Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin will miss the remainder of the season after an MRI revealed that he has a torn right ACL, writes Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. The injury was initially announced as a knee sprain, but today the Indians learned that it was in fact as bad as it looked, with Naquin carted off the field after a violent collision with the outfield fence at Tropicana Field. With Naquin heading to the injured list, the Indians have recalled Jake Bauers to take his spot on the active roster.
It is yet unknown if Naquin will opt to undergo surgery to repair the ligament, and while a 2019 return is out of the question, a more precise timeline is likewise unknown. However, it stands to reason that Naquin could miss a significant portion, if not the entirety, of next season.
It’s a devastating break for the Indians and Naquin, 28, who has emerged as a critical part of his team’s second-half success. He had been enjoying his best offensive season since his rookie year in 2016, along with much-improved performance in the outfield, where he has graded out as an above-average defender. His bounce back from a pair of disappointing seasons has been crucial in revitalizing the Cleveland outfield, which stood out as perhaps the club’s most pressing need on Opening Day.
The progress that Naquin, Oscar Mercado, and Yasiel Puig have made will now hit a roadblock, which could hardly come at a worse time for the Indians, who have already lost one of their stars, Jose Ramirez, and find themselves in the thick of the American League playoff race. The team is still within range to overtake the Twins for the AL Central, and while they still own the first Wild Card spot, they’ll need to fend off a pair of strong teams in Oakland and Tampa Bay.
In light of today’s news, though, they’ll have to do so without Naquin, who will likely give way to a combination of Bauers and Greg Allen in left field. That pair has netted roughly replacement level production; while not unplayable in the outfield, there’s little doubt that they come in a step below Naquin, a difference that is magnified in significance for a team in Cleveland’s position. Allen, like Naquin, saw his offensive output jump forward in July, though he’s regressed noticeably in August. For his part, Allen has stood out as a defensive left fielder, though the same can’t be said for Bauers, who has spent the last month in the minor leagues after the arrival of Puig and Franmil Reyes.
Between Naquin, Ramirez, and a slew of pitchers including Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger, the Indians have had their playoff hopes tested by health-related absences to some of their most important contributors. Though they have thus far managed to succeed in the face of those injuries, the season’s final month will no doubt be a considerable challenge, and unexpected contributors will need to emerge if the club is to reach the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.