CLEVELAND -- With the Indians in last place in the American League Central, the team plans on using the remainder of this season to evaluate various aspects of its roster, as it balances its plans for 2016 with trying to win as many games as possible now. What follows are five storylines to monitor over the final two months of this season for Cleveland.
1. Will the rookies stay in the everyday plans?
It seems safe to assume that highly touted shortstop Francisco Lindor is now a firm part of the plans for 2016. Fellow rookie Giovanny Urshela has also played his way into Cleveland's everyday lineup as the third baseman. Over the next two months, Urshela has the chance to prove to the Indians that he should also be in their Opening Day lineup next year. Both offer above-average defense, but each has been inconsistent in the batter's box so far.
2. Will Lonnie Chisenhall have a role going forward?
After being supplanted at third base by Urshela, Chisenhall was sent to Triple-A Columbus, but he did not sulk. Instead, Chisenhall hit his stride offensively again and offered to try his hand as a utility man. Now, Cleveland has him in the big leagues and is evaluating him as a right fielder. Chisenhall is still young (26) and arbitration-eligible. This is his chance to show he can fill the kind of role previously held by David Murphy, who was traded to the Angels.
3. Will some relievers cement their place in the bullpen?
Two stalwarts from last year's bullpen -- Scott Atchison and Marc Rzepczynski -- are no longer with the Tribe. Closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw own the late innings, but the Indians need some other arms to step up. Zach McAllister has shown promise in a relief role, but righty Austin Adams and lefty Kyle Crockett have an opportunity to prove they can be counted on, too. Cleveland has also liked what it has seen from righty Jeff Manship (arbitration-eligible in the winter) and Ryan Webb (eligible for free agency).
4. Will Carlos Santana continue to be part of the 2016 picture?
Santana has been inconsistent as the Indians' cleanup hitter, but he continues to show solid on-base ability. The first baseman has become a polarizing player among the fan base, but he has value. Cleveland might explore that value over the offseason. There will always be a market for a switch-hitter with power and patience, and Santana's contract is affordable at $8.25 million in '16 with a $12 million team option for '17.
5. Will Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn rebound?
Swisher (on the disabled list due to continued knee issues) and Bourn (experiencing another subpar season) are under contract for a combined $29 million in 2016, and each has a vesting option for '17. Bourn has played better over the past few weeks, but Swisher's comeback from double knee surgery has been filled with snags. Trading either player would be a tall task for the Tribe, so an uptick in production is what the club really needs.