CLEVELAND – With starter Logan Allen being sent to the alternate training site after his third consecutive rocky outing with the Indians on Wednesday, there’s no better time than now for the club to stock up on starting pitching depth.
Indians vice president of player development James Harris chatted with local media on Thursday morning over Zoom to discuss what’s been going on throughout the team’s farm system during the first month of the big league season, including providing updates on Scott Moss and Eli Morgan, who did not originally make the alternate training site roster.
Moss stayed back in Arizona due to neck tightness and Morgan had to work through forearm soreness. But the two were added to the alternate training site roster on Thursday.
“Both of those guys stayed behind to get some work in Arizona,” Harris said. “We built them back up and now they’re at the alternate site. I believe off the top of my head, Scott’s [starting] on Friday and Eli’s gonna pitch on Saturday.”
Cleveland has Cal Quantril and Sam Hentges already on the big league roster. The two righties would get the first shot at taking over Allen’s spot in the rotation before dipping into the Minor League depth, but Moss would certainly be an intriguing option after he gets some more starts under his belt. The left-hander owned a 2.96 ERA between three teams (Double-A and Triple-A in Cleveland’s system, Double-A in Cincinnati’s system) in 2019 with 159 strikeouts and 70 walks in 130 2/3 innings.
But after Harris was able to provide some positive updates, he broke the news that two other arms haven’t been as fortunate with injuries this year. The team’s No. 17 prospect (as ranked by MLB Pipeline), Carlos Vargas, had to undergo Tommy John surgery last week, and No. 9 prospect Ethan Hankins has also been dealing with elbow trouble.
“Ethan is gonna see our doctors in Cleveland [on Friday],” Harris said. “We don’t have a ton of information on that yet, but we will say it was significant enough for us to have him come to Cleveland and see our doctors.”
Plans for Jones
Cleveland’s top prospect Nolan Jones has spent the past month at the Indians’ alternate training site and will likely begin the Minor League season with Triple-A Columbus, as most of the Triple-A roster is expected to be comprised of most of the alternate training site group. And the club has not wavered in its plan for the third baseman. Although he’ll get most of his reps at the hot corner, the Indians want to keep him as versatile as possible to help get him more opportunities.
“He'll play third, he'll play a little bit of first, he'll play in the outfield,” Harris said. “But that doesn't mean he won't play primarily at third. He'll get a lot of his work there, but we all want him to keep first base as an option, we want him to keep the outfield as an option because we just don't know where the opportunity will be. That allows him to get in the lineup. There's a lot of good players who are at the alternate site now and who will play in Columbus. So, opportunities to put him in the ballgame will start now.”
What to do with all the middle infielders
The Indians’ interest in middle infielders became glaringly obvious when eight of their 15 international signings were listed as shortstops this past year. And when one-third of the club’s Top 30 prospects list is already made up of shortstops or second basemen, it raises the question of what the organization plans to do with the influx of defenders up the middle.
“’Challenge’ has a typically negative connotation,” Harris said. “But we'll say that we were excited. It's a good opportunity to see those guys. You say middle infielders, those guys come in at shortstop but those guys are also going to play second base, they might have to play third. You might even see some of those guys even first base to take advantage of getting those guys in the lineup to get some at-bats.
“We have a lot of good players, so we've got to move guys around. That was a fun challenge to face.”