Freeman, Tom among Indians' NRIs to spring

January 23rd, 2020

CLEVELAND -- We knew that we’d see every player on the 40-man roster at big league Spring Training this year, but now the Indians have announced which of their prospects will get to join in on the fun.

On Thursday, the Tribe extended non-roster invitations to their Major League camp to nine pitchers, three catchers, three outfielders and four infielders. Among the names was , who occupied the utility man role last year.

Freeman was designated for assignment on Dec. 15 in order to clear space on the 40-man for and in the Corey Kluber trade. Four days later, he was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus, and he’ll once again be in the running to be the Tribe’s utility man along with and . The Indians were pleased with how Freeman handled his role last year, hitting .277 with a .752 OPS in 75 games.

The pitchers

Right-handers Argenis Angulo, Kyle Dowdy, Cam Hill, Henry Martinez, Jared Robinson, Dalbert Siri, Dominic Leone, Jordan Stephens and lefty Anthony Gose all received invites. Of those nine, Dowdy, Gose and Leone previously reached the big leagues, though Gose’s stint came at a different position.

Gose, 29, appeared in 372 Major League games as an outfielder with Toronto and Detroit from 2012-16. He converted to a pitcher in '17 and split last season between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Akron in his first year in the Indians' organization. At those stops, he put together a combined 2.48 ERA in 32 appearances. Leone, 28, was signed to a Minor League contract Wednesday afternoon, and he spent the last two seasons with the Cardinals, pitching to a 5.53 ERA in 40 Major League appearances in '19.

Dowdy, 26, was traded to Cleveland with Leonys Martin at the 2018 Trade Deadline, but he was taken by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft that offseason. He was then claimed off waivers by the Rangers in March '19 and posted a 7.25 ERA in 13 appearances (one start) for Texas. The righty was returned to the Indians organization in July and posted a 2.48 ERA in seven games (three starts) for Akron.

Angulo, Martinez and Stephens all split their 2019 seasons between Akron and Columbus. Angulo, 25, owned a 3.45 ERA in 48 relief outings (one start), holding opponents to a .191 batting average with 88 strikeouts and 38 walks in 62 2/3 innings. Martinez, 25, pitched to a combined 4.37 ERA in 47 outings with Akron and Columbus, which was tied for the second-most appearances in the organization. Stephens, 27, was claimed on waivers on June 15 from the White Sox, and he had a lot of success in nine outings with Akron (one start), owning a 1.96 ERA. When he was promoted to Columbus, his ERA jumped to 9.42 in six starts.

Siri, 24, spent most of 2019 in Double-A, posting a season ERA of 2.83 in 46 relief outings, leading the player development system with 10 saves. Robinson, 25, split last season between Lynchburg, Akron and Columbus, recording a 3.34 ERA in 40 relief outings while averaging 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings on the year. And after missing the majority of ’18 due to right elbow surgery, Hill, 25, responded with a 3.58 ERA in 28 games across three teams, ending with Columbus.

The catchers

With Eric Haase having been traded to Detroit, the Indians invited backstops Beau Taylor, Giljegiljaw Kungkuan and Gavin Collins. Taylor, 29, was signed as a Minor League free agent on Dec. 6, and he is an early favorite to replace Haase as the club’s third catcher -- assuming the Tribe does not make any other external additions.

Kungkuan, 25, previously played under the name Li-Jen Chu, but he changed to his aboriginal Taiwanese name this offseason. He slashed .229/.290/.357 in 60 games for Akron, while Collins, 24, spent the entire 2019 season in Lynchburg, hitting .262 with a .720 OPS.

The outfielders

As the Indians continue to sort out their Major League outfield, a lot of attention has turned toward the club’s depth in the Minors. The Tribe invited outfielders Ka’ai Tom, Mitch Longo and Connor Marabell. Tom, 25, had an impressive campaign last year, batting a combined .290 with a .912 OPS between 81 games with Akron and 51 with Columbus. He led all organizational hitters in RBIs (86), total bases (255) and extra-base hits (tied, 60) and was second in runs (83).

Longo, 25, was on the injured list for most of May with a lower back strain, but he slashed .248/.320/.370 in 90 games in Double-A. Marabell, 25, hit .264 with nine homers and 57 RBIs in 131 games between Akron and Columbus.

The infielders

Along with Freeman, the Indians also invited shortstop Ernie Clement, first baseman Wilson Garcia and second baseman Tyler Krieger. Clement, 23, was also a non-roster invitee last year and hit .261 with a .636 OPS in 98 games in Akron. The Tribe’s No. 26 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, was promoted to Triple-A for the final three regular-season games and played in all eight postseason games.

Garcia, 26, logged 33 extra-base hits and 46 RBIs for Akron over the first 69 games of the season before suffering a right foot fracture on June 19 that ended his season. Krieger, 26, split the first three months of the year between Double-A and Triple-A, but injuries and illness limited him to just 61 games, ending his season on July 11.