Cleveland Indians outfield prospect Tyler Naquin will be getting his first taste of the majors on Opening Day this year, the team confirmed through Twitter. Terry Francona and the rest of the Indians' staff reportedly informed Naquin of the good news earlier today. Naquin's excellent spring -- including a two home run performance on Wednesday -- has helped him overtake several other veterans vying for a chance to play in center field for the Tribe this season.
Tyler Naquin's ascension to the majors has been slower than he or the Indians probably would have liked, but at 24 years old and after only one full season at Triple-A, he is going to debut sometime this soon in 2016. Being on the Opening Day roster does not necessarily mean he will start (especially considering the Indians are facing the lefty David Price), but it should not be long before he gets his chance.
So far this spring, Naquin is tied for third for the team lead in home runs with three, behind only Jose Ramirez (4) and Giovanny Urshela (5). Naquin also leads all players with at least 10 at-bats with a 1.342 OPS.
Last season in Triple-A, Naquin slashed .263/.353/.430 (127 wRC+) with six home runs and a career-high 11.5 percent walk rate. His excellent year was cut short by a series of late-season injuries, a common story throughout Naquin's minor league career, but he has looked healthy so far in spring. If he can stay on the field and live up to even a bit of his draft time hype, he could be a great addition to the team in 2016.
Abraham Almonte's 80-game suspension may have opened the door for Naquin to take over center field, as it opened another spot for spring playing time. That's not to say Almonte was guaranteed to be the center fielder by any stretch, but if he was around throughout March, Naquin may not have gotten enough consistent playing time to impress Francona and the staff enough to put him on the Opening Day roster.
In other roster news, first baseman Jesus Aguilar has been optioned to Triple-A, and reliever pitcher Joe Thatcher will not be making the roster out of spring training, says Jordan Bastian.