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Inbox: How will the Indians' outfield shape up?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from Cleveland fans
@MandyBell02
May 27, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The return of baseball may be just around the corner, which leaves plenty of unanswered questions about the Indians’ roster. What answers do we have now? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox:

CLEVELAND -- The return of baseball may be just around the corner, which leaves plenty of unanswered questions about the Indians’ roster. What answers do we have now? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox:

Well, as long as Franmil Reyes is a part of the outfield crew (or if Jordan Luplow is facing a lefty), I’m not sure worrying about power can be something that’s applied to the entire group. Reyes absolutely destroyed the ball during Spring Training this year, and the club has high expectations for his offensive production. Domingo Santana hit 21 home runs last season, which gives the Tribe another possibility of some pop in the middle of the order.

Between Greg Allen, Luplow, Jake Bauers, Oscar Mercado and Tyler Naquin, the Indians may not have the most explosive outfield, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the overall expectations for the crew should be low. If Naquin, who was really finding his groove last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee in August, platoons with Luplow in right, Mercado, who had an exceptional rookie season, starts in center and Reyes, a powerhouse, starts in left, the outfield may surprise a lot of people.

At this point, it seems pretty safe to assume that Tyler Naquin will be given the green light to begin full baseball activities when he returns to Texas for a final checkup with his doctor. That appointment was scheduled for the first week of April, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While play has been suspended, Naquin has continued his rehab and is expecting to be ready for the second round of Spring Training.

His role will likely depend on what he’s able to show during those few weeks leading up to the start of the season. Naquin seemed to be settling into a more regular role in the Tribe’s lineup before his Aug. 30 injury. The Indians have an overcrowded outfield, so he may begin the year platooning with someone like Luplow in a corner outfield spot, but he has the chance to eventually earn the everyday job.

Surely, the Indians were disappointed to hear the news that their newly acquired reliever was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Emmanuel Clase will serve his time, but when that suspension is up, he’s expected to work his way back into the Tribe’s bullpen. Keeping him would not be advocating for his past decisions, but the club thought highly enough of the 21-year-old to trade a two-time Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber for him (and outfielder Delino DeShields). It’d be hard to imagine the Indians would give up on Clase before he gets his chance to prove his worth on the mound.

Plenty of guys come to mind, but the top three would probably be Cam Hill, Daniel Johnson and Logan Allen.

Hill had an impressive camp just a few months ago, allowing just one run in five innings with two strikeouts. If the season would’ve started on time, the 26-year-old would’ve been on the bubble to make the Opening Day roster. Now, especially with Clase’s 80-game suspension, the need for another bullpen arm is even higher. The non-roster invitee could find his way to the big league roster this year.

There are a lot of outfield options, but Johnson could be another to put in the grass. In 84 Triple-A games last season, he hit .306 with an .867 OPS, nine homers, 44 RBIs and 27 doubles. His speed would be an attractive asset to have on the bench, and his bat and arm strength could help him find his way into the lineup.

Because there is a chance that starting pitchers may not be 100 percent ramped up for the start of the season after another quick round of Spring Training, it’s likely that teams will carry some extra starters if there is a roster expansion. In that case, Allen could be the next man up as an option for the Tribe’s rotation, which already has Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carrasco, Adam Plutko, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.

Carrasco (right elbow inflammation) was questionable for the original Opening Day date, but he wasn’t expected to miss too much of the season. Now, two months later, he should be more than ready to go when Spring Training resumes.

Indians manager Terry Francona said Carrasco has been sending in videos when he throws his bullpens at home and has looked like himself on the rubber. The Tribe fully expects Carrasco to be healthy for the next Spring Training, but pitching every fifth day may be a tougher thing to predict. Because of this unprecedented break and possibly a quick ramp-up period just before the season begins, starters may not have enough time to be 100 percent ready for the start of the year. In that case, starters may need a little more recovery time to start the year, but regardless, Carrasco is expected to be in the rotation.

Speaking of Carrasco…

There are so many baseball moments that would be in the running for this, but it is really tough to top the Stand Up To Cancer moment during last year’s All-Star Game. The image of him standing beside four of his teammates and his manager while his home crowd is erupting in cheers as he’s shown on the big screen will forever stand out as my favorite memory.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.