With the addition of Napoli, the infield should look like this from left-to-right: Urshela, Lindor, Kipnis, Napoli. Both Carlos Santana and José Ramírez can come off the pine, Ramírez anywhere from third base to second base and Santana on the two corner spots. Behind the plate, both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are returning to the squad. Just like the rotation, the Indians’ infield is young, but very talented.
After moving up from Columbus, Lindor was statistically better in almost every category as a major leaguer than as a minor leaguer. The switch-hitting short stop hit .313 while slugging 12 homers and knocking in 51 runs in just under 400 at-bats from the two hole. It will be fun to watch the 22-year-old out of Puerto Rico continue to grow.
The third basemen, Urshela, turned 24 shortly after the Indians’ season ended. He also moved up from Columbus mid-way through the year and in 81 games he hit .225. Urshela started off his major league career hitting above .250 in June and July before cooling off south of the Mendoza-line in August. If the young bat can find more consistency to go along with his outstanding glove, he’ll find a niche in the line-up in 2016.
The two-time all-star second basemen, Kipnis, burst onto the scene in 2011,
when he logged a career-high 84 RBI’s. Last season, he came out to a blistering start, hitting .323 before the all-star break. The lead-off hitter had 51 hits in the month of May in just 119 at-bats. He also scored 30 runs in the month–in 29 games. If all goes well for Cleveland, he’ll lead-off in front of Lindor and Brantley in 2016.
The Indians reached out of house to try to improve the first base position. They grabbed former Ranger and Red Sox Slugger, Mike Napoli. Last year Napoli was unimpressive before returning to Arlington for the final 35 games of the year. In those 35 games, he hit five homers in 78 at-bats while hitting nearly .300. That’s significant considering last year’s home run leader, Carlos Santana, hit only 19 all year long.
The final infield starter for the Indians in 2016 will be Yan Gomes. Gomes is another Indian with an outstanding story who is signed to a long-term, team-friendly contract with the club. Gomes was a player-to-be-named in a trade that sent both Mike Aviles and him to Cleveland from Toronto. In his first full season for the Indians, Gomes was named a silver slugger and finished with a .278/.313/.472 line. That’s not bad considering this year’s World Series MVP and American League All-Star Salvador Perez finished hitting .260/.280/.426 this season. Despite the hot-start in Cleveland Gomes was side-lined for over a month in 2015 because of a MCL injury caused by a collision at the plate. His numbers dipped considerably due to it to .231/.267/.391. There is hope for Cleveland fans though, as he continually hit better each month after returning from the injury in June. After the All-Star Break, Gomes hit .241/.289/.435, showing much more power than in the first half of the season.
When all is said and done, the Indians have a lot of talent in the infield, but they are very young. If they thrive off of each other and Napoli pans out, this group will be the nucleus of the offense.