clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cleveland Indians spring training report: the hitters

New, comments

Who's up? Who's down? A quick recap of the hitters in the first half of Spring Training.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Too early for a recap? Yeah, probably – but the Tribe has a day off today so whatever.

Anyhow, the Indians are now basically halfway through their slate of 33 ST games, and after 16 games they are 6-9-1. No less than 42 hitters have been used to date (28 starters, 2 regular back-ups and 12 "guest appearances").

OK, let's get to the position-by-position review. I should say, before anyone points out that "so-and-so isn't a LF", that I've grouped players by the position in which they have made the most starts this Spring Training rather than by where they played last year (or might end up playing this year). For what it's worth, I've also included my impression as to whether each player's stock is up or down since the start of the season.

CF – Bourn (8 starts), Naquin (4 starts), Smith (1 start)

Michael Bourn – Up

Really, the only real consideration for Michael Bourn during Spring Training is his health. And to date, he has looked sharp. He has been hitting well for average, taking some walks (a very pleasant development) and even mananged to hit a HR. His fielding continues to underwhelm and his "famed" base-stealing skills continue to be non-existent (0 SB and 1 CS), but overall he seems ready to go.

Tyler Naquin – Down

It's obviously encouraging that Naquin has played fairly regularly during ST, but basically he's been pretty anonymous – just five singles and no walks. He hasn't really done anything to suggest that he is close to usuping Holt for a back-up OF role, nor really to separate himself from Ramsey or Moncrief as "next man up" in the OF after that. In fact, he was one of the players re-assigned to the minors yesterday.

Jordan Smith – Down

Two hits, a couple of walks, a stolen base and some less than stellar play in CF. Smith still looks like a very fringe prospect to me. (He was re-assigned to the minors yesterday.)

RF – Murphy (6 starts + 2 at DH), Raburn (5 starts + 2 at DH), Moss (2 starts + 2 at DH), Moncrief (1 start + 1 at DH)

David Murphy – Down

Although Murphy has hit a half-dozen singles and taken a couple of walks, he has really done nothing to suggest that he is definitively worth a place on the roster once everyone is healthy again. His fielding continues to look sketchy in RF and he doesn't really offer anything extra like good power or some base-running ability. I'd still like to see him traded if/when Moss is ready to play everyday RF and Swisher can DH regularly.

Ryan Raburn – Up

Notwithstanding an injury scare when he slipped on the basepaths and needed some attention for his (recently surgically repaired) left knee, Raburn has had a solid ST to date. He hasn't shown much power (just one double to date) but his play in RF has looked pretty good. Right now, I think he'd make the 25-man roster even if Swisher doesn't start the season on the DL.

Brandon Moss – Up

What's not to like about Brandon Moss? After a delayed start to ST, he came in as a DH and hit home runs in each of his first two appearances, including this one, along with a triple in the second game. After a bout of the flu, in his third start he was able to take over in RF and added another double. A healthy Moss could be a huge addition for the Tribe in 2015.

Carlos Moncrief – Down

Moncrief has something of a cult following in these parts, and his legend was enhanced by a 4/4 performance early in ST. However, he's barely managed a hit outside that game and, despite showcasing his arm with a couple of terrific throws to home plate, his fielding hasn't been anything special overall (one error and no assists). I'm still not sold at all on Moncrief as a top 20 prospect for the Tribe.

LF – Brantley (6 starts), Holt (5 starts + 1 at each of CF/RF/DH), Ramsey (3 starts + 1 at RF), Hood (2 starts)

Michael Brantley – Down

Michael Brantley has been seen fairly sparingly in ST (he's one of a handful of players who have been hit by the flu bug that is going around the team). He has only hit three singles (with two walks) and although he has one of the team's few stolen bases, overall he's been anonymous. Not that this matters a jot for a player like him in the grand scale of things, of course.

Tyler Holt – Up

One way or the other, Tyler Holt always finds a way to make an impression. We're used to his stellar fielding, but he's also been hitting for good average with some pop (here's his triple). And oh yes, did I mention that he also leads team with four walks (that was one area where his MLB performance certianly didn't match his good minor league record) and that he has three of the team's eight stolen bases? And yet he still might not make the 25-man roster, even if Swisher does start the season on the DL.

James Ramsey – Down

Although Ramsey has shown more pop in his bat than Naquin (1 HR and 1 double) and has walked three times, his overall performance as a hitter hasn't been anything remarkable. In addition, he has also made an error in the OF. For me, Ramsey, Naquin and Moncrief still have a lot of work to do this season to catch up with Tyler Holt.

Destin Hood – Up

Formerly a top prospect with the Nationals (he was in the BA Nationals top 20 for five successive years from 2009 to 2013) Hood has made a decent first impression as a minor league free agent with the Tribe. He has made a couple of spectacular catches in LF (here and here) and recorded a handful of hits in relatively little playing time. Hopefully, the Tribe will be able to keep him around for Columbus.

C – Gomes (7 starts), Perez (6 starts), Hayes (3 starts), Moore (0 starts)

Yan Gomes – Up

What more is there to say about Yan Gomes? He just continues to sparkle, day after day. Fortunately, other teams still haven't received the memo "Don't Run on Yan" and he already has three caught stealing (here and here and here) and a pickoff at 1B (here). Although he hasn't hit for good average so far, he does already have two HRs, one of which is here.

Roberto Perez – Up

Perez is quietly having an exceptional ST. He has already thrown out four on basepaths (one of which is here), and he has also has been hitting just below .500, and has three walks together with a HR.

Brett Hayes – Up

Hayes is a journeyman catcher who has appeared in the MLB in each of the past six seasons. The Tribe signed him as a MILB free agent during the off-season and, having hit 2 HRs already, he looks like he could potentially be the 2015 version of George Kottaras if he sticks around in Columbus for the regular season (not that anyone would want him to have to be called upon, of course). Anyhow, you can see one of his HRs here.

Adam Moore – Down

Like Hayes, Moore always seems to see some MLB playing time every single year. However, he doesn't have such a good track record as Hayes and hasn't really managed to hit in his limited ST opportunities to date (he hasn't been given the starting nod at all yet). If the choice comes down to Hayes or Moore for AAA depth, Hayes would seem to be clear favorite, but perhaps they'll keep both and leave Wolters in AA.

1B – Santana, (9 starts + 1 at DH), Aguilar (4 starts + 1 at DH), Sands (3 starts + 2 at DH + 1 at RF)

Carlos Santana – Up

Carlos continues two do Carlos things - two HRs and three walks, hitting at a decent clip. He's also looked very solid fielding at 1B, now that last year's 3B fiasco is behind him. Anyhow, here's one of the HRs.

Jesus Aguilar – Up

Aguilar was something of a "forgotten man" last September – missing out on ABs for the likes of Chris Gimenez and JB Shuck. It was never entirely clear whether Tito mistrusted Aguilar's hitting (he didn't hit well in a small sample of MLB games) or his glove at 1B, but this ST Aguilar has done his level best to win back Tito's trust – hitting for a very good average (albeit without much of his trademark power) and looking solid at 1B.

Jerry Sands – Up

Sands was a MILB free agent acquisition during the off-season. At one time (back in early 2011) he was a top prospect with the Dodgers, but things haven't really worked out for him in the bigs. However, he's still only 27 and can play 1B or in the OF, so he still has age and some versatility on his side. So far during ST he has hit well, so he will hopefully be kept around for depth in Columbus (possibly forming part of a 1B/DH platoon with Aguilar).

2B – Kipnis (5 starts + 2 at DH), E.Gonzalez (4 starts), Aviles (3 starts + 2 at 3B + 1 each at SS/CF),  Martinez (3 starts)

Jason Kipnis – Up

Kipns had a slightly delayed start to ST after an off-season injury, and the Tribe really does need him ready to play 2B on opening day - with Walters injured, there isn't any real depth beyond Aviles (given that Lindor won't be available for a little while).

Mike Aviles – Up

I was one of those who were critical when Aviles' option was picked up last year (largely because I felt there were better options available at the same price or cheaper) but Tito obviously loves having Aviles around, and if he isn't forced to play in the OF, he's still a very serviceable fielder. He never knows how to takes a walk (of course) but he's been nibbling away with singles in his own imitable fashion. Aviles has one of the team's eight SBs but has also been caught stealing. He's missed the last few games due to shoulder soreness.

Erik Gonzalez – Down

I was very high on Gonzalez as a prospect coming into 2015, and I'm not about to give up on him after two weeks of ST (mainly playing away from his normal position of SS). However, to date he hasn't hit at all well and his struggles at 2B have been evident – two errors and a clear missed double play opportunity in which he fluffed the transfer.

Michael Martinez – Up

Martinez (a recent MILB free agent acquisition) has a less than stellar MLB track record, but he's appeared in all bar three of the Tribe's 16 games, tied with Lindor for the most. He has hit OK (without taking any walks) and been aggressive on the basepaths, stealing two bases but also getting caught twice. Martinez seems like "Mike Aviles-lite" to me, which is probably why Tito appears to like him so much.

3B – Chisenhall (8 starts), Urshela (2 starts), Walters (2 starts + 1 each at SS/2B), Rohlinger (2 starts)

Lonnie Chisenhall – Up

Lonnie has hit decently so far, with a couple of walks. His position as starting 3B seems extremely secure for now, in part because Urshela has been injured lately and unable to provide even token competition. In typical Lonnie fashion, he has already made two errors at 3B.

Giovanny Urshela – Down

Urshela has been suffering from lower back spasms, which have caused him to be held out since Mar 10. He's only had 12 PAs, but hit a HR and took a couple of walks (with no strikeouts). Hopefully, Urshela can get healthy and show his true worth in the second half of ST, although his opportunities might be limited now that he has been optioned to Columbus.

Zach Walters – Down

Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Walters in ST. He wasn't able to get going as a hitter and then made two errors in one game at 3B, before going down with the flu. To cap it all, he then injured himself while hitting in a game on Mar 12. He's expected to be sidelined at least 3-4 weeks with a high-grade, right oblique strain. Given all the problems that Jason Kipnis had with an oblique injury last season, it might be a while before Walters is back to 100%.

Ryan Rohlinger – Down

Rohlinger does actually have some MLB experience from a spell with the Giants from 2008 to 2011. He's been a fixture at Akron and Columbus ever since, and is battling for a 2015 AAA spot, where he faces competition from Martinez and Ciriaco for (at most) two infield spots. In Urshela's absence, he's made a couple of starts at 3B but hasn't hit well, apart from this HR.

SS – Ramirez (9 starts), Lindor (5 starts), Ciriaco (0 starts)

Jose Ramirez – Up

To his great credit, Ramirez seems completely unfazed by the fact that he has one of the top prospects in baseball breathing down his neck, potentially about to steal his job. He continues to hit for decent average in his "any which way you can" method and has even hit a HR. However, his real value lies in consistent, high quality fielding, peppered with some terrific plays like this one.

Francisco Lindor – Up

The Lindor train shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Whether hitting or fielding, he already just looks like he belongs firmly on the MLB stage. The Indians have said that he will start the season in Columbus to work out a few remaining kinks, but once the service time issues are done and dusted his time will surely come sooner rather than later. Here's a video of his inside the park HR.

Audy Ciriaco – Down

Ciriaco hasn't actually started any of the Tribe's 16 ST games, but he's been used as a replacement in no less than 12 of them. Despite a home run on Monday, he hasn't hit well enough overall to merit any kind of consideration for the big league team, but he could find his way to Columbus for a second season as a utility infielder.

DH – Frazier (1 start)

Clint Frazier – Up

The Tribe's top pick of the 2013 draft has only played in one game, in which he was given the start as a DH. He promptly hit a home run (shown here) in his second AB, punctuated (somewhat inevitably for him) by two strikeouts in his other two ABs. Hopefully, we'll get to see more of Frazier later in ST (ideally in a game that is actually covered by MLB.tv).

Here's what Francona had to say about his performance: "I don't know if you can see a guy's personality in one day. We don't know what he is yet. He has power, but no one knows what type of hitter he is. As he goes through the various levels, we will see what adjustments he makes."

Nick Swisher – Down

I believe that Swisher has taken part in some simulated games and also ran the bases for the first time yesterday, but there's no sign yet of him appearing in any real ST action. At this point the jury is still very much out on whether he will be ready to go come opening day.

"Guest Appearances"

In addition to Frazier, five players have appeared as replacements in just a single game: Yandy Diaz (one error), Ollie Linton, Mike Papi, James Roberts (1 for 2) and Ronny Rodriguez.

Six more players have appeared twice: Bobby Bradley (2 for 3), Chang, Taylor Murphy (1 for 3 with a double), Nellie Rodriguez  and Bradley Zimmer (2 for 2 with this triple and 2 walks), whereas catchers Jake Lowery (0 for 2 with 2 walks, re-assigned to the minors yesterday) and Tony Wolters (0 for 3 with a walk, just optioned to AA) have appeared three times.

Tomorrow - the pitchers.