CLEVELAND, Ohio — If a professional baseball player is on the field, he’s being evaluated. It doesn’t matter if his team is rebuilding or contending for the World Series.
The evaluation is non-stop and includes one discipline after another: controlling the strike zone, speed on the bases, defense, arm strength, attitude, body language, the ability to adjust from pitch to pitch and about 20 other things. The list is just as long for a pitcher.
The Indians, whose name is expected to officially be changed to the Guardians sometime before Thanksgiving, were in a unique situation this season when it came to evaluation. While they were trying to win as many games as possible, it became clear at the end of July that the direction of their season had changed. Injuries wounded the starting rotation. DH Franmil Reyes and Gold Glove catcher Roberto Perez were placed on the injured list. Veterans Cesar Hernandez, Eddie Rosario and Jordan Luplow were traded. So was right-hander Phil Maton.
The idea was to spend the last two months of the season seeing as many players as possible. The Indians needed to get information on who could help them in 2022 and beyond because of an oncoming roster crunch.
On the current 40-man roster, the Indians have 10 players who are out of minor-league options: J.C. Mejia, Anthony Gose, Logan Allen, Sam Hentges, Blake Parker, who is also eligible for free agency, Bobby Bradley, Yu Chang, Oscar Mercado, Harold Ramirez and Bradley Zimmer.
If those 10 players are still with the Indians at the end of spring training, they must be placed on the 26-man roster or be exposed to waivers.
The Indians also have several minor-leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December. The only way they can be protected is by adding them to the 40-man roster in November. Which means something has to give between now and Nov. 20 when the 40-man roster is set and sent to the commissioner’s office in New York.
All of which brings us back to the last two months of the 2021 season when the Indians spent a lot of time moving players in and out of the lineup to see what they could do.
Sometimes players spend their whole careers waiting for the kind of opportunities the Indians handed out on a nightly basis in 2021. Here’s a look at who took advantage of the opportunity, who rode the fence and who swung and missed.