The solution to the defensive woes of 2014 might be closer than expected, well at least for third base.
Giovanny Urshela, 23, first arrived in the Indians system in 2009. He was never really anything super impressive, aside from his superb caliber defense. He struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and didn’t provide much power in his swing. He’s always had a decent slugging percentage, but a low OBP which made him not a very valuable prospect. In 2012, he was able to put up a pretty solid season where he hit 14 home runs and had an OPS of .755. He was then promoted to Double-A Akron in 2013, where he didn’t put up as good of a season as he did in 2012. In 2014 though, he finally kicked things into gear and became one of the most anticipated prospects in the Indians farm system.
When will Francisco Lindor reach the big leagues?
It’s a storyline nearly as big as what the Indians’ record will be in 2015, and some feel the two may be intertwined. While when he debuts remains a question, his prospective stardom and potential is something every one seems to agree is a positive future.
“Francisco Lindor is going to have an impact because he’s so steady,” J.J. Cooper of Baseball America recently said on MLB Network. “You gaze into the future and it’s really hard to believe he won’t be a solid, big leaguer.”
Cleveland Indians outfield prospect Carlos Moncrief had his share of “Wow” moments in 2014. He had 22 of them to be exact.
The Jackson, Mississippi native’s 22 outfield assists tied the International League single season record and helped catapult the Columbus Clippers to a Western Division title.
To put Moncrief’s accomplishment into perspective, Yoenis Cespedes led Major League Baseball with 16 outfield assists, and the last big league baseball player to tally at least 22 in a season was Richard Hidalgo for the Texas Rangers in 2003.
The Cleveland Indians’ 2014 season would have been far less successful if not for the emergence of several key young contributors within the starting rotation.
The offense lacked consistency from some of the biggest names and highest paid members of the organization. The defense, for lack of better and more appropriate terms, was downright atrocious with the glove and arm while leading the free world in errors. The pitching staff, and in particular those in the rotation, kept the Indians competitive and on the outskirts of the playoff picture until mid-September, while both the offensive and defensive woes should have eliminated them far earlier.
If Cleveland is going to live up to some of the developing hype being generated by the media around the club, it is going to be this same group of young and generally inexperienced starters who are going to have to lead the team in the year ahead.
The 2014 season was a special year for Tyler Naquin, but not for all the right reasons.
After being drafted by the Tribe in the first round of the 2012 draft, Naquin has had a pretty decent career thus far. He’s spent most of his time playing in centerfield, and doing exactly what the Indians had hoped for when they drafted him: run fast, hit for contact, and play stellar defense. He found some major success in the Lower-A teams as between 2012-2013, before his promotion to Akron, he had a triple slash of .295/.375/.781. He’s not a big home run hitter, but he definitely gets on base and hits the ball well. That was until he got to Double-A Akron at least.
Back before 2013, the Tribe spent gobs of money on two marquee free agents when they inked Nick Swisher to a four year, $56 million deal and then shocked the world by signing Michael Bourn to one worth $48 million over the same four years. The Bourn deal seemed like a bargain at the time, as the 2012 All-Star had been holding out for a deal worth around $75 million. Currently, however, it is very easy to place all blame on the Indians for what have become the two biggest—and most expensive—elephants in the room.
Neither Swisher nor Bourn have lived up to the immense expectations that Cleveland has put on them as both have missed significant time due to injuries and both have dramatically underperformed when they were healthy enough to be on the field. On the whole, the Tribe as a team has generally overcome these two albatross contracts and somewhat overachieved over the past two seasons by earning the first AL Wild Card in 2013 and posting a second-straight winning season for the first time since 2001 in 2014. The result of 2014 just might have been another playoff spot, however, if Bourn, Swisher and some of the other more expensive names on the roster could have performed even close to their expectation.
Game 6 marked the first World Series game played in Cleveland on a workday. But thousands of people had made plans to be at League Park or someplace that wasn’t work to get regular results from the game.
The box office at League Park opened at 9:30 that morning, and by 10, crowds were starting to fill in the stands – four hours before the scheduled start time. Within an hour of that, boys were climbing trees around the ballpark for a vantage point to see some of the game, and rooftops along Lexington Avenue started to fill with fans. C. A. Reichheld, president of the Acme Awning Co., said the roof of the building was reserved for employees and their friends. “If we let everybody up who wants to get up the building would have collapsed long ago,” he said.
Once again, former Cleveland mayor and then-Secretary of War Newton D. Baker was in the stands. This time he was accompanied by Myron Herrick, the U.S. ambassador to France. Herrick, a Lorain County native, had served as a Cleveland councilman and was governor. Warren Harding, the Marion native running as a Republican for President in 1920, was Herrick’s lieutenant governor.
There were some positives to take out of the 2014 season for the Cleveland Indians, but offensive consistency was not among those.
It may have slipped under the radar to some degree due to the surprisingly good numbers that came from the starting rotation and the generally unpleasant quantity of errors committed by the defense behind those pitchers. In the end, the offense had the opportunity to pick up and support strong pitching efforts or to overcome mental lapses on the field, but overall, they failed to do so. In the end, their failures may have contributed to the Indians’ season ending prematurely, despite a second consecutive winning year.
In 2014, no matter how you measure it, the Indians were not very good defensively.
The Indians led Major League Baseball with 116 errors in 2014. Judging a team’s defense solely on errors committed is no longer fair. With new defensive ratings and metrics available, a defense can better be judged, including range and overall defensive play.
However, the Indians were not very good by any of those metrics either.
According to Fangraphs, “In recent years, though, we’ve seen two fielding metrics rise above the rest of the field and establish themselves as reliable: the Dewan Plus/Minus system (AKA, Defensive Runs Saved) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). Both systems don’t always agree, but when compared with each other and taken in large sample sizes (~3 years), you can get a good idea of a player’s fielding abilities.”
As the sun rises in Goodyear, Arizona this morning and pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training, many things have changed around the Indians while very little has changed internally.
Chief Wahoo smiles atop the page this morning for the first time since last season’s disappointing 85-77 third place finish. The 2014 goal, Unfinished Business, was clear: build upon a 2013 wild card birth and make a prolonged playoff journey. However, an 11-17 start in April, headlined by slow starts from Justin Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher and an injury to Michael Bourn put the Indians behind in the standings and in a deficit they could never recover. Masterson, Swisher, Bourn and 2013 All-Star Jason Kipnis each spent considerable time on the disabled list in 2014.
Despite a 53-55 record at the trade deadline, manager Terry Francona, vowed his team would never wave the white flag, even when Cabrera and Masterson were traded to National League contenders at the deadline. Even though they helped contribute to the 2013 playoff season, Cabrera and Masterson were detriments to the Tribe’s first four months in 2014. The moves were made to jettison the two free-agents-to-be, and clear roster space for young players ready to assume larger big league roles.