated hitter, first base). It’s also worth noting that the Indians like what Duncan brings to the clubhouse. If Kearns is going to replace an outfielder on days when a tough lefty is pitching, Duncan would be there to possibly fill in for Hafner as a right-handed option for the DH spot. Then again, a guy like Crowe could be an option as a fourth outfielder if the Tribe opts to use Kearns as a right-handed DH possibility. It could take all spring to sort out the bench.
Given the current options, how would you fill the available jobs?
*When I first posted this, the number of players in camp stood at 58. It has since been updated to 59. Today, Jordan Brown (designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for Kearns) was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus and will be brought into camp as a non-roster invitee. I’ve added him to the list of bench candidates.