Opening Day is a little over two weeks away, and you can see the roster for the Cleveland Indians beginning to take shape.
In the last week, Zack McAllister was told he will be the fourth starter in the rotation and Cody Allen was informed he will be in the bullpen in Toronto on April 2nd when the Tribe opens the season.
Both youngsters deserved it based on how they performed last season.
That doesn’t leave many spots left on the 25 man roster.
Figuring that Terry Francona will keep 13 position players and 12 pitchers, there figures to be perhaps one spot left on the bench, the fifth spot in the starting rotation, and a battle for the what figures to be two spots for southpaws in the bullpen and one spot for a right-hander.
The starting lineup figures to be something like this–
Michael Bourn CF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Jason Kipnis 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Carlos Santana C
Michael Brantley LF
Mark Reynolds DH
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B
Drew Stubbs RF
For sure, Mike Aviles, who is performing very well at the World Baseball Classic, will have one bench spot and figures to be in the lineup three or four times per week. Ryan Raburn looks like his versatility will earn him another spot, as he can play 2B, 3B, LF, and RF. And Jason Giambi will claim the third spot, getting at bats at DH and/or 1B.
That leaves the backup catcher with Lou Marson and Yan Gomes vying for that spot. Marson’s problem is his hitting and he can’t play another position. He’s hitting .214 (3 for 14) in spring training, although he has walked eight times. He’s a .220 lifetime hitter with a .301 slugging percentage for his career.
Gomes has hit well thus far (1o for 26 with a home run), and can play 1B, 3B, and LF as well. He’s not as accomplished defensively as Marson, not by a long shot. But when Marson plays, many times Santana will not get a full day off because Francona would hit for Marson in a key situation.
The guess here is the Tribe wants Gomes to catch on an everyday basis to develop his craft, so Marson makes the squad.
The fifth starter looks like it is between veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. As of right now, Kazmir is the leading candidate. Francona and GM Chris Antonetti probably want Carrasco to be eased back in after coming back from elbow surgery and Bauer to get more AAA experience.
Which brings us to the bullpen. Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, and now Allen are locks, although there is a chance that Perez opens the season on the disabled list.
It appears Francona will carry two lefties and with Rich Hill being added to the 40 man roster a week ago, it’s a good bet he will make the team. That leaves Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, and maybe David Huff for one spot. Hagadone has had the better spring and has power stuff. He’s allowed just two hits and struck out seven in five innings. He would appear to be the leader in the clubhouse.
The last spot in the ‘pen figures to be between three pitchers who weren’t with the Tribe in 2012: Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Capps. Capps has had the most big league success with 138 big league saves, but Shaw has pitched the best so far allowing one run in five innings with seven strikeouts.
This battle figures to go all the way to the end of camp, but keep in mind that Capps isn’t on the 40 man roster.
If the roster goes this way, it means the Indians will have to put some players with major league experience on waivers, guys like Ezequiel Carrera, Huff, Capps, and/or Albers. That’s something different for this organization after the last few years.
If you want to compete in baseball today, you must have some depth. These Indians finally have some.