There will be many storylines and players to watch for the Cleveland Indians coming into the 2019 season. Like the last few seasons, this one will be filled with promise and high expectations for the reigning three-time AL Central champs.
Cleveland has made a slew of trades and a number of key players have left via free agency. This will be a team with some new faces, mainly in the outfield and the bullpen.
With spring training less than a month away- pitchers and catchers report on February 12- here is a look at some players to watch once things get underway in Goodyear.
Jake Bauers, 1B/ OF
Bauers came over in the three-team deal that shipped Edwin Encarnacion and Yandy Diaz out of Cleveland and brought Carlos Santana back.
In his rookie season, he played in 96 games, slashing .201/.316/.384 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI, and 22 doubles. He scored 48 runs and drew 54 walks.
He will likely see the majority of his time playing first base, where he committed five errors in 626.2 innings there.
How Bauers handles an increased workload in his second big league season will be something worth watching. The Indians are going to need him to produce, especially with him being a left handed batter.
Eric Haase, Catcher
After the trade of Yan Gomes during the summer, Haase was in a spot to be the backup to Roberto Perez. That has since changed as the Indians acquired Kevin Plawecki from the New York Mets.
Haase has some raw power, hitting 20 home runs and owning a .443 slugging percentage in Triple-A Columbus last season. He has never really gotten a chance at the big league level, but that has been in part because of Gomes, Perez, and Francisco Mejia being ahead of him.
With less in his way, he may be able to take advantage. And, if there was an injury to Perez or Plawecki, Haase would figure to get more playing time. His progression is noteworthy, in particular for seasons down the line.
The Tribe’s 2018 first round pick, another catcher, Noah Naylor, is still a few years away from the bigs, but has the makings to be an everyday catcher.
Daniel Johnson, OF
Johnson was part of the trade that sent Gomes to the Washington Nationals.
He has not played in any big league games, but that could change as soon as this season. The Indians may be in need of some outfield help, with players leaving and with players coming back from injury.
The 23-year old played some good ball in Double-A with a .267 average and .410 slugging percentage. He has plus-speed, as well, stealing 21 bases.
He can play center field or right field, and has a cannon for an arm, maybe making right field his permanent home in the future.
Johnson could land on the Indians MLB roster this summer.
Triston McKenzie, Pitcher
The number one prospect in the Indians pipeline and 38th ranked prospect in all of the minors is a 21-year old right hander.
McKenzie advanced to Double-A Akron last season after a successful and dominant stint in Advanced-A ball.
In Akron, he went 7-4 with a 2.68 ERA striking out 87 batters and holding them to a .191 average. He gave up just eight homeruns in 90.2 innings pitched while owning a 1.00 WHIP.
His fastball is in the lower-90s, but should see some increase as he adds more weight to his 6-5, 165 pound frame. He can command his fastball well and has nice movement on his curveball and changeup.
He will be in the Indians starting rotation in no time and will be a solid starting pitcher in the MLB. It is just a matter of when he gets a callup and busts into the already lethal starting rotation. Don’t be surprised if he comes out of the bullpen, either.