Nolan Jones packed four different gloves for Spring Training to be ready for any position he’s asked to play.
We know that the Tribe’s No. 1 overall prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, will be a third baseman long term. However with José Ramírez manning the hot corner, the Tribe asked Jones if he’d be open to getting time in the outfield during fall instructional league. Viewing this as an opportunity to speed up his track to the big leagues, Jones didn’t hesitate.
He spent five days a week in the outfield and three days in the infield (at both first and third). Although he views playing first base similarly to playing third, the outfield is something he’s never attempted to tackle before.
“Balls spin the opposite way at first base, but as far as bounces, being ready, there are a lot of similarities there,” Jones said. “In the offseason we spend a lot of time in the outfield just reading balls -- balls off the bat, windy days we took advantage of, just reading those balls and learning how to play those balls that get caught up in the sun. Those guys don't get as much credit as they deserve out there. Outfield is a really tough position.”
The outfield may be a tough position, but the Indians (and Jones) believe that with his athleticism, he’ll be able to be an option in either corner-outfield spot at some point this season. However, for now, the plan is to keep Jones at third base through Spring Training.
“He’ll get his work in at third base and really focus on that position just to allow him to feel as comfortable as possible," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “And then, at the appropriate time, if we think it makes sense, he can then look to get some opportunities in the outfield.”
The goal isn’t to rush Jones to the Majors, especially after a year in which he was limited to intrasquad scrimmages at the alternate training site. The 22-year-old admitted that 2020 was a difficult year for him because of the lack of competition. However, he also said that the experience taught him to change his mentality of always looking toward the future to focusing on the present. And that mindset may help him remain level-headed and not get too eager as he waits for his first callup to the big leagues.
“How do we position Nolan to have a really successful 2021 and hopefully, at some point, contribute to the Major League team?” Antonetti said. “That doesn’t necessarily need to be Opening Day. … And that's why we think the best way to get him started on a successful 2021 is to feel comfortable in camp.
“When the season starts, we'll see where it makes sense for Nolan the start -- both which level and which positions he plays.”
Bieber extension talks
Earlier this week, Shane Bieber said that the Indians have not yet approached him about a possible long-term extension. The Indians rarely comment about contract conversations with an individual player. However, the team is known to usually start these talks during Spring Training.
“We’ve found it most constructive not to talk about individual circumstances with particular players,” Antonetti said. “Setting that aside, obviously, Shane represents all the things we would want our players to be ... on the field, the teammate he is, the way he prepares, the way he competes. We are hopeful that Shane will be here for a really long time to come.”
Giménez steals J-Ram’s bat
Ramírez was asked whether some of the younger players have been turning to him for guidance now that he’s one of the most experienced players in the clubhouse. He explained, through the team’s interpreter, that he likes to keep conversations light-hearted and always gets involved in playing jokes on people. In doing that, he believes that opens the door for a solid relationship in order to teach the younger players the ropes.
It’s a method that works so well for Ramírez that newly acquired infielder Andrés Giménez already stole one of Ramírez’s bats.
“I’m just trying to see if I can get some of his powers or his skills through using his bat,” Giménez joked, through team interpreter Agustin Rivero.
The Indians claimed former Marlins outfielder Harold Ramirez off waivers on Wednesday afternoon and designated right-hander Jordan Humphreys for assignment.
While he spent most of the 2020 season on the injured list, Ramirez opened the ’19 season hitting .355 for Triple-A New Orleans before batting .276 with a .728 OPS, 20 doubles, three triples, 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 119 games with the Marlins.
“A right-handed-hitting outfielder that's got some experience playing all three outfield spots and some track record of success in the Major Leagues,” Antonetti said. “He also has an option left, so he could provide us some level of depth.”