Cleveland Indians Should Sign Free Agent Infielder Luis Valbuena

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The Cleveland Indians should add free agent infielder Luis Valbuena to add some left-handed power and versatility to the lineup. The Cleveland Indians have already landed one of the biggest catches of the offseason, landing top slugger Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year deal last week. The addition of the big right-handed power hitter has led […]

Cleveland Indians Should Sign Free Agent Infielder Luis ValbuenaWahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Indians: In Memoriam

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There has been plenty of attention paid to what has felt like a higher-than-normal number of deaths in what has been a brutal 2016 for celebrities and their respective fans. The sports world was not spared either, as big names like Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Craig Sager, and Jose Fernandez left us too soon.

The Cleveland Indians organization was not exempt from losing former friends of the feather. In their honor, we remember some of those who spent time affiliated with the city of Cleveland and its beloved baseball team who hung up their cleats one final time in 2016.

***** **** *** ** * ** *** **** *****

Williams - 1974 Topps

Williams – ’74 Topps

Walt Williams
b. 12/19/1943 – d. 1/23/2016

“No Neck” Williams joined his fourth Major League team when he came over to Cleveland following the 1972 season in a trade from the Chicago White Sox for Eddie Leon. The corner outfielder spent just one season in an Indians uniform, hitting .289 with a career-high eight homers and 38 RBI in 104 games. Prior to the 1974 season, he was dealt to the New York Yankees with Rick Sawyer as part of a three-team trade that sent Jerry Moses from New York to Detroit, Ed Farmer from the Tigers to the Yankees, and pitcher Jim Perry from the Tigers to the Indians.

Williams died of a heart attack at the age of 72 near his hometown of Brownwood, Texas.

Jim Davenport
b. 8/17/1933 – d. 2/18/2016

Davenport spent his entire 13-year MLB career as a member of the San Francisco Giants and continued on in their organization upon the end of his playing days in 1970 as a coach, a minor league manager, and for part of the 1985 season, a Major League manager. His travels would also take him to San Diego, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, where he was on the coaching staff in 1989. He moved on to Detroit as a scout before returning to San Francisco, where he worked as a first base coach, a minor league manager, and a front office executive through the 2015 season, his 51st with the Giants.

Davenport died at the age of 82 from heart failure in Redwood City, California.

Kevin Collins
b. 8/4/1946 – d. 2/20/2016

Collins spent parts of six seasons as a utility man with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, and Detroit Tigers from 1965 to 1971 before he was traded by the Tigers to the Indians in 1973. Just 26 at the time of the trade, he would play 75 games total over the next season and a half with the Indians’ Oklahoma City affiliate before the end of his professional career. He remains the answer to a trivia question regarding the Montreal Expos, as he was the first player to ever hit a pinch-hit home run for the club.

He passed away suddenly at his winter home in Naples, Florida, at the age of 69.

Sammy Ellis
b. 2/11/1941 – d. 5/13/2016

Ellis, a Youngstown native, joined the Indians organization mid-season in 1969, traded to the club by the Chicago White Sox for Jack Hamilton. The right-handed pitcher and former All-Star did not appear at the Major League level with the club and after his half-season in the minors for Cleveland, was on to two more minor league stops over the next two seasons. Following his playing career, he hung on in the game as a coach for the Yankees, White Sox, Cubs, Red Sox, Mariners, and Orioles.

He died in Temple Terrrace, Florida, at the age of 75 after a battle with cancer.

Ken Ramos
b. 6/6/1967 – d. 5/15/2016

Ramos - 1992 SkyBox Minors

Ramos -’92 SkyBox

Ramos entered the pro game when he signed with the Indians in 1989. After five seasons with the club in the minors, he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1994 season, but the outfielder was later claimed off of waivers by Houston.

He would have his cup of coffee, 14 games and 15 hitless plate appearances total, with the Astros as a 30-year-old rookie in 1997 after parts of five straight seasons at the Triple-A level.

He ended his life at the age of 48 in a murder-suicide involving his wife.

Hennigan - 1971 Topps

Hennigan – ’71 Topps

Phil Hennigan
b. 4/10/1946 – d. 6/17/2016

The right-handed Hennigan was a fourth round draft pick by the Indians in the 1966 draft and made his debut in 1969. He spent parts of four seasons in Cleveland, posting a 17-10 record with a 3.91 ERA in 146 games (all but two in relief). He was traded to the New York Mets following the 1972 season for Bob Rauch and Brent Strom.

The 70-year-old Vietnam veteran from his time in the US Army passed at his home in Center, Texas.

Joe Schaffernoth
b. 8/6/1937 – d. 6/18/2016

Schaffernoth - 1963 Topps

Schaffernoth – ’63 Topps

Schaffernoth, a right-handed reliever, ended his three-year Major League career with 15 games with the Indians in 1961. He had been purchased in July that season by the Indians from the Chicago Cubs and following the season, he was moved to the Washington Senators in a cash exchange, but a shoulder injury ran his career short.

He passed away at the age of 78 in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, after what was described as a “hard fought battle with cancer”.

Jose Arcia
b. 8/22/1943 – d. 7/30/2016

Arcia spent a year and a half in the Indians organization in the early stages of his career, moving from the Houston Colt .45’s to the Detroit Tigers to the Indians within his first year in professional ball. He was dealt by the Indians to the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1964 and the young Cuban ball player would make his Major League debut nearly four years later while with the Chicago Cubs in 1968. He played his final two big league seasons in 1969 and 1970 while working as a utility man for the San Diego Padres.

The 72-year-old passed away in Miami, Florida.

Arlin - 1975 Topps

Arlin – ’75 Topps

Steve Arlin
b. 9/25/1945 – d. 8/17/2016

Arlin, a right-handed pitcher out of Shawnee High School in Lima, Ohio, and The Ohio State University, was the 13th overall pick in the June Secondary draft in 1966 by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was later drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 1968 expansion draft and joined the Indians in June of 1974 for a pair of players. He spent just four months in the Indians rotation, making eleven appearances (ten starts) and going 2-5 with a 6.60 ERA to conclude his professional career.

He practiced dentistry for more than 25 years following his baseball career before retiring from that profession in 2004. He passed away peacefully in San Diego.

Paul Dade
b. 12/7/1951 – d. 8/25/2016

Dade - 1979 Topps

Dade – ’79 Topps

Dade was a first round pick by the California Angels out of high school in the 1970 draft. The former tenth overall pick would come to Cleveland as a free agent in February of 1977 and spent two and a half seasons with the club while easily having his best years of his career in an Indians uniform. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres during the 1979 season for a future Cleveland legend, Mike Hargrove.

Dade returned home to the Pacific Northwest following his playing career. He passed away at the age of 64 after a short battle with cancer.

For more on the life of Paul Dade, click here.

Don Minnick
b. 4/14/1931 – d. 9/2/2016

Minnick signed with the Indians as an amateur free agent in 1949 and toiled in their farm system through the 1956 season until his release. He was out of baseball in 1952 and 1953 during the Korean War while a member of the United States Military. He would later get a quick taste of the Majors in 1957, when he appeared in two games for the Washington Senators.

He died in Rocky Mount, Virginia, at the age of 85.

John Orsino
b. 4/22/1938 – d. 11/2/2016

Orsino spent time in the minors with the Indians after being acquired on June 12, 1969, in a trade with the New York Yankees for Rob Gardner. It would be his final season of professional ball. Previously, he spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors with the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Senators while playing catcher and first base. Following his career, he spent parts of two seasons managing in the minors for the Indians in 1977 and 1978.

The 78-year-old passed in November in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Eddie Carnett
b. 10/21/1916 – d. 11/4/2016

Carnett was 14 days past the century mark when he passed away in November. He broke into the Majors in 1941 as a pitcher with the Boston Braves and, after time back in the minors, returned to the Majors for single seasons as a pitcher, first baseman, and outfielder for the Chicago White Sox in 126 games in 1944 and for the Indians in 30 games in 1945.

He logged a total of 158 career games over his three big league seasons, but spent another ten seasons in the minors and independent leagues after his stint with Cleveland ended.

At the time of his death, he held the title of oldest living Major Leaguer.

Russ Nixon
b. 2/19/1935 – d. 11/8/2016

Nixon - 1957 picture pack

Nixon – ’57 picture pack

Nixon signed with the Indians in 1953 and spent parts of four big league seasons with the club from 1957 to 1960 before he was dealt in two separate trades to the Boston Red Sox (after the first trade was vetoed and the traded players returned to their previous organizations). He spent 12 years in the Majors before he got into coaching and, later, managed for his hometown Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves.

He passed away in November at the age of 81 after a long illness.

For more on the life of Russ Nixon, click here.

Marlan Coughtry
b. 9/11/1934 – d. 11/8/2016

Coughtry broke into the Majors with 15 games with the Boston Red Sox in 1960 and made a quick stop in Cleveland two seasons later. He split the 1962 season between the Los Angeles Angels (eleven games), the Kansas City Athletics (six games), and the Indians (three games). In that short career in Cleveland, he was 1-for-2 in three trips to the plate with a walk, a single, and one run batted in. All three of his July games with the Indians came in pinch-hitting roles, stepping in for the pitcher and never once taking the field defensively for the Tribe.

He died in his sleep in Vancouver, Washington, at the age of 82.

Locklin - baseball-birthdays.com

Locklin – baseball-birthdays.com

Stu Locklin
b. 7/22/1928 – d. 12/4/2016

Locklin joined the Indians organization in 1949, but stepped away from the game from 1952 to 1954 while serving in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He reached the Majors for 25 games over the 1955 and 1956 seasons for Cleveland in his only MLB appearances. The outfielder hit .167 over his career with three singles and a double in 24 at bats. He was later traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1958.

He passed away peacefully at the age of 88 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Margaret Whitton
b. 3/28/1949 – d. 12/4/2016

The fictional Cleveland owner that Indians fans would come to love to hate, Whitton played the role of Rachel Phelps in the 1989 classic, Major League. The triumphant turnaround of the lovable losers is so beloved by fans that the movie has become in essence a cult classic among Indians fans, who will watch the movie without pause, able to recite many of the quotable lines of script on command. Whitton’s role as the former showgirl Phelps, intent on moving the struggling franchise to Miami, was one of her most memorable during her time on the big screen or on the stage, where she spent the latter years of her acting and directing career. The role in a baseball movie came naturally for her, as she was an avid baseball fan.

Whitton passed at the age of 66 at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, after a battle with cancer.

For more on the life of Margaret Whitton, click here.

Photo (of Dade): Cleveland Memory Project

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Cleveland Indians: How Edwin Encarnacion Stacks up Against His AL Foes

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How will Edwin Encarnacion fare against some of the stars on the AL teams that will give the Cleveland Indians the best competition in 2017. Yes, it’s another Edwin Encarnacion-focused article. But, this article will be realistically comparing how Encarnacion fares against of some of the Cleveland Indians’ biggest competitors. Here’s what Encarnacion brought to the field […]

Cleveland Indians: How Edwin Encarnacion Stacks up Against His AL FoesWahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Source: Wahoos on First

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Merritt’s Postseason Heroics Put Him on Indians’ Radar for 2017

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The casual Cleveland Indians fan, one who might have blinked and missed his debut and subsequent returns to the Major League roster throughout the season, learned the name of Ryan Merritt rather quickly during the American League Championship Series when the rookie left-hander made a Game 5 start and contained a power-packed Toronto Blue Jays lineup in one of the most unexpected contributions of October.

Now, Merritt waits for another chance to pitch on the big league stage with a starting rotation that should be back to health and full of five quality veteran starters who will block his path to the Show.

Merritt’s efforts won the affections of the Tribe faithful, who managed to not only hunt down the wedding registry for his pending nuptials, but filled up the gift requests of the couple in thanks for his contributions to the Indians winning the American League pennant. It was the highlight in what was likely a surreal year for the 24-year-old left-hander, who was only getting his first real regular season action at the Triple-A level when the season began.

The Indians drafted Merritt in the 16th round of the 2011 draft out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. After the ink dried on his first professional contract, he got some work in with the team’s Arizona League affiliate (making four relief appearances) and made 14 starts the next season at short-season Mahoning Valley.

He went 6-9 in 2013, working in 24 games (23 starts) for Class-A Lake County before a pair of starts with the High-A Carolina Mudcats. He spent all of 2014 with the Mudcats, putting together an impressive 13-3 campaign with a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 25 starts. It earned him a promotion to Akron, where he went 10-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 22 starts to start the 2015 season.

He ended that year with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, winning two of his five starts before working in the International League postseason.

Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

Merritt was one of many potential starting pitching options waiting down Interstate 71 for the Indians in the case of an emergency this past season. He was 3-4 in his first eight starts for the Clippers with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP when he got the call to Cleveland on May 23. He made his MLB debut, a relief appearance, a week later on May 30 against Texas and limited the Rangers to just one hit while striking out two over four and one-third innings of work in his first relief appearance since 2013. He was optioned back to Columbus after the game, but not as a result of the effort he gave the club.

Back in the minors, he made ten starts around a seven-day disabled list trip while dealing with mid-back tightness. Just two of the outings were quality starts as he was hit with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP while giving up eight homers in the ten-game span of 54 1/3 innings.

Despite the tough go, he was summoned again to help the Indians’ depleted bullpen and worked a perfect inning of relief on August 4 against Minnesota before returning after the game to the Clippers and jumping right back into the rotation there on August 7.

He returned to Cleveland for good on September 11, winner of four of his final six starts with the Clippers while posting better overall numbers than his previous trip to the state capital. Back with the Indians, he made a relief appearance on September 12 against the Chicago White Sox, allowing one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning. He did not appear again until the final game of the month, when he made a spot start against the Kansas City Royals and held the reigning World Champs to a run on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks over five innings to earn his first Major League win.

He got the call again in the most unlikely of spots in the ALCS. A thinned out Indians rotation, depleted by a slew of injuries, called upon the young left-hander to make the Game 5 start. Staked to a 1-0 lead before he took the mound, Merritt retired big bats Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson on groundouts to start the bottom of the first before he struck out Edwin Encarnacion. The second inning consisted of a fly out from Troy Tulowitzki before back-to-back strikeouts of Russell Martin and Melvin Upton. Now with a 2-0 lead, he retired the side in order in the third and with a three-run advantage heading into the bottom of the fourth, he gave up his first base runner on a one-out single by Donaldson before Encarnacion grounded into a double play.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Merritt returned for the fifth in line for the win, but after a fly out from Tulowitzki, Martin reached on a single and manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen. The group maintained his 3-0 shutout to clinch the American League. In his first MLB postseason appearance, Merritt faced one over the minimum, striking out three Blue Jays and giving up just two base hits.

In addition to his stellar postseason appearance, Merritt went 11-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 24 starts with the Clippers with a pair of complete games and one shutout and was 1-0 in four games with the Indians with a 1.64 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in four games (one start).

So what becomes of Merritt now? Barring any sudden moves by the Indians front office, the Cleveland starting rotation should be occupied by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin once again.

Merritt could hope for a spot in the team’s bullpen as a LOOGY or a lefty long man as Andrew Miller is the one sure southpaw lock for the pitching staff, but several returning (Kyle Crockett and Shawn Morimando) or new options (Tim Cooney, Edwin Escobar, and Hoby Milner) are coming to spring camp vying for a spot in the bullpen as well.

Given how quickly the Indians rotation succumbed to injury in the final month of the season, it would be all the more likely that Merritt and several other starters-turned-relievers to see action in Cleveland this season (including Mike Clevinger, Cody Anderson, Adam Plutko, and Morimando) will head back to Triple-A to keep their arms stretched out in the event that the Indians need a spot starter for a doubleheader or make-up date or, worst case scenario, a starter is knocked out for a period of time with an injury.

Merritt’s strong efforts in his fifth professional campaign this season made sure to keep his name at the top of that list of candidates to rely on, and being one of the few left-handers at the top of the farm system could give him a leg up on the competition to add a different look to the Indians pitching staff.

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

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Today in Tribe History: December 31, 1955

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Former Cleveland pitcher Clint Brown passes away in Rocky River, Ohio, at the age of 52.

The right-hander Brown spent ten seasons with the Indians over two tours. He debuted in 1928 and spent parts of eight seasons with the Indians through 1935, working primarily as a starter. He led the league in shutouts in 1930 with three and had a league low of 1.7 walks per nine innings in both 1932 and 1933.

He was purchased by the Chicago White Sox from the Indians in 1936 and would spend five years with the Pale Hose, appearing in all but two games as a reliever, before being traded back to Cleveland prior to the 1941 season. He spent that season and part of the 1942 season with the Tribe before his release on June 16.

He ended his 15-year MLB career with an 89-93 record and a 4.26 ERA. He led the league twice in games pitched in 1937 and 1939 for the Sox and saved a league-best 18 games in that 1937 campaign.

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Better Second Half Helped McAllister Contribute to Tribe’s Playoff Run

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Indians reliever Zach McAllister got a big vote of confidence from the Cleveland organization when the arbitration-eligible right-hander was one of eight players tendered a contract by the club in advance of the deadline earlier in December.

Having just completed his sixth big league season in an Indians uniform, McAllister is now fully settled into his role as a reliever after spending most of his first four years in the Majors in the starting rotation. While his first full season in the bullpen yielded some promising results, including a surprisingly high strikeout rate, some of those numbers dropped back down to more expected results this past season.

McAllister started the season with some curious numbers. He posted a 0.93 ERA in eleven outings in April, but he walked five in nine and two-thirds innings. As he got into May, he found the strike zone better, striking out 12 and walking just three in eight innings of ten games, but he also was tagged for 12 hits and seven runs.

The issues piled on for McAllister despite a good June (five strikeouts and two walks with five hits allowed in six and two-thirds innings). He appeared in just six games, with nine days between his final two outings of the month, but after three outings in July and a disastrous seven runs allowed in an inning and one-third, he landed on the disabled list for the first time since May of 2014 while dealing with right hip discomfort.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

He was activated on July 29 and put together a solid two months to close out the season, allowing single runs in four of his final 23 games (25 2/3 innings) for a 1.40 ERA. He allowed some foot traffic on the bases, giving up 25 hits and eight walks in that span, but just two of the hits left the yard. He also averaged a hair above a strikeout per inning with 26 in that stretch.

The good results did not translate to the postseason, where he allowed a run on one hit in one inning of the ALCS against Toronto and two more runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts in two innings of two games against Chicago in the World Series.

McAllister’s final regular season numbers included a 3-2 record, a 3.44 ERA, and a 1.45 WHIP. After striking out 84 batters and walking 23 in 69 innings over 61 games in 2015, he struck out 54 and walked the same 23 in 52 1/3 innings in 53 games in 2016.

McAllister’s pitch selection changed from 2015 to 2016, which may have factored in to some of the changes that showed up in his stat sheet. During the 2015 season, he relied heavily on the four-seam and two-seam fastballs, mixed in the cutter or curve, and would occasionally use a slider. His four-seam remained his primary weapon in 2016, but the curve became his second-most used pitch as he fired his two-seamer 116 fewer times (according to fangraphs.com).

His four-seam fastball use climbed from 63.1% to 69.7% from 2015 to 2016. Meanwhile, he threw nearly half as many two-seamers (16.2% in 2015 to 8.6% in 2016). His curveball usage felt a slight uptick of just over 2% more use while his cutter was used nearly 2% less frequently than the season before.

McAllister was able to rely on his four-seamer for all of his strikeouts while holding opposing hitters to a .253 average with it, but all 21 walks issued and all six home runs allowed by him on the year came off of those heaters. He saw a decrease in contact off of the pitch by opposing hitters, who increased their tendency to line the pitch instead of put it on the ground. He had a career-best effort in swinging strikes on his fastball at 10.4% and he got strikes on two-thirds of the fastballs that he threw. His two-seamer was used the fewest times by him in a single season since his rookie season in 2011.

Hitters also found more success against his curveball than the previous year, boasting a .375 average in limited action against it after hitting .267 off of the pitch the previous season. Earlier in his career, McAllister had had success with the curveball, but struggled significantly when utilizing his slider. Hitters made contact with 90% of the curveballs that they saw in the strike zone. He missed the zone more than he found it with both his slider and changeup when he mixed the pitches into his arsenal.

In his eleventh professional season after being drafted in the third round by the New York Yankees in 2006, McAllister made $1.3 million in his first season of arbitration last winter. The usually reliable projected arbitration salary numbers at MLBTradeRumors.com put him in line to earn in the ball park of $1.7 million for next season.

McAllister, who turned 29 earlier in December, appears primed to return to the middle of the Tribe’s bullpen mix, where he can provide manager Terry Francona with multiple innings of relief work, as he did in a dozen different relief appearances this past season, or with the occasional later inning matchup. With the latter innings under control with Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen in tow, McAllister gives Francona an experienced and durable right-handed arm, even if Francona’s tendency was to utilize him in low leverage situations. McAllister can provide a bridge from a short starting outing from one of his teammates to the dangerous back end of the bullpen, and could even jump into the later innings on occasion when the primary relief figures there have seen the mound too much.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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Today in Tribe History: December 30, 1901

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Dick Porter, an outfielder for six seasons with the Indians, is born in Princess Anne, Maryland.

Porter made his big league debut in an Indians uniform in 1929 at the age of 27, playing 71 games while batting .328. He topped that impressive debut with a .350 batting average in 119 games for the Tribe in 1930.

He remained with the club until 1934, when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox with pitcher Wes Ferrell for outfielder “Suitcase Bob” Seeds, pitcher Bob Weiland, and cash. He would finish the season with a .303 average in 79 games as a left and right fielder for the Sox in what would be his final big league season.

Porter spent the next six years toiling in the minor league game, primarily playing in the International League. The last four of those years included time managing his respective clubs.

Following his playing career, he remained involved in coaching, working as a minor league manager for years, including several with Cleveland farm clubs. He was elected to the International League Hall of Fame in 1963.

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Should fans rely on a big Michael Brantley return?

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The Cleveland Indians are expecting Michael Brantley back in 2017, but his presence may not be needed for the team to return to the World Series. Cleveland Indians fans will always wonder what could have been in 2016 if the entire roster was healthy. And while much of the focus was on the pitching staff, […]

Should fans rely on a big Michael Brantley return?Wahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Lindor Leapt into National Spotlight with Strong Sophomore Season

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Once in a while, a dynamic rookie struggles in his second season while opposing teams make adjustments to him. The dreaded “sophomore slump” has afflicted many of fine players over the years, and there was some speculation that the impressive numbers put up by shortstop Francisco Lindor in his first campaign at the Major League level would not be replicated over the course of his first full season of baseball in 2016.

Lindor did his part to eliminate any of those doubts early and often in putting together what was a dynamite season as the Cleveland Indians’ number three hitter and American League All-Star shortstop.

Throughout Lindor’s minor league career, he was regularly regarded as special. There was just something about the way that he played the game that set him apart from the other players on the field with him. There seemed to be little doubt that he had Major League potential, but how high his ceiling might ultimately be was yet to be decided.

If the numbers that he has put up offensively and defensively are any indication, the sky is the limit for the young star Lindor.

The switch-hitter was the eighth overall pick by the Indians in the 2011 draft and progressed steadily through the club’s farm system while being routinely rated one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His bat took some time to develop (.257 average in 2012 in 122 games with Class-A Lake County), but he showed extra base power at the dish and flashed quality speed on the bases.

He split the 2013 season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron, hitting a combined .303 on the season, and received similar treatment the following year when he worked at Akron and Triple-A Columbus. After a trip to the Arizona Fall League after the season, he returned to Columbus for 2015 and made his MLB debut with the Indians on June 14 after slashing .284/.350/.402 in 59 games for the Clippers.

In 99 games with Cleveland, he hit .313 with a .353 on-base percentage and .482 slugging mark with 22 doubles, four triples, a dozen homers, and 51 RBI while scoring 50 runs and stealing 12 bases in 14 opportunities. He also was tops in the AL with 13 sacrifice bunts.

Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

Lindor surprised some who wondered how his bat would translate to the MLB game after putting up a career .279/.354/.384 slash line in the minors. Furthermore, he showcased a surprising amount of pop at the MLB level, especially for a player who had hit only eleven in a single professional season. With the way that Lindor played, it was at times difficult to remember that he was in just his fifth season of pro ball and that he was a fresh faced 21-year-old.

With the bar set high on the former top prospect, Lindor went out and lived up to every expectation in 2016.

He was inserted into the third spot in manager Terry Francona’s batting order with Michael Brantley on the shelf dealing with on-going shoulder and biceps related issues all season long. The spot generally reserved for a team’s best hitter was not a role too big for Lindor, as he would hit .302 while getting all but 13 of his plate appearances in the spot.

He jumped out of the gates hot, hitting .293 in 21 games with 24 hits (four doubles, one homer) and a dozen runs scored in April. The one critique that could have been made was an elevated strikeout rate, with 18 in 93 plate appearances (19.4%). He improved upon his numbers the next month as he hit .316, had 36 hits (five doubles, three homers) in 28 games, scored 21 runs, drove in 13, and was a perfect 6-for-6 stealing bases. He also cut his strikeout rate in half, down to just 9.5% of his plate appearances for the month.

The extra base power boomed in June, as in 28 games he had six doubles, six homers, and a triple while he hit .301 with a .353 OBP. He drove in a season-high 17 runs in the month as he maintained his steady production in the batting order. He rounded out the first half with a slash of .306/.363/.460 with 20 doubles, a triple, ten homers, 45 RBI, 60 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 103 hits, and a trip to the Midsummer Classic in San Diego, California.

He wrapped up July with a .304 average for the month in 24 games with 28 more hits, including five more doubles and a pair of homers. He also impressively hit six sacrifice flies for the month, more than doubling his previous season total of five through the first three months of the campaign.

The final two months of the regular season were distinctly different for Lindor as he continued to play every day in the lineup. He took the field 30 times in August, hitting a season-high .341 with 42 hits while walking a season-low two times as he pounced on everything that he could hit and did it well. He was a singles machine, hitting 34 for the month while adding four doubles, two more triples, and two home runs while driving in 13 runs, the third of four separate times he would do so over the course of the year.

Down the stretch, the bat quieted as he racked up exactly half as many hits in his final 27 games as he had in the previous month while hitting a season-low .233. Yet despite the lack of hits, he drew 19 walks against his 13 strikeouts and therefore continued to set the table for the middle of the Indians lineup any way that he could. He also added four more sacrifice flies to give him a total of 15 for the season, tops in all the Majors and all the more impressive coming from a scrappy shortstop and not the prototypical cleanup hitting slugger.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After playing a professional career-high 158 games, Lindor’s season continued on through the playoffs. And just like the regular season, he was a linchpin in the Tribe offense. He had a double and a solo homer in the ALDS against Boston before hitting .368 in the five-game ALCS with Toronto, adding another double and homer, two runs scored, and three RBI. He hit a healthy .296 against Chicago in the World Series, hitting seven singles and a double, scoring two runs, and driving in two more.

During the regular season, Lindor had a .301/.358/.435 triple slash with 182 hits (30 doubles, three triples, 15 homers) and 78 RBI and was fifth in the league in singles with 134. He hit .310 with a .355 OBP and .466 slugging in the playoffs.

Defensively, he was one of the top rated shortstops and defenders in general in the game and was awarded both the Gold Glove Award at shortstop in the AL and the Platinum Glove as the league’s top defensive player, the first Indians player to do so. He had league-bests among all defenders with an 18.5 SABR Defensive Index and a 27.8 defensive runs above average and a positional league-best with a 20.8 UZR. His 17 defensive runs saved were second to Andrelton Simmons in the AL.

There was little slump in the sophomore season that was for Francisco Lindor as he made his star shine brightly in Cleveland. His name has become one to know across the country with his infectious smile, his hustle, his energy, his defensive prowess, a potent and underrated approach at the plate, and a genuine love for the game of baseball. At just 23 years of age, he has quickly become not only the face of the Indians franchise, but one of the most important faces for Major League Baseball’s next generation.

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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Today in Tribe History: December 29, 1975

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One of the heroes of the Cleveland Indians’ run to the seventh game of the 1997 World Series, Jaret Wright, is born in Anaheim, California.

A first round pick by the Tribe in the 1994 June amateur draft, the son of former Major League pitcher Clyde Wright broke into the Majors on June 24, 1997, and appeared in 16 games during the regular season, going 8-3 with a 4.38 ERA before earning three wins in the 1997 playoffs.

He won 12 games the next season for the Indians, but injuries slowed his career to a halt as he made 26 starts in 1999 and just 24 total appearances (22 starts) over the next three years). He signed with the San Diego Padres as a free agent after the 2002 season and was converted into a reliever for the 2013 season, spending time in both southern California and later with the Atlanta Braves after he was selected off of waivers in late August.

That move paid off well for both Wright and the Braves as the right-hander worked four outings in the National League Divisional Series. Still just 28 years old, he was inserted into their rotation in 2004 and helped lead the club back to the playoffs with a career year on the mound, but lost both of his starts to the eventual NL pennant winning Houston Astros in the NLDS.

He parlayed that season into a three-year, $21 million contract with the New York Yankees, but injuries again limited him. He made 13 starts in 2005, going 5-5 with a 6.08 ERA, and 30 appearances (27 starts) in 2006 while posting an 11-7 record. That offseason, he was dealt to Baltimore, where he concluded his Major League career with three losses in three starts for the Orioles in 2007.

Exactly one year before Wright’s birth, a future teammate will be born in Portland, Oregon – first baseman/designated hitter Richie Sexson.

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