Three Indians to watch before 2021 ends

September 25th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- The Indians had to sit back and watch the White Sox celebrate clinching the American League Central on Thursday -- a division that Cleveland hasn’t been atop of since 2018. But the team is ready to take the lessons from a developing 2021 season and turn them into reasons to believe that 2022 will be much more successful.

“Hopefully, one thing they’re gonna take away from this season is that this season is a long season and you have to be consistent and work at your craft,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “So hopefully, there’s a good learning curve for this young team.”

The Indians don’t have a postseason berth to hope for in the final week of the regular season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons to be invested in the club’s performance. Let’s take a look at three players to keep a close eye on before the 2021 season comes to an end:

1. Anthony Gose
Gose continues to be a mystery for the Indians. He’s an outfielder-turned-reliever and has finally found his way to the big league roster. The lefty consistently throws over 100 mph and has demonstrated tremendous improvement in his control than what the club had seen in Spring Training over the last few years. And now that he’s in the Majors, he’s one of the most intriguing pieces on the Indians' roster.

“There’s a few things that he does from the left side,” Hale said. “Even if he gets a pitch, very seldom are you gonna run on him, because of his slide step. ... I haven’t been in the box with him, but just seeing him on film and looking at him, his arm swing is straight behind him, so when you do pick up the hand, 100, 99 is coming at you. It’s pretty good.”

What Gose does in the final week of the season won’t make or break the rest of his pitching career, but it will give the soon-to-be Guardians a taste of what he could continue to be out of their bullpen. The team will have to determine if he’s an arm worth keeping on a 40-man roster that’s already overcrowded, and if he continues to be as lights out as he has been in Triple-A since his return from participating on the Olympic team and in his brief stint in the Majors, he could make the last few games entertaining to watch.

2. Shane Bieber
When Hale came to the ballpark on Saturday morning, he checked in with the training staff to make sure Bieber came in feeling OK after his first outing off the injured list on Friday night.

“No news is good news,” Hale said, with a grin.

The Indians waited over three months to have their ace back in the rotation. Even though he was only cleared to toss three innings (which became three perfect innings) in his first start back, and he only has time to make one more start before the end of the season, this short window gives everyone a chance to get a quick glimpse at what could end up being the 2022 Guardians rotation.

Assuming there are no trades or injuries over the winter, a starting five with Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill has the potential to be one of the best in the Majors. And if everything goes to plan, Bieber should get another chance to prove that his shoulder is completely healthy on Thursday in Kansas City with, hopefully, a little bit longer of a start. And after the performance he had on Friday night at Progressive Field, it wouldn’t be surprising if he gives fans reason to be even more excited to watch him on Opening Day in 2022.

3. José Ramírez
Ramírez has found a way to quietly put himself in the American League MVP discussion once again. Obviously a race that has been dominated by names like Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- rightfully so -- has made it easy to overlook what Ramírez has done in Cleveland. Entering Saturday, he had slashed .467/.564/.700 with two homers and 11 runs over his last 10 games. He’s closing in on his career-high 39 homers in a single season (currently at 35), is inching closer to 100 RBIs (96, entering Saturday) and has the chance to swipe 30 bases (already has 25 under his belt).

Ramírez likely won’t be an AL MVP finalist, but he will certainly receive some votes. And with a week left in the regular season, he has plenty of time left to add to his résumé.