CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) — Sunday was another day where the common theme of the season took center stage yet again. The lack of offense.
Coming into 2020, the top five of the Indians order looked like a group that could be considered one of the best in baseball. While the unit has yet to prove they belong in that discussion, there are positive trends.
César Hernandez, who hit a leadoff home run Sunday for his first of the year, has been the most consistent hitter for the club. He has been the perfect guy to lead off while allowing Francisco Lindor to move down in the order.
Lindor started the season doing just about everything at the plate he normally doesn’t do. He wasn’t taking pitches. He was swinging at everything. He was trying to put a struggling offense on his back and do it all himself. Recently, the 26-year-old has settled in and is now letting the game come to him.
Hernandez, José Ramirez, Lindor, Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes are starting to round into that formidable top five that every team hopes for. The problem is, there are nine positions in the batting order. The potential for the unit to carry the team in spurts is there, but they have not been able to put together consistent at-bats at the same time and it’s impossible to do over the course of an entire season.
The question surrounding the Tribe’s ability to constantly score runs still lies at the bottom of the order.
A game of musical chairs is happening right in front of our eyes every night in the outfield. The club is waiting for someone to emerge as a main stay but no one has been able to grab hold of a spot. The six through nine spots, the outfield positions and catcher, have been abysmal.
On Sunday, Jordan Luplow hopefully started to turn a corner going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk in the six hole. Domingo Santana, Beau Taylor and Greg Allen rounding out the lineup going a combined 1-for-10. Santana and Taylor were pinch hit for in the ninth before Allen got the trio’s lone hit when he smacked a three-run homer to cut the deficit to three.
It will be interesting to see how long the organization keeps top prospect Nolan Jones in Lake County at the alternate training site. He proved he can hit big league pitching back in summer camp when he smacked a couple balls out of Progressive Field during scrimmages. Jones is primarily a third baseman but with the lack of offense in the outfield all season, one would think the Tribe could benefit from him getting some run in a corner spot. Preserving a year of service time is no longer a concern with not enough season remaining for him to accrue a enough time for a year towards arbitration.
Trades are always another option to improve the offense. The organization has been aggressive in bringing in bats the past few trade deadlines. In 2017 the acquired Jay Bruce to bring more pop to the outfield. The same happened last season when the picked up a potential star in Reyes as part of the Trevor Bauer deal. You have to think their phones will be active leading up to the August 31 trade deadline.
Saturday night proved yet again the Indians are the best in the business when it comes to developing major league pitching. Triston McKenzie had about as good of a debut as one could hope for. With the organizational depth that has been developed, the Indians have the fire power to pull off as big of a trade as they desire. Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac could be in play after what has transpired in Chicago.
This is a season that is up for grabs. With eight teams making the postseason, all it will take is a month of a team playing their best baseball. No team in the American League has separated themselves from the pack and with the pitching the Indians possess, one would assume every team around the league looks at them as a real threat come postseason. Add another bat or two to an outfield that has yet to show there is one there that can be trusted, and that threat become even more real.
Whether the Tribe swings for the fences at the deadline or makes a minor tweak or two is yet to be seen, but the weakness to the team is glaring and one would expect it to be addressed one way or the other.
Getting a look at Jones could be a good way to start.