Two Spots Remain Available On Tribe Offense
With 24 cuts left to make in the Indians camp, the roster is becoming clearer by the day, especially on the offensive side.
Today the Tribe made five more cuts, assigning Ezequiel Carrera, Corey Kluber and Juan Diaz to AAA-Columbus, while sending Hector Ambriz and Michael Hernandez to minor league camp. The current spring training roster sits at 49 players.
Nearly every major league team breaks camp with 13 position players and 12 pitchers. Very rarely does a team deviate from that formula for more than a day or two throughout the season. With early cuts already made and Grady Sizemore headed to the disabled list at the end of the month, the position players to be listed on Manny Acta’s lineup card for Opening Day on April 5 are becoming very clear.
Assuming the Tribe remains healthy, 11 of the 13 spots are probably solidified with Carlos Santana and Lou Marson behind the plate, Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jack Hannahan and Jason Donald on the infield, and Shelley Duncan, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield, with Travis Hafner as the team’s designated hitter.
That leaves two position player roster spots available. Most likely, one is filled by an outfielder and the other by an infielder. With two weeks remaining to make most major decisions for the Tribe, there seems to be five possibilities to fill the final two position player spots.
The right handed hitting outfielder can play all three outfield positions and has an above average arm. What gives Cunningham the inside track—in addition to being a right handed bat off the bench—is that he is out of options. In order to return to the minor leagues, Cunningham would have to clear waivers. When teams are setting their rosters at the end of March, the likelihood of Cunningham sliding through seems slim and considering the Tribe traded for him in December, it seems he has the best shot to become the fourth outfielder and second center field option. He and Brantley would be the only possibilities to roam the middle of the outfield.
On The Bubble
Lopez has had a great first half of camp, hitting .429, with two home runs and five runs batted in, entering Sunday’s play. The veteran infielder is a spring invitee this year, but has considerable major league experience with the Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies, including a 20 home run season with the Mariners. Lopez is also a right handed bat that could play first base, second base and third base. His power could be a bonus off the bench and against left handed pitchers. If Lonnie Chisenhall does not make the roster, Lopez could be the second option at third base. Acta admitted this week that he, “knew Lopez would make things interesting in camp.” With Lopez being a spring invitee, a roster move would have to be made to make room for him on the 40-man and 25-man roster. That move could easily result in losing a player from the organization.
Canzler is one of the biggest surprises in the first half of camp, hitting .400. Also right handed, Canzler has considerable power and won the International League batting crown with the Tampa Bay Rays AAA affiliate last season. Acta said this week of Canzler that, “he has little left to prove at AAA.” Originally a third baseman, Canzler can play first base and the corner outfield positions. He has just recently began a transition to the outfield, but if he were to make the team he could again provide power against left handed pitchers and challenge Duncan for starting time in left field. If Cunningham makes the team, he would be the fifth outfielder and probably the third option at first base behind Kotchman and Santana.
Outside Looking In
While Spring Training statistics don’t mean a lot to most players, they do when you are trying to win a job. Neither Chisenhall or Hannahan has had a great first half of the spring, but since the Indians have already committed a guaranteed contract to Hannahan and Chisenhall has remaining options, it is easy to believe The Chiz Kid will have his work cut out for him to earn an Opening Day spot on the roster. The emergence of Lopez and Canzler, who could each play third and other positions, probably does not help Chisenhall’s hopes. While he still has a chance to make the roster, he needs to have a solid second half of March to attract Acta’s eye.
The right handed hitter was whispered to be a favorite of Acta’s early in camp and drew several early opportunities in camp. However, Spilborghs has struggled, hitting .227. He, like Cunningham, can play all three outfield positions which gives him a unique opportunity to make the team since he could back up Brantley. He also is a spring invitee, meaning a roster spot would have to be cleared for him as well. It is unlikely the Tribe would risk losing a player for someone who has struggled most of the spring and all of last season.
Photo: Associated Press