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Probable Indians Infield Welcomes Top Prospect to Gold Glove Talent

Oneil Cruz is likely to join MiLB Gold Glover Will Craig, Cole Tucker and more returners
First baseman Will Craig is set to return to the Indians infield. (Photo by Adam Pintar)
April 23, 2021

After collecting two MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in 2019, the Indianapolis Indians infield is likely to return and add on to some of that talent for the upcoming season. With Ke’Bryan Hayes all but solidifying himself as a major leaguer and possible franchise cornerstone in Pittsburgh, a few familiar

After collecting two MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in 2019, the Indianapolis Indians infield is likely to return and add on to some of that talent for the upcoming season. With Ke’Bryan Hayes all but solidifying himself as a major leaguer and possible franchise cornerstone in Pittsburgh, a few familiar names are projected to be back in the Indians lineup with some top talent also on the horizon.

1B Will Craig: After making his major league debut and spending most of the 2020 season at Pittsburgh’s Alternate Training Site, Craig was designated for assignment in late November and outrighted to Indianapolis. He made his Triple-A debut in 2019 and earned his first career MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove as the Indians everyday first baseman. The 26-year-old hit .249 (123-for-494) with a career-high, team-leading 23 home runs. He was originally selected by Pittsburgh as the 22nd overall pick of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.

2B Kevin Kramer: Kramer is projected to return to the field in 2021 after spending last season rehabbing right hip surgery. He spent most of 2019 with Indianapolis and hit .260 (102-for-393) with 30 doubles to tie for eighth in the International League (also: Ke’Bryan Hayes). The 27-year-old was outrighted to Indianapolis last October after being selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft and making his MLB debut in 2018.

SS Cole Tucker: A primary outfielder with Pittsburgh in 2020 after spending his career as a shortstop, Tucker could return to his roots in Indianapolis this upcoming season while continuing to improve upon his plate approach. He appeared in 37 games of the shortened 2020 season and hit .220 (24-for-109) with four extra-base hits. In his time with Indianapolis, the 24-year-old hit .261 (81-for-310) with 15 doubles, four triples and eight home runs. Tucker was originally selected by Pittsburgh as the 24th overall pick of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

SS Oneil Cruz: Cruz enters the 2021 season ranked as Pittsburgh’s No. 2/4 prospect (_Baseball America_/MLB Pipeline), No. 49/64 overall and No. 8/9 among shortstops. MLB Pipeline also named him as having the “Best Arm” in MiLB. The 22-year-old spent the 2020 season at Pittsburgh’s Alternate Training Site after splitting the 2019 season between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, and he is likely to see time in Indianapolis this season. Since being signed by Los Angeles (NL) as a non-drafted free agent in 2015 and being traded to Pittsburgh in 2017, he holds a .274 (343-for-1,251) lifetime MiLB average.

3B Hunter Owen: An Indiana native, Owen is likely to return to Indianapolis after making his Triple-A debut in 2019 and not playing in 2020. He began the 2019 season with Altoona and led the Eastern League with a .295 average, 70 hits, 15 home runs, .565 slugging percentage, 134 total bases and 45 runs scored before being promoted to Indianapolis. The 27-year-old didn’t see the same success in Triple-A, hitting .192 (23-for-120) with eight extra-base hits and nine RBI, but has a chance to revive his power bat after beginning the 2021 season at Pittsburgh’s Alternate Training Site. He was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the 25th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.

C Joe Hudson: Hudson joined the Pirates organization as a minor league free agent in January and could step into one of two catcher roles for the Indians this season. After hitting .223 (44-for-197) in 60 games for Triple-A Memphis in 2019, he spent most of the 2020 season at Seattle’s Alternate Training Site while appearing in nine games (.176 average [3-for-17]) with the big-league club. The 29-year-old was originally selected by Cincinnati in the sixth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and made his MLB debut with Los Angeles (AL) in 2018.

C Christian Kelley: Kelley enters the season tabbed as Pittsburgh’s “Best Defensive Catcher” by Baseball America and is projected to return as an Indians backstop for his second campaign. He spent the 2020 season at Pittsburgh’s Alternate Training Site but did not appear in any official games. In 2019, he compiled a .992 fielding percentage at catcher and hosed 28.8% of would-be basestealers to be named Indy’s Hustle & Grit Position Player Award winner. The 27-year-old was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the 11th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.