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Complete Cleveland Indians 2014 Spring Training Preview

Tyler DumaFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 29, 2016

Complete Cleveland Indians 2014 Spring Training Preview

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Fresh off their first playoff appearance since 2007, the Cleveland Indians are now just days away from the start of spring training.

    The Indians made some big changes to the roster this offseason, but the biggest moves came in the form of the free-agency departures of Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith and Ubaldo Jimenez. The team attempted to address these moves through a flurry of minor league signings while also adding closer John Axford and outfielder David Murphy to the big league roster.

    The moves bring some optimism to Cleveland, as does the crop of young prospects who are making the trip to camp.

    Multiple position battles have taken shape this offseason. The battles for the fifth rotational spot, as well as the one for third base, should provide some interesting storylines as we progress through spring training.

    Over the course of this article, we'll take you step-by-step through spring training, giving you a full breakdown of what to expect as the team makes its way toward the start of the 2014 season.

    So let's get started!

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

Offseason Recap

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    The Indians roster underwent some massive changes this offseason. The team has suffered some major losses to the starting rotation and bullpen and has attempted to address them through a flurry of minor league signings.

    In addition to the minor league contracts that were handed out, the Indians brought in free agent outfielder David Murphy to solidify the void that was created when they traded Drew Stubbs to Colorado for left-hander Josh Outman.

    Consider the following lists. The first details the team's offseason subtractions, while the second details the team's additions.

     

    Offseason Departures

    • Ubaldo Jimenez (SP)
    • Jason Kubel (DH/OF)
    • Joe Smith (RP)
    • Matt Albers (RP)
    • Scott Kazmir (SP)
    • Drew Stubbs (OF)
    • Chris Perez (CP)
    • Lou Marson (C)
    • Kelly Shoppach (C)

     

    Offseason Additions

    • David Aardsma (RP)
    • David Adams (INF)
    • Scott Atchison (RP)
    • John Axford (CP)
    • Tyler Cloyd (SP)
    • David Cooper (1B/DH)
    • Jeff Francoeur (RF)
    • Elliot Johnson (INF)
    • Shaun Marcum (SP)
    • David Murphy (OF)
    • Josh Outman (RP)
    • J.C. Ramirez (RP)

     

    The only big league contracts given out this offseason went to Murphy and Axford. Murphy is set to take over for Stubbs as the team's starting right fielder, while Axford looks to fill the void left by the cutting of Chris Perez.

    Outside of those two, the only player with a near-guaranteed spot is left-handed reliever Josh Outman. The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons pitching in Colorado, where he served as a left-handed specialist and middle reliever.

    After that, the additions of Cloyd and Marcum add to the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation—which we'll discuss later. Aardsma and Atchison will also compete for a spot as the long reliever.

    Though Johnson was brought in on a minor league deal, this was likely just a cost-control measure. The 29-year-old is essentially a sure thing to make the roster given his ability to play multiple positions including both corner outfield spots, third base and middle infield.

    While these depth signings are nice, the team did little to address the concerns in the starting rotation. The Tribe lost two major contributors in Jimenez and Kazmir, and although the possibility remains for Jimenez to return—or for another starting pitcher to be added—it's not close to a sure thing.

    Unless the rest of the rotation steps up, and one of the team's competitors for the fifth rotation spot steps up as well, the losses of Kazmir and Jimenez could prove damning.

     

    Lists obtained via MLBTradeRumors.com's Free Agent Tracker.

Injury Updates Entering Camp

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Indians didn't have any major injuries to speak of as the 2013 season ended. In fact, the only player listed on the team's injury report is Frank Herrmann, who underwent Tommy John surgery back in March of 2013. 

    The 29-year-old reliever missed the entire 2013 season while rehabbing his right elbow, but according to CBS Sports, he is slated for a possible return this spring.

    He spent the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Indians' big league club, allowing a 4.26 ERA and 1.33 WHIP while averaging 5.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.48 K/BB and 9.8 H/9. Most recently, in 2013, he had a stellar season, working to a 2.33 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with averages of 6.5 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 3.50 K/BB and 5.6 H/9.

    According to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, Herrmann has an outside shot at earning the team's final right-handed relief spot this spring. Even so, it's likely that his health will be closely monitored this spring.

    He is the only Indians player listed on the injury report, but they will also be monitoring the health of starting rotation candidates Josh Tomlin and Shaun Marcum.

    Tomlin had Tommy John surgery back in August 2012, which led to just one appearance in 2013. This year will be his first back from the injury, and in the unlikely event he's named the fifth starter, his health and workload will be under constant watch.

    Per ESPN New York, Marcum underwent surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome this offseason. The surgery usually brings along a dip in velocity—something he had little to speak of prior to the surgery.

    These concerns are minor at most, and even if one of them suffered a setback, the team wouldn't feel any lasting effects.

Coaching Staff Analysis

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    The Indians will return largely the same coaching staff from the 2013 season, retaining key pieces like manager Terry Francona, hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo and pitching coach Mickey Callaway. 

    The team's current coaching staff is as follows.

    • Terry Francona: Manager
    • Ty Van Burkleo: Hitting Coach
    • Matt Quatraro: Assistant Hitting Coach
    • Mickey Callaway: Pitching Coach
    • Sandy Alomar Jr.: First Base Coach
    • Mike Sarbaugh: Third Base Coach
    • Brad Mills: Bench Coach
    • Kevin Cash: Bullpen Coach
    • Armando Camacaro: Bullpen Catcher

    The only addition to the coaching staff this season was the hiring of assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro. A former collegiate All-American back in the early '90s, he spent parts of seven minor league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays between 1996 and 2002.

    He brings additional managerial experience to the coaching staff, having served as manager for multiple minor league teams, including the Rays' Low-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. Most recently, he served as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Rays and played a role in the development of prospects like Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Hak-Ju Lee and Timothy Beckham.

    Quatraro will help the Indians by adding a fresh young voice to the fold. Additionally, he could help greatly in the development of young players like Lonnie Chisenhall and some of the prospects you'll see later on in this article.

    Outside of the addition of Quatraro, the Indians shuffled their coaching alignment slightly from 2013.

    Brad Mills, who served last season as the team's third base coach, moves back into the dugout to serve as the bench coach for 2014. To accommodate this move, the Indians moved Sandy Alomar Jr. to the first base coach's box and Mike Sarbaugh over to third base.

    The only change this offseason that is likely to make any impact is the addition of Quatraro. The 40-year-old will bring youth and experience to the clubhouse and a great work ethic for young players to aspire toward this spring.

Lineup Preview

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    1. Michael Bourn (CF)
    2. Nick Swisher (1B)
    3. Jason Kipnis (2B)
    4. Carlos Santana (DH/3B/1B/C)
    5. Michael Brantley (LF)
    6. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
    7. Yan Gomes (C)
    8. David Murphy (RF)
    9. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)

     

    Projected Bench

    • Mike Aviles (UTL)
    • Elliot Johnson (UTL)
    • Ryan Raburn (OF)
    • Jason Giambi (1B/DH)

     

    Analysis

    The Indians go-to lineup will look a lot like it did toward the end of 2013, save the addition of right fielder David Murphy.

    The team will rely on increased contributions from players like Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall. Even the recent addition of Murphy—a move thought to bring stability to the lineup—brings its own set of concerns.

    Consider the four players mentioned above and the numbers they posted over the 2013 season:

    SplitsGAB2BHRSBRBIRK/BBAVGOBPSLGwRC+
    Bourn130525216235075132:40.263.316.36091
    Cabrera136508351496466114:35.242.299.40295
    Chisenhall9428917111363056:16.225.270.39886
    Murphy14243626131455159:37.220.282.37473

    While they're not the most inspiring stats, the team will also benefit from the presence of All-Star-caliber players like Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher.

    The only major question mark surrounding the lineup is whether or not Santana can earn the starting job at third base. He essentially lost his job as the Tribe's starting catcher after an unexpected breakout season from Yan Gomes.

    Now, according to numerous reports, Santana has worked this offseason to win the job from Lonnie Chisenhall. If that should come to fruition, then Chisenhall might be bumped from the lineup in favor of a lineup that looks more like this:

    1. Michael Bourn (CF)
    2. Nick Swisher (1B)
    3. Jason Kipnis (2B)
    4. Carlos Santana (3B/DH)
    5. Michael Brantley (LF)
    6. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
    7. Yan Gomes (C)
    8. David Murphy (RF)
    9. Ryan Raburn/Lonnie Chisenhall (DH)

    It may not be the most likely scenario, but at this point in time, it's still a very real possibility.

Rotation Preview

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    1. Justin Masterson (RHP)
    2. Corey Kluber (RHP)
    3. Danny Salazar (RHP)
    4. Zach McAllister (RHP)
    5. Trevor Bauer/Carlos Carrasco/Tyler Cloyd/Shaun Marcum/Josh Tomlin

     

    Analysis

    As it currently stands, Ubaldo Jimenez is not in this rotation, and neither is Scott Kazmir, who signed with the Oakland Athletics.

    With Jimenez still out on the open market and the 2014 season rapidly approaching, the odds of him returning to Cleveland have risen exponentially—especially when you consider the fact that draft-pick compensation is required upon his signing with another team.

    In any event, he isn't a member of the rotation right now, and the club will have to move forward without him. 

    Last season, the rotation ranked in the middle of the pack statistically. Consider some of the major stats regarding pitchers and where the Indians ranked in those statistical measures amongst other AL teams:

    SplitsWLQS%IP/GSERAWHIPBAAOBPaSLGaK/9
    Indians595445%5.73.921.33.254.322.3968.6
    AL Rank581312695942

    Keep in mind that these rankings include key contributors like Kazmir and Jimenez.

    The two combined for 23 of the rotation's 59 victories and contributed a combined 3.64 ERA and 1.33 WHIP last season. They were a major part of the rotation's success over the 2013 season. The team's remaining starters need to step things up, and they'll need significant contributions from Danny Salazar and whoever the fifth starter ends up being.

    All of that will start with Justin Masterson. The veteran righty will resume his role as the team's No. 1 starter and for good reason. The 28-year-old made 32 appearances last season—29 starts—allowing a 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while averaging 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.57 K/BB and 7.3 H/9.

    He'll need to sharpen his command moving forward, but he's the closest thing to a shutdown starter the Indians have at this point.

    The FIP and xFIP figures posted by Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister during 2013 suggest that, for the most part, we can expect seasons similar to their breakout campaigns last season—Kluber posted a 3.30 FIP and 3.10 xFIP, while McAllister posted a 4.03 FIP and 4.53 xFIP.

    The most important parts of the rotation, and its subsequent success or failure, will be the progression of Salazar and the performance of the team's fifth starter.

    Salazar was a stud in his 10-start call-up last season, allowing a 3.12 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, with ratios including 11.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.33 K/BB and 7.6 H/9. It's likely that he'll regress a little in his first full season as a big leaguer, but concerns should be incredibly mild.

    The fifth spot, however, is a far different scenario. The team is relying on one man to step up out of a group of five pitchers who either have detailed injury concerns—Shaun Marcum, Josh Tomlin—or are young and unproven like Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Cloyd.

    At the end of this article, you'll find a detailed account of how this position battle will shape up this spring.

    Additionally, you can view my projections for the team's starting rotation in this article.

Bullpen Preview

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Projected Bullpen

    1. John Axford: Closer
    2. Bryan Shaw: Setup/Late Relief
    3. Cody Allen: Setup/Late Relief
    4. Vinnie Pestano: Middle Relief
    5. Marc Rzepczynski: Left-Handed Specialist/Middle Relief
    6. Josh Outman: Left-Handed Specialist/Middle Relief
    7. Josh Tomlin/Scott Atchison/Chen-Chang Lee/David Aardsma: Long Relief

     

    Analysis

    The bullpen also underwent some changes this offseason, and it's difficult to tell whether those changes will be for better or worse.

    The club parted ways with closer Chris Perez this offseason and replaced him with a struggling veteran in John Axford. He struggled over each of the last two seasons, allowing a 4.35 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and ratios including 10.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 2.43 K/BB and 9.0 H/9 over 134.1 innings pitched.

    There is some hope surrounding him though, centered on his 13-game stint with the St. Louis Cardinals late last season. The 30-year-old allowed just a 1.74 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings pitched, compared to 2.6 walks per nine.

    His case is an intriguing one based on the report of National Post's John Lott. Lott reported that Axford was informed by Cardinals' coaches that he had been tipping his pitches to opposing batters.

    No matter how good a pitcher may be, if hitters have any inclination of the pitch that's headed their way, their chances of drawing a walk or registering a hit increase exponentially. If this was truly what caused Axford's struggles, then the Indians may have a diamond-in-the-rough for the 2014 season. If not, then fans could be left longing for the days of Perez.

    The biggest change to the bullpen, though, comes from the subtraction of veteran right-hander Joe Smith. He made at least 70 appearances in each of the last three seasons, allowing a 2.42 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and ratios of 6.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.20 K/BB and 7.3 H/9.

    He was the best pitcher in the bullpen over that stretch, and replacing him will be a difficult task. The Indians will look to replace his production through increased contributions by Vinnie Pestano and some combination of the pitchers who are competing for the remaining two bullpen spots.

    After helping anchor the bullpen in 2011 and 2012, Pestano struggled in 2013. The 28-year-old allowed a 4.08 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 35.1 innings pitched and even spent a period of time with the club's Triple-A affiliate in Columbus.

    The club will need him to bounce back in 2014, but Cleveland will also need significant contributions from its second left-handed specialist and also its long reliever. The battle for these two positions will be discussed in detail shortly.

Prospects to Watch

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    The Indians have two major prospects to watch this spring: Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer.

     

    Francisco Lindor

    No matter what publication you look at, Lindor is the team's top prospect heading into camp.

    The 20-year-old spent the last three seasons with the club's various minor league affiliates, putting forth some incredible numbers. Over the three seasons, he put together a .279/.364/.377 slash line with 162-game averages of five home runs, 32 doubles, seven triples, 54 RBI, 106 runs scored and 37 stolen bases.

    Most recently, in 2013, he raked across two levels—High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. He played a combined 104 games while working to a .303/.380/.407 slash line with two home runs, seven triples, 22 doubles, 34 RBI, 65 runs scored, 25 stolen bases and a 46:49 K/BB ratio.

    Defensively, Lindor is a wizard. Consider what Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum had to say of Lindor's defense in his most recent top prospects list:

    Legitimate wizard at shortstop; potential to be elite defender in the major leagues; Gold Glove floor; does things at the position that no teenager should be able to do; outstanding makeup and instincts; ridiculously good glove; soft hands; above-average range; always gains momentum through the baseball and toward the target; accurate, above-average arm; defense ready for major leagues right now; destined to have a long career in majors even if bat doesn’t translate.

    Lindor ranks fifth on Rosenbaum's list right now, and given the recent struggles of big league shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, we could see Lindor in Cleveland any time after midseason. When he does finally arrive, he will bring with him an above-average/plus hit tool, decent speed and outstanding defense.

    If Indians fans ever wanted to get excited over a prospect, this is the guy.

     

    Trevor Bauer

    Despite several failed call-ups, to the big league level, Bauer is still one of the most intriguing prospects in both the Indians farm system and Major League Baseball.

    He features a five-pitch mix, headlined by a what used to be a plus-fastball, plus-curveball combo. Unfortunately the 23-year-old has fallen off sharply since being selected No. 3 overall in the 2011 MLB draft. 

    The young righty has significant concerns regarding his command over all five of his pitches, and his fastball velocity has dropped as well.

    Bauer's fastball was touted as a plus pitch when he was selected by the Diamondbacks out of UCLA. Since then, it has dipped down into the low-90s. Last season, Bauer's fastball averaged out at 92.66 miles per hour, a far cry from the 96-98 mph that he managed as a UCLA Bruin.

    Struggles aside, he still has a shot at making the starting rotation out of spring training. He, Shaun Marcum, Josh Tomlin, Tyler Cloyd and Carlos Carrasco will compete for that final spot, and while it will be difficult to beat out more experienced big league pitchers, Bauer's ultimate upside as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter carries a significant amount of weight in this competition.

     

    Under-the-Radar-Prospects

    Lindor and Bauer are going to grab all the headlines in camp, but the Indians have quite a few prospects in camp who are capable of making waves with the club at some point in the near future. This list of players includes but is not limited to mid-level prospects like Jose Ramirez, Tony Wolters and a few others.

    For a breakdown of some of these under-the-radar guys, feel free to visit my article on the subject.

Breakout Candidates

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Lonnie Chisenhall

    Since breaking in with the club in 2011, Lonnie Chisenhall has had a difficult time gaining any traction toward a successful big league campaign. Over 203 games played, the 25-year-old third baseman owns a .244/.284/.411 slash line with per-162-game averages of 18 home runs, 29 doubles, 59 RBI and 58 runs scored.

    Last season looks like Chisenhall's worst as a pro. However, a closer look at the numbers might reveal that it was more likely a losing bout with bad luck.

    Consider his 2013 numbers in relation to his career averages and also to the big league averages over his career:

    SplitsPit/PAStr%AS/StrConLD%IP%HR%HR/FBIF/FBBAbip
    20133.7867.6%77.8%82.0%23%72%3.6%9.2%17%.243
    Career Average3.7468.9%76.1%81.5%22%72%3.4%9.1%18%.274
    3-Year MLB Avg.3.8263.4%72.3%78.3%20%68%2.6%7.7%13%N/A

    Excluding pitches-per plate appearance and infield-fly-ball percentage, Chisenhall is better than league average in every aspect analyzed above. His contact rate, in-play percentage and line-drive rate suggest that his BAbip should be significantly higher than the .243 mark he posted last year, and even that it should exceed his career mark of .274.

    Chisenhall puts the ball in play at a relatively consistent clip, and his other ratios suggest that with a bit more luck and a slightly enhanced approach—career walk rate of 4.7 percent—he could mold into a decent regular.

    This year, he will have to compete for at-bats once again. Mike Aviles—who served as the utility infielder last season—and Carlos Santana will compete with Chisenhall for at-bats at third base.

    Santana poses the biggest threat to Chisenhall's hold over the position, and should Santana win the position, Chisenhall may be on the trading block as soon as Opening Day. This added motivation, along with another offseason and spring training with the club's coaching staff, could help push him toward his best season yet.

     

    Trevor Bauer

    Trevor Bauer has fit in this spot over each of the past two seasons. The 23-year-old has been a fixture in top-prospect rankings since being selected No. 3 overall in the 2011 MLB draft but has since faded away into prospect limbo.

    He hasn't done much of anything to inspire confidence in the organization, but he hasn't completely flopped either. This year presents the young righty with his best chance yet to win a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation.

    Bauer is an enigma in the truest sense of the word. The California native is headstrong, and it shows in his failed relationship with the Diamondbacks, and also in the continuation of his overly intense pregame warm-up regiment.

    Bauer has been hard at work this offseason, and manager Terry Francona has taken notice. In an article by The News-Herald's Jim Ingraham, Francona said, "We’ve been very encouraged by his offseason." The coach went on to say that "he’s coming to camp closer to the type of pitcher he wants to be.”

    Francona seems pleased by Bauer's progress, and so does Bauer.

    According to The Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Bauer had this to say of his offseason: 

    I’ve been up to 93.7 mph off the mound. That’s in training sessions when I’m worn down from lifting, working out and throwing a lot. I generally see a four to six mph increase from the off-season to spring training. I’m hoping to sit in the 93 to 96 range.

    One of the main gripes against Bauer has come from the dip in his velocity and also his tendency to get underneath his breaking pitches. Bauer also notes that he's become more consistent with his release point on breaking balls in the same article. So, if these claims are true, then he will have a major opportunity to win the final rotational spot this spring.

Position Battle Predictions

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Fifth Starter

    Barring some unforeseen change, the Indians will go into camp without a predetermined fifth starting pitcher.

    As mentioned in the discussion about the rotation, the fifth spot will be decided by a battle between Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Cloyd and Josh Tomlin. At this point, it's anybody's game.

    If you put any stock into the team's official depth chart, then Carrasco is the guy to beat.

    Additionally, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian believes that Carrasco is the favorite to win the fifth rotation spot this spring. Consider what Terry Francona had to say of the 26-year-old, via Bastian: "I think that's a given, with his stuff and things like that. He made some alterations in his delivery. He's got his arm a little higher to create some deception. I think we'd kind of like to see him take off with that."

    Unfortunately, that's about the only thing working in Carrasco's favor. Over 48 appearances—40 starts—he boasts a 5.29 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and ratios including 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.98 K/BB and 10.6 H/9.

    As a starter, the young right-hander owns a 5.53 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and ratios including 6.1 K/9 and 1.96 K/BB.

    His best work as a big leaguer has come while pitching out of the bullpen. In eight relief appearances—13.2 innings pitched—the Venezuela native boasts a 1.32 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and ratios including 7.2 K/9 and 2.20 K/BB.

    Carrasco will likely carry these enormous differences through spring training, where he could very well continue to struggle. That's where Trevor Bauer comes in.

    After Carrasco, Bauer has the most potential of any candidate for the job. In addition to that, though, newcomer Shaun Marcum—Bauer's next-best competitor—is likely to need additional work following spring training to get his stuff up to par after undergoing surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome in late 2013.

    With Marcum out of the picture, the only remaining pitchers able to steal the spot from Bauer are Tyler Cloyd and Josh Tomlin.

    Tomlin enters camp looking toward his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2012. The 29-year-old was never a great starter, but he did a decent job of it in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, allowing a combined 4.34 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 231.1 innings pitched.

    He displays elite control, sporting a career BB/9 of 1.7 over 343.2 innings pitched. This will work in his favor, but at 29 years old, his upside—in comparison to Carrasco and Baueris severely limited.

    Righty Tyler Cloyd signed on with the Indians under a minor league contract this offseason, and though he will technically compete for the fifth spot, he stands little chance. Over 93.1 innings pitched, the 26-year-old boasts a stat line including a 5.98 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and ratios including 6.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 2.22 K/BB and 11.2 H/9.

    Unfortunately for him, his pitch velocities have dipped over his three big league seasons, leaving his cutter, sinker and changeup below the 87 mph mark.

    Bauer is left as the Indians' best option. As discussed earlier, he has made some significant strides this offseason in refining his mechanics. The 23-year-old reported increased velocity in his fastball and also increased command and control of his breaking ball.

    If these reports are true and Bauer is closer to becoming the highly touted pitcher we saw at UCLA, then he is a shoo-in for the fifth spot in the rotation.

    Winner: Trevor Bauer

     

    Third Base

    This offseason, the Indians moved forward with plans to develop catcher Carlos Santana as a a third baseman. In a recent interview with ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas, Santana indicated that he was preparing to play third base only.

    The third base arrangement was discussed again, this time by Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. In the article, general manager Chris Antonetti declined to name Santana the starting third baseman and had this to say of the situation:

    We have not made a decision at third base. That’s what spring training is for. But Carlos has gotten a tremendous head start due to the work he’s put in this off-season. It started with him working at our complex in the Dominican Republic with our coaches. And it transitioned into winter ball.

    Antonetti also went on to say, "We continue to believe in Lonnie Chisenhall and his potential. And Carlos can only enhance his impact on the team and our goal of becoming a better ball club.”

    Though the Indians seem intrigued by the idea of Santana becoming the everyday third baseman—and who wouldn't be?—it's likely that they're just hedging their bets in the event that Chisenhall flops this year.

    However, despite the fact that Antonetti feels like Santana has "a tremendous head start" in the battle, it will be Chisenhall who wins the starting gig.

    The 25-year-old still has immense potential as an big league regular and will be given every opportunity to actualize that potential this season. Beyond that though, he is a far more polished defender, and the team benefits from being able to have both bats in the lineup at the same time, with Santana splitting time between DH, first base, catcher and third and with Chisenhall at third.

    Winner: Lonnie Chisenhall

     

    Long Reliever

    The Indians have an open spot for a long reliever in the bullpen this season. David Aardsma, Scott Atchison and Chen-Chang Lee and the losers of the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation—presumably Cloyd, Marcum, Carrasco and Tomlin—will be considered for the position.

    Aardsma and Atchison have the added benefit of extensive big league experience, with Atchison being the best of the two. Over 255 innings of work, the soon-to-be 38-year-old owns a 3.64 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and ratios including 5.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 2.33 K/BB and 8.9 H/9.

    Lee has spent the past five seasons with Cleveland's minor league affiliates, allowing a combined 2.94 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and ratios including 11.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.85 K/BB and 6.9 H/9. He has the added benefit of having worked as a long reliever in the minors, averaging a whopping 1.58 innings per appearance.

    Over the length of his career, Marcum has made just 27 relief appearances and only two since the 2007 season. He will likely be designated for assignment if and when he fails to make the rotation, where he will likely opt out of his contract in an attempt to latch on as a starter with another team.

    Essentially, this position battle boils down to three competitors: Atchison, Lee and Tomlin.

    Though Atchison and Lee have more experience working in relief—Tomlin has made just six relief appearances in his career—Tomlin will win the job out of spring training.

    The 29-year-old is a familiar face in the organization, having spent eight seasons with Cleveland. Additionally, his experience as a starter will serve him well as a long reliever.

    Tomlin is a control artist, allowing just 1.7 BB/9 over the course of his career, and that should play in his favor as a damage limiter in a long relief role. The work in the bullpen will also help to keep him fresh in the event that Bauer's struggles require a demotion back to the minors, or if an injury hits in the rotation.

    Winner: Josh Tomlin

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