With pitchers and catchers already reported for spring training, baseball season is officially upon us! With that said it’s time to take a deep look at the Indians’ upcoming roster as they look to win their fourth consecutive AL Central Division title and get back to the World Series. Throughout the offseason one of the biggest quetions about the Indians heading into the new season is their outfield, so lets break down what the Tribe’s outfield looks like heading into 2019.
Of course everyone knows some very familiar faces will no longer be in the outfield anymore as longtime Indians Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall both left in free agency, and unfortunately the Indians really haven’t done anything to replace either of them. Luckily for the Indians they do have both Leonys Martin and Bradley Zimmer returning from injuries. They did acquire one outfielder this offseason in the Carlos Santana trade, Jake Bauers, however he may see more time at first base than he will in the outfield.
The Indians currently have seven outfielders on their roster, Martin, Zimmer, Bauers, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow and Oscar Mercado. The biggest problem facing the Indians outfield is who is playing where, as the three best outfielders, Martin, Allen and Zimmer are all primarily center fielders. Since it’s still unclear what the lineup will look like for the Indians this season, lets break down their best outfielders, Allen, Martin, Zimmer and Naquin.
Greg Allen took major advantage of his playing time last season, after Zimmer got injured for the year. He batted .257, which was fifth on the team of players to have played a minimum of 90 games, with two home runs, 20 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Allen was third on the team in stolen bases, behind Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez despite playing in nearly 60 fewer games. Of course the most vital part of Allen’s game is his glove as he was fantastic manning center last season. Expect Allen to continue to develop at the plate and if given enough playing time be the leader in stolen bases for the Indians this season.
Leonys Martin was one of the Indians trade deadline aquisitions last season to help add depth to the outfield position. Unfortunately Martin fell ill to a life threatning bacteria infection and shut down for the reamining 2018 season. Thankfully Martin made a full recovery and is able to begin the season with the Indians. Last season in 84 games Martin batted .255 with 11 homeruns and 33 RBIs. Martin will look to be a nice piece this season, as he is another great defender with the ability to hit 15 homeruns. It isnt star power, but a very solid piece in the lineup behind star power like Lindor and Ramirez.
Bradley Zimmer was the top overall prospect for the Indians prior to his promotion in 2017. Since then Zimmer has shined in the outfield and been able to show flashes at the plate, however nothing consistent yet, even being optioned back to Triple-A Columbus last season after batting .226 with a 42% strikeout rate in early June. The biggest problem for Zimmer has been injuries, in 2017 it was a broken hand and in 2018 it was shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. After the strong season from Allen, Zimmer is going to really need to prove himself if he ever wants to be the Indians’ center fielder of the future he was projected to be.
Finally we have Tyler Naquin, who of course first came on the scene in 2016 with a very succesfull rookie season that had him third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. 2017 was a bit of a lost season for Naquin as he only appeared in 19 games for the Indians, but was able to get to play in 61 games for the Indians and showed flashes that could make Naquin the everyday right fielder for this season. In 2018 Naquin batted .264 with three homeruns and 23 RBIs, but more consistent playing time should only help Naquin improve those numbers. As a career .280 hitter in 196 games Naquin has shown he can hit at the MLB level and deserves to be an everyday player for the Indians this season.
The outfield for the Indians has by far the most question marks of any aspect of the team heading into the 2019 season and rightfully so. The Indians were unable to resign Brantley and did almost nothing to try and replace him. With the Indians still more than capable of winning the AL Central they’ll be back in title contention, but if they want to truly be taken seriously they’ll have to make an upgrade to at least one of these outfield positions.
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