CLEVELAND -- The Indians’ first step in preparing for the 2020 baseball season is complete.
Teams had until 4 p.m. ET on Sunday to submit their 60-man player pool that they will carry throughout the season. The Tribe handed in 55 names, leaving it some wiggle room to add up to five more players later. Once Cleveland reaches 60, those players cannot be replaced due to injury or illness; however, anyone placed on the 60-day injured list would not count against the total.
The 55 players in the player pool are a mixture of Major League talent and top prospects, including four catchers, 12 infielders, 11 outfielders and 28 pitchers. All of the players on the 40-man are in Cleveland’s player pool, except for Emmanuel Clase, who was suspended for the 2020 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
“We do expect to fill the final five spots,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “Exactly how we fill those spots will take a little bit of time to sort through. There may be some players we bring in from outside the organization and we'll really want to get a sense of -- because this is all new to us, get the guys that we have, let's see where we are, let's see what additions we may want to make to that roster, whether we want to bring in another few players that would support our Major League team or potentially be more developmentally focused.”
The Tribe will have two camp sites over the next few weeks, including Progressive Field and Classic Park, the home to the Indians’ Class A affiliate in Lake County. The majority of the players competing for a spot on the 30-man roster will work out at Progressive Field, while 15 prospects like Nolan Jones, Tyler Freeman and Bobby Bradley will head to Classic Park.
“We determined how many spots we had potentially remaining that would be more developmentally focused,” Antonetti said. “In each instance, we went through our system and tried to identify which players might benefit the most from the development environment. There were a combination of factors that led into that, not just bringing them back to Lake County to be in our environment, but what was the training environment in their home situation or city in which they were training? There was no exact formula or science to it, but we got a lot of opinions and a lot of feedback from a lot of different people to see which players would make the most sense for us to bring."
Prospects listed in the 60-man player pool will only gain service time if added to the active roster, giving the Indians an opportunity to continue to develop each player, even if he doesn’t make an appearance this season.
Catchers (4): Roberto Pérez, Sandy León, Beau Taylor, Bo Naylor
Pérez and León will be the two locks to make the Opening Day roster, with Pérez handling the starting duties. Clubs will be able to take a three-player taxi squad on road trips that must include at least one catcher. It’s likely Taylor will fill that role.
Naylor, the team’s No. 3 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will be one of the prospects reporting to the alternate site in Lake County.
Infielders (12): Christian Arroyo, Yu Chang, Mike Freeman, César Hernández, Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez, Carlos Santana, Aaron Bracho, Bobby Bradley, Ernie Clement, Tyler Freeman, Nolan Jones
There’s no doubt about the Indians' starting infield. Santana will be at first, Hernández will start at second, Lindor will play short and Ramírez will be at third. During Spring Training, the Tribe had a tight utility man race between Freeman, Arroyo and Chang. Both Freeman and Arroyo seemed to have a bit of an edge on Chang to make the Opening Day lineup. Now that the rosters will begin at 30 players to start the season, Freeman and Arroyo will each likely lock up a spot.
Bracho, Bradley, Clement, Freeman and Jones are all on the Indians’ Top 30 prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline, which is why they’d be a priority to carry on the player pool to continue their development. They will each report to Classic Park over the next few weeks.
Outfielders (11): Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Delino DeShields, Daniel Johnson, Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, Franmil Reyes, Domingo Santana, Bradley Zimmer, George Valera
Of the 11 outfielders in the player pool, 10 are on the Tribe’s 40-man roster. The team will have a lot to determine over the next three weeks of summer camp, which begins on Wednesday. Mercado is the one guarantee to get a starting spot (most likely in center), leaving the other two up for grabs.
After undergoing surgery to repair his torn right ACL in September, Naquin is expected to be cleared for all baseball activities and could be a favorite to earn the starting job in right field. However, Luplow will probably give him the most competition, and the two could end up platooning in right, with Luplow getting the starts against left-handed pitching. Reyes and Santana will likely battle for the starting left-field job. Whoever doesn’t earn that could serve as the team’s designated hitter.
That leaves DeShields, Bauers, Allen, Zimmer and Johnson to fight for bench spots. A pre-camp prediction: DeShields and Bauers will have the best chances to make the Opening Day roster. Johnson has built up a tremendous reputation in his short amount of time in the farm system, but the Tribe may not be quite ready to have him make his Major League debut. Zimmer, who missed nearly all of last season due to shoulder and oblique injuries, may need some more reps before joining the big league club as well.
Starting pitchers (15): Logan Allen, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Mike Clevinger, Scott Moss, Zach Plesac, Adam Plutko, Jefry Rodriguez, Daniel Espino, Ethan Hankins, Sam Hentges, Triston McKenzie, Jean Carlos Mejía, Eli Morgan
The top three in the Indians' rotation are pretty set: Bieber, Clevinger and Carrasco. From there, the Tribe will have to decide who will fill out the final two spots, should it stick to a five-man rotation. Plesac, Civale and Plutko would be early favorites to win either of the two vacancies, and Rodriguez could be someone who could give the Tribe some length out of the bullpen. Both Allen and Moss will also report to Progressive Field to compete for a spot on the 30-man roster.
Espino, Hankins, Hentges, McKenzie, Mejía and Morgan will all report to the alternate training site in Lake County. McKenzie has not pitched in a game setting since August 2018 due to injuries, but he is still very much on the Indians’ radar. The rest of the prospects, including Espino (2019 first-round Draft pick and No. 5 prospect), will continue their development.
Relief pitchers (13): Adam Cimber, Anthony Gose, Brad Hand, Cam Hill, James Hoyt, James Karinchak, Dominic Leone, Phil Maton, Oliver Pérez, Nick Wittgren, Hunter Wood, Kyle Nelson, Nick Sandlin
The locks for the bullpen are Hand, Cimber, Pérez and Wittgren. Karinchak falls into the “extremely likely” category, leaving Hoyt, Maton, Wood, Leone, Gose and Hill to compete for the final vacancies. Hill made a strong impression at Spring Training, allowing one run in five innings. Though he hasn’t made his debut yet, he’ll be an under-the-radar candidate to make the Opening Day roster.
The other reliever who received plenty of attention in Spring Training was Gose. The converted pitcher was clocked at 100 mph before camp was shut down due to the coronavirus. His command needs to continue to show improvement over the next few weeks, but even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he could be an arm the Indians try to use at some point this season.
Both Nelson and Sandlin (No. 24 prospect) will work out with the rest of the prospects in Lake County.