Spring Training games are only a week old for the Cleveland Indians, but we’ve already seen a bit of everything. There have been both offensive explosions and pitching duels, towering home runs and slick defensive plays and there’s even been the negatives as the Indians unfortunately watched one of their top players go out with injury.
Yes, it’s beginning to feel a lot like baseball season, and that feeling is most evident in Goodyear, Ariz. where the Indians are off to a solid 5-3 Spring Training start.
We’ve seen a number of players get off to both hot and cool starts this past week, and spring games will likely only get more exciting as starting pitchers continue to be stretched out.
With that said, let’s take a look at the week that was and also touch on some of the things ahead for the Indians…
Player of the Week
Ryan Raburn — 6 G, 8-for-13, 5 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Do you think Ryan Raburn wants to make this year’s Cleveland Indians club? The 31-year-old Raburn just had an absolutely brilliant week for the Indians as he socked three home runs in 13 at-bats. In comparison, Raburn totaled one home run last season with the Detroit Tigers in 205 at-bats. The Indians seem to have their utility man with Mike Aviles on the team, but there’s still a good chance that Raburn makes the club as a fourth outfielder. Raburn, who has played only nine games in center field since the 2010 season, benefits from the fact that the Indians entire starting outfield is comprised of three center fielders. Thus, the team does not need its fourth outfielder to have the ability to play center. Also, when you consider that Raburn can play first base, second base, third base, both outfield corners and has hit for some power in the past, it seems as if he could be a frontrunner for one of the Indians’ bench spots. Actually, after one week of action, let’s tell it like it is. He IS a frontrunner for one of the team’s bench spots.
News & notes
— The Indians Spring Training team is about to shrink — by six players that is. Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez are scheduled to leave Sunday to head to Scottsdale, Ariz. where they’ll join the rest of Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. Other players competing in the WBC will leave Saturday to join their clubs, including Mike Aviles and Giovanni Soto (Puerto Rico), Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic) and Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela). It’s probably fair to say that fans have a good general idea of what they can expect from the Indians competing in the WBC, but the one wild card is Soto. Soto has made two appearances for the Indians so far this spring, and the results have been less than encouraging. In two games and 1 1/3 inning of work, Soto has been torched for seven earned runs, and his ERA sits at 47.25. The left-hander has also walked four batters and allowed a home run. Now, Soto’s struggles could easily be chalked up to nerves as he is still only 21 years old and facing advanced hitters. We already know his cutter is a Major-League weapon, but he seems to have struggled with his command this spring. From all indications, it appears as if he will be expected to start for Puerto Rico, so it will be interesting to see if the struggles continue. He certainly seems to have all the tools needed. Now, it’s just up to him to harness his ability.
— You hate to see the injury bug hit players, especially this early in the season. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Michael Brantley on Monday after the left fielder slid headfirst and was cleated by Oakland Athletics’ third basemanJosh Donaldson. The injury required that Brantley receive 15 stitches on his left forearm, and he is expected to miss 10 days. In this case, it appears as if the World Baseball Classic may be a blessing in disguise. Because of the WBC, this year’s Spring Training was extended an extra week to ensure that players participating in the game would first have some time with their respective clubs. This means that the Brantley injury is actually pretty insignificant as he’ll have plenty of time to heal up and see lots of game action before the start of the regular season. In actuality, the biggest negative of the injury is that it came at a time when Brantley was blazing hot. In three games this spring, the left-handed hitter has gone 5-for-6 with four doubles and two RBI.
— I’m going to make two predictions. 1. Lou Marson starts the regular season as the Tribe’s backup catcher. 2. Yan Gomes replaces him at that position by July. Gomes has really started the spring off right as the right-handed hitting catcher has gone 4-for-8 in five games with two doubles, a home run and five RBI. It seems as if the Indians want to make sure that he spends some time in Triple-A Columbus perfecting his catching abilities, but it’s hard to argue with what he’s displayed offensively so far. Also, with Santana heading to the Dominican for the WBC, Yomes is going to have more opportunities to get consistent at-bats. With Lou Marson, the Indians have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to get. He will always call a good game, but he owns a .220/.309/.301 line in 258 career Major League games for a reason. There is really no upside to Marson, which is why it seems likely that Gomes will supplant him in Cleveland before long.
— Trevor Bauer has arguably been the most impressive starting pitcher so far this spring. In two games and four innings, the right-hander has a perfect 0.00 ERA, and he’s allowed only two hits while striking out three. Also, it’s nice to see how Bauer is pitching so efficiently. For example, in Thursday’s contest, Bauer needed just 24 pitches to make it through two innings and 15 of the pitches went for strikes. Those are exactly the type if numbers that you love to see from a young, promising starting pitcher in Spring Training. It seems as if Bauer is a huge long shot in the race for the fifth starter role, but what if he continues to pitch this way all spring? The potential is limitless with Bauer, and he is definitely one of, if not the most intriguing player to follow this spring. Whether he makes the team out of Spring Training or not, it will likely be only a matter of time before he finds himself in Cleveland. Based on easy indications, that time could come sooner than we think.
— Anyone who follows my stuff at IBI knows that I am absolutely bullish on Zach McAllister. I see him as a workhorse type with above-average stuff who ultimately can end up logging 200 innings for the Major League club. McAllister seems to be a lock for the fourth starter’s spot, but some question marks could be raised after his performance on Thursday. The right-hander pitched two innings while allowing seven hits and five earned runs. McAllister would have likely pitched more than just two innings, but he needed 44 pitches to make it through the two. He left a number of balls over the middle of the plate, and Texas Rangers hitters were able to turn on them. The appearance was basically the exact opposite of McAllister’s first outing this spring where he pitched two innings, struck out two and walked just one. Let’s just hope McAllister’s start on Thursday was nothing more than a spring hiccup as he’s a player who will be incredibly important to the club this season.
— It’s nice to see Jesus Aguilar get off to a decent start this spring. In five games, the first baseman has gone 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI, two walks and a strikeout. Aguilar is in camp as a non-roster invitee and really has no chance of making the Major League club, but it’s still nice for him to get an opportunity to face Major League pitching. That’s only going to help his development and potentially expedite his arrival in Cleveland.
— Mike McDade is another player who seems to be making the most of his opportunity in Spring Training. The switch-hitter has now gone 4-for-10 in six games and is tied for the team lead with six RBI. McDade is apparently in the mix for the one of the Tribe’s bench spots but it seems highly unlikely that he will receive legitimate consideration. He’ll probably take over first base duties at Columbus and could become an option later in the year.
— While we’re talking about first baseman, we might as well touch on Chris McGuiness. A Rule 5 pick in December, McGuiness has gone 2-for-12 with three strikeouts this spring. McGuiness was most impressive in Monday’s game against the Athletics when he had a slick play to take away a base hit from Jed Lowrie. Still, if McGuiness is going to make this team, it will be because of his bat, and so far, he just has not been impressive enough to warrant a roster spot. He’ll have to really pick it up over these next few weeks, or he’ll likely be offered back to the Rangers.