Cleveland Indians Spring Training: Defense name of catching game

Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians are heavily invested at catcher for one reason: defense.

The Cleveland Indians begin Spring Training play with two backstops who form what’s probably the best defensive backstop duo in the big leagues.

The Tribe pays a premium for defense in this scenario, with both players earning a combined $8.2 million. Obviously, that’s a sizable sum for a team that counts pennies at every turn. The Indians place a premium on this position though, because the catching staff can impact so many different pitchers.

Roberto Perez sits atop the depth chart. He’s a former Gold Glove winner a constant during the Tribe’s pitching renaissance.

Unfortunately, he played in just 32 games last season as he dealt with shoulder problems.  That led to the backstop batting an ugly .165 (.480 OPS). Hopefully he’s healthy and can replicate a career year in 2019, when he hit 24 homers and drove in 63 runs.

With the bottom of the Indians lineup doing it’s best to give us a telescope-free look at a black hole, any pop Perez can offer will be a Godsend.

His backup is Austin Hedges, one of the eight players who came over in the Mike Clevinger trade. Hedges, who is making $3.2 million, will be lucky to bat over .200. He can run into some pitches though, which at leaves gives the threat of offense.

He’s a stud defensively who is a major upgrade over last season’s backup, Sandy Leon. Leon is a veteran who picked up a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2018, but when he came to the dish for the Tribe in 2020, I knew it was a good time to hit the fridge for fresh cold beverage.

Of catchers who logged at least 150 innings in 2020, Leon was ranked 36th overall defensively. Perez was third, while Hedges was 20th.

Cleveland Indians depth

The future of the position hinges on former first-round pick Bo Naylor, the brother of current first baseman/outfielder Josh Naylor.

The younger Naylor was just like every young minor league last season, disadvantaged because of the cancellation of the season. The Indians had him at the alternate site, though, where he was able to train.

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Naylor’s never played above the “Low A” level in  Lake County, so he’ still got a ways to go. It won’t be surprising to see him start at Lake County this season. With the re-alignment of the minor leagues, Lake County is now considered “High A.”