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Mike Napoli off to strong start, while other new Cleveland Indians struggle

Mike Napoli is of course excused from this analysis, because Mike Napoli has been awesome so far.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Yes, we're only six games into the season, which is a tiny sample, and some of the players who'll be mentioned here haven't even appeared in all six of those games, creating even smaller samples. This is unavoidable so early in the season, and if you have zero interest in any examination of the results from such a small sample of games, I suggest you save yourself the trouble of reading further. You could save yourself even more trouble by not even bothering to click on articles until enough games have gone by to reach your threshold of interest.

If you're still reading, I assume you understand that the samples are small, and that a couple good games by any one of these players would dramatically alter the narrative about their time with the team.

The Indians had a fair amount of money to play with this offseason. Not Tigers money or anything, but a decent amount, and enough that they could have gone after just about any of the free agents out there, if they were willing to lock in a lot of additional payroll for seasons far beyond 2016. From what I can tell, the team decided against that pretty early on, and instead made a number of smaller additions that wouldn't commit them to anything beyond this season.

Among the new faces in spring training: Juan Uribe, Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd, and Collin Cowgill.

Here are the batting lines for those players so far:

  • Uribe: .053/.136/.053
  • Davis: .143/.217/.286
  • Byrd: .125/.167/.188
  • Cowgill: .000/.000/.000

Allow me to use my years of baseball experience and gained wisdom to shed some light on those numbers for you: They are terrible. Combined they're hitting .094/.155/.156, which doesn't really tell us anything different, but is perversely interesting to look at.

Uribe was signed late in the offseason and missed some time in camp due to visa issues. Maybe he's not up to full speed yet. It hasn't just been his bat either, his defense has been subpar as well. He's 37 years old, and while there's no reason to panic over a terrible first week, but the team should also be prepared for the possibility that he's not going to work out. Jose Ramirez has done well so far this year, and could be used at third base more, instead of in left field, which has been his primary position thus far.

Speaking of left field, the other three guys listed above are all outfielders, and even if they were hitting well, their playing time would soon be getting squeezed, because by next Tuesday Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will likely both be ready to return from the DL and take over as the primary corner outfielders. Unless Terry Francona decides he'll willing to forego his beloved huge bullpen, two outfielders are about to be demoted. Davis isn't in danger, both because his line is the least awful of the bunch, and because he's got the best prior record of MLB success of those outfielders. Byrd and Cowgill are a different story though.

The other outfielder in the mix is Tyler Naquin, the rookie who played tremendously during spring training and was rewarded with a spot on the Opening Day roster, all so that he could be given four plate appearances during the team's first six games. I understand the Indians have faced left-handed pitchers in the vast majority of their innings so far, and Naquin is a left-handed hitter, but even considering the potential platoon advantage of going with Byrd or Cowgill, it strikes me as quite a waste not to be giving Naquin more of an opportunity. If this is how Francona wants to use him and I were the GM, I'd send Naquin back to Columbus just so he doesn't forget how to play baseball. If Francona can be convinced to actually play Naquin, I'd keep him on the roster and send Byrd and Cowgill down as soon as Brantley and Chisenhall return.

I can't envision a scenario where Cowgill survives Brantley and Chisenhall's return; he's struck out in six of his eight plate appearances so far, and has looked overmatched in most of those appearances. Additions like Cowgill and like Byrd are lottery tickets. They aren't likely to pan out well and you shouldn't feel bad when they don't. Neither of them involved any real risk for the team, and they need not be given 100 at bats or anything like that before decided to cut bait.

As for Davis, I have no problem with keeping him on the roster and even with him starting the majority of games after Brantley and Chisenhall return, if he can handle himself in center field, but good gravy, quit batting him leadoff, even against lefties. In in his prime he barely had the skill set for that role.

Most of these problems have potential solutions that are only days away from driving up from Akron, and the team has survived these horrid starts with a 3-3 record. Mike Napoli was also brought in during the offseason, and he's been the team's best hitter to date, so it isn't even that the offseason looks like a total bust. Those numbers though, .094/.155/.156... yuck.