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Cleveland should trade Nolan Jones

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... and other hot takes from the Covering the Corner community

Cleveland Indians Summer Workouts Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Every week once in a while I ask for your sizzling hot takes on Twitter and Facebook so we can argue about them because arguing is fun. This is the Hot Take Corner.

Welcome back. It’s been a while. I waited to call for more hot takes because they tend to be more fun and less pure anger when the team isn’t in the midst of trading their franchise shortstop and slashing payroll. So I figured asking after a three-game winning streak was good timing. Turns out I was right because we got some good ones.

Buckle up.

Wow, what a take for renowned Covering the Corner staff member Blake Ruane to have. Here he is, in this call for very serious takes that you must believe in, professing his desire for Jake Bauers to receive consistent playing time in the lineup. Hey man, whatever you want. He did have a couple of hits this week so I think it’s going well.

Would be a shame if everyone brought this take up every time Blake posts something, though.

Yeah, even with Wednesday’s home run I just don’t see the obsession with getting Amed Rosario consistent at-bats. He’s only 25, but he has over 1,600 major-league plate appearances already. We’ve pretty much seen what he is, and one 99 wRC+ season aside, he’s well below average offensively.

That said, I think he’d make the perfect super-utility player. He’s athletic enough to play anywhere in a pinch, can pinch run when necessary. Basically, everything Cleveland believed Michael Martinez and Mike Freeman were. Just, you know, actually good.

As for the second one, h*ck yeah. José Ramírez is here and will start homering eventually, but Franmil Reyes is an easy choice to be one or two at the least. I’m a huge Jordan Luplow fan, but I don’t know if he can lead the team in homers unless his sudden power against righties is legit. Right now the sample size is just too small to tell.

He’s a pretty out there selection, but not the most out there ...

Scott you absolute mad-man.

Yes.

Yes.

Oh god yes.

I mean, this is nuts, obviously. But, man. Yes.

The problem, of course, is what when he comes up (and it better be when not if, I swear), he’s probably going to be platooned. He had some split issues in the minors, and Tito is going to Tito. BUT COULD YOU IMAGINE? The most homers he’s ever hit was 19 in 2018, split between Single-A and High-A. I would think Franmil hits at least 30-35 this year, so let’s just put Nolan Jones at 38 ... in like half a season?! Inject it into my veins — he’d be slapping the piss out of the ball every day. He’d be Cleveland’s first position player prospect to come up and immediately succeed since Tyler Naquin, and it would be glorious.

I’ll tie another hot take to take this one: If Nolan Jones leads the 2021 team in home runs, Cleveland will win the AL Central handily and probably stomp their way to the World Series. They need a big bat injection of life, and with a home run-mashing Nolan Jones as the everyday right fielder, Josh Naylor at first, and Franmil Reyes at DH, Cleveland has a legit lineup to make a run.

I think the difficulty of this will come mainly because WAR is a counting stat. There are just too many bullpen arms nowadays for Clase to reach the 105.2 innings of Jim Kern in 1976, or 133.2 innings of Dan Spillner in 1982. Since 2013, only Ryan Yarbrough had more than 100 innings in a season (he pitched 118.2 in 2018), and he was used mainly as a “reliever” following an opener. Especially if Clase is locked into Cleveland’s closer role, as he appears to be now, it’s going to be hard for him to rack up the raw innings required to top WAR charts.

The good news is I don’t think that matters.

While he probably won’t rack up enough innings to beat everyone in WAR, I could definitely buy into the argument that he’s top-5 for a single season and top-5 Cleveland relief pitcher when all is said and done. He’s just so hard to judge because he throws a million miles an hour but doesn’t strike anyone out. The most important thing Clase does, at the most basic level, is limit runs. He does it through a few strikeouts, not a lot of walks, and a whole lot of ground balls.

I think he’s got a real shot at setting groundball records. Among qualified Cleveland relievers since 1901, Matt Albers’ 2013 season leads the way with a 63.8% groundball rate. Dan Otero in 2017 and 2016 follows, at 63.5% and 62.3%, respectively. Given how good the Cleveland infield can be, I think Clase can top 65% and not have a lot of balls to squeak by. That’s what has helped him keep opponents scoreless through the first month of the season, and I think it can make him a long-term success.

Will he go off one year and top Doug Jones’ 3.7 fWAR season in 1988, or can he stay in Cleveland and dominate long enough to top Jones’ career 11.0 fWAR? Maybe, maybe not, but he has the tools to be great whether or not he does.

I promise you, if it was easy to “just hit the other way” and beat the shift and have it be better than mashing 40 dingers, teams would be doing it. The thing is, whether there’s a shift or not, extra bases are better than singles. If you lift the ball, the shift isn’t going to matter. You don’t think defenses would love it if Joey Gallo tried to bunt singles every time up to the plate instead of hitting the ball 700 feet?

That’s why I think banning the shift makes some kind of sense. You’re not going to stop guys from wanting to lift the ball and go for extra bases instead of squeaker singles. But if teams can’t shift into the precise location where the batter tends to ground the ball, more of the attempted line drives they get on top of will go for hits. You still get the action on the basis that MLB craves.

Alternatively, shifts could work and still be fun if they were treated more like an NFL (or even NBA) defense. Right now, the best you get is an announcer going “Wow, look how far the third baseman is,” and a little chart showing batter tendencies. Here’s an idea: name the defenses. Show them more on the broadcast; include a graphic that always shows where the defense is and how they are shifting and why. Every stadium has cameras that accurately measure when an outfielder moves a muscle. Use that to show defenses moving in real-time as an at-bat progresses. Basically, if you’re not going to ban the shift, at least lean into the strategy of it.

J.T. Realmuto says hello.

Is he highly regarded? He’s regarded among Cleveland fans, sure, but that’s because we’ve watched him since he was drafted. But he’s fallen on some top prospect lists — he’s still on top 100’s, but not like a top-20 stud or anything.

I think Cleveland still believes in him, and his timeline is perfect for their plan of staying in contention (or something resembling contention) every year for the foreseeable future. Considering he’s not a top-5 prospect you’re going to trade and get a bunch of major-league-ready talent for, it makes more sense to hold onto him until he’s ready.

And unlike Daniel Johnson and Bobby Bradley, there is a reason to manipulate Jones’ service time as a 22-year-old top prospect, and they have the cover of wanting him to play in Triple-A first. There’s no way we see him before the Super Two deadline passes, even if they think he’s going to be great. Especially if they think he’s going to be great.

Besides, if there was a reason not to believe Jones, other teams would probably be seeing it too.

Major League is great

I’m with you there, great movie. Love the portrayal of the underdog and the enduring spirit of team sports.

but I’d rather watch

Hey friend, that’s fair. We can’t watch the same movie, haha! Good to have some variety, there are a lot of great baseball movies out there, anyway.

Sandlot

Excellent, love it. Another great one — a lot of nostalgia packed into a couple of hours of film. Love to watch the cinema.

or Field of Dreams

Get the hell out of my office.