Cleveland Indians: Can Ernie Clement be what Owen Miller wasn’t?

Ernie Clement #84 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Ernie Clement #84 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Ernie Clement
Ernie Clement #28 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Can Ernie Clement be what Owen Miller wasn’t for the Cleveland Indians?

Over the last couple days the Cleveland Indians have made a series of moves that have caused the infield depth and starting pitches to play a game of musical chairs. In the end, Ernie Clement is now in Cleveland on the Tribe’s roster as of June 13, and Owen Miller returned to Triple-A Columbus on June 15. The swap gives the Tribe a new utility infielder on the roster with hopes of improvement.

Miller started the season with Columbus on absolute fire. The club’s No. 16 prospect was slashing .382/.432/.574 over 17 games with the Clippers, including five doubles and nine RBI. The hot start prompted a call-up for Miller and his major league debut.

The move to call up Miller came when the team placed Franmil Reyes on the injured list and not long after the club sent down Andres Gimenez who was struggling at the plate. When Gimenez was sent down he was hitting just .179/.226/.308 with four doubles and four stolen bases. The hope was that Miller would be the versatile and productive infielder the team needed. Unfortunately, he was only one of those things.

Miller was plugged in at every infield position for the Cleveland Indians at one point or another and he was strong in the field. Despite being moved around so much, he never committed an error at any position he was placed. At the plate, however, was a different story.

Despite hitting well in Columbus, Miller’s bat didn’t translate well to the majors. In 15 games, he slashed just .109/.146/.130 with only one double and one RBI while striking out 23 times. While Gimenez struggled, Miller managed to be even worse. Before being sent down he had just one hit over a 10-game span.

Seeing all that, there’s no wonder that Miller was sent down, but can Clement be what Miller and Gimenez were supposed to be before him? Clement enters the majors as Cleveland’s No. 30 prospect. Despite being middle of the road in Columbus, he made a good first impression in his debut.

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In Columbus, Clement played 20 games for the Clippers and put together a slash line of .289/.309/.434, including nine doubles and a triple. He didn’t hit any home runs, but given the state of the Tribe’s roster, a guy hitting for doubles and average might be a better compliment than a high-strikeout power bat in the lineup.

As for position versatility, Clement offers a similar skill set as Miller. With the Clippers, Clement played second, third, short and left this season, being perfect at second with only one error at each of the other three positions.

Playing in his first full game on June 15, Clement showed some potential. Batting seventh and playing second, he went 1-for-4 in the contest. The base knock resulted in a throwing error that allowed Josh Naylor to cross the plate, being the go-ahead run for the Tribe in the win. Clement would later come around to score himself.

While it’s obviously a small sample size, barely a sample at all, Clement did exactly what the Cleveland Indians have been searching for all season in terms of infield depth.

For starters, he played a solid second base and allowed Cesar Hernandez a half-day off in the designated hitter role. If he can continue to move around the infield and allow batters a day off in the field, but keep their bat in the lineup that could be a huge value. Miller did that part well, but his bat was a liability.

At the plate, Clement looked more comfortable than Miller maybe ever did. He didn’t strikeout in any of his four at-bats, so he was at least seeing the ball well in the box. His one hit was a nice knock up the middle and while it didn’t count as an RBI, he put the ball in play that resulted in a run. He also had the baseball IQ to move up to second while Naylor was scoring, putting himself in scoring position.

We’ll need more time to see if Clement can be what the Tribe have been looking for, but the early return is promising. He’s the third prospect to get a shot at being the utility-man and hopefully he will play well enough to be the last.

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