Injuries Give Young Players a Chance to Shine

Just as every rose has its thorns, so too does every cloud have a silver lining. In the Indians case, their recent roster moves and adjustments display both. Yes, it hurts to see David Murphy sent to the DL with a strained right oblique muscle, but it’s a bit rewarding to see that Nick Swisher is sidelined with a knee injury. While I wish injury on no one, as Mike Brandyberry wrote earlier this week, perhaps a little less Swisher is what the team needs right now.

Equally as rewarding for the Indians is the opportunity that younger players have to make an impact at the big league level. Tyler Holt and Zach Walters (whom the Indians received in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade with the Nationals prior to the trade deadline) were recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Monday, marking Holt’s third trip to Cleveland this season and Walters’ first taste of Progressive Field. While their time may be limited – it has been suggested that Michael Bourn could be back with the team as early as this weekend – the two young players still have a chance to make their mark on the club before the season is over.

It’s no secret that the Indians have struggled in nearly every facet of the game at some point this season. Their rotation started out on a solid foot, but has quickly disintegrated into a pattern that can hardly be called consistent. The bullpen has been strong as of late, but also showed signs of weakness earlier in the season. Defense has been comical at times and hitting has also been nonexistent when it’s needed most. While Holt and Walters can’t fill in on the pitching side, hopefully their strengths are able to repair some gaps that have been left by the players before them.

Holt was drafted by the Indians in the 10th round of the 2010 draft, when he appeared in 22 games for the Lake County Captains, hitting .286 with an .866 OPS. When Holt played with the Captains in 2010, the team was the first half Eastern Division Champions and the Midwest League Championship team.

Holt played his entire 2011 season in Carolina, hitting .254 with 114 hits, 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs, and 26 RBI. He hit .263 in Carolina in 2012 and .250 in AA Akron when he was promoted during the 2012 season. Holt appeared with Akron again in 2013, hitting .267 with 139 hits, 24 doubles, nine triples, two home runs, and 42 RBI. 2014 has proven to be Holt’s breakout season, as he played 39 games in Akron and has played 58 in Columbus. Holt hit .298 in Akron this season and posts a .311 average in Columbus, with an .826 OPS. He has a total of 29 RBI on the season.

Walters has equally strong Triple-A numbers on the season, hitting .300 with 71 hits, 18 doubles, five triples, and 48 RBI with Washington’s AAA affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. In the seven games in which he played in Columbus, Walters hit .387 with a 1.097 OPS, 12 hits, four doubles, and two home runs, driving in eight runs.

Their Triple-A numbers alone demonstrate the potential that each player has to help the team on at the big league level. They have each had few opportunities thus far to make a major difference, but the door is now open for these two players to establish themselves with the Indians.

Holt’s minor league performances and statistics indicate that he is beneficial player to have on base, as his 31 total stolen bases indicate speed and the ability to capitalize on other occurrences on the field when on base. For a team that desperately needs to score, the Indians can use the speed and smarts of Holt on base to boost their offensive numbers.

Similarly, Walters can help the team offensively with his power at the plate. His high averages and on-base percentages between the Nationals organization and Triple-A Columbus show a player who has the ability to deliver extra-base hits and send players home.

The two young players can be assets to the team on the field, as well. Tyler Holt’s full-extension catch made during Tuesday night’s game prior to the rain delay made SportsCenter’s Top 10 — and more than that, it was the number one featured play Tuesday night. In the three games in which he’s appeared in the field for the big league club, Holt has no errors. He boasts a lifetime .988 fielding percentage in the minors with only 13 total errors in five seasons. He’s a strong fielder and, frankly, one fans would much rather see in the outfield than Swisher, who gave right field a whirl prior to his trip to the DL.

Walters, who has played games at shortstop, third base, left field, and second base throughout his Major League career, also boasts a flawless fielding percentage at the big league level. With most of his playing time spent in the infield, he can certainly only help a defense that was marred by the sloppy play of Cabrera, among others.

Can Holt and Walters save the team this season? Of course not. The Indians have played average to subpar baseball throughout the majority of 2014, and it will take much more than two young kids to propel them to the playoffs. Are the playoffs out of the question, though? No. Baseball is nothing if not unpredictable, and Holt and Walters at least have the opportunity to help the team achieve greater things as the season winds down. Regardless of the final outcome, the fact will still remain that Holt and Walters will be great additions to the Tribe roster in seasons to come. They will have their moments, and this season is just a glimpse at what those contributions can be.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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