The Cleveland Indians outfield situation has been a key talking point of spring training, and the outfield got more interesting with the announcement of the signing of Carlos Gonzalez to a minor league contract yesterday. Gonzalez isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day March 28, but could be on the team by early April as long as he passes all his physicals and shows he’s in game shape.
But that’s not the issue here. Lost in the discussion of who will make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster in the outfield is the fact that there are way too many players competing for an outfield job at Triple-A Columbus.
Assuming Leonys Martin, Jake Bauers and Greg Allen are locks for the opening day roster, that leaves Tyler Naquin, Oscar Mercado, Trayce Thompson and Jordan Luplow competing for the final two spots, and if Gonzalez is on the team by early April, that leaves only one of them.
That means three of those players will be spending time at Triple-A Columbus, which is already insanely crowded.
Columbus currently has Mike Papi, Connor Marabell and Brandon Barnes on its outfield roster from last year. That doesn’t even include Double-A players Andrew Calica, Tyler Krieger, Ka’ai Tom and Daniel Johnson, who played well enough last season to earn a promotion.
It’s unlikely all four of them, if any, will be able to stay at Double-A because High-A Lynchburg had Mitch Longo and Trenton Brooks ready to move up while Alex Call and Jodd Carter are already expecting to begin the year at Double-A.
I haven’t even mentioned Bradley Zimmer, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and is already playing in minor league Spring Training games, or Matt Joyce, who was offered a minor league contract and was told he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster.
Some room could be made in the outfield if the Indians decide not to roster Hanley Ramirez, instead moving Jake Bauers to first base and Carlos Santana to DH. Tyler Krieger also could be moved back to second base, while Zimmer likely will begin the season on the disabled list.
Regardless, the Indians front office is going to have to make some tough decisions in the near future. I count 12 players who could feasibly be playing in the Columbus outfield right now. Players will continue to work their way up the ladder, but they may not like what they see when they get near the top.