Close your eyes and think all the way back to Spring Training 2015. Take in the sights of Goodyear, Arizona and notice all those young, tantalizingly skilled outfielders in the minors who have no shot at the Majors this year. Now look over at the Cleveland Indians warming up, as Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Tyler Holt, Jerry Sands, and Mike Aviles all fumble in their attempt to fill every outfield spot not already filled by Michael Brantley.
Hurry, open your eyes again before the vomit surfaces all over your keyboard. First of all, kudos for following along and reading with your eyes closed, and second of all, don't worry that training camp was in the past. It's over now.
That nightmarish outfield that the Indians started 2015 with is almost entirely gone. We have recanted just how bad that outfield was several times here on Let's Go Tribe, but now it is time to start looking towards the future. Not the future of the Tyler Naquins and Bradley Zimmers of the world mind you, but instead, the part of the Indians future that already has every day playing time: Abraham Almonte and Lonnie Chisenhall.
A mere two months ago Lonnie was a struggling, recently demoted third baseman and Almonte was just barely clinging to a Major league position on the San Diego Padres. But now, both have cemented themselves the outfielders of today, and potentially the outfielders of tomorrow.
Chisenhall, in particular, has showed that he has what it takes to play the part of right fielder offensively and defensively. He has been making the routine plays all along, but recently he has also added the big flashy diving and jumping catches to his impressive resume. In only a few dozen starts at a brand new position, Lonnie has reinvented himself and it does not look like a phase he is going to grow out of.
Offensively, while it does not have much to do with him playing right field, Chisenhall has looked great since he returned from playing in Triple-A. He is benefiting from a high BABIP (.411 since his July 30 promotion) but he is showing a better eye at the plate, as well as the ability to do more than pull the ball. In 113 plate appearances since that promotion, Lonnie is hitting for a .314/.381/.431 slash, good for a wRC+ of 125.
As far as Abraham Almonte goes, who really knows if Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti thought they would be getting a potential future centerfielder when they traded lefty reliever Marc Rzepabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxy to the San Diego Padres. Maybe they saw something in the 26-year-old Almonte that the Padres missed, but either way Babe-raham Almonte has been worth the trade and then some for the Tribe.
He has played in nearly every game since the trade that brought him over to the club on August 8. His 119 plate appearances in that span have produced four home runs, five doubles, and five triples -- which culminate into an impressive .287/.345/.537 slash. The realistic expectation for Almonte has been that he will be a fourth outfielder at best -- and that is still a very real possibility -- but if he can keep up this production, it gives the Indians a very good problem to have.
At best, any combination of Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin, or Bradley Zimmer could be ready sometime in 2016, but more cautiously they could be shooting for 2017 or even 2018. With the emergence of Chisenhall and Abraham, assuming they can keep this level of production up, it takes some of the pressure off the future rookies and the Indians to call them up, while at the same time keeping the Indians competitive. Everybody wins in this bright new future of outfield bliss, especially if you are a fan watching the Indians play every day.