CLEVELAND -- The road to recovery for Indians No. 3 prospect Nolan Jones begins now.
Jones was placed on Triple-A Columbus’ 7-day injured list on Sept. 1 with an ankle injury that later resulted in surgery. According to Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, Jones officially underwent a procedure with Dr. O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York to stabilize a high ankle sprain. The surgery went as expected, and the estimated recovery timetable is between three and five months.
Assuming Jones is on the shorter end of the recovery period, he’ll be ready to go before Spring Training. If it takes the full five months (or longer) for him to be 100% healthy, that may end up interrupting the early weeks of Spring Training. However, it seems safe to assume it won’t interfere with the third baseman’s regular season.
Jones won’t want to miss a second of the 2022 season, considering he’ll likely be ready to prove that he deserves a callup to the Major Leagues. It was expected that he’d get that opportunity at some point in 2021 -- whether it be as a third baseman or an outfielder -- but the 23-year-old turned in arguably his worst offensive year of his professional career in 99 games with Columbus, hitting .238 with a .787 OPS.
Rule 5 headache
Cleveland has an enormous jigsaw puzzle to put together before Nov. 20, when the team is required to have all its prospects it would like to protect from the Rule 5 Draft added to its 40-man roster.
Eight of the Indians’ Top 30 Prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, including INF Tyler Freeman (No. 1), OF George Valera (No. 2), INF Brayan Rocchio (No. 7), INF Jose Tena (No. 12), C Bryan Lavastida (No. 13), INF Aaron Bracho (No. 15), RHP Cody Morris (No. 22) and INF Jhonkensy Noel (No. 25).
It’d be surprising if Freeman, Valera and Rocchio aren’t added to the 40-man roster by the end of November, but the team knows it doesn’t have the capacity to protect each one of its prospects with limited roster space. However, Antonetti is expecting to protect more prospects this winter than the last few years.
“I do think it’s shaping up that way,” Antonetti said. “In our view, that creates a lot of headaches and some challenges but at the same time, it’s actually a reflection of a really healthy farm system where we have a lot of players that are under consideration and potentially deserving of being added to the 40-man roster.”
Here’s where the puzzle gets tricky. With every addition to the 40-man roster, the Indians will need to find a place to subtract. Antonetti explained that a player’s performance in the last week of the regular season won’t determine his fate on the Indians’ roster for 2022, so the front office is taking this time to weigh its decisions based on what they’ve evaluated throughout the 2021 season. This will eventually determine who will need to be removed from the roster to create some flexibility for upcoming prospects.
“There’s really a lot that’s going to happen in the course of a week or two weeks that’s going to determine what our decisions might be,” Antonetti said. “We’ll take into consideration all the information that we have on each player, both that we looked at and potentially players that we might need to remove. … There are a lot of different considerations that go into that beyond maybe just assessing where an individual might be. But those conversations are ongoing already. I expect them to continue for the next few weeks.”
Changing of the Guards
With the transition of the organization’s nickname from the Indians to the Guardians at the conclusion of the 2021 season, the team is starting to work through the logistics of when Progressive Field will go under renovations to replace all the current logos with the new moniker, including the large script “Indians” sign above the big screen in left field. But Antonetti said there has been no firm timetable set on when these changes will occur.
“It's a huge undertaking,” Antonetti said. “Actually, my daughter, when we were watching the game last night, was looking up at that same sign saying, 'When and how is that coming down?' I asked her if she thought it would fit well in our basement. But I don't have the details on that yet. I'm sure once we do, we'll share those.”