Like many of you I am sure, I spent many hours this spring pouring over NFL mock drafts, reviewing the Browns depth chart, and looking at their projected 2014 starters. Here at LGT, we have done the first two, but have not talked much about the future lineup. Sure, we can see the team needs help in the rotation for 2015, particularly if Justin Masterson is gone, but we are not drafting a 2015 starter this year.
Instead, I want to fast-forward a couple years and look at the team in 2017. Who is likely to be on the roster? What will the starting lineup be. Seeing as it is difficult to project the roster in August, let alone almost three years in the future, this is more about taking a new angle on the organizational depth than anything else. Plus it is fun.
At the end of this, I'd love to see what you come up with, but we should all play by the same rules, so here are the restrictions I placed on myself:
- Only players currently in the organization can be considered - I don't get to assume Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall get traded to LA for Mike Trout.
- Among players in the organization, feel free to predict a contract extension.
- Players cannot move unreasonably fast through the system.
- You must account for notable omissions - no declaring a lineup without Carlos Santana unless you can tell me what you think Carlos will be doing.
- Ignore the pen. Bullpens are crazy and it's not really useful to try to guess who will be in one in the future.
- This is my projection for our "regular" 2017 lineup. That means that a June call-up who plays the rest of the way counts, despite not being on the Opening Day roster.
1) Tyler Naquin - CF - Ryan Raburn and David Murphy will be gone. Naquin will be a high-on-base guy at the top of the lineup. I could see him splitting time with another prospect (to be mentioned later).
2) Carlos Santana - DH/1B - I'd actually rather see him later in the lineup, but there are a bunch of lefties in this group (including at CF, LF, 2B, the other 1B/DH) and they happen to make up most of our best hitters. Need someone to slot between them and Santana's discipline will play well here.
3) Jason Kipnis - 2B - I imagine this will be one of the two least argued with calls I make. You can practically write this one in Sharpie (maybe not the lineup slot, but everything else) and that is pretty great.
4) Yan Gomes - C - Gomes benefits from being a right-handed power bat, but he is really just keeping this spot warm for my #6 hitter.
5) Michael Brantley - LF - If Kipnis is not the least argued with prediction, this probably is. Brantley and Kipnis are both good enough hitters that I could see either of them in any of the top five lineup slots.
6) Clint Frazier - RF - He may not quite be ready by Opening Day, but he will have an impact on this team in 2017. If he is as good as I expect, hitting 6th will be a temporary thing.
7) Lonnie Chisenhall - 1B/DH - Sharing time with Santana. I think Lonnie's bat is legit, and in many lineups he could hit much higher, but which left-handed bat do you switch him with? Maybe you put Kipnis/Brantley at the top and move Naquin down?
8) Giovanny Urshela - This is my least confident prediction of a starter. But placing him next to the man behind him in the lineup would basically make it impossible for ground balls to get through our left side.
9) Francisco Lindor - SS - I actually think Lindor can hit well enough to not be a 9 hitter, but I am not sure where else he would go.
LeVon Washington - outfield - He is the one I could see sharing time with Naquin. Honestly, I think this is a reach. I like Washington, I hope he pans out, but I may be putting him here more with my heart than my head.
Jose Ramirez - infield - He has already had a bit of Major League success and seems well-suited to a bench role backing up players around the IF.
Dorssys Paulino - utility man - I like his potential versatility and he is still seen as a solid prospect.
Jesus Aguilar - 1B/DH - Picking a 2017 bench is hard. Will Aguilar do enough to be a bat off the bench? Will Ronny Rodriguez develop? Will Anthony Santander push Frazier to CF and Naquin to the bench? Who knows!
#1 - Corey Kluber - He is our ace today and will certainly be in the rotation, if not atop it, in three years time.
#2 - Danny Salazar - This is maybe wishful thinking, as Salazar's injury history and struggles may point to a bullpen assignment, but I am not writing him off yet.
#3 - Trevor Bauer - I think he is here to stay. Whether or not he becomes the star he was destined to be remains to be seen, but I am will to say he'll still be in the rotation.
#4 - Cody Anderson - The low AA strike out rate scares me, but I don't see many better options.
#5 - Zach McAllister - I don't think he'll ever become a star, but he's a solid back-of-the-rotation type.
* Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher - They both have vesting options for 2017, but right now I think the Indianswill be looking to prevent those options from vesting. That all depends on how Frazier, Naquin, Chisenhall, Urshela, Aguilar and others develop.
* Another catcher - As long as Santana can still handle 30 games a year behind the plate, I don't see the need to carry anyone else.
* Justin Masterson - I think Justin will get too much on the open market for the Indians to match, and I think passing will prove to be the right decision. How we manage to fill those innings is anyone's guess.
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What do you think? Who will be in the lineup and the rotation for the Indians come 2017?