Cleveland Indians: Nolan Jones to replace Santana at first base in 2021?
By Zach Martin
Could Nolan Jones be the everyday replacement for Carlos Santana at first base for the Cleveland Indians next year? Or, could he potentially be a platooned at first along with another position in 2021?
One of the main questions, among many others, going into the 2021 season for the Cleveland Indians is who will replace Carlos Santana at first base? Santana could potentially become a free agent at the end of the season due to a $17.5 million club option and one name circulating the Indians’ top prospect, Nolan Jones.
There’s been some speculation of the Indians top first base prospect in Bobby Bradley, who hit 33 home runs at Triple-A Columbus in 2019, taking over the role. There has been suggestions of Jake Bauers filling in the role, or even current OF/1B Josh Naylor who was required at the trade deadline this season in the Mike Clevinger trade. Although, one name has been brought up that could potentially be the Indians everyday, or maybe even platooned next year, and that name, is Jones.
Why Nolan Jones?
When Cleveland Indians fans hear the name Nolan Jones, they think of the team’s number one prospect in the farm system who’s mainly played third base throughout his time with the team since being drafted in the second round of the 2016 amateur draft. The idea from the Indians is to give Jones some position flexibility going into the 2021 season by making him learn the outfield, and first base in the Arizona Fall Instructional League this fall.
According to Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) on Twitter, the Indians announced back on October 6th that they’ll be giving Jones some time to learn both positions at the AZL this fall. So far in his minor league career, he has played 307 games with 302 coming at third base. The other five were played at shortstop in 2016 with the Indians’ Arizona Rookie League team.
What does that mean for 2021?
The reason behind the move to have Nolan Jones play first base and the outfield is to give him some position flexibility since the Indians currently have Jose Ramirez at third base who’s been on record saying that he wants to stay at one position for his career.
That being said, if the Indians want to get Jones some time in the majors, he will need to learn positions of need for the team. Other teams have made similar moves, like the Pittsburgh Pirates giving Cole Tucker a chance in the outfield just this past season.
Furthermore, the positions of need are first base and outfield, which makes sense into why the team wants him to learn those spots. What makes this good for Jones is that his high upside fielding ability can make him a strong candidate to play in the outfield, which in turn can give the Indians an outfielder they can lean on moving forward, something they are in desperate need of.
Although, if his ability can make him a solid first baseman, think in terms of the same skill set of one Jim Thome who moved from third to first base between the 1996 and 1997 seasons, he could be the team’s everyday first baseman for years to come. There has been talks of him possibly platooning first base and the outfield with Naylor, who also has spent time playing first base, which in theory could work for the Indians based on certain lefty/righty match-ups in the long run.
It makes a compelling case for the Cleveland Indians to give a guy like Nolan Jones a chance to play everyday if they move him from behind Ramirez and put him at a position to succeed moving forward. It all comes down to how Jones adjusts to those positions at the Arizona Fall League this year. Only time will tell on what the Indians do with Nolan Jones going into Spring training, and the 2021 MLB season.
Speculation across the league is that Jones will make his long anticipated debut in Cleveland sometime during the 2021 season, the question will just be where on the field he runs out to in the first inning.