With theless than a fortnight away, it seems like a good time to take a look at the current players/prospects dynamic. If there were no trades or free agent signings, what would the future roster look like?
This time last year Chad Young "previewed" the 2017 Indians, so here we shall move everything on a year and consider how things might look in 2018. But first let's quickly recap Chad's 2017 projections.
Lineup: 1 ), CF; 2) , DH/1B/back-up catcher; 3) , 2B; 4) , C; 5) , LF; 6) , RF; 7) Lonnie Chisenhall, 1B/DH; 8) , 3B; 9) , SS.
Bench: LeVon Washington, OF; Jose Ramirez INF; Dorssys Paulino UTIL;1B/DH.
Rotation:; ; ; ; .
A whole year on, Chad's starting line-up and rotation predictions look almost as good now as they did then. He was very bullish about Frazier, but if you substitute Zimmer (who obviously hadn't even been drafted at that time) for Frazier then you are left with a highly plausible 2017 starting nine.
Chad's bench choices of Ramirez and Aguilar also look solid, but Washington is riding the pine in extended Spring Training and is no longer a prospect, whereas Paulino's value is greatly diminished now that he has been banished to LF. A year ago Carlos Santana was still considered to be a back-up catcher, so we would now need a catcher on the bench (Wolters? Perez?) which would leave one spot open for a back-up outfielder (Ramsey? Frazier?).
This time last year Zach McAllister was in the rotation while Carrasco had been cast off to the bullpen, but they have since flipped places. Otherwise Chad's rotation also looks very credible.
So now let's move things on a year to 2018.
1) SS Francisco Lindor. With his on-base ability and base-running speed, Lindor is an obvious candidate for the lead-off spot.
2) 2B Jason Kipnis. Although Kipnis has been on fire since being converted to the lead-off role, by opening day 2018 (when he will be about to turn 31) I could see him dropping back down the line-up to No.2 again.
3) LF Michael Brantley. There's not much to say about Brantley, who will hopefully still be a staple in the line-up for his age 30 season.
4) C Yan Gomes. A healthy Gomes will hopefully lock down the catcher spot for many years to come. I think he's worth a shot at No.4 in the line-up (or No.3 if Brantley moves to clean-up).
5) RF/CF Bradley Zimmer. The Tribe's top 2014 pick seems to be on track for a potential September 2016 or early 2017 call-up, so by 2018 he wouid hopefully be an everyday player.
6) DH/RF Clint Frazier. Although Frazier is considered a "plus" fielder, he's perhaps not quite as "plus" as Naquin and Zimmer. In order to get his bat in the line-up everyday, splitting time between DH and RF might be required. Obviously, the fact that he is right-handed whereas Naquin, Zimmer and Ramsey are all lefties could well count in his favor.
7) 1B. How to replace Santana? Jesus Aguilar hasn't really got going in Columbus yet this year, and (given that he's already on his second option year) it's hard to see him still being around in 2018. Conversely, that opening will probably come at least a year too soon for in his age 21 season. Nellie Rodriguez has hit really well in May after a slow start to the season (but has already made seven fielding errors compared to 11 in the whole of 2014), and gets the nod almost by default.
8) 3B Giovanny Urshela. By the start of the 2018 season, Lonnie Chisenhall will have been through all three of his arbitration years and presumably been traded or become a free agent. Urshela has been plagued by a back injury since Spring Training, but his decent bat and highly regarded defensive skills make him an obvious candidate to eventually replace Lonnie at 3B, a switch which might come sooner rather than later. Also in the pipeline down at Lake County is, who is playing SS at the moment but is a strong candidate to convert to 3B at some point.
9) CF/RF Tyler Naquin. Since the start of 2014 Naquin has been terrific in AA ... when he has actually been on the field. He was shut down at the end of June last year with a hand injury, and has also missed nearly half the games this year. Anyhow, Naquin still looks like he could well be a solid all-round MLB player, so he warrants a spot in the line-up.
INF Jose Ramirez. After a breakout perfomance in 2014, Ramirez has struggled as the everyday SS this year. However, his youth and versatility still suggests that he should be a useful utility player for the Tribe.
UTIL Todd Hankins. I'm going to take a flier on the unheralded Hankins here. His positional versatility (he has been playing both 2B and CF this year) and solid on-base skills have arguably made him the fastest-rising hitter in the entire farm right now.
OF James Ramsey. After a slow start to 2015, Ramsey has caught fire during May. He is more of a power-hitter than Naquin, but is a year older and much more strikeout-prone.
C. When Yan Gomes went down with injury, clearly struggled in his new role as the everyday catcher. I still think Perez will make a decent back-up, but the are clearly intrigued by the potential of converted infielder, Wolters, so he gets the nod here. Looking beyond 2018, the Tribe has a top catching prospect in the shape of Francisco Mejia.
#1 - Corey Kluber. Nothing much to say here.
#2 - Trevor Bauer. Or here.
#3 -. Or here.
#4 - Danny Salazar. Or here.
#5 - Cody Anderson. In the midst of a bounce-back year, Cody Anderson still looks like the best prospect for the No.5 rotation spot, although there are obviously other candidates like TJ House and several other fairly advanced prospects including Shawn Morimando, Mike Clevinger,and Adam Plutko, with Justus Sheffield, Luis Lugo and Mitch Brown also in the pipeline.
, , , , and will probably all be long gone by 2018 (although who knows with Aviles?) , while the team's control of Carlos Santana and ends after the 2017 season. Santana will turn 32 shortly after Opening Day 2018, and it may be problematic for the Tribe to re-sign him.
That's a tremendous amount of turnover in the line-up, and would leave the Tribe with an extremely youthful group of hitters. In contrast, barring injury or loss of form, the rotation could potentially be very similar to how it is now.
Who do you think will make it to the 2018 roster?