Diving into the depths: Cleveland Indians

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Cleveland Indians
1. Jake Westbrook
2. Justin Masterson
3. Fausto Carmona
4. David Huff
5. Aaron Laffey
6. Carlos Carrasco
7. Mitch Talbot
8. Jeremy Sowers
9. Hector Ambriz
10. Hector Rondon
11. Rafael Perez
12. Jeanmar Gomez
Talbot, the product of the Kelly Shoppach trade with Tampa Bay, is the only new addition on the pitching side of the 40-man roster.
Westbrook and Masterson figure to enter camp as the only two locks for the rotation, but Carmona and Huff will certainly control their own destinies. If they turn in decent springs, then it should come down to Laffey, Carrasco and Talbot for the last spot. Carrasco is the biggest talent in the group, but the older pitchers may get the benefit of the doubt initially.
1. Kerry Wood
2. Chris Perez
3. Tony Sipp
4. Rafael Perez
5. Jensen Lewis
6. Joe Smith
7. Aaron Laffey
8. Jason Grilli
9. Jess Todd
10. Saul Rivera
11. Mitch Talbot
12. Jeremy Sowers
13. Hector Ambriz
14. Yohan Pino
15. Mike Gosling
16. Steven Wright
17. Neil Wagner
The bullpen is plenty deep, as the Indians have as many interesting relief prospects as any organization in baseball. I’m guessing Laffey will be in the rotation, opening up the last spot for Grilli. There’s been talk of moving Perez into the rotation as well, but the Indians don’t plan on making the switch this spring, since he wouldn’t be in a position to throw 180 innings this season anyway.

1. Lou Marson
2. Mike Redmond
3. Carlos Santana
4. Wyatt Toregas
5. Chris Gimenez
First base
1. Matt LaPorta
2. Andy Marte
3. Jordan Brown
4. Shelley Duncan
5. Brian Buscher
Second base
1. Luis Valbuena
2. Mark Grudzielanek
3. Jason Donald
4. Brian Bixler
5. Luis Rodriguez
Third base
1. Jhonny Peralta
2. Andy Marte
3. Jason Donald
4. Brian Buscher
5. Luis Rodriguez
6. Wes Hodges
1. Asdrubal Cabrera
2. Luis Valbuena
3. Jhonny Peralta
4. Jason Donald
5. Luis Rodriguez
6. Brian Bixler
Redmond, who will back up either Marson or Santana, is the only free agent the Indians have signed to a major league contract.
The additions of Grudzy and Bixler suggest that the Indians aren’t sold on Donald as a platoonmate for the left-handed-hitting Valbuena at second base. Odds are that only one will be on the squad in Jamey Carroll’s old role, and Donald’s experience at shortstop might not help his case a whole lot, since Valbuena and Peralta can both play behind Cabrera there.
Left field
1. Michael Brantley
2. Austin Kearns
3. Matt LaPorta
4. Trevor Crowe
5. Jordan Brown
6. Shelley Duncan
Center field
1. Grady Sizemore
2. Michael Brantley
3. Trevor Crowe
4. Austin Kearns
Right field
1. Shin-Soo Choo
2. Austin Kearns
3. Jordan Brown
4. Trevor Crowe
5. Shelley Duncan
Designated hitter
1. Travis Hafner
2. Andy Marte
3. Shelley Duncan
4. Jordan Brown
5. Brian Buscher
I’m putting LaPorta at first base, since the Indians seem to have weaker alternatives there than in left field. I hope the Indians give Kearns every opportunity to take over in left. Brantley played well in 28 games after his callup last season (.313/.358/.348), but his .267/.350/.361 line from Triple-A was hardly awe inspiring. Kearns offers more short-term upside.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.