5 early observations from Indians spring camp

February 22nd, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians had an extra day of being limited to just workouts at their Spring Training facility on Saturday after their spring opener against the Reds was rained out. That means the wait for position battles to get underway was extended for another 24 hours.

Over the course of the next four weeks, the Indians will have to find their three starting outfielders, decide who will fill the bench spots, determine who will join and (and eventually ) in the five-man rotation and learn if and are ready to break camp with the club.

It’s hard to make any decisions without seeing how each player performs in a game setting, but a few things have been clear in just the two short weeks that the team has been in Arizona. Here are five early observations from the first few days of workouts at spring camp:

1. Reyes lost pounds, not power
Franmil Reyes lost 18 pounds over the offseason to be more agile in the outfield, but said he was originally concerned that dropping the weight would mean he’d also lose offensive power. When he began hitting in December and January, he realized that wasn’t the case.

“I never hit it like that before,” Reyes said. “I feel really powerful right now.”

He’s backed that statement up through the first two weeks of camp. His rounds of batting practice could’ve easily advanced him to the final round of the Home Run Derby, prompting president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti to joke that the ball landed 19 miles away in Peoria.

“He has a chance to be a game changer for our lineup with the power he can add,” Antonetti said. “He continues to work on developing at being a complete hitter and work on his defense in the outfield. But the one thing we’ve seen consistently is when he makes consistent contact, he has a chance to do consistent damage.”

2. Karinchak’s nasty breaking ball
Karinchak has thrown two rounds of batting practice on the backfields of the Indians’ Spring Training complex and he has impressed his coaching staff and teammates with his curveball.

Karinchak has shown that his breaking ball can be an elite Major League pitch. What’s left for him to prove is that he can locate his heater. His fastball command was better in his second round of live BP than his first, but the 24-year-old righty needs to consistently locate the pitch in his spring appearances to demonstrate that he’s Major League ready.

3. Lindor in midseason form
Despite all of the trade rumors over the offseason, Francisco Lindor arrived at Indians camp on Feb. 16, and he wasted no time showing just how valuable he can be. When he stepped in the box against Carrasco in his first round of batting practice, manager Terry Francona was having fun behind the backstop, yelling out after each hit (including a home run). Now, the Indians just have to see if they have enough talent to support what Lindor brings to the table to make sure he remains in Cleveland through the end of the season.

“Normally, the first time guys get in and face live pitching, a lot of them don’t even swing because they don’t want to get themselves into bad habits,” Francona said earlier this week. “It’s obvious that Frankie felt pretty good about himself.”

4. Bieber picking up where he left off
In a time where the Indians have already had injury scares with Clevinger and Carrasco, the team needs to be able to rely on Bieber. So far, he’s given them every reason to trust they can lean on him. After finishing fourth in the American League Cy Young Award voting, he’s returned in top shape in 2020 with an arsenal full of life. The team was going to try to ease Bieber into Spring Training to make sure his arm is ready to bounce back from his first 200-plus inning season, but they realized the best option is to just let him continue with his regular routine. He’ll make his first spring start in the team’s home opener on Tuesday.

5. Starting pitching depth keeps growing
We’ve heard a lot about Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Logan Allen, Scott Moss and Triston McKenzie, but the Indians’ young starting pitching depth continues to grow. Sam Hentges, ranked as the club's No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has already caught Francona’s eye in his bullpens and batting practice sessions.

“You look at him and it’s easy to dream a little bit,” Francona said. “ ... Sometimes his cutter still kind of, between his cutter and his slider, can kind of get mixed up a little bit. But that’s why they have the Minor Leagues. When he figures that stuff out, he’s gonna go quick.”