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Cleveland Indians: Abraham Almonte's suspension opens the door for Tyler Naquin

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Naquin may never have a better shot than this at making the Indians roster.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

While the news of Abraham Almonte receiving an 80-game suspension for PED use is disappointing, and seeing someone's career take such a nosedive with a few bad decisions is sad, baseball doesn't stop. In the case of the Cleveland Indians, they are going to need another center fielder even more now that Almonte is gone for half the season. Enter Tyler Naquin.

Naquin has had a rather disappointing rise to the majors. Once a top draft pick and exciting prospect, he is now in danger of being labeled a "AAAA player" as he has never blown away any level of competition and he lingered in Double-A for the better part of three seasons. Injuries have been the main culprit, as Naquin has only played more than 100 games in one of his four years in the minors.

Last season, Naquin seemed to finally put it together and make the final jump to being major-league ready when he slashed .263/.353/.430 in 218 plate appearances in Triple-A. Naquin also saw his walk rate jump to 11.5 percent in Triple-A last season, the highest mark at any level of his professional career. His strikeout rate went up as well, but there is reason to believe that he could bring it down once he adjusts to major-league pitching.

However, the injury bug reared its head again and Naquin missed several weeks of time between a concussion caused by a hard collision with the outfield wall and a separate hip injury late in the year. Injuries aside, Naquin looks close to being major-league ready, with his smooth swing and bat excellent bat control allowing him to make a lot of contact off opposing pitchers. At the very least, he grades out as a fourth outfielder on most MLB teams, but given the Indians' current outfield situation, he may be their best internal option as an everyday player in center.

The Tribe outfield looks barren right now, but that is going to change in 2017. By that time, top prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier are expected to debut -- or at least be close to ready. Naquin looks to be a step below both Zimmer and Frazier talent-wise; his best chance to make, and stick on, the Indians roster is to get there this year and prove he can handle the majors before the bigger prospects come along and storm the position.

The Indians added Naquin to the 40-man roster in November in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so he will get an extended look in big-league Spring Training over the next month. Abraham Almonte getting suspended is a sad situation for Almonte himself and the Indians organization, but if Naquin wants to ever be a part of the Indians he needs to take advantage of it right now.