Cleveland Indians Options at First Base

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Spring Training is under two weeks away. In fact, pitchers and catchers begin reporting next week to their respective camps. For the Cleveland Indians, that means that it will be time to gear up and prepare for the rigors ahead in the 2021 season.

After making a blockbuster trade with the New York Mets involving shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, it has been a fairly quiet offseason overall for the Indians. Other notable transactions included releasing closer Brad Hand and coming to an agreement with free agent outfielder Eddie Rosario as well as free agent second baseman Cesar Hernandez.

Beyond that, the organization has not made many other notable transactions. Nonetheless, the team did agree to terms on minor league deals with relievers Bryan Shaw and Heath Hembree last week.

One potential position that currently has a question mark is Indians first base. Last year, the Indians offense was lackluster in many ways. At the first base position, the team really struggled especially compared to the other 30 teams. Overall, Cleveland finished the 60-game slate with a .197 batting average at first base which was the third lowest value in all of baseball. However, Indians first baseman did combine for a .386 on-base percentage which put them in the Top Ten in that category.

Granted, a lot of the production at first base was from Carlos Santana. However, Santana is no longer with the team as he agreed to a two-year deal with the Kansas City Royals this offseason.

While the position is a question mark going into the coming season, the Indians are not likely to invest any money in an outside addition before Opening Day. Therefore, there are two players that could be potential options for the team moving forward.

Mike Freeman: Current Starting First Baseman on the Depth Chart

Mike Freeman has been with the organization since 2019. In that span, he has played in nearly 100 games putting up a .270/.352/.377 slash line. In addition, he had 58 hits, 11 doubles, four home runs, 27 RBI, 25 walks, and 72 strikeouts over that sample.

Freeman provides the team with a serviceable bat and has a track record at the big league level. Overall, he has played at the big league level for five seasons with various teams over that time period. Beyond that, he could be someone the team views as a potential veteran for the team’s young players. Add to that, he has the ability to provide average defense at the position.

Due to those reasons, it is heavily likely that the Cleveland Indians open the season with Freeman as their starting first baseman. However, there is another player in the organization to keep an eye on as Spring Training nears and that is Bobby Bradley.

Bobby Bradley: Top Ranked Indians First Base Prospect

Based on the 2020 Top 30 Prospects list published by MLB.com, Bobby Bradley ranks as the organization’s 14th best overall prospect. Bradley was originally drafted during the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Indians. Furthermore, he was expected to make the big league roster last year. However, due to the effects from the Coronavirus, that plan did not come to fruition.

Therefore, Bradley could potentially crack the team’s big league roster coming out of Spring Training. After all, he has plenty of bat speed, power, and strength to make a difference in the batting order. In fact, according to his scouting report, he received¬† grade of 60 in the power department. Additionally, Bradley received a grade of 50 when it came to his arm strength. During his first six seasons in the minors, he racked up a total slash line of .254/.342/.504 over 2,401 at bats.

More recently in 2019, as a member of the Triple-A team, Bradley hit .264/.344/.567 over 107 games. In that sample, his power was on display as he hit 33 home runs. In addition, he recorded 74 RBI and 46 walks, while striking out a total of 153 times. As scouts have noted, Bradley has plenty of power, but it’s the strikeouts that could be a potential concern moving forward.

From a fielding aspect, Bradley has some work to do. Scouts note that he has to work on his overall defense and is viewed as a below-average player at his position. Overall, Bradley received a grade of 40 on the scouting scale for his fielding skills. Furthermore, he also has to work on his speed on the base paths. In the running department, Bradley received a grade of 20.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the situation isn’t ideal for the Cleveland Indians first base options. Mike Freeman gives the team someone with serviceable offense, but below average defense. On the other hand, Bobby Bradley is a top ranked prospect and has a lot of power and strength albeit struggles from a strikeout, fielding and speed standpoint.

For the Indians, the smart play might be to give Freeman the Opening Day job which would allow Bradley to continue developing in the minor leagues. Hopefully along with that development, Bradley would be able to find a way to bring his strikeout rate down.

Regardless of their skill sets, both Mike Freeman and Bobby Bradley project to factor heavily into the Cleveland Indians plans in 2021 and beyond.

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Players Mentioned: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Brad Hand, Eddie Rosario, Cesar Hernandez, Bryan Shaw, Heath Hembree, Carlos Santana, Mike Freeman, Bobby Bradley.