Besides trying to win baseball games, it feels like the Cleveland Indians’ organization has another objective during the 2021 season. That would be making final decisions on some players.
The Tribe decided to keep Jake Bauers on the Opening Day roster, despite Bobby Bradley having a better spring (not that spring training statistics should be meaningful), because Bauers was out of option and couldn’t be sent to the minors without being put on waivers.
Bauers didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, hitting just .190 (557 OPS) in 113 plate appearances, with just two home runs, before being traded to Seattle. (We do have to point out, he is hitting .315 with a homer in 54 at bats with Seattle).
Yu Chang is getting his first extended look on the roster, and he is struggling too, batting just .167 (488 OPS) in 102 at bats. Chang is 25 years old, and our guess is his roster spot is currently on a day-to-day basis.
Right now, it feels like Bradley Zimmer, a former first round pick in 2014, is in the same situation. Zimmer, who is a tremendous athlete, can run like a deer, and is clearly the best defensive outfielder on the roster.
Unfortunately, he also has to put a bat in his hands every once in awhile.
When Zimmer got the call to the big leagues in 2017, he hit the ground running, batting 285 in his first 151 at bats, with five home runs and a 790 OPS. However, since the All Star break that season, the 21st pick in 2014, has 370 at bats, and has hit .200 in that period, with just six dingers and 151 strikeouts.
That latter total is astounding, considering the lack of pop and the lack of walks. The only two things that stand out to us offensively is he has been hit by 10 pitches in 2020-21, in just 128 plate appearances, and he has stolen six bases.
Terry Francona loves his defense in the middle of the outfield for sure, who wouldn’t? Cleveland has gone through Ben Gamel, Amed Rosario, Jordan Luplow, and Harold Ramirez in center, and by far Zimmer is the best at going out the catching the ball.
However, we always maintain the as great as Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel were defensively, if they could not hit respectably, they would have found themselves on a bench more often than not. You have to be able to hit to play.
The best role for Zimmer right now might be as a defensive replacement late in close games where the Indians have the lead. Start Ramirez in center, and if you have the lead after six, move him to another spot and let Zimmer patrol center.
The question is will the organization give him more rope, and if they move on, who gets the next shot? Oscar Mercado is hitting just .220 at Columbus, but his walk rate has improved, and that has been a big problem in the past. We have seen opposing pitchers seemingly try to walk Mercado, only to see him keep swinging.
Daniel Johnson is batting just .223, but has banged out 20 extra base hits, leading to a .458 slugging percentage. And perhaps he has the same problem Bobby Bradley had when he was sent out after spring training. That is a feeling he should be in the bigs.
Or could Andres Gimenez be brought back to play SS, with Amed Rosario going back to centerfield. Gimenez has an 834 OPS at Columbus, but has a poor 35:8 strikeout to walk ratio.
Is Bradley Zimmer getting his last shot with Cleveland? He still can be sent to the minor leagues or he can be useful as a 26th man. Either way, if he can’t improve his hitting, he likely won’t get another shot with the Tribe.