The 2021 season long ago transitioned from one where the Cleveland Indians would annoy the Chicago White Sox in the Central, to spot they’ve been in in the last 2 1/2 months–finding out if certain players are good enough to come back in 2022.
Unfortunately, the Indians playing their final home game as the “Indians,” we still don’t have answers for a majority of these players.
1. Bradley Zimmer’s hit some majestic home runs–he just hasn’t done it enough. He has just seven homers and seven doubles in 324 plate appearances. He strikes out 36.1 percent of the time, according to Baseball-Reference.
2. Zimmer is approaching 30 and it’s clear he’s not an everyday outfielder. If the Tribe can find another everyday outfielder–maybe that’s Josh Naylor in right–to go along with Myles Straw, then I’d be fine with Zimmer platooning somewhere.
3. The same is true of Oscar Mercado. He played 21 games in July and hit .246. In August, it was .247 (.673 OPS). In September, he has three homers in 54 plate appearance, but you’re certainly not counting on him for 2022. Mercado will be 27 by the start of next season.
4. Daniel Johnson seems to play well every spring, but even after a strong audition in Goodyear, he went to Columbus and didn’t hit (.224, 12 homers, 100 strikeouts in 263 at-bats) When given an opportunity with the Cleveland Indians, he still didn’t hit. He’ll be 26 next July. He’s batting .221 (.636 OPS).
He may have a shot with Cleveland Indians in 2022
5. If anyone has a shot at the 2022 roster, it might be Yu Chang. The Indians have a glut of middle infield prospects, but not one is slam-dunk choice to open the season with the Guardians. Chang could compete for the second-base gig.
He was batting .284 with an .875 OPS entering Sunday. The Indians have finally started giving him regular playing time.
6. It’s been reported how the team really takes its time to give players opportunities to find themselves as major league players. Check this out from Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto.
"“Here’s some inside baseball: MLB analytics show that most players need between 1,800-2,500 plate appearances in the minors to be properly prepared to stay in the majors. It’s why many players – about 85% – go back to the minors at least once after making it the first time….Here’s how it looks for the four guys battling for 2022 roster spots: Mercado (2,891), Chang (2,473), Johnson (2,060) and Zimmer (1,620). Zimmer also has 827 MLB plate appearances.”"
The front office has to be terrified one of these guys will go somewhere else and mash.
7. It’s been covered here before, though. Something’s going to have to give with the 40-man roster. The Indians have too many valuable commodities to protect in the minors.
8. The team has hinted it will spend more in the offseason, but we’ll see how much. It won’t be too crazy. They need a second baseman and an outfielder. You’d think they fill the second base job internally because there is nobody ready to assume a starting outfield gig.