Posted on August 31, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the Cleveland Indians, the hits just keep on coming, just not the good kind. The Tribe was dealt another blow to their playoff hopes on Saturday, announcing that Tyler Naquin will miss the rest of the 2019 season after tearing his ACL on Friday. It’s just the latest setback for the Indians, who are missing several key pitchers and likely lost Jose Ramirez for the rest of the regular season last weekend.
Naquin hurt himself making a spectacular catch during Friday’s loss to the Rays. He sprinted to the left field corner to run down a fly ball and made the catch while running head first into the outfield wall at full speed. Naquin was in immediate pain and needed to be carted off the field. The Indians were initially hopeful that it was just a sprain. But an MRI confirmed a torn ACL in his right knee. Exactly how much time Naquin will miss in 2020 because of the injury remains to be seen. But his 2019 season is officially over.
In addition to losing Naquin’s obvious defensive prowess, the Indians will lose a key part of their batting order. The Cleveland lineup has struggled to score runs for most of the season. But Naquin has provided a steady presence, hitting .288 with an OPS of .793 despite hitting only 10 home runs. Outside of Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor, he’s been arguably Cleveland’s most consistent and reliable hitter this season. Naquin has spent most of the season hitting down in the order, but has served as a second leadoff hitter to set the table for players like Lindor and Santana.
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The Indians now have the task of replacing Naquin, who spent most of the season in right field but shifted to left field when Cleveland acquired Yasiel Puig in late July. That means left field will be a question mark for the Indians moving forward. The Indians have called up Jake Bauers to replace Naquin on the active roster.
It will likely be Bauers and Greg Allen splitting time in left field the rest of the season. Rookie Oscar Mercado seems to have claimed the everyday job in center field, hitting .271 with an OPS of .744 since being called up in the middle of May. That has pushed Allen to a complementary role, but with Naquin out of the picture, the Indians will ask him to play a little more during the final month of the season.
Of course, Allen is known more for his speed and defense than his hitting. On the season, he’s batting .227 with an OPS of .653. However, the switch-hitter Allen is batting a mere .167 with a .333 OPS against left-handed pitchers. He is likely to play against left-handed starters in a time share with the left-hand hitting Bauers. Prior to being optioned to the minors on August 1 with the arrival of Puig and Franmil Reyes, Bauers was hitting .233 with an OPS of .687. There’s no guarantee he’ll be more productive this time around.
The Indians began Saturday 4.5 games behind the Twins in the NL Central. Despite leading the Wild Card standings, both the A’s and Rays began Saturday within 1.5 games of Cleveland. Without a strong September, they could be left out of the postseason. With Naquin joining Ramirez on the shelf, the task of making the postseason just became a lot more difficult for the Indians. At a certain point, the injuries Cleveland has endured this year, particularly lately, might be too much to overcome.