CLEVELAND, Ohio — About the Indians …
1. If Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana can have respectable Aprils, maybe the Indians will get off to a decent start this season. Last April, Napoli batted .162 with 1 HR in 68 at-bats for Boston. Napoli already has a homer with the Tribe.
2. Santana batted .239 (3 HR) last April. His batting average kept going down: .217 (May) and .190 (June). He didn’t warm up until after the All-Star break.
3. The Indians have been disappointed that Santana hasn’t developed into a better all-around hitter. He settled into trying to hit for power, taking big swings and trying to pull the ball. That led to him hitting ground balls into an infield shift, set up to take away his favorite part of the field where most of his hits were directed.
4. In the last two seasons, Santana batted exactly .231. Batting average isn’t the ultimate stat. I like OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). In the last three years, that has been dropping for Santana — .832-.792-752. Anything over .800 is good and above .750 is very respectable. But it’s obvious Santana has been trending the wrong way, with his giant swings and fixation on pulling the ball.
5. In the second game of the season, Santana crushed a 418-foot homer to dead center. He also had an opposite field single … and a double to center field. So three of his hits in the first two games have been up middle — where the Tribe has been wanting him to hit the ball. He is 4-of-10 after the first three games.
6. Santana showed some signs of doing this in the spring. He had only three strikeouts in 65 at bats. He has struck out about once in every five plate appearances in the regular season. He batted .277 with 3 HR in Arizona.
7. Napoli began to shorten his swing in the second half of last season. He batted only .207 in 98 games with Boston. He was traded to Texas, hitting .295 in the final 35 games. Napoli told me how his battle with sleep apnea and the major surgery he had prior to the 2015 season impacted him for several months until he recovered.
8. Tribe batting coach Ty Van Burkleo told me he noticed the change in Napoli’s swing. Van Burkleo was Napoli’s batting coach when Napoli was a young player in the Angels farm system. Van Burkleo helped recruited Napoli to sign with the Tribe. He also studied Napoli’s swing on video, and the two men prepared for the season with Napoli using a more compact swing.
9. In spring training, Napoli batted .364 (1.063 OPS) with 4 HR and 14 RBI. Several of his hits went to center and right field. He is a right-handed power bat the Tribe desperately needs.
10. Since 2010, the Tribe’s right-handed hitter with the most homers in a season was Yan Gomes (21 in 2014). Then comes Matt LaPorta (12 in 2010), Gomes (12 in 2015) and Shelley Duncan (11 in 2011). Napoli has hit at least 17 homers in every season since 2007.
11. Tyler Naquin will be speaking at the Wahoo Club on April 18 at 6 p.m. The event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, downtown Cleveland. Call Bob Rosen at 440-724-8350 for details.
12. I will be speaking at Mayfield Library on Wednesday at 7 p.m. It’s free. Call 440-473-0350 to register, or you can do it online.
TRACKING SOME OLD MOVES
1. Near the end of spring training in 2014, Justin Masterson turned down a three-year, $45 million contract extension from Tribe. He was coming off a 14-10 record and a 3.45 ERA in 2013. When the Tribe was unable to make a deal with Masterson, he was traded in late July of 2014 for James Ramsey, a former first-round pick by the Cardinals.
2. Since the opening of the 2014 season, Masterson has a 5.79 ERA. He pitched only 59 innings for Boston last season and was bothered by shoulder problems. Masterson had minor shoulder surgery. He recently threw a “showcase” for scouts in Arizona as he’s looking for a another chance to pitch. Last season, his fastball was 87.5 mph. It was in the 93 mph range with a lot of movement and sink when he was at his best with the Tribe.
3. Ramsey was recently taken off the 40-man roster and designated for assignment by the Tribe. The outfielder hit .243 (.709 OPS) at Class AAA Columbus last season, with 12 HR and 42 RBI. The 26-year-old had a very rough spring training, 2-for-21 with 10 strikeouts.
4. Just imagine what a payroll mess the Tribe would have if Masterson had signed that deal. It was set to start in 2015, meaning he’d be under contract for two more years and be paid about $30 million.
5. Along with trading Masterson at the 2014 trade deadline, the Indians also sent Asdrubal Cabrera to Washington. Like Masterson, Cabrera was headed to free agency after the 2014 season. The Indians knew they had Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in the farm system, so they saw no reason to sign Cabrera to an extension.
6. The Tribe received Zach Walters in return. He was an infielder/outfielder with some power. He couldn’t stay healthy. He struck out 47 times in 118 at bats with the Tribe in 2014-15. He did hit 7 HR. Last season, Walters batted .249 (.726 OPS) with 10 HR and 48 RBI in Class AAA.
7. Walters also was designated for assignment. He was 1-for-14 in the spring with six strikeouts.
8. Cabrera signed an $8.5 million deal with the Mets. He batted .265 (.744 OPS) with 15 HR and 58 RBI for Tampa Bay last season. He is the Mets starting shortstop.
9. This was a shocker: Tony Wolters made the Rockies final roster. Wolters was the Tribe’s third-round pick in 2010. He was a middle infielder who struggled hitting. The Tribe converted him to a catcher. In the last two years at Class AA Akron, he threw out 63-of-130 stealing base runners. That’s a tremendous percentage as anything over 25 percent is considered good.
10. The Indians put Wolters on waivers. He batted only .209 (.570 OPS) with 2 HR and 17 RBI in Akron last season. Colorado claimed him. Wolters hit .429 in spring training, and the Rockies decided to keep him as a backup catcher and infielder.
11. In case you missed it, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher were both cut by Atlanta. The Indians traded them for Chris Johnson. It really was a salary dump for both teams. Johnson has made the opening day roster in Miami as a backup third baseman.
12. I wasn’t surprised Ramsey and Walters were designated for assignment. Maybe they are claimed, or maybe not. But they didn’t show much promise. The Indians also designated Giovanni Soto for assignment. The 24-year-old lefty had a 2.68 ERA for Columbus and appeared in six late-season games for the Tribe last season. Lefty relievers tend to stick around. It will be interesting to see if Soto is claimed by another team.
13. In 2010, the Indians traded Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers for Soto, who was pitching in Class A. Prior to the 2014 season, Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million deal with St. Louis. That came after he was suspended for 50 games for flunking a PED test in 2013. Now 33, Peralta has been very good for the Cardinals. He’s played 300 games at shortstop in the last two seasons, making only 20 errors. In that span, he’s hit .269 (.762 OPS), averaging 19 HR and 73 RBI. The Indians traded Peralta to install Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop.
14. The Indians believe it’s likely Soto, Walters and Ramsey might all be claimed by another team. Because all three players have minor league options remaining, another team can claim them and send them to Class AAA. All the team must do is add them to the 40-man roster.
15. The Indians decided to take Ramsey, Walters and Soto off the roster because they added Marlon Byrd, Joba Chamberlain and Ross Detwiler to the opening day roster. All three signed minor league deals this spring, and they had to be added to the 40-man roster.
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