Inbox: What's Hanley's role, and who plays OF?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell fields Indians fans' questions

February 27th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – It’s been a few weeks since the last Indians Inbox. Now that spring games are officially underway, let’s take a look at some of the questions surrounding the Tribe.

The easy answer: They do not.

Manager Terry Francona has said many times that he does not look at spring stats when determining his final roster. The limited sample size of at-bats can allow one great or bad day to skew a player’s final statistics.

"If they have a track record, you’re looking to see if physically they’re the same person,” Francona said. “Then, OK, where’s the need on your team? You could have a guy hit .800 in the spring, if you don’t have a place for him on your team, that doesn’t really work very well. And we try to explain that to guys ahead of time because, I mean, I was in this position every year. I know I would go home [when I played] and think, ‘OK, I’m hitting .333, the other guy’s hitting .240. I’m gonna beat him out.’ That’s not necessarily how you build your best team.”

The plan for Hanley Ramirez will be to allow him to settle in with his new team for a few days and then start getting him in the lineup. Ramirez, 35, hasn’t played in a Major League game in nearly a year, so the Indians will want to get a good look at him and get him as many at-bats as they can throughout the spring. So, I wouldn’t think they take too long to put him in the lineup. Francona has said they view Ramirez mostly as a DH because they have both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers at first. That being said, based on what he’s able to show this spring, the Indians would ideally like him to be their everyday DH.

It’s really early in Spring Training, so although the Indians are already familiar with Santana, they haven’t had much time to figure out what they have in Bauers. This will be something that’s decided closer to the end of camp. However, if we are speculating, my best guess is that Bauers, between the two, would get more time in the outfield than Santana would. Bauers played in the outfield in the Rays’ farm system and has a little more experience than Santana. This doesn’t mean both couldn’t get that chance, but that would be the best early prediction.

A big one who is standing out is Tyler Naquin. He said earlier this week that seeing live pitching for the first time when he first reported to camp was a tough adjustment, given that he’s been out since undergoing hip surgery last August. He demonstrated how quickly he settled in at the plate when he hit a home run in his first at-bat of the spring. Just watching his batting practice has been impressive, as the ball seems to be absolutely exploding off his bat. It’s early, but Naquin has looked good thus far.

An outfield prospect who has looked really good is Daniel Johnson. Again, it’s extremely early and the Indians have barely seen him since he was just traded to the Cleveland organization this past offseason, but in his first few games with the Tribe, he’s been off to a hot start at the plate.

Roberto Perez's defense is definitely enough. Francona has noted multiple times how impressed he is with how Perez handles a pitching staff and how much more that’s valued than offensive numbers, although those statistics are an added bonus.

At this point, there is no search for any replacement. The Indians added Kevin Plawecki in a trade with the Mets in January, which gives them another option to evaluate this spring, along with Eric Haase. Perez looks like the early favorite for the starting job, but he and Plawecki will be the top two contenders to be first string behind the dish.

At this point in spring, my guess would be Naquin RF, Leonys Martin CF and Greg Allen LF. I’d like to see more of Jordan Luplow, though, before I’d commit to anything.