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Cleveland Indians: Has Tyler Naquin overtaken Bradley Zimmer?

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians could have a roster crunch in the outfield as Tyler Naquin has been hot at the plate lately.

If you asked anyone in 2016 if Tyler Naquin deserved a starting outfield job with the Cleveland Indians, the answer would be a resounding yes. After last year’s tough season, Naquin’s future was up in the air. Now, Naquin is aiming to return to his status as a starting outfielder in this Indians lineup.

While Naquin struggled in 2017, top prospect Bradley Zimmer took over the starting role. While he didn’t blow anyone away with his performance, Zimmer put up a decent slash line of .241/.307/.385 in just under 300 at bats. This year, Zimmer is struggling at the plate and Naquin appears back to his 2016 self again.

Naquin vs. Zimmer

To start the season, Naquin got off to a terrible start, striking out in most of his plate appearances. He was demoted to the minors but was recalled a short time later. That demotion must have lit a fire underneath Naquin as he’s been hitting ever since.

Zimmer, meanwhile, has been up with Cleveland the entire time and hasn’t been able to get things going at the plate. Let’s look at a comparison of these two offensively in 2018.

Naquin: .329/.364/.438, 73 ABs, two doubles, two homers, nine RBIs, three walks, 21 strikeouts

Zimmer: .224/.283/.337, 98 ABs, five doubles, two homers, nine RBIs, seven walks, 39 strikeouts

Naquin is hitting over 100 points higher than Zimmer is, even though he has 25 less ABs, Naquin has more hits than Zimmer. Zimmer has the second-most strikeouts on the team, behind only Edwin Encarnacion, despite six other players having more at bats than him on the team.

Should Naquin start?

Naquin’s a hot hitter. Managers like to put hot hitters in the lineup and ride out the hot streak as long as they can. That being said, he should get most of the opportunities if he continues to hit. The way the Indians offense has performed so far, Terry Francona needs as many hot hitters in that lineup as he can get.

Even though both players are below the 100 at bat threshold for making judgments on their seasons, the Cleveland Indians should be close to deciding whether or not Naquin has overtaken Bradley Zimmer at this point.

What about Zimmer?

Zimmer does still have three minor league options. The Indians could send him down to Triple-A if they want to. That way Zimmer can get the regular at bats he needs and could refocus if he needs to. It has worked wonders for Naquin apparently.

Zimmer has the big potential as a player, but right now, Naquin gives the Indians the best chance to win.

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The Cleveland Indians will have a choice to make as Andrew Miller and Lonnie Chisenhall are set to return soon from the DL. We could see Zimmer get sent down to make room once these players return.