The Cleveland Indians have won the AL Central three seasons. They have asserted themselves into one of the best teams in all of the MLB.
Cleveland has been led by a strong starting rotation, (for the most part) a strong bullpen, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and one of the best managers in baseball, Terry Francona.
A unit that has been a revolving door of sorts and has seen numerous pieces every season has been the outfield.
The 2016 opening day outfield was: Rajai Davis (CF), Marlon Byrd (LF), Collin Cowgill (RF).
Byrd was suspended on the first day of June for PED use and was suspended 162 games and has been done with baseball since. Cowgill only played in nine games for Cleveland before he was designated for assignment. Michael Brantley only played in 11 games. Later in the season, Brandon Guyer and Coco Crisp were traded for.
In 2017 it was: Tyler Naquin (CF), Michael Brantly (LF), and Abraham Almonte (RF).
Another year, another opening day outfielder getting suspended for PEDs, this time it was Almonte. Brantley played in 90 games. Austin Jackson saw plenty of time and Jay Bruce did, too, when he was traded for at the non-waiver trade deadline. Heck, even Michael Martinez got playing time in the outfield.
Oh, and Jason Kipnis played CF in the playoffs.
And last year, the names were a little bit more familiar: Bradley Zimmer (CF), Tyler Naquin (LF), Lonnie Chisenhall (RF).
Zimmer struggled at the plate and injured his shoulder in AAA. Greg Allen made a name for himself but was inexperienced. He platooned with Davis in center. Naquin struggled as well. Melky Cabrera, Chisenhall, and Guyer split time in right. A trade for Leonys Martin did not work last year as he battled a life-threatening infection.
Will it be much of the same in 2019?
The opening day outfield, once again, will consist of some unfamiliar names. It will likely be Jordan Luplow in left, Martin in center, and Naquin in right.
Can Naquin regain his rookie season form after a disappointing and injury-riddled 2017-2018? Bradley Zimmer is not going to be ready for opening day and may not return until around the half-way mark of the season. Martin, now fully healthy, will take over the center field duties and assume the role that he was traded for last year. Brantley signed with the Houston Astros. Chisenhall signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Davis signed with the New York Mets.
Greg Allen will be back in the fold, along with Guyer. Depending on the infield situation and what direction Francona goes with it, Jason Kipnis could find playing time in the outfield, too, as he has the last two postseasons.
Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti brought in, Luplow, Trayce Thompson, and Jake Bauers so far this offseason.
Luplow came over in a trade with Pittsburgh. In 37 games last year, he batted .185/.272/.359 with three triples, three home runs, 11 RBI, 10 walks, and 17 hits in 92 at bats.
Thompson was traded from Oakland to the Chicago White Sox in 2018. With the Sox, he hit .116/.163/.215. The brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson can play all three outfield positions, but getting the majority of his playing time in right.
Bauers will likely be the first baseman (with Carlos Santana coming back and being the DH), but he can be slotted in left field, where he played 16 games with Tampa Bay last season. He has the most pop at the plate of the three newcomers mentioned, with a .201/.316/.384 slash line. Bauers jacked 11 home runs and racked up 22 doubles in his rookie campaign.
With so many key players from the last few seasons now gone and not the biggest market for free agent outfielders (Adam Jones and AJ Pollack highlight the class for players not named Bryce Harper), the Tribe are going to have to roll with what they have in house.
It may not be as much as a revolving door as it has been recently, but it is going to have to work for Cleveland. Production from all three outfield spots all season long is going to need to happen. Tons of attention is at the top of the lineup with Lindor and Ramirez, and that is rightfully so. But to get back to the playoffs, the outfields are going to need to step up and make big plays, both on offense and defense.