The Cleveland Indians announced a handful of Opening Day roster decisions Monday.
One of the most notable was the news that Jake Bauers had won the job at first base over Bobby Bradley.
Bauers did not make a single appearance for the Indians in 2020 and will now try to replace Carlos Santana at first.
That may be an impossible task, but at least having a positive-WAR season would be a nice start.
Jake Bauers is the #Indians opening-day first baseman.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) March 26, 2021
Bauers Over Bradley, For Now
This is not a huge surprise to start the season.
Throw out the spring training stats, whether that is right or wrong, because of one main reason.
Bauers is out of minor league options.
That means he would have to be traded or sent to waivers if he did not make the Opening Day roster.
The Indians acquired Bauers before the 2019 season and they are going to want to see what he can do in a full season.
He struggled in 2019 and then the 2020 minor league season was canceled.
Giving Bauers a starting job to start the season seems to have always been in the plans, considering he only hit .200 this month and still made the team.
But don’t count Bradley out just yet.
He posted a .951 OPS this spring and is going to be ready if needed.
Don’t expect the Indians to ride with Bauers if he keeps his strikeouts high and his production low.
The Future at First Base
The position is officially Bauers’ to lose.
Let’s say he has a great season in 2021.
He remains in his early team control years in 2022 so there could be yet another competition with him and Bradley.
It’s not like the team would have to decide on a contract extension.
But let’s say he has a terrible start.
There is no need for the Indians to keep waiting on the 24-year-old Bradley if that is the case.
The Indians drafted Bradley in the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft and fans have heard his name for a long time.
Bobby Bradley's Spring Training OPS up to 1.421 with this rocket 🚀 pic.twitter.com/5GmqKQxAT5
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 16, 2021
He was once seen as the future at the position.
A bad start from Bauers could get that process started sooner than later.
The key with this initial decision is to not overreact.
Indians fans should now be used to seeing Opening Day rosters that look entirely different only a few months later.
Ideally, the initial roster will hold throughout the season.
But that is rarely the case.
Bauers showed up with plenty of hype and the extra time to train in 2020 could have helped him in a big way.
However, his spring stats are indeed something to note while Bradley waits in the minors.
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