CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There has not been much out of Indians camp since the end of the ALDS outside of multiple departures and a lone major league signing in Yonder Alonso.
With Tribefest tomorrow, Manager Terry Francona and the vast majority of the roster assembled to answer questions about what will happen headed into the start of Spring Training.
Let’s go around the diamond.
Mejia Remaining Behind the Plate
After breaking into the bigs for the first time in 2017, top prospect Francisco Mejia spent some time at third base during the Arizona Fall League in an attempt to increase his versatility.
It does not sound as if Mejia will remain at the hot corner in the spring, as he looks to crack the majors full-time.
Francona says the team will have meetings about Mejia’s starting point, but that for now he should remain at his primary spot.
“My guess is he catches,” Francona said. “If we decide to more, we’ll let you know more. We’re going to have some meetings about that. It would be a little premature for me to say that, because I honestly don’t know the answer.”
Kipnis Back Home, But What About Yandy?
Whether it was because he was not traded, the return of Michael Brantley, or otherwise, it was announced earlier this winter that Jason Kipnis will return to second base should he be on the roster come late March.
That of course will move MVP candidate Jose Ramirez back to third base despite the organization’s seeming desire to have his premier defense up the middle.
With two veterans locking up infield positions for the time being, that puts the intriguing Yandy Diaz on the back burner yet again.
The 26-year-old tore up Triple-A Columbus last year, but is still in the process of fine-tuning his swing to produce more lift. That process would be stymied without regular at-bats, so unless Diaz wants to return to the outfield for a platoon situation with Lonnie Chisenhall in right, he seems out of the plans.
Diaz suffered a sports hernia, originally ruled a groin injury, that is complicating things currently, but his position sounds permanent.
“He’s out in Arizona now,” Francona said. “We’ll play him at third. We’ve all seen how things change from a hamstring or anything. More than likely, we’ll play him at third and probably not bounce him around like we did last year.”
Outfield Needs a Righty
The current depth chart in the outfield is one that most Indians fans would not necessarily mind: Michael Brantley in left, Bradley Zimmer in center, and Lonnie Chisenhall in right.
All three current options missed stretches of time with injury last season, but that is only one issue with the outfield configuration as it stands. Another is that they are all left-handed.
As of now, without Diaz in consideration, Francona’s right-handed options are Brandon Guyer and Melvin Upton, Jr., who was signed to a minor league deal in December.
Guyer’s availability for the beginning of the season is currently in question after having off-season surgery on his right wrist. He played just 70 contests in 2017 while dealing with injury, and missed the final 15 after his wrist injury was re-aggravated.
“We need to get him back, because he does such a good job when he’s healthy against left-handers,” Francona said. “We’re so left-handed out there that if we have him sitting out there where we know we can play him — he was hitting fourth and fifth for us for a while there a couple years ago. If we can get him back to being healthy and doing that, that really changes the complexion of our outfield.”
Upton could easily serve as this season’s version of Austin Jackson, at least in role, spelling Zimmer in center. Francona questioned whether or not Zimmer was yet available to play every day, even against lefties, and the 33-year-old Upton could serve as backup.
Francona had a hard time containing his excitement over the addition.
“It wouldn’t shock me if he kind of comes in and hits the ground running,” he said. “He’s in a really good place. We got a chance to visit with him before we signed him. It’s one of the highlights of the winter for me. I really enjoyed it. He’s in a good place. He’s healthy. It just wouldn’t surprise me if he came in and makes a really good impression.”