Roster Expansion Will Give Tribe a Chance to Find Missing Pieces
Laurel Wilder | On 28, Aug 2014
It’s almost September, which means it’s almost time for scarves, pumpkins, and to cease wearing white. It’s also time for what will hopefully be meaningful baseball and the most anticipated September happening — roster expansions and September call-ups.
The Indians have had an up-and-down season that has resulted in an average record. Their starting pitchers have been through the rotating door of Cleveland, Columbus, and even the bullpen more times than fans can count, though they seem to have finally reached a fairly steady pattern, provided the younger pitchers keep up their strong performances. The bullpen was lights-out for most of the season and the team’s saving grace, though Cody Allen’s past weekend left fans with a bit of a sour taste in their mouths, despite the runs attributed to Allen being also attributed as unearned. Defense has been laughable at times, and hitting is virtually non-existent, save for that Zach Walters kid.
Walters, Jose Ramirez, and Tyler Holt have brought new life into the team in recent weeks, giving fans excitement about the potential of new additions to the team. The three players are young and have spent most of their seasons on minor league rosters, but big league tribulations have given all three a chance to prove their worth.
As the roster expands in the coming week, it opens the door for more young players to move into Progressive Field and demonstrate why they should be more consistent pieces of the Tribe’s on-field presence. The Indians will likely also bring up some older players who have bounced between Cleveland Columbus all season, as the roster now has a place for those of them who were optioned to make room for someone else.
So who should the Indians look at as September draws near? What are they missing, and who can provide it?
If call-ups and roster expansion had happened a month ago, starting pitchers would be sure to be heavily considered by the Indians. Tyler Cloyd threw a no-hitter for the Clippers on July 30, which would have made him a prime target for the Indians to consider. However, with the now fairly-solid rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and T.J. House, finding a place for Cloyd would be a bit of challenge.
Zach McAllister will likely be an addition, however. He has bounced between Cleveland and Columbus for much of the season and currently owns a 6-1 record and 2.18 ERA in the minors this season. Should McAllister be able to deliver a solid performance, the Indians have a few options for the pitcher: they could use a six-man rotation, could rely on Kluber on a regular basis and rotate through a five-man rotation to fill in the days after him, or could move McAllister to the bullpen for the remainder of the season. A spot for McAllister will undoubtedly be made, the only question is where that may be.
Another member of the 40-man roster, Austin Adams has also made appearances on the big league stage this season, appearing in three games for the Tribe. He boasts a 3-2 record and 2.60 ERA in relief for the Clippers. At 28, Adams isn’t getting any younger, which means giving him future chances to demonstrate just how he can help the team are necessary. Bryan Price is in the same boat as Adams, being the same age on the 40-man, meaning seeing him more late in the season is another possibility. He played eight games in Akron this season and has appeared in 18 in Columbus, with a 1-1 overall record on the season and 2.62 ERA.
Pitching aside, what the Tribe really needs to focus on as the rosters expand are the players who can provide defensive support as well as a pop in the offense. Of players who have spent most of their season with the Clippers, Jesus Aguilar leads the group in batting average, posting .302 in 113 games. The first baseman has only four errors on the season, proving him an asset on the field, as well. With Nick Swisher out for the year, an extra first baseman can certainly not hurt the Tribe. Aguilar also boasts 18 homers and 73 RBI and an OPS of .898. He is on the 40-man roster and appeared in eight games for the Tribe this season, driving in two runs in 16 at-bats. The youngster has the potential to make a big difference at the plate, and September is as good a time as any to see if that potential can become reality.
Third baseman Giovanny Urshela also has power at the plate with a .276 average and 13 home runs. He started the year in Akron, where he hit .300 in 24 games before earning a promotion to Columbus. In 99 games, Urshela has 103 hits, 27 doubles, and six triples, while driving in 65 runs and drawing 29 walks. His .818 OPS suggests a player who should see the Major League stage soon — will this September be time? He, like Aguilar, has four errors on the season, and appears to make a strong case for a call-up. The team cannot risk sloppy play and, much like their abundance of relievers, can never have enough options for the infield.
One of the biggest questions of all, though, is, of course, that of Francisco Lindor. With Asdrubal Cabrera out of the picture, fans are clamoring for their introduction to the young superstar at Progressive Field. It has been said that seeing Lindor at short sooner rather than later for the Indians in 2015 is basically a guarantee, meaning big league experience is getting to be a necessity. Is this season going to be his big break?
Lindor started the year in Akron, where he played 88 games and hit .278 and had a .741 OPS. In 32 games in Columbus, Lindor is hitting .281. His real talent, though, is on the field. Lindor will likely become one of the best defensive shortstops in the game at some point in his career. He had a .967 fielding percentage in Akron and currently boasts a .978 fielding percentage in Columbus. He will be a huge improvement over Cabrera, but again, the question remains as to when that will happen.
If Lindor is called up in September, what happens to Jose Ramirez? Ramirez has become a strong asset to the Indians lineup and also needs the playing time in order to improve his own performance in the big leagues — sitting him for the rest of the season would hinder that development.
My prediction is that Lindor does not receive a spot on the expanded roster in September, and instead receives an invitation to Major League Spring Training next season. At that point, he will get his opportunity to shine with the team and will prove exactly when an addition to the Major League roster should happen. The Clippers have secured a playoff spot for this season, where Lindor will prove to be invaluable. The safest bet is likely to keep Lindor with the Clippers for the rest of this season and have the door wide open for him to really make his mark come 2015.
The Indians have strong prospects on the cusp of making their impact in the big leagues. September will allow a few of those to prove themselves to the organization — the club is already being helped in a major way by young players, meaning an addition of a few of their younger teammates can, hopefully, only continue to give the Tribe that extra push they are looking for and set them up well for a positive 2015.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images