Bad news for Indians fans. There’s no clean-up hitting, power prospect coming through the minors that will take over for Mike Napoli in 2017.
That’s why the Tribe desperately needs The Party at Napoli’s to continue. The Indians haven’t had a bonafide power hitter in the middle of the order since Travis Hefner was making regular deliveries to Pronkville during the 2007 season.
The Indians want Napoli back, but would like to re-sign him at a club friendly price. The club didn’t extend Napoli the $17.2 million qualifying offer. Napoli made $10 million last season (after incentives).
The Indians offense will get a boost in 2017, assuming Michael Brantley is healthy. His presence will add another bat to a lineup that received an unexpected, MVP-type performance from Jose Ramirez in 2017.
With Brantley out in 2016, the Indians outfield projected to be a nightmare. But then, the team started to play some games, made some good trades and the naysayers were proved wrong.
Abraham Almonte will also return. He missed the first 50 games of the 2017 season after getting popped for PEDs. He was ineligible for the postseason, but was decent during his time on the field.
With Brantley set to reclaim left field, perhaps the Indians will opt to re-sign Rajai Davis. Getting Davis back into an Indians uniform should be cheaper than signing Napoli, but it doesn’t answer the power question.
Perhaps Carlos Santana is finally ready to live up to his potential as a clean-up hitter. He tied Napoli for the team lead with 34 homers. He’s a switch hitter who could benefit from having some top-notch talent around him. Santana’s always looked uncomfortable when asked to bat clean up. In his career, he’s slashing .231/.363/.411 with 361 strikeouts in 1,647 at bats.
He’s much better batting fifth, where his stat line improves to .281/.371/.493.
The Indians order from 2-8 on a nightly basis could be Kipnis, Lindor, Santana, Brantley, Ramirez, Guyer/Chisenhall, Gomes.
The lineup could be flexible in how it uses the DH, with Brantley, Almonte, Guyer, Chisenhall all rotating between the outfield and DH. Still, the lineup lacks that power-hitting right-handed stick.
Napoli’s presence would keep Santana rotating between fifth and leadoff ( a good move by manager Terry Francona).
The Party At Napoli needs to continue for one more season and the Tribe must figure out a way to get a deal done.