After trading their face of the franchise, fans of the 2021 Cleveland Indians fear the state of the organization. Many questions have yet to be unanswered: what will happen with the infield without three of the four starters from last year? Will the Indians pitching staff remain one of the best in the MLB? Is Cleveland finally back to the rebuilding stage?
But fear not, Cleveland fans. There is still hope. Here are three players that are set to have breakout seasons:
2021 Cleveland Indians Breakout: Player Nolan Jones
With the departure of veteran slugger Carlos Santana, the 2021 Cleveland Indians will have to fill the gaping hole at first base. One name you could see in the lineup is Nolan Jones, the Indians #1 prospect in their farm system.
Jones was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Holy Ghost Prep in PA. Originally, he was a renowned hockey center but had to quit the game he loved due to concussion issues. Lucky for him, he quickly became a top prospect coming out of high school and found himself in the Arizona Rookie League after being drafted.
Many current stars found success in Rookie League, and Jones can add his name to this list, tallying 28 hits in 32 games. From there on out, Jones continued to rise through the Indians’ farm system, eventually reaching the AA in 2019. Along with playing in the Double-A in 2019, he was selected to the All-Star Futures Game and played in the Arizona Fall League with other top prospects.
Jones has excelled at every level due to his electric bat. His patience in the box allows him to work counts and increase pitch counts. Along with his advanced approach at the plate, Jones can easily do damage every at-bat. Standing at 6’2″, 185 lbs, the 22-year-old prospect has raw power that will translate to the majors.
Unfortunately, fans were not able to see Jones play in 2020 due to COVID-19 shutting down minor league baseball. However, with the first base position being up for grabs, and a Lindor-less lineup, Cleveland fans could see their top prospect make an appearance in the 2021 season.
2021 Cleveland Indians Breakout Player: Josh Naylor
In what seemed to be a questionable deal in the departure of rising star Mike Clevinger at the 2020 trade deadline, he Indians received outfielder Josh Naylor. Many fans were upset about the trade since the return value seemed quite low at the time. However, this trade worked out for the Indians, as the versatility of Naylor played into the platoon system favored by head coach Terry Francona while Clevinger ended his season early due to an elbow injury.
Along with Jones, Naylor was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2015 by the Miami Marlins. It wasn’t long until Naylor was traded, as he was a piece in a deal that sent Andrew Cashner to Miami in 2016.
Naylor continued to battle through the farm system, putting up solid numbers in the process. Eventually, the Canadian-born talent made his Major League debut on May 24, 2019 with the Padres. He finished his rookie season batting .249 with 15 doubles in 94 games.
After becoming comfortable in San Diego, Naylor was once again traded, this time to the Indians. After seeing a reduction of playing time with the Padres, Naylor quickly saw his role change once he arrived in Cleveland, as he ended the season playing in 22 games for the Indians.
Cleveland fans eventually saw the positive effects of losing Clevinger, as Naylor brought the offense to the Indians’ 2020 short postseason run. While the Indians could not find success on offense against the powerhouse New York Yankees, Naylor became a savior to a struggling lineup. He ended the dreadful two-game series going 5-7 with 3 doubles and a home run.
Naylor will be looking to continue his strong presence at the plate, as he will find himself in the lineup frequently due to his versatility that allows him to play virtually anywhere on the diamond.
2021 Cleveland Indians Breakout Player: Andrés Giménez
The Cleveland Indians front office shocked the baseball world when they announced that star shortstop Francisco Lindor would be traded to the New York Mets, along with veteran pitcher Carlos Carrasco. In return, the Indians received multiple young talents, one being former Mets middle infielder, Andrés Giménez.
Giménez began his professional career in 2015 when he signed with the Mets as an international free agent. At age 17, the young shortstop from Venezuela lit up stat sheets in his first two seasons and quickly made a name for himself along the way. He flew through the minor league system and eventually made his debut on July 23, 2020.
After making his debut, Giménez would go on to play in 49 games while batting .263 and totaling 31 hits on the season. In a great year to gain experience, Giménez did just that, as he will begin his time in Cleveland with a year under his belt.
Giménez has shown signs of him becoming an advanced hitter in the next level. He has a compact swing, and can easily catch barrels. He may not hit 30+ home runs a year, but he makes up for his small stature through consistency and an advance eye. He brings the same level of consistency to defense, as he is considered to have all the tools of a plus defender: quick reactions, great footwork, and a high I.Q. of the game.
With Lindor and César Hernández gone, the middle infield remains open for the taken. However, Francona has plenty of options to fill the vacancy up the middle. Young players to look out for along with Giménez are Yu Chang and Amed Rosario. Moving forward, Giménez will be among the young, talented core.
Follow me on Twitter @dyfelt for more of my content! Don’t forget to join our OT Heroics MLB Facebook group, and feel free to join our new Instagram – @overtimeheroics_MLB, and listen to our baseball podcast, Cheap Seat Chatter!. We’ll see ya there!
Come join the discussion made by the fans at the Overtime Heroics forums! A place for all sports!
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images