The Cleveland Indians have played eight exhibition games and while it is way too early to make solid statements on individual players, we can see some trends and indications on who will make the Opening Day roster.
For example, one of our favorite whipping boys, Zach Walters, hasn’t helped his cause by starting the spring 0 for 10, with five strikeouts.
On the other hand, Tyler Naquin seems to have played his way into the conversation to open the season in Cleveland.
He has started 8 for 18 with a double and two triples and has only struck out twice. It’s another three weeks before decisions have to be made, but the rookie has caught the attention of people with his solid performance thus far.
Giovanny Urshela will start the season in Columbus because of the acquisition of Juan Uribe, but he has made the people who wanted him to have the job proud with 2 home runs and six runs batted in.
Perhaps his offensive struggles a year ago were the result of being nicked up with some minor injuries.
Out of the veteran outfielders on minor league contracts, Joey Butler has done the best job at the dish, going 3 for 9 with a homer. We felt the guy who broke up Carlos Carrasco’s no hitter last year was the guy we thought was the frontrunner going into camp.
The rest of the candidates have been largely unimpressive. Robbie Grossman is 2 for 15. Collin Cowgill, the favorite of the stat people, is 1 for 12. Will Venable is 0 for 6, and James Ramsey, who had a poor year at AAA last season, is 0 for 11.
Again, we know it is early, and today, one of these guys could get three hits and their numbers will be much better. We are writing about players who are making early impressions.
Another area of competition for Terry Francona is the bullpen. We all know that Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Zack McAllister are locks for the relief corps, and unless Jeff Manship is terrible he will make the team as well.
We think Tito will keep two southpaws, and the guy who has made a good impression so far is veteran, non-roster invitee Tom Gorzelanny, who has made three scoreless appearances.
He held left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average last season with the Tigers.
The other lefty out of the bullpen spot is up for grabs between Kyle Crockett, Giovanny Soto, and Joe Thatcher.
One player who will not make the team, but has looked great so far is Mike Clevenger, one of the organization’s top prospects. The youngster throws hard and has thrown four scoreless innings in two outings.
He could be an option down the road is something happens to one of the five starters. Luckily for the Indians, they will also have Cody Anderson, who pitched well in 2015, in reserve at Columbus too.
Clevenger was another guy we were high on over the winter based on the way he finished last year at Akron and Columbus, particularly in the International League playoffs.
Right now, the players we mentioned have taken the lead in the clubhouse for the jobs that are open.
Now, they have to keep those spots, and there is a lot of spring baseball yet to be played.