There were nothing but worries for Indians fans headed into the World Baseball Classic. Upon its exit, with Andrew Miller and Team USA winning their first title, Tribe fans should have nothing but higher hopes.
The WBC is technically an exhibition, but it is not a Spring Training exercise. There is something on the line aside from national pride. This is the defacto number-two in terms of serious competition in the sport.
No one needed to see Andrew Miller succeed in another high-leverage situation to know he was elite. No one needed to see Francisco Lindor clapping and hollering at second base to know his love for the game, and winning it.
In the young Puerto Rican shortstop’s case, he has now lost the final do-or-die game of the top two competitive baseball competitions in the last six months.
Lindor’s drive did not need a kick start, though it got another one, but the ability to double-down on championship games gives the 23-year old invaluable experience.
Call the Classic what you may, but there was no way for a budding superstar on a championship-caliber team to get this type of experience, and it could show itself to be key come October.
Oh yeah, not to mention, Lindor raked in the Classic with a slashline of .435/.481/.739. Carry on.
With Jason Kipnis set to miss the start of the season and Jose Ramirez likely to fill in for him at second base, the hole at third base has become a well-known competition between prospects Yandy Diaz and Giovanny Urshela.
Urshela has the big-league experience, notching 81 games with the Tribe in 2015, while Diaz has the elements of mystery and a big spring on his side.
The kicker between the two seems to be defense. Urshela is known as a high-quality defender at third, while the reviews on Diaz’s glove seem to be split.
Pointed out in an excellent piece by WFNY’s Michael Hattery, there seems to be a divide between what the defensive metrics say on Diaz’s glove, and what his manager has to say.
Terry Francona knows what it takes to be a dependable defender in the majors and how it differs from playing the hot corner at the minor league level. It should also be pointed out that defensive metrics in baseball, or any sport really, are not the end-all, be-all on measuring impact.
Regardless, the difference in Urshela as a defender does not seem to overshadow the difference in Diaz at the dish. At least not enough to make up for what Diaz can do, and has done, offensively.
Expect Urshela to be the guy at the outset, ultimately to prolong starting the major league clock on Diaz.
Tito has not spoken to it, but he probably does not feel the need to pay the price of playing Diaz as opposed to filling a short-term hole with a dependable defender.
Or maybe Francona has been told Diaz will not be available by Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti. Starting that clock on Diaz also may come at the price of decreasing his value.
With Jose Ramirez locked up through 2023 in his best case, almost the entire Tribe infield is locked up through the next presidential election. Diaz, and his club control, may best serve as ammunition for another major move at the Trade Deadline.