Cleveland Indians: The Opening Day lineup that would’ve been

The 2020 MLB season will regrettably not begin on time, but what would the Cleveland Indians Opening Day lineup have looked like if it did?

Tomorrow, March 26, 2020, the Cleveland Indians were supposed to open their season at home against the Detroit Tigers. Shane Bieber was supposed to captain an already beleaguered rotation, an honor he had more than earned regardless of his teammates’ health.

The baseball world was supposed to welcome back its beloved game. All was supposed to be right in the universe once again. Instead, well… You know. Win some, lose some, I guess.

Had the 2020 season remained on schedule, we would have spent the last few weeks projecting Opening Day rosters and lineups. And by this point, we’d have had a firm idea what the Tribe would look like for Game 1 of 162. Now, we just hope we get a Game 1 at all.

But what would the Indians’ first lineup of the season have looked like if things hadn’t taken a turn for the surreal? Let’s put on our Terry Francona hat and try to figure out what could’ve been.

We can safely assume that the starting infield would have included Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and Cesar Hernandez. Roberto Perez would have started behind the plate, with Domingo Santana likely occupying the DH role.

The outfield had the potential to be tricky outside of Franmil Reyes. Oscar Mercado had not been given the full green light to return from a sprained wrist as of the moment MLB put its season on hold, so it is at least questionable whether he would have been ready to start on Opening Day.

Assuming the Tigers rolled out lefty Matthew Boyd as their Opening Day starter, Jordan Luplow was certain to be among the starting nine for the Indians. With Luplow in right field and Reyes in left, that leaves only the uncertainty of Mercado or someone else in center.

Now, what some of us might have done with the lineup would probably have differed from the decisions Francona made, but based on some of the early spring training alignments, here is what we could’ve been looking at:

  1. Francisco Lindor – SS
  2. Cesar Hernandez – 2B
  3. Jose Ramirez – 3B
  4. Carlos Santana – 1B
  5. Franmil Reyes – LF
  6. Jordan Luplow – RF
  7. Domingo Santana – DH
  8. Roberto Perez – C
  9. Oscar Mercado – CF

If Mercado was in fact deemed not ready, his replacement would likely have been Delino DeShields. Either way, the Tribe’s Opening Day center fielder would probably have batted ninth in the batting order.

Regardless of how we feel about whether there should be a shuffle at the very top of the lineup in order to give Lindor more RBI opportunities and put a better on-base guy in the leadoff spot, this alignment is nothing to sneeze at.

Keep in mind that the 2019 Opening Day lineup featured a middle infield of Brad Miller and Eric Stamets, with Tyler Naquin batting third and Leonys Martin leading off. Despite an unsettling winter, the 2020 Indians were, at the very least, set to begin the season on a much more positive note.

Next: Remembering the first Indians game I ever attended

Whenever the new season begins, this is what the lineup will probably look like. It’s just a shame that it won’t look this way tomorrow.

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