Young prospects can learn from Naquin

Young prospects can learn from Naquin

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The message delivered to Tyler Naquin at the start of Spring Training a year ago was short and to the point. The Indians had vacancies in the outfield and the young center fielder had a great opportunity to seize one of the jobs with a strong performance in the preseason. Naquin did precisely that, too.

This spring, Indians manager Terry Francona did not give the same message to prospects Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen and Yandy Diaz. Those three outfielders, while considered an important part of Cleveland's future, are in Major League camp solely to gain experience. Barring any unexpected developments, they will likely find themselves in the Minors to begin the 2017 campaign.

"We told Naquin in his one-on-one meeting that there were spots open," Francona said. "[We told him], 'You've been kind of wanting to hear it. Go do it.' We didn't tell those guys [Zimmer, Allen and Diaz] that. I think they fall into the group of younger guys trying to make a good first impression. Crazy things happen in this game -- I get that -- but I think we all feel like it would be in their best interest to play in Triple-A."

Zimmer (No. 1), Diaz (No. 10) and Allen (No. 19) each appear among the Tribe's Top 30 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Zimmer, who was Cleveland's top pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, split last season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. The center fielder hit .250 (.790 OPS) with 46 extra-base hits. Diaz is a third baseman and corner outfielder, and hit .318 (.854 OPS) between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Allen, who is also a center fielder, stole 45 bases, scored 119 runs and posted an .830 OPS between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Akron last season.

Other items of note from Tuesday:

• Right-hander Carlos Carrasco missed the postseason after sustaining a fractured right hand last September. Due to the time missed down the stretch, combined with the righty's stint on the disabled list between May and June (left hamstring), Carrasco was limited to 146 1/3 innings in 2016. This spring, Cleveland plans on begin aggressive with Carrasco's Cactus League workload.

"You'll probably see him lead our team in innings [this spring]," Francona said. "That's kind of one of [pitching coach Mickey Callaway's] goals for him. He was a little shorter last year, [so we're] just trying to ramp up his innings. Again, probably more than anybody else."

• Outfielder Austin Jackson, who is in camp on a non-roster invite, is still working his way back from the June 15 surgery he underwent on his left knee. Francona said Jackson is not restricted right now with his hitting, but is still gradually working his way up to outfield-specific agility drills.

"The biggest thing is he has to be able to make his cuts -- reacting," Francona said. "He's a good center fielder. That's part of his skill set. So, asking him to do it before he's ready isn't fair to anybody."

• The Indians will be evaluating three players closely in the race for their vacant utility role on the bench. Veteran Michael Martinez (non-roster) is a candidate for the job, along with prospects Erik Gonzalez and Ronny Rodriguez (non-roster), according to Francona. Martinez and Gonzalez had stints with the Tribe last season.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.