Bradley Zimmer Won’t Be the Most Valuable Indians Call-Up in 2017

“I’m very confident. We have a great group of doctors that we talk to and our medical staff is top-notch, probably the best in the league. We have a great gameplan. I feel like I’m going to have a healthy, successful offseason and come into next spring training ready to rock.”

That was Michael Brantley, back in October.

No, no, no. Not this past October. That was October, 2015.

Since then, Brantley underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, made an appearance in Spring Training, disappeared, started 2016 on the DL with “no such thing as a target [return] date,” played 11 games from late April to early May, took some rest, went back on the DL, was given anti-inflammatory injections, was given a cortisone shot, started a rehab assignment, went back in for surgery, did some simulated hitting, went back in for more surgery, and is now taking dry swings.

“The next step would be to hit a ball off a tee. But there is no timetable for that step.” –  The News-Herald, Cleveland

Can we stop living in the delusion that Michael Brantley has a likely chance of being a regular contributor in 2017? There’s some serious work the Indians have to figure out in his absence.

Without Michael Brantley, the Indians don’t have an outfielder.

Sure, the Indians have 5 people currently on the roster who can play outfield, but none of them can be counted on to actually stay there, day after day.

Tyler Naquin doesn’t play against righties and is due for serious regression, particularly in the power department.

Brandon Guyer doesn’t play against righties and his only special skill is getting hit by pitches.

Lonnie Chisenhall doesn’t play against lefties.

Abraham Almonte was suspended for 80 games last year due to PED’s, and can’t hit righties nor lefties very well.

Jose Ramirez is their best outfielder. He’s also busy being their full-time third baseman.

Let’s try to set the Indians lineup with what we’ve got.

Chisenhall 36 52 46 6 10 0 4 0 10 0.217
Naquin 106 325 289 48 87 14 36 5 105 0.301
Guyer 62 151 122 24 41 6 17 1 17 0.336
Almonte 36 73 68 7 19 1 11 4 17 0.279
Ramirez 85 182 167 23 52 4 22 7 24 0.311

OF1: Naquin

OF2: Guyer

OF3: ???

Chisenhall 117 366 339 37 100 8 53 6 60 0.295
Naquin 30 40 32 4 8 0 7 1 7 0.250
Guyer 68 194 171 15 37 3 15 2 38 0.216
Almonte 54 121 114 17 29 0 11 4 25 0.254
Ramirez 136 436 398 61 124 7 54 15 38 0.312

OF1: Chisenhall

OF2: ???

OF3: ???

Sure, Naquin and Guyer could stop being sheltered from spooky scary right handed pitching that they can’t hit, and Almonte could go out there and have consistently meh performances. But is that really what a team coming off a World Series loss needs to get them back to November ball?

Is Bradley Zimmer the solution?

Indians fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Brad Zimmer, a highly lauded CF prospect who will certainly be on the major league club this year. Though one would expect Zimmer to be held in the minors until we’re through with all of that Super 2 nonsense, the Indians have shown (with Naquin) that they’re not afraid of letting a valuable prospect start the year in the bigs.

We talked about Zimmer on our list of Top 50 Indians Prospects for 2017.

Let’s say Zimmer makes the team out of Spring Training. What then? Here are Zimmer’s splits between AA and AAA last year:

RHP 355 63 97 14 50 33 122 0.273
LHP 113 13 20 1 12 5 49 0.177

So, another body who can’t play more than half the time. At least now we’re up to:

RHP: Chisenhall, Zimmer, ???

LHP: Naquin, Guyer, ???

But wait, there’s more!

Arguably a more important piece to this Indians OF puzzle is prospect Yandy Diaz, whom we also covered on our Top 50 list. Here are his splits from last year:

RHP 263 39 80 3 31 5 58 0.304
LHP 97 14 37 4 13 0 12 0.381

Last year, Diaz made starts (in order of GS) at 3B, RF, LF, 2B, and even spent two innings in center. He is the perfect piece to this Indians game of musical chairs, as he can fill in the gap at 3B while Ramirez heads to the outfield, and can also be counted on to head out there himself.

With the amount of dancing the OF lineup has to do, day in and day out, Yandy Diaz could play a full season without playing the same position in back-to-back games. Diaz makes excellent contact, has a great eye, and has a knack for getting on base. He can play anywhere — and do it well — while being a well above average 7-9 hole hitter.

Bradley Zimmer may have the popularity going into this season, but in 2017, Yandy Diaz’s ability to consistently hit well and play multiple positions will deliver much more value to the Indians as a whole than Zimmer will sharing the CF stage with Naquin.


    • Unless you’re getting a serious clearance bargain bin price, I’d pass.

      Yes, Brantley was one of the elite OF in the game before the injury. But how many formerly-elite players have you seen undergo the amount of setbacks, treatments, and surgeries that Brantley has, and return as even above-average? Does the name-brand price tag have anything of substance?

      Indians writers are going crazy this week because Brantley started hitting off a tee. Surely he’s on pace for an MVP performance! But they forget that Brantley was in the same spot last year, and it was the transition to regular season hitting that did him in. Particularly, it was the finish of his swing that sent him back to the DL.

      Considering what Brantley has undergone, it is extremely unlikely that he will be anything remotely close to a solid contributor this year. For the next several years, this injury isn’t something you experience and then get over. This thing will bother him for the rest of his career. I’d much rather take that investment and find a better deal elsewhere — the risk/price ratio is just too high.

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