Tribe's Possible Infield Unit a Young, Versatile Bunch
INDIANAPOLIS - A crowded infield for the Pittsburgh Pirates could bring many talented position players to the dirt for the Indianapolis Indians this April. From 2014-16, the Pirates selected four infielders in the first round of the MLB Draft, and 15 in total made the trip to Bradenton for spring training. With spring training in full swing, the Bucs and our hometown Indians will sort through the 10 names below before Opening Day. MLB Pipeline rankings for prospects within the organization are in parentheses.
Will Craig: The 23-year-old completed his first full season in the organization in 2017, flourishing for High-A Bradenton. Craig (MLB Pipeline: #18 Pirates prospect) led the club in games (123), at-bats (458), hits (124), doubles (26) and walks (62), and recorded 37 multi-hit games on his way to a midseason All-Star bid. The 22nd overall pick from 2016 started 93 games at first base last year while no one else registered more than 18 at the position. Craig, a former Wake Forest third baseman, committed just seven errors in more than 815 innings at first base. His experience at the position, plus the losses of Joey Terdoslavich and Edwin Espinal this offseason, makes him a strong candidate to appear in the Tribe lineup at some point in 2018.
Kevin Kramer: Kramer (MLB Pipeline: #9 Pirates prospect) only played in 57 games last season due to a fractured right hand that plagued him from June until September. In those games, the second baseman slashed .290/.371/.479, including a red-hot April (.373 average, .478 on-base percentage, 28 hits, 11 runs, 11 extra-base hits), becoming a midseason All-Star for Double-A Altoona. Normally a two- or three-hole hitter, the non-roster invitee clubbed a three-run homer from the eighth spot in the order during Sunday's spring training bout with the Tigers. He also drew a walk in his lone at-bat against the Rays and notched a hit against the Braves. A part of the organization's congested middle infield group, Kramer is expected to suit up for Indy at some point this year and could battle several others for reps at second base at Victory Field.
Max Moroff: The switch-hitting infielder from Winter Park, Fla. enters 2018 with 58 MLB games under his belt. However, he spent nearly half of 2017 in Indy, recording at-bats from four different positions. Known for solid plate discipline, Moroff walked 41 times and accounted for 47 hits last season, also bashing 13 home runs to give him a new career best. A member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, the 24-year-old boasts two hits and a run scored through four games in the middle infield so far. Moroff could compete in a number of Indy's infield position battles and is a candidate to fill spots all over the field for Pittsburgh. His versatility helps his case to appear on the big league roster. With the Pirates searching for everyday players, his results in Bradenton this spring could determine which club will get to utilize his all-around skillset more often in 2018.
Kevin Newman: Even though Newman (MLB Pipeline: #7 Pirates prospect) was called up to Indy in July, his 38 appearances at shortstop were just four shy of the team lead. The California native helped turn 27 double plays compared to just two errors at the position. In 40 total games, he knocked 47 hits, struck out just 22 times, and stole seven bases, earning a second straight non-roster invite to Pirates major league camp. So far in Bradenton, Newman has played both middle infield spots and is 2-for-8 with a double, walk, three runs scored and two stolen bases through five games played. The former Arizona Wildcat should get plenty of reps prior to Opening Day, and could hold down shortstop for the Tribe if he doesn't spend time filling in for Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison in Pittsburgh's middle infield.
Jose Osuna: It only took Osuna 10 games in Indy before he was called up to the major league squad a season ago. He notched nine hits in 36 at-bats, five of them doubles, and committed just a single error between four different spots in the field. The next 104 games for the Venezuelan came in Pittsburgh, where he flashed his potential as a corner outfielder and first baseman. This season, Osuna has taken some reps at third base to add to his defensive repertoire. Even though he has never appeared at third since signing with the Pirates, the three-time organizational All-Star adds depth to the infield platoon fighting for time with the Bucs.
Pablo Reyes: Reyes earned the honor of 2017 organizational All-Star at second base after a stellar season. The five-foot-eight-inch Dominican put together team bests in runs (62), stolen bases (21) and at-bats (420) with Altoona and career bests in walks (51) and hits (115). He's developed some additional power, visible in his improved groundout-to-flyout ratio of 0.85 and 10 homers a season ago. Reyes turned in 115 games at second base, shortstop and in center field and made only six errors, good for a .988 fielding percentage. A non-roster invite to Bradenton for the spring, the 24-year-old appeared in center field against the Rays, walking and scoring a run, and at second base against the Yankees and Braves. Two days ago, he entered as a defensive replacement again in center against Boston. Reyes is a piece of a Tribe middle infield loaded with talent, giving him plenty of potential to contribute to both Indy and Pittsburgh during 2018.
Jerrick Suiter: Also a corner outfielder during his successful year in Altoona, the Indiana native took over first base for a few innings on Sunday against the Tigers. The position is familiar for Suiter, as he posted a .996 fielding percentage there last season. He looked comfortable in his first day in Bradenton, going 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. Coming off a season where he belted 10 home runs, drove in 62 RBI, racked up 108 hits, and compiled 25 multi-hit games, the six-foot-four-inch, 230-pound Suiter is another slugger gaining big league experience in spring training. He's the front-runner to be Indianapolis' Opening Day first baseman in 2018.
Cole Tucker: Another top-rated shortstop, Tucker (MLB Pipeline: #5 Pirates prospect) was selected 24th overall in the 2014 draft. Last season, the 21-year-old posted career-high numbers in nearly every offensive category. He even stole 47 bases during his tenures in Bradenton and Altoona. The speedster spent all but 19 games of 2017 in the role of leadoff man, and his performance at the plate, on the bases, and in the field (.966 fielding percentage between Double-A and Triple-A) resulted in a non-roster invite to Pirates spring training. Tucker garnered both midseason and postseason honors for Bradenton last season and his second organizational All-Star bid. However, the highly touted youngster eyes a position in the Tribe's starting infield to begin this year.
Erich Weiss: Weiss fit right into a 2017 Indy lineup full of versatile infielders. Holding down both corner infield spots and playing a lot of second base, the former Texas Longhorn logged eight games in which he played multiple positions. In 104 games in Indy, Weiss slugged .422, the best mark of his career, and contributed 43 RBI and 91 hits, 33 of which went for extra bases. He has played first and third base in spring training so far as a non-roster invite. Weiss is again expected to compete for a spot on the Indians' infield unit if he doesn't appear on the dirt for Pittsburgh come April.
Eric Wood: Even though he's listed as a third baseman, four of Wood's five appearances in spring training to date have come at first base. His double on Tuesday against the Braves resulted in two RBI, the most for a Pirates hitter on the afternoon. Before he got invited to Bradenton as a non-roster addition to the club, the 25-year-old Canadian was one of three players to play in more than 900 innings with the Indians last season, finishing top three on the team in nine offensive categories and leading in triples (5), homers (16) and walks (45). Wood also accumulated 18 multi-RBI games last season. The 2016 postseason All-Star played more than 600 innings at the hot corner for the Tribe last season, but looks comfortable at either corner infield spot entering the spring. He's another infield option for both Pittsburgh and Indy.
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