It is hard to believe since the city is suffering sub-zero temperatures and a blizzard this weekend, but the thing baseball fans long for all winter is here this week.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this Wednesday.
Here are some of the things we will be looking for in Goodyear over the next six weeks.
1). The Indians have lowered expectations on top prospect Francisco Lindor, a top five prospect in all of baseball depending on who is doing the rating, but it will be interesting how he performs in camp.
The organization would like to keep him in AAA so they don’t start the arbitration clock, but if he has a monster exhibition campaign and let’s say Jose Ramirez struggles, there will be pressure to have him in Houston on Opening Day.
Really though, it will just be exciting to watch the kid play. It has been a long time since the Indians had such a heralded prospect.
2). The health of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Swisher is coming off surgery on both his knees, and ended his string of 20+ home run seasons at nine straight. That’s why we are optimistic about the switch-hitter. His bad season can be attributed to a one year physical problem.
We were not as high on the Bourn signing when it occurred, and haven’t been convinced otherwise. His OPS has dropped sixty points since his 2011 season (.349 on base percentage, 61 stolen bases), and he has stolen just 33 bases (18 caught steals) since arriving at Progressive Field.
Both players need healthy legs to provide the power (Swisher) and speed (Bourn) the Tribe needs to improve an inconsistent offense.
3). It is no secret that the Indians need a bonafide right-handed bat. In 2013, Ryan Raburn had a tremendous season (.272, 16 HR, 901 OPS) to fill that void, but he’s been not good in two of his last three seasons.
If he doesn’t bounce back, then who will fill the void?
We would like to see Jesus Aguilar get a shot. Aguilar struggled in his paltry 33 at-bats last season in the bigs, getting just four hits and striking out 13 times.
However, his minor league numbers show power and a declining strike out rate.
He whiffed 115 times in ’12 between Akron and Carolina, 105 times in AA in 2013, and lowered that number to 77 at Columbus last year in 499 plate appearances. In those three seasons, he belted 53 homers and knocked in 253 runs.
With a shortage of right-handed pop around the game, if the Indians don’t give the 24-year-old a chance, someone else will.
4). Depth in the rotation. With the signing of Gavin Floyd, the Indians have stockpiled some starters for the 162 game season. We know there will be minor things that will cause pitchers to miss starts, so having T.J. House, Zack McAllister (who may be a solid bullpen option) and Josh Tomlin in reserve is key.
The biggest thing for Mickey Callaway will be for everyone to be healthy in Arizona and be able to open the season with a rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Floyd, and Danny Salazar heading into April.
5). We are also looking for this year’s spring phenom. Last year, it was Erik Gonzalez who was impressive and then had a breakthrough season with Class A Carolina and then on to AA Akron.
Who will emerge this season? That’s always one of the fun things to watch in exhibition play.
Isn’t it refreshing to that baseball season gets going this week. We need something to remind us that the cold will only last another two months. Three months?