The latest buzz from around the AL Central…
- In a look at what the Indians’ lineup could look like in 2019, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that “serious consideration” is being given to the idea of deploying Yandy Diaz as a regular third baseman. With Diaz at the hot corner, All-Star Jose Ramirez would move back to second base while Jason Kipnis shifted into a left field role. The 27-year-old Diaz posted above-average numbers (115 OPS, 115 wRC+) over 120 plate appearances for the Tribe last season, batting .312/.375/.422. Though Diaz’s .353 xwOBA was only slightly ahead of his real-world .346 wOBA, it’s safe to say that a healthy .371 BABIP surely contributed to Diaz’s success, especially given how Diaz continued to have issues avoiding ground balls. (To this end, his 53.3% grounder rate in 2018 was actually an improvement over his numbers in the minors.) When he has put the ball in the air, however, Diaz has shown some tremendous exit velocity, and he has consistently posted strong on-base skills in the minors and in Cuba. Diaz has played all over the diamond during his pro career but has spent the bulk of his time as a third baseman, giving Cleveland an internal option at the position as they figure out how to best maximize Ramirez’s production, as well as try to solve the twin struggles of Kipnis’ two-year-long slump, and a lack of outfield depth on the roster.
- Speaking of that latter issue in Cleveland, Pluto notes that “the outfield screams for help via a trade.” Michael Brantley could leave in free agency and Bradley Zimmer is recovering from shoulder surgery, leaving the Indians with a projected outfield mix of Kipnis, Greg Allen, Leonys Martin, and Tyler Naquin. The Tribe won’t have much in the way of extra payroll to spend in free agency, so signing a big name outfielder or perhaps even re-signing Brantley could be difficult. Re-signing one of their other veteran free agents (Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera) wouldn’t be a substantial upgrade, leaving the trade market as the most logical route.
- The Tigers have been a power-heavy team for years, though as the team now rebuilds, the next generation of Tigers prospects could be developed with speed and contact-hitting in mind, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. The idea would be to find fast and athletic players with the ability to both deliver doubles and triples in Comerica Park’s spacious outfield, as well as catch such potential extra-base hits when opposing hitters send liners into the alleys. Finding such multi-dimensional players and teaching them to be fundamentally-sound in all aspects of the game is a big focus for manager Ron Gardenhire and VP of player development Dave Littlefield.
- The White Sox are still in rebuilding mode, so The Athletic’s James Fegan (subscription required) figures the team will take the long view on offseason roster placements in regards to out-of-options players and potential Rule 5 picks. Since Chicago is likelier to keep players who can provide more help for the future than help in 2019, thus leaving the likes of Leury Garcia, Kevan Smith (both of whom are out of options), and others on the bubble.