By Jason Shetler
Despite boasting one of the better starting rotations in the minors last season, the Indianapolis Indians not only failed to reach the playoffs, but also finished below .500. Andy Barkett takes over the reins as Indians manager, replacing Dean Treanor, who is now the Miami Marlins bullpen coach. Barkett served as the Pirates minor league assistant hitting coordinator last year.
Outfield: Pirates top prospect Austin Meadows returns to the Indianapolis outfield. Also returning are Danny Ortiz and Jose Osuna. Expect Osuna to also play some first base.
Infield: The Indians infield group this season will consist of Max Moroff, the International League’s walks leader from last year, slick fielding shortstop Gift Ngoepe, former Nationals prospect Chris Bostick, Eric Wood, who is coming off his best season a year ago with Altoona, and Jason Rogers, returning for his second season with the Tribe.
Behind the plate: Elias Diaz returns to catch for Indianapolis. The Bucs top catching prospect will look to stay healthy in 2017, after missing a good chunk of last year with an elbow injury. The backup catcher will be Jacob Stallings, who received most of the playing time behind the plate during Diaz’s absence a year ago.
Pitching: Drew Hutchison and Steven Brault will pitch in the Indians rotation. Each of them of course were in competition for the Pirates fifth starter spot during Spring Training. Nick Kingham will also be in the rotation, but will begin the season on the disabled list with an ankle injury. Newcomers to the staff are Clay Holmes and Tyler Eppler, both of whom pitched for Altoona last year. The Tribe bullpen will feature three hard-throwing righties in Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana and newly acquired Pat Light. Also in the bullpen is A.J. Schugel, who competed for a spot in the Pirates pen in the Spring.