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Indians expanded roster taking shape

Nolan Jones, George Valera, and Tyler Freeman technically sit one step away from the majors

Los Mochis v. Mesa Solar Sox Photo by Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians have reportedly added a trio of exciting names to their extended 60-man roster for the 2020 season.

According to Indians Prospective, third baseman Nolan Jones, shortstop Tyler Freeman, and outfielder George Valera will be a part of the expanded player pool working out and ready to jump onto the major-league roster at a moment’s notice.

The full 60-man roster is still not the active roster — that remains at 40. But up to 20 additional players (in addition to any 40-man roster players that aren’t on the active roster) can be added to a pool of players eligible for a three-person taxi squad that will travel with the team and work out at nearby facility during home-stands. The Indians have been “leaning towards” using Classic Park, the home of their Low-A affiliate Lake County Captains, as their backup workout venue.

In a perfect world, we would only be discussing the use of the expanded roster pool in baseball-related terms. It gives coaches and general managers a way to keep tabs on their top prospects, sure, but in the current state of the world, the main use of these extra players will likely be to spell others who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and are required to quarantine for two weeks. A grim reality of bringing baseball back in the midst of a pandemic.

Presumably Freeman and Valera were added to the 60-man roster for the former reason — just to keep an eye on their development as some of the club’s most promising talents. Valera, an international signing in 2017, has creeped his way up prospect lists with a beautiful swig and potential be an all-around great outfielder. Likewise, Tyler Freeman was listed as the Indians’ No. 2 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline with “elite” bat-to-ball skills and ability to stick as a reliable defender at shortstop or second base. Both exciting talents; neither of them should be relied upon in 2020.

Nolan Jones, on the other hand, could have potentially made some kind of impact last season, let alone in 2020. He has never seen a pitch above Double-A, but FanGraphs still projected him to at least be a serviceable bat if he made the jump the majors last season. He tore up both High-A (.286/.435/.425, 20.1 BB%, 26.2%, 157 wRC+) and Double-A (.253/.370/.466, 14.7 BB%, 29.9 K%, 147 wRC+) instead. There is still concern with his rising strikeout rate, and the fact that third base is currently occupied by the GOAT, but wild things can happen in a 60-game season.

These are, of course, the more exciting yet less functional announcements for the expanded roster pool. Soon we will see the flood of relievers become available and backups of backups of backups in case the worst happens.