Indians prospect Tyler Naquin, a former first-round pick, is positioning himself to contend for the Opening Day center field job in the wake of Michael Brantley’s injury and Abraham Almonte’s suspension, writes Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal. Manager Terry Francona explained that Naquin has caught his eye early on, though he still has plenty of work to do before he’s earned a roster spot. “The fist week, he’s been very impressive, and that’s good because you’re looking for that,” said Francona. “But I don’t think you just make your team out the first week of camp, either.” Lewis notes that while Naquin might not be as highly regarded as top organizational prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier (both outfielders by trade, as well), that could actually play into Naquin’s favor in a strange way, as the team might not have the same service time reservations with him that it would have with No. 1 and 2 prospects. Naquin, 24, split the 2015 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .300/.381/.446 in 378 plate appearances.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- While the Pirates have a reputation for making good on reclamation projects on which the club buys low, the Associated Press notes that the Royals have experienced some similar succes in recent years, pointing to signings like Chris Young, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton as outstanding bargains. “[General manager Dayton Moore] really shows you that he wants you here and he’s going to give you every chance to prove that you still have something left,” non-roster invitee Peter Moylan told the AP. “For me, that was a big reason why I came here.” While Moore certainly deserves some credit for the outstanding value pickups, the GM praised his manager and coaching staff for their success as well. “[Manager Ned Yost] and the coaching staff embrace the players we bring into the organization,” Moore said. “They trust in the opinions of our scouts, and then the (current) players’ attitudes and mindset is everyone is in this together, so they bring guys in.” Other reclamation projects in camp with the Royals this season include right-hander Dillon Gee, outfielder Travis Snider and veteran infielder Clint Barmes.
- The White Sox and Reds haven’t had any recent talks about Jay Bruce now that Chicago has added Austin Jackson on a one-year deal, tweets Jon Heyman. Following the addition of Jackson, the Sox are done with their pursuit of starting-caliber outfielders, Heyman notes. That would eliminate yet another suitor for Bruce, who looks increasingly likely to begin the year with the Reds now that Jackson is in Chicago and the Orioles have reportedly agreed to add Pedro Alvarez on a one-year deal (thus pushing Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis to the outfield). Earlier today, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes looked at the Jackson signing as part of his review of the White Sox’ offseason.
- Carlos Quentin genuinely believed that his playing days were over when he announced that he planned to retire last May, he explained to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. However, Quentin said he was surprised by how quickly his body began to feel better in his absence from playing. His knees and shoulder, both problematic in the past, returned to normal, and his agent spread the word that Quentin could seek a comeback in 2016. Interestingly, Quentin said that he received non-roster invitations based solely on his track record, but while he was flattered, he didn’t want to sign with a team until the club had seen him and he had earned the invite. “You don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” he said. The Twins offered that chance, sending a scout to watch him near his San Diego home. Hitting coach and former big leaguer Tom Brunansky, who lived nearby, also attended the workout and was impressed by Quentin’s bat speed. “They said they’re looking for a veteran presence, someone to come off the bench and give a good at-bat,” said Quentin of the Twins. “…They were honest, and I appreciate them giving me a fair shake. I said I’ll come and give it my best effort.”