The Cleveland Indians have plenty of young talent to be excited about in 2021.
But there is still a nice mix of young and old, with the latter coming mostly from non-roster invitees getting a shot to make the team in 2021.
Players like Oliver Perez, Bryan Shaw, Ben Gamel, Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Freeman, and Billy Hamilton are among those hoping to prove they belong with the team on Opening Day.
But how many will actually get a shot over the young players who are the future in Cleveland?
As of right now there are two non-roster players who seem most likely to win a job.
Both are familiar names to Indians fans as well.
2. Mike Freeman
The Indians love their veteran utility guys.
Rock 'em. Sock 'em.
Yu Chang and Mike Freeman went back-to-back in the 2nd today. 💥#CLESpring pic.twitter.com/JQQBJyGOTf
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) March 4, 2021
Freeman has filled that role since joining the team in 2019.
He appeared in 74 games in 2019 and 24 games last year.
In an ideal world the Indians would feature a full roster of players who give the team the best chance to win.
However, there are service-time concerns to keep in mind and the Indians also don’t want to stash top prospects on the bench in utility roles.
That just doesn’t make much sense from a development standpoint.
Having Freeman serve in a backup utility role to start the season allows the younger players to begin the season at the alternate site or in the minors when play begins in May.
If he is a total bust, he can be let go and a young player can indeed get called up for playing time.
But once again, a veteran in a utility role is what the Indians love to have.
His recent history with the team may mean he is already assured a spot in the mind of the front office.
1. Bryan Shaw
Shaw making the Opening Day roster feels like a given because of his history with the team.
Francona impressed with Emmanuel Clase today, said he was throwing 100 and getting his curve ball over.
Bryan Shaw had his best day of camp, Francona said. #Indians
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) March 8, 2021
Terry Francona is going to vouch for him and he can get a shot in April to prove he can get back near his old levels of success.
Shaw was Francona’s go-to reliever from 2013-2017 before seeing his success disappear from 2018-2020 between stints with the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners.
He has already appeared in four games this spring and has five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
His three earned runs so far may not even matter to the front office and the coaching staff as long as the velocity is fine and he isn’t issuing a ton of walks.
Anyone who has watched the Indians since Francona arrived may have already considered Shaw a roster lock from the moment he rejoined the team this offseason.
It would likely take a total collapse, or injury, for him not to make the team at this point.
Younger relievers can head to the alternate site in April and get some extra work in while the Indians see if Shaw has any of his former magic left in his arm.
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