Outside of Opening Day, the next best day for starved baseball fans is coming this week when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
By the way, if you happen to be going to Goodyear, Arizona, the forecast for this week is in the 80’s, a drastic departure from what we have experience in Cleveland this week.
The Indians are definitely a contender for a playoff spot in the balance American League, where pretty much everyone, save for perhaps Oakland, could be in the post-season.
It has been well stated that we wish the Tribe front office had done more to improve the ballclub this winter, particularly since they have one of the premier starting rotations in baseball, but even still if the hitting can generate enough runs, Terry Francona’s team should be in the mix heading into September.
However, there are some players we think the Indians may be putting too much faith in heading into spring training. Here they are, and our reasons for saying this.
Rajai Davis. One reason is that Davis is 35 years old and his game is built on speed. But the OF’s OPS languished under 700 from 2010-13 while playing for Oakland and Toronto.
The resurgence in the last two years comes from great numbers in Comerica Park where the speedster had a 785 OPS in 2014, and then shot up to 823 last season.
Can Davis put up respectable numbers without playing half his games in the Motor City? That’s something to keep an eye on in the early part of the season.
Carlos Santana. Fans around town are split on the switch-hitter, but can the Tribe brass count on him for a rebound season that the offense desperately needs?
The former catcher will turn 30 a couple of days after the season opens, and his production has declined each of the last two seasons, dropping 40 points in OPS in both seasons. Most of that drop comes from his slugging percentage, which was that of a middle infielder last season.
He will get a lot of at bats at DH in 2016, and if the power numbers don’t return to 2013 levels, Francona will be searching for a replacement very quickly.
Abraham Almonte. The Indians are putting a lot of faith into their play in August and September a year ago, and the switch-hitting centerfielder was a significant part of that success.
After two dismal seasons in San Diego, Almonte put up a 321/455/776 line in less than 200 at bats with Cleveland. That’s way above any kind of numbers he put up in the major leagues before that.
But he’s the primary guy in center coming into the season. That should make everyone who follows the Indians very nervous.
Jeff Manship. We have seen him mentioned by some as a major piece in the Cleveland bullpen and frankly, we aren’t buying it.
GM Mike Chernoff is still searching for relief help, which is why he signed Tommy Hunter on Friday, and also traded for Dan Otero and inked Craig Stammen to a minor league deal.
In Francona’s world, you can never have enough relief pitchers.
Manship was incredible a year ago, with an 0.92 ERA in 39 innings of work.
But do not forget for a minute, that the right hander never had an ERA under 5.00 in any shot in the bigs before last season.
Perhaps he found something to make him a reliable major league reliever, but more likely, he will regress to the mean, and that means he could be in Columbus to open the season.
There are other question marks, like Lonnie Chisenhall in RF, and is MLB Network’s Mike Lowell correct about Mike Napoli finding his bat speed in Texas last season.
While the AL doesn’t have a lot of mediocre squads, filling some of these maybe with positive would make us feel better about the ’16 Cleveland Indians.
However, if the players we mention come through? It will be a fun summer at Progressive Field.