The Indians are officially scuffling. They have lost six in a row and are sitting at a season low mark of 11-17, last place in the Central. There is no one player to blame for this, but there are certainly a few players that haven’t done anything to help, including Nick Swisher, Asdrubal Cabrera and the entire bench. To this point, the four man bench, that includes Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Elliot Johnson and Jason Giambi, has batted .180 (12-128) with five extra base hits and 28 strike outs. Since the starters are immovable, if the Indians are going to switch out anybody on the offense it will have to be one of the bench players.
From time to time a young player will be referred to as a spark plug and for good reason. A high energy, talented young player can bring some extra motivation for the starters who have accepted the status quo. The Indians have a great opportunity to add a spark plug into the mix right now and his name is Jose Ramirez.
Ramirez finished the 2013 season with the Tribe and had one of those spark plug moments in just his second at bat. After hitting a single for his first Major League hit, Ramirez went from first to third on what normally would have been a double play, then scored on an error. It was one of the top plays of the year and part of the Tribe’s tremendous September that helped them win the Wild Card. By the end of the month he had gone 4-12 with five runs and a triple while playing at least two games at each skilled infield position.
When he made the jump to the pros, it was straight from AA, where he had 38 steals at the age of 20. With the addition of Nyjer Morgan and Johnson this season, there was no longer room for him on the roster, so he made his debut at AAA, eight months after his MLB debut. He has brought excitement to that team as well, leading the team with eight steals and 17 RBI while batting .319. The Columbus Clippers lost their first four games and six of their first seven, but with the help of Ramirez have turned things around, going 10-6 since then to move back into second place in the International League West. Ramirez has been a big part of that, batting .368 with three home runs and 10 RBI in hist past ten games.
Of course, it is not just Ramirez powering the Clip Show offense. Roberto Perez (one of April’s top prospects) has been solid behind and at the plate, while Jesus Aguilar is putting up MVP caliber numbers, leading the team in home runs (7), doubles (6), runs (13) and walks (13). While Aguilar has to be considered the top hitter on the team, he is only capable of playing first, something the Indians aren’t in particular need of. Perez is in a similar situation where he would be looking at a possible promotion if it wasn’t for two solid catchers ahead of him at the Major League level.
The Indians do, however, need a new utility infielder. Elliot Johnson has been so undependable he has only been used in six of the Indians 28 games. He isn’t fast enough to be used as a pinch runner or a strong enough defender to come in as a replacement late in games. Ramirez is everything you could ever want from a utility man. He is an above average defender at both second and third and is possibly the best base stealer in the Indians’ farm system, accruing 75 over his four year minor league career to this point.
Most importantly, with Jason Kipnis questionable due to his abdominal injury, the Indians need a player they can start on a daily basis without being embarrassed. Aviles is batting just .240 and the Indians have already made it clear they don’t want Johnson anywhere near the field. With Ramirez, they don’t have to worry about talent. He has already proven himself for a short time in the pros and been part of a play-off race. The time is now for Ramirez. He very well could be just the spark plug the Indians need to restart their stalling team.