The Indians’ outfield woes in 2020 are well documented. The club’s outfielders combined to hit .196/.270/.304 with an American League-worst .575 OPS.
Could a potential outfield upgrade already be in the organization? Consider top prospect Nolan Jones, whom the Indians added to their 40-man roster.
Jones, a 23-year-old, lefthanded-hitting third baseman, played at high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron in 2019. He batted .272/.409/.442 with 15 home runs in 126 games. He led the minor leagues with 96 walks.
Jones is not an outfielder, but that could change.
The Indians’ biggest roster need this winter is the same as it was last winter. They need an outfield bat. The club will not be a big player in the free agent market, so upgrading the outfield will likely have to be done through a trade, or through internal options.
The most intriguing internal option would be Jones, the organization’s top position prospect who was drafted as a shortstop in the second round in 2016 out of high school in Bensalem, Pa.
Jones spent plenty of time in the outfield at the Indians’ alternate training site in 2020. A former high school hockey player, Jones has an athletic 6-foot-3 frame that wouldn’t look out of place on an outfield corner.
Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, a perennial MVP candidate, can be controlled through 2023, suggesting a position switch could be in the works for Jones.
“Nolan’s done well in the outfield,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said. “He’s a big, physical guy (and) a former hockey player and great athlete. His athleticism and versatility to play different positions is something we’ve been emphasizing.”
Even without a Triple-A at-bat to his credit, Jones could conceivably factor into the Indians’ outfield plans in 2021.
“We have talked to him a little bit about the possibility of adding some positional versatility,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “Obviously, with Jose at third, and as Nolan gets closer to the big leagues, that’s something that could make sense.”