With Casey Kotchman penciled in over Matt LaPorta at first base, the Indians are now looking at the following lineup against right-handed pitching:
CF Grady Sizemore – L
SS Asdrubal Cabrera – S
RF Shin-Soo Choo – L
C Carlos Santana – S
DH Travis Hafner – L
2B Jason Kipnis – L
1B Casey Kotchman – L
3B Lonnie Chisenhall – L
LF Michael Brantley – L
That’s going to look pretty good 70 percent of the time. What about the other 30?
If the Indians opt to carry Chisenhall out of spring training, then they’ll probably have a bench of backup catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jack Hannahan (another left-handed hitter), first baseman-outfielder Shelley Duncan and outfielder Aaron Cunningham. Unfortunately, none of those guys figure to be all that productive against lefties. Lefty-killing is Duncan’s sole reason for being, but he actually had a .679 OPS in 102 at-bats against lefties last year, compared to .918 in 121 at-bats against righties. In his career, he has a .769 OPS against lefties and a .743 mark versus righties.
I think the Kotchman signing makes it a bit more likely that Chisenhall will get some extra Triple-A seasoning. Sending down Chisenhall would allow the Indians to go with a Hannahan/Jason Donald platoon at third base, giving them a little more pop against lefties. They’ll also badly need Cunningham to contribute against left-handers. He has a .741 OPS in 129 at-bats against them lifetime. A lot of those were at Petco, so maybe he’ll be better for the Indians.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.