Cleveland Indians: The race for first base in Goodyear

Bobby Bradley #44 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Bobby Bradley #44 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Jake Bauers
Jake Bauers #10 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The race for first base for the Cleveland Indians

At the beginning of the offseason there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Cleveland Indians. Whether it be trades, options or the team’s name, everything seemed to be up in the air for the Indians’ organization. However, as the offseason progressed more answers were presented. Francisco Lindor was traded, Carlos Santana and Brad Hand were let go and Eddie Rosario was signed. Now, the biggest question that still remains is who will takeover first base.

While first base isn’t the only position under the microscope, we have a better idea at the other positions. Shortstop is likely to be a mix of Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez and the outfield was given some clarity with free agency. As for first base, we still don’t really know.

The top two candidates to take over the hole left behind by Santana are Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers, neither of which played for the Cleveland Indians at the major league level during the 2020 season. In fact, combined they have played a whopping 36 games at first base for the Tribe, all during the 2019 season. Now, it’s worth noting that Bauers did play 76 games at first for Tampa Bay in 2018.

Of the two, Bauers has a larger sample size in the past but that has also created a shorter leash for him. Whereas Bradley’s lack of experience at the big league level, having played in just 15 games with less than 50 plate appearances, should allow the coaching staff to have a bit more patience. However, with such a long layoff since their last action, this year’s Spring Training might be the most important factor in the race for Bradley, Bauers and the Cleveland Indians.

Note: stats are from that were available and updated on March 9.

Starting with Bauers, he’s struggled so far this spring at the plate, which has been the theme of his career. In his first five games played, Bauers logged just one hit for a .100 batting average. He has been able to draw four walks to match his four strikeouts and score twice as well. As I said, that’s his career in a nutshell. Bauers career stats show a .214 batting average with 99 walks and 219 strikeouts. If he wants to not only play first, but even just get a roster spot, those numbers have to improve.

The plus for Bauers is his experience and skills at first base. In 839.2 innings at first, Bauers has just seven errors on 785 chances for a .991 fielding percentage. That paired with his outfield flexibility could be enough to get Bauers on the roster, but if that’s what the Cleveland Indians have starting at first base offensively, that will be an issue.

Luckily for Tribe fans there’s Bobby Bradley in the mix as well. Like I said, Bradley only has 49 plate appearances in the regular season at the major league level and they didn’t go over too well. However, in his four games of action during spring ball there seems to be signs of improvement. He’s been able to blast two home runs and log five RBI. The issue is that the home runs are his only hits in 10 plate appearances with no walks.

While the power is promising, he needs to work on finding gaps rather than just swinging for the fences. He’s only struck out twice, so he’s making contact which is a good sign. It also remains to be seen how Bradley can fare in the field. Again, there seems to be improvement there, but in his five games in the field at the major league level, he committed two errors in just 41 chances for a .951 fielding percentage.

There’s other options that could be presented before the spring begins. Perhaps that comes from a free agent signing or experimenting with a different player at the position like Nolan Jones, Josh Naylor or someone completely different that could come out of the woodwork. Regardless, this position needs some figuring out.

If the season began today, I think that the Cleveland Indians would make room on the roster for both Bradley and Bauers at the start of the season. While Bradley has the edge at the plate, Bauers is the better fielder. It could just come down to whichever strength the team needs more of on that day. Eventually, one of the two would be removed from the roster, via trade, Triple-A, etc. but as of now there really isn’t a clear winner in the race to play first base.

Next. Three last chance prospects this spring. dark