The Indians now have 24 spots on their Opening Day roster spoken for. T.J. House and Zach McAllister fill out the starting rotation; Anthony Swarzak puts seven pitchers in the bullpen; Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, and Roberto Perez give the team twelve position players... one spot left to go.
There are three players still in the running for that spot: Austin Adams, Tyler Holt, and Jerry Sands. (Jesus Aguilar and Michael Martinez remain in camp as well, but are not considered serious contenders to make the team.)
Adams is a 28-year-old, right-handed reliever. He has recored 9 strikeouts in 7.2 innings this spring, without walking anyone or allowing any home runs. Those are the things that tend to matter most in terms of how spring stats do or don't translate to regular season performance. He has given up 11 hits in those 7.2 innings, which is not ideal, but the .425 BABIP against him isn't sustainable, so the hits are less concerning than they might seem.
That said, he'd be the eighth reliever in a bullpen that will get more days off then usual during the first three weeks of the season, and might also have McAllister in the mix if Francona decides to skip the fifth starter because of those days off.
Holt is a 26-year-old right-handed hitter who spent a little time in all three outfield spots for the Tribe during 2014. He is a good defender, quite possibly a better gloveman than any other outfielder on the 40-man roster. He could spell Michael Bourn in center, fill in late as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for whomever started in right field, and make it less likely we have to see Mike Aviles fill in out there.
The downside: He isn't much of a hitter.He posted a strong .798 OPS in Double- and Triple-A last year, but prior to that he hasn't reached even .700 since 2010 and in 76 plate appearances for the Indians last year his OPS was just .602 (good for an ugly OPS+ of 75).
Sands is a 27-year-old, right-handed hitter who can play a corner outfield spot or first base. He's posted big offensive numbers in the minor leagues during his career, including an .825 OPS in Triple-A last year (as part of Tampa Bay's farm system). He has some power, and he'd be able to give the team another option at first base if they want to give Carlos Santana a day off or let him DH. He's hit reasonably well this spring, with an .802 OPS.
Sands isn't much of a defender, and in the limited MLB opportunities he's had over the last three years, he hasn't hit well, with an OPS of just .513. The sample size is small enough that we might be better off just ignoring it, but he's the lesser option for speed and defense, so if he isn't hitting much better than other options, he doesn't serve much purpose.
Given that Nick Swisher is expected to take over this roster spot within a couple weeks of Opening Day, this decision is not likely to have a long-lasting impact on the team, but I believe an extra position player would help more than a reliever during those couple weeks, and I tend to think Bourn is more in need of spelling than Santana (especially since Brandon Moss should be able to fill in for Carlos occasionally). If it were up to me, I'd give the spot to Holt.
Whom would you choose?