Tribe Roundup: A look at the Indians' roster battles

Who will make the 26-man roster?

James Rapien
March 21, 2020 - 10:38 am
Mar 5, 2020; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Zach Plesac (34) throws a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH —The Indians’ roster looks much different than it did a year ago, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty surrounding key positions.

Baseball has completely shut down, which brought spring training roster battles to a halt.

The Indians’ starting rotation has a chance to be one of the best in the American League. The duo of Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger has the potential to be dominant. Unfortunately for the Tribe, Clevinger has dealt with multiple injuries over the past few seasons.

‘Sunshine’ is currently recovering from a meniscus tear in his left knee. The delayed start to the season should give him plenty of time to recover, but will he be able to stay on the field once he’s healthy?

Carlos Carrasco is another question mark. The right-hander turned 33-years-old on Saturday. He hopes to be the third starter and a valuable piece of the Indians’ rotation, but is it realistic to expect him to stay healthy? He dealt with a strained hip flexor and elbow inflammation during spring training.

Carrasco, who battled chronic myeloid leukemia last season, made 11 relief appearances last September.

The veteran is as big of a question mark as anyone projected to be in the Indians’ rotation. Will he stay healthy? Can he still start and pitch at a high level?

The delayed season should allow Carrasco and Clevinger to heal, which could be a blessing in disguise for the Tribe.

Assuming they’re healthy, Bieber, Clevinger and Carrasco are locks for the rotation. That means there are two spots remaining for Adam Plutko, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.

Plutko is out of minor-league options, which means the Indians would have to keep him on the roster or move on from him completely. Both Plesac and Civale showed plenty of promise as rookies last season.

Outfield

The biggest question mark on the team is in the outfield. Who will start next to Oscar Mercado?

Franmil Reyes was an early favorite in right field. He shed weight in the offseason, kept his power and looked poised to hit 40 or more home runs. Will Reyes stay in shape during the stoppage or will the “sweet things” he gave up in the offseason get the best of him?

“I really worked hard and I hope this work pays off,” Reyes said in February. “We were working a lot on swinging the bat and (Carlos) Santana was trying to give me some tips with the strike zone and all of that. It was really good to work out with him.”

If Reyes stays in shape, he could start in right field.

Jordan Luplow appears to be the favorite to start in left field. Delino DeShields Jr. has the versatility the Indians look for in a fourth outfielder. In that scenario, Domingo Santana would probably be the everyday designated hitter.

Will Jake Bauers be able to do enough to earn a roster spot? Could Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen or Daniel Johnson sneak their way onto the 26-man roster? Plenty of questions remain, even with the starting outfield potentially set.

Utility

Mike Freeman and Christian Arroyo are battling for what could be the final roster spot.

Freeman posted a .277/.362/.390 slash line in 75 games for the Tribe last season. He can play second base, third base and shortstop.

The Indians acquired Arroyo from the Rays last season. He’s primarily a second and third baseman, but isn’t as versatile as Freeman.

Arroyo, 24, has shown flashes at the plate, but will it be enough to supplant the more versatile Freeman?

In theory, both infielders could make the final roster, but that would make Bauers the odd man out.