The Cleveland Indians’ postseason hopes are dimming to just a flickering light in the darkness, soon to be extinguished. But even while their chances at the playoffs are hanging by the thinnest of threads, the last two months of the season will be particularly interesting no matter what.
Because of trades made at the deadline, and certainly because of tough roster decisions that will have to take place in 2022, Cleveland is giving its young players ample time to show what they can do in the Majors.
One of the most interesting position battles currently taking place is for second base, thanks to the trade of Cesar Hernandez to the Chicago White Sox.
Here are the Indians’ current options moving forward:
It has been tough for Miller to come close at all to the torrid stretch he had at Triple-A Columbus that earned him a call-up in the first place this season. But then again, Miller hasn’t had any regular at-bats whatsoever, so it’s impossible to make any sort of real judgment against him. Miller also plays first base, which really works in his favor as well, because that too remains a giant question mark for the team moving forward. He is currently sporting a .131 average in 61 at-bats.
Clement feels similar to Miller in that he makes solid contact and doesn’t strikeout much, but won’t necessarily show a ton of pop, which, for a second baseman, isn’t the most important thing in the world. He does have the makings of filling a potential super utility role among second base, shortstop and the outfield, which will help his cause in the long run. He’ll find plenty of at-bats over the next two months – it’s time to make them count.
Unfortunately, Yu Chang just cannot seem to stick in the Majors, due in part to his minor-league options which allow the Indians to freely move him up and down when needed. He’ll be back again at some point, fighting for a utility spot in the infield. As Cleveland falls further out of the playoff race, the team might give third baseman Jose Ramirez a breather here and there, opening up more regular at-bats for Chang as well. He’s hitting .185/.219/.300 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 130 at-bats with Cleveland this season.
Rosario has been a pleasant surprise at the plate this season, hitting .268/.313/.385 with six homers, 30 RBIs, and a 90 wRC+. But his defense at shortstop has truly left something to be desired, with a -5 outs above average (OAA), putting him near the bottom of all shortstops in the Majors. That is not going to be sustainable, and lucky for the Indians, they have a number of better defensive options on the way. Rosario will likely keep his place on the roster through – you guessed it – a utility role that might include the outfield.
Gimenez opened the season in Cleveland but was eventually sent back to Triple-A Columbus after a dismal .179/.226/.308 line with two home runs and five RBIs in 78 at-bats. Since being sent down, the 22-year-old Gimenez has produced a solid .285/.342/.510 line with ten home runs and 31 RBIs in 200 at-bats. His return to the big-league club is imminent, and his presence will be a tremendous defensive upgrade at shortstop, but he will potentially see time at second. After all, Gabriel Arias is waiting in Columbus as well…
Speaking of Arias, the 21-year-old phenom is knocking on the door, though with his age, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cleveland wait until 2022 to have him make his big-league debut. In 272 at-bats with Columbus, Arias is hitting .276/.355/.441 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. In a perfect world, Arias will make himself a clear-cut answer at shortstop, potentially pushing Gimenez to second, giving Cleveland an elite defense up the middle, especially when you include the newly acquired Myles Straw in center.
As of right now, though, second base remains a wide-open competition, with plenty of guys vying for at-bats. Over the last two months of the season, the Indians will get extended looks at the potential future of the position and, ideally, someone is going to rise to the occasion. All of these players are obviously taking up 40-man roster spots, so Cleveland is certainly hoping to get some definitive answers going into 2022.
Bio: Steve DiMatteo has covered baseball for the Associated Press, MLB.com, and a variety of other publications, and currently hosts the California Penal League Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts.