clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Youth movement key to Cleveland Indians 2015 season and beyond

Rookies and under-25 players are going to make or break the Cleveland Indians attempt at a playoff run.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Saying the Cleveland Indians have a shot at a playoff run is a bit of a stretch at this point, but certainly not out of the question. If such a thing is going to happen, it'll be because of the team's youthful players. The major components playing in their first year in the bigs -- Cody Anderson, Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor -- have already made big impacts. In addition to those big three, other young and eager players could make a splash between now and the end of the season, whether that is in September or October.

Two starts against the same, struggling team is not enough to determine any kind of a trend, but if Cody Anderson can keep up the type of performances he's had so far, it's going to go a long way to helping the Tribe make a run at one of the two Wild Card spots. Anderson fills a hole in the starting rotation that was a weakness all year long before his promotion. The fifth starter slot is one that many teams struggle to fill with a quality pitcher, but the Indians were finding it harder than usual through the first few months of 2015.

T.J. House, Bruce Chen, and Shaun Marcum all came through trying to plug the back-end of the rotation, but all had similar results: a successful game here or there, but an explosion of poor pitching in a majority of their starts.

So far in his extremely short MLB career, Anderson has managed to bring stability to the rotation through a mix of ground balls and efficiently working the count. He has never been much of a strikeout pitcher (his 8.38 in Triple-A this year was the highest of his career at any level), but he's likely to eventually strike out more than 3.45 batters per nine innings. Regardless, whether or not he can continue this level of play is a huge question mark, but so far so good.

Behind Anderson on the left side of the infield is another big key to the youth movement of the Indians: Lindor and Urshela. The two of them replaced Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall, two players who looked as bad in the field as they did at the plate in their short 2015 campaigns. With the young, defensive-minded duo now manning half the infield, the defense already looks improved, and it stands to get even better as the group gets more playing time together.

To date, both Urshela and Lindor have shown their own flashes of brilliance with their gloves and in the case of Urshela, a surprising amount of competence at the plate. That is not to say anyone expected either player to be a terrible hitter, but neither of them are known for their bat. Urshela has already come through with two big home runs and a passable .270/.313/.365 batting line so far. While Lindor has struggled offensively (52 wRC+), he has more than proved his worth defensively at shortstop.

Tuesday's win over the Rays, in particular, featured a defensive clinic by Lindor. Early in the game, he had what could go down as the play of the year when he dove to stop a line drive and threw out the runner at first to save what was at that point a perfect game for Danny Salazar. That play, like so many others he has had this year, showed his poise, skill, and rocket arm.

All that is well and good, but like I said before: Anderson, Lindor, and Urshela are the obvious candidates to help the Indians going forward, but they aren't the only ones.

Currently, the Indians minor league system is bursting at the seams with potentially great players in the outfield. We have seen a few of the lower-ceiling prospects such as Tyler Holt, Jerry Sands, and Zach Walters already. With a taste of the big leagues under their belt and more time working in the Minors, I would not be surprised to see any of them pop back up and make an impact for the Indians later this year.

Michael Bourn, despite all his struggles, likely is not going away permanently. The Tribe are paying him $13.5 million this year, and that is not the kind of money you just let ride the pine. That said, other than Michael Brantley and Brandon Moss, the final outfield position is a question mark almost every game. Between Bourn, David Murphym and occasionally Ryan Raburn, no one has the position locked down to the point that Sands, Holt, or Ramsey could not swoop in and take over, even if it is just a small part.

For a more out-there though: Tyler Naquin is now only one step away from the Major Leagues. He absolutely tore up Double-A to start this year, though he's slowed down a bit in Triple-A. The front office could see something in the former first-round pick and consider a call-up. If they do promote him, the quick-footed Naquin could further solidify a defense that already recently gotten better due to the promotion of young players.

Rookies aren't the only part of the youth movement though At an average of 27 years old, the Indians are the fifth-youngest team in the Majors. It's hard to believe because it feels like they've been in the league forever already, but Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar are only 24 and 25 years old, respectively. The other key parts under 30 include Carlos Carrasco (28), Corey Kluber (29), Cody Allen (26), Nick Hagadone (29), Zach McAllister (27), Marc Rzepzynski (29), Ryan Webb (29), Yan Gomes (27), Roberto Perez (26), Jason Kipnis (28), Carlos Santana (29), and Michael Brantly (29).

Sometimes this season this team has felt like a bunch aging players, but most of the are young or in their prime. If the Indians contend this year and are relevant down the road, it's going to be because of a bunch of kids.