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A way-too-early look at the Cleveland Indians Opening Day roster

Yeah it’s happening. Stop looking at me like that or I’ll start previewing the 2020 High-A team.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Whether it’s signing Edwin Encarnacion or scooping up a handful of players on minor-league deals, I am about 99.9 percent sure the Cleveland Indians will do something between now and February. Just for fun, let’s pretend the 0.1 percent happens.

Maybe Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff suddenly feel confident in this roster, or maybe they get to the halfway point in the offseason and decide it’s too late to do anything. Like when you have something you really need to do, but it’s already 9:34 so you might as well wait until 10:00. Look, it happens, okay?

Regardless of their reasoning, let’s imagine a world in which the players signed to deals now are the only ones around for spring training. Everyone would have some more elbow room at least, compared to last season when approximately 13,000 relievers were signed and we actually thought Collin Cowgill was going to be a part of the major-league team. It was an innocent time.

Let’s break it down.


Starters: Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez
Other options: Francisco Mejia, Erik Kratz, Jeremy Lucas, Guillermo Quiroz

Calling any of those other guys options is a loose definition of the word. Francisco Mejia is simply too young, despite being on the 40-man roster. He just turned 21 in October and he just breached High-A last season. His season was phenomenal, his future is exciting, but he’s not ready for the majors yet.

Gomes is probably a lock to at least start the season at catcher, although I wonder how short of a leash he will have. How long will he have to sit below the Mendoza line again before Tito pulls the plug?

First baseman

Starter: Carlos Santana
Other options: Jesus Aguilar, Yandy Diaz, random guy in stands

Alright, this one feels bad. We know the Indians are hoping to address their first base dilemma, and it’s clear why. Even if you are confident in Santana’s ability at first base, they would still need a designated hitter. Jesus Aguilar is beyond post-hype at this point, there’s not a lot of hope there. Instead, I think it would just be a rotation of the bench taking hacks at DH.

As for Yandy Diaz, you are going to notice a theme here — he can play a lot of positions and he will be in the mix for all of them.

Second baseman

Starter: Jason Kipnis
Other options: Erik Gonzalez

This is pretty straight forward (as are the next two positions). Jason Kipnis is the starter, there’s no competition here.


Starter: Francisco Lindor
Other options: Erik Gonzalez

See above.

Third baseman

Starter: Jose Ramirez
Other options: Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela

Jose Ramirez is most likely the starting third baseman next season, but the backup battle will be interesting. Given that the Indians are probably going to carry five or six outfielders, I don’t imagine a dedicate third baseman like Giovanny Urshela making the roster.

But again, here comes Yandy Diaz.


Starters: Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall
Other options: Abraham Almonte, Brandon Guyer, Yandy Diaz, Bradley Zimmer

The Indians have not made any public attempts at signing a true outfielder — Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran don’t count — and in this bizarro world scenario they head into the 2017 season with essentially the same outfield they ended 2016 with. With one small exception: Michael Brantley.

That’s the crazy thing about the outfield situation heading into 2017. If Brantley can return fully healthy — granted, that’s a big if — the Indians basically just added an All-Star caliber left fielder to their World Series roster. Enjoy your stupid Jon Jay, Cubs.

But if he doesn’t return at 100 percent, things get messy. Yandy Diaz is probably going to be a backup at least in the corner outfield spots, while Naquin and Almonte platoon in center and Chisenhall and Guyer partner up in right field. That’s a lot of outfielders just to make the positions viable, but if it works it works.

Bradley Zimmer is certainly an option, but not a top one. He needs to get his strikeout totals down before making his debut.

Starting pitchers

Starters: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin
Other options: Cody Anderson, Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko

This seems pretty easy on the surface. The same three-man rotation that carried the team to the World Series, plus two more pitchers who happen to be great. Like Brantley, though, we don’t know how Salazar and Carrasco are going to be when they return — I have more faith in the latter than the former.

There could always be a surprise, like moving Bauer to the bullpen at the beginning of last season. Cody Anderson’s days as an established starter are probably already done, but Mike Clevinger could click any time now and start living up to his prospect hype. Probably not out of spring training, though.

Relief pitchers

Starters: Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Cody Anderson, Ryan Merritt
Other options: Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, Dylan baker, Joseph Colon, Tim Cooney, Kyle Crockett, Edwin Escobar, Perci Garner, Hoby Milner, Shawn Morimando

Left-handed issues aside, that’s not a bad bullpen. Maybe I’m wrong penciling Merritt in for the seventh reliever, but if he is replaced it’ll probably be with another lefty like Cooney, Crockett, Milner, or Escobar. And, for what it’s worth, Milner will either have to be on the 25-man roster or returned to the Philadelphia Phillies, given that he was drafted in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft.

* * *

Taking all that into account, here’s how I’d cram it together to form an Opening Day roster:

Position players

C: Yan Gomes
1B: Carlos Santana:
2B: Jason Kipnis
SS: Francisco Lindor
3B: Jose Ramirez
LF: Michael Brantley
CF: Tyler Naquin
RF: Lonnie Chisenhall
DH: See: Bench


IF: Yandy Diaz
OF: Brandon Guyer
C: Roberto Perez
OF: Abraham Almonte
IF: Erik Gonzalez

Starting pitchers

SP1: Corey Kluber
SP2: Carlos Carrasco
SP3: Danny Salazar
SP4: Trevor Bauer
SP5: Josh Tomlin


P: Cody Allen
P: Bryan Shaw
P: Andrew Miller
P: Zach McAllister
P: Dan Otero
P: Cody Anderson
P: Ryan Merritt

It’s not a terrible team, but it lacks a couple components of the roster that made a World Series run. Namely the speed of Rajai Davis and the 30 home runs of Mike Napoli. The issues heading into this season are the same that came up last offseason and without addressing them the roster has some holes.