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Cleveland Indians' 30-man roster: Final predictions from 3News' Tyler Carey

The season starts Friday, & circumstances allow the Tribe to carry some extra resources.

CLEVELAND — It’s been a long time coming, but finally, mercifully, it appears we’re about to have baseball again.

MLB seems to have a handle on the situation at last, with few positive coronavirus tests among its ranks even as cases rise across the country. The Indians have returned to the diamond, even taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exhibition game Saturday night.

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This will be a season like no other, what with only 60 games, no fans in the stands, and several rule changes designed to keep players safe as well as mitigate the spread of the virus. One of those rules involves the size of the active roster, which will be expanded to 30 for the first couple of weeks of the season.

A few weeks ago, I shared my early predictions for what the Tribe’s Opening Day roster would look like. Just four days from the start of the regular season, not much has changed, but I have made a few tweaks based on circumstances and performance. Here’s how I see things shaping out now:


(2019 statistics in parenthesis)

  • Shane Bieber (15-8, 3.28 ERA, 259 K in 214.1 IP)
  • Carlos Carrasco (6-7, 5.29 ERA, 96 K in 80 IP)
  • Aaron Civale (3-4, 2.34 ERA in 57.2 IP)
  • Mike Clevinger (13-4, 2.71 ERA, 169 K in 126 IP)
  • Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.81 ERA in 115.2 IP)
  • Adam Plutko (7-5, 4.86 ERA in 109.1 IP)

The only change from my first prediction is the subtraction of Jefry Rodriguez, who showed flashes last year but has not appeared in Summer Camp action due to a back issue. Assuming he gets healthy, he will likely be a good asset on the “taxi squad.”

Bieber, the 2019 All-Star Game MVP, has again been named the Opening Day starter, something that was supposed to happen back in March. Clevinger is officially healthy after undergoing knee surgery in the spring, and Carrasco appears ready to go after overcoming cancer. The remaining three helped keep the staff afloat last year and will again provide depth, and Plesac specifically threw five solid innings Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Credit: John Minchillo
American League pitcher Shane Bieber, of the Cleveland Indians, reacts after striking out National League's Ronald Acuna Jr., of the Atlanta Braves, to end the top of the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

I had originally thought the Indians would go with seven starters, as it was believed most teams would be treating their top pitchers with kid gloves after so much time off. However, it appears they have all been throwing more than even we could’ve expected during the layoff, and based on the words of Bieber and others, it looks like there may not be much of a dropoff in the workload after all.


  • Adam Cimber (4.45 ERA over 68 games with 56.2 IP)
  • Brad Hand (34 saves, 3.30 ERA, 84 K in 57.1 IP)
  • James Hoyt (2.16 ERA in 8.1 IP)
  • James Karinchak (1.69 ERA in 5.1 IP)
  • Dominic Leone (5.40 ERA in 40.2 IP with STL)
  • Phil Maton (6.14 ERA in 36.2 IP with SD/CLE)
  • Oliver Perez (3.98 ERA, .207 AVG vs. LHB over 67 games with 40.2 IP)
  • Nick Wittgren (5-1, 2.81 ERA over 55 games with 57.2 IP)
  • Hunter Wood (2.98 ERA in 45.1 IP with TB/CLE)

With Rodriguez out, Terry Francona now has the perfect opportunity to add an extra arm to his bullpen. There are plenty of pitchers to choose from, but for me, the smart money is on righty Dominic Leone.

The 28-year-old had a 2.65 ERA over 65 appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays just two years ago, but that average went north of 5.00 in St. Louis last season and he has struggled during the spring and summer. Still, he at least has potential and could give some experience to a unit somewhat lacking it, plus he does not have what other contenders for the spot do: remaining minor league options.

Credit: David Dermer/AP
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Dominic Leone delivers during a simulated baseball game at Progressive Field, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Cleveland.

Should Leone falter, expect prospects like Cam Hill or Anthony Gose to pick up the slack. But even with depth among prospects, the pen remains one of the shakier groups on the Tribe roster.


  • Sandy Leon (.192 AVG, -1 DRS, 21% CS in 65 games with BOS)
  • Roberto Perez (24 HR, 30 DRS, 41% CS)

No changes here, as Cleveland is set with a Gold Glover behind the dish and an experienced veteran backing him up. Three catchers will be on the taxi squad as possible emergency options: Steven Baron and Beau Taylor have a combined total of 56 career at bats at the big league level, while 2018 first-round draft pick Bo Naylor has promise but has yet to advance past Class A Lake County.


  • Christian Arroyo (.220 AVG, .938 FLD% in 16 games with TB)
  • Mike Freeman (.277 AVG, 3 DRS in 78 games)
  • Cesar Hernandez (.279 AVG, 14 HR, 77 R with PHI)
  • Francisco Lindor (.284 AVG, 32 HR, 101 R, 11 DRS)
  • Jose Ramirez (.255 AVG, 23 HR, 83 RBIs)
  • Carlos Santana (.911 OPS, 34 HR, 110 R, 108 BB)

I was tempted to drop Freeman from this list and insert Yu Chang, especially with the latter tearing the cover off the ball since the Indians returned to practice. However, I still think Francona will lean on experience and versatility, and Freeman did well enough last season and in the spring to gain a firm grip on one of the utility spots.

Credit: Ron Schwane/AP
Cleveland Indians infielder Mike Freeman walks back to the dugout during baseball practice at Progressive Field, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Cleveland.

Other than that, this is pretty much set in stone, with Arroyo taking the second backup spot with an impressive .381 average in exhibition play. Don’t be surprised if the Tribe desires to see either Chang or young Tyler Freeman at some point, though, as both are shortstops and the club may have to fill that position after this season.

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  • Jake Bauers (.226 AVG, 12 HR, 78 OPS+)
  • Jordan Luplow (.276 AVG, .923 OPS, 15 HR in 85 games)
  • Oscar Mercado (.269 AVG, 15 HR, 15 SB, 8 DRS)
  • Tyler Naquin (.288 AVG, 10 HR, 34 RBIs in 89 games)
  • Franmil Reyes (.249 AVG, 37 HR, -11 DRS with SD/CLE)
  • Domingo Santana (.253 AVG, 21 HR, 68 RBIs with SEA)
  • Bradley Zimmer (0 for 13 in 9 games)

This was a lot trickier, as I had to take Delino DeShields Jr. off with him now on the injured list after a brief bout with COVID-19 (he’s thankfully OK, but needs time to get back to full strength). Luplow has also been dealing with nagging injuries and has been limited to a designated hitter role, but I’m assuming he’ll be ready for the opener.

That leaves at least one outfield spot to fill, and I decided to give it to Bauers. He had a rough spring and struggled both at the plate and in the field last year, but still has power potential and can play first base, if needed. Plus, I’m sure the Tribe wants to prove last year’s trade of Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay wasn’t a flop.

Credit: David Dermer/AP
Cleveland Indians' Jake Bauers catches a ball during a simulated baseball game at Progressive Field, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Cleveland.

In addition, I also took Greg Allen off the list and put Zimmer in his place. The former top prospect has been ravaged by injuries since his promising rookie year, and has responded to the pressure by hitting well in intrasquad action while Allen’s average remains below .150. Both have plenty of speed and defense (neither a strength among others in this group), giving them the ability to at least temporarily fill DeShields’ role.

Credit: David Dermer/AP
Cleveland Indians' Bradley Zimmer runs during a simulated baseball game at Progressive Field, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Cleveland.

Here are some near-misses who will likely be among the first calls from the taxi squad roster, if needed:

  • Greg Allen (OF)
  • Logan Allen (LHP)
  • Bobby Bradley (1B)
  • Yu Chang (IF)
  • Anthony Gose (LHP)
  • Cam Hill (RHP)
  • Daniel Johnson (OF)

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