As the Cleveland Indians draw near to their opening series, the roster adjustments were numerous. Partially triggered by Austin Jackson’s contract guarantee on March 26, the Indians chose to narrow big league camp which is difficult considering the unclear health state of Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, and Lonnie Chisenhall.
In turn, the Indians made the following official moves:
- Optioned RHP Mike Clevinger and RHP Joe Colón to Triple-A Columbus
- Reassigned C Adam Moore, INF Richie Shaffer and OF Brandley Zimmer to Minor League camp.
- Informed LHP Tyler Olson, C Erik Kratz, 1B Chris Colabello, and OF Daniel Robertson they will not make the Opening Day roster, but will remain in camp.
- Informed Austin Jackson he will open the season on the Major League roster, barring injury.
For the Indians a handful of these moves are worth discussing in terms of their long term impact. The Clevinger option was to be expected as he will continue to work on improving his command of the baseball in Columbus and be the first man up when a rotational injury occurs. Indians fans can expect to see him start 10-15 games if he stays healthy in 2017.
This spring, Richie Shaffer moved from roster fluff to interesting developmental depth at Triple-A as he continues to alter his swing to increase the number of balls he hits in the air, wielding his above average power. Shaffer was one of the best and most interesting stories of spring for the Indians as a once premier prospect with the pedigree and adjustments to rebuild his stock a bit.
Perhaps the best non-Brantley/Ramirez extension story of spring was that of Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer made swing changes which WFNY discussed in detail on the EHC podcast. One of the only valuable spring training statistics is K-rate. Once a player reach roughly 60 plate appearances, that spring data adds insight into that years projections. For Zimmer, the biggest purpose of the adjustments was decreasing his strikeouts. This spring, in 59 plate appearances, he had a 22 percent K-rate. This following 28.3 percent in Double-A Akron, and 37.3 percent in Triple-A Columbus. With Zimmer’s power, speed, walk rate and defensive skills, this sort of positive step is huge. While the former first-round pick has some work to do with his swing adjustments, the early returns have to make the Indians optimistic. The Indians placed the duty on Zimmer tearing the door down in 2017 and he appears poised to do so.
The Robertson, Colabello group has little long term impact. Both had outstanding springs and will likely look to pursue other organizations with better opportunities this season when spring ends.
The Jackson addition was, in many ways, obvious. Barring Jackson being injured or playing horrendously he was set to be added to the roster. Jackson is a nice lotto ticket with competent defense and a bat that has historically been productive. He looks to be part of a platoon heavy outfield with Abe Almonte, Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Brandon Guyer all being platoon pieces. With the team sending Hoby Milner (Rule 5 pick) back to Philadelphia last week, there will be no need to create a roster spot for Jackson’s addition.
Even with Jackson being added to the Opening Day plans, the Indians roster has a lot of moving parts. When will Carrasco and Brantley be rostered in Cleveland? After the first week? Can the Indians lock up Francisco Lindor long term? Will Giovanny Urshela or Yandy Diaz win the early season third base job? Will the Indians retain Michael Martinez in the utility role or go with Erik Gonzalez? Is it finally Shawn Armstrong’s time in Cleveland?
WFNY will have you covered on all these questions and more in the final week of our Indians preview series.