The Bench and Utility
Alright, let’s not beat around the bush, the bench has been fairly disastrous, but that isn’t entirely the fault of the players. Cleveland didn’t sign a veteran utility player coming into 2021, opting instead to dip into the pool of flexible infielders in Triple-A Columbus and give Yu Chang the first opportunity to fill the role. Chang lasted 49 games, slashing .176/.211/.287 this season before being optioned back to Columbus in order to make room for Franmil Reyes returning from injury.
Owen Miller and Ernie Clement are the other two prospects given the chance to be Cleveland’s swiss-army man. Miller got the call next after slashing a scorching .406/.457/.609 in Columbus, but lasted just 17 games in the majors, slashing .106/.143/.128. Miller is just 24, rushed to the majors way too soon, so the concern is minimal in the long-term.
Clement currently holds the utility role for the Tribe, fairing a bit better with a slash line .216/.275/.243 in 13 games. The sample size is incredibly small, but his numbers are the best of the three who had a chance in the first half of the season. It’s unfair to judge Miller and Clement too harshly, but we’ve had parts of three seasons with Chang and the writing is on the wall, but the Indians will need more depth and production for the next 81, so the bench earns an F.
All in all, the Indians are one of the biggest surprises of the first half, earning a composite grade of a C overall. Hampered by injuries to almost every significant contributor on the roster in the first half of the season, this team still managed to spend time 10 games over .500 and finish their first 81 at 42-39. The team is skidding of late, but the offense gained genuine momentum in June approaching the midway point. With any semblance of luck in the second half, the Tribe may get their other stars back in the lineup in time to make a serious push in the next 81.