Mar 12, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jayson Nix (16) scores a run during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians Days of Future Past: Jayson Nix

Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.

Player: INF Jayson Nix

Current Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

Year(s) in Indians Organization: Claimed via waivers by the Indians from the White Sox on June 24, 2010; played the rest of the 2010 season with the Indians before being sold to the Blue Jays on March 29, 2011

Why He Still Isn’t in Cleveland: Nix played for the Indians during their most recent rebuilding period, and despite showing impressive power, he failed to convince the Indians that he was a long-term piece of the organization moving forward. A former first-round draft choice of the Rockies in 2001, Nix had an impressive start to his professional career before struggling at Double-A. After two years there, he played parts of three seasons at Triple-A before making his major league debut in 2008, when he hit just .125/.234/.161 over 65 plate appearances. The Rockies chose not to re-sign him, and he moved on to the White Sox. Over parts of the next two seasons with the South Siders, Nix hit .214/.301/.382 over 347 plate appearances, though he added 13 home runs and 37 RBI as well.

The White Sox put him on waivers, and the then-rebuilding Indians decided to take a chance on Nix, who was just 27 at the time and had been ranked by Baseball America as the game’s 94th-best prospect before the 2004 season. At the time, the Indians’ struggles at third base had been well-documented, and Nix was thought of as a potential candidate to man the fort until top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall was ready for the majors. What followed was a .234/.283/.422 line over 306 plate appearances for the Tribe the rest of the season. Despite his low average and on-base skills, and Baseball-Reference values his contributions to the Tribe at 0.9 wins above replacement. Despite this, the Indians eventually decided that Nix wasn’t going to be a core player, and moved on in favor of Jack Hannahan.

Nix with the Indians in spring training in 2011. (Credit: Rob Tringali, Getty Images North America)

Nix with the Indians in spring training in 2011. (Credit: Rob Tringali, Getty Images North America)

What He Did: After purchasing him from the Indians, the Blue Jays gave Nix 151 plate appearances, over which he hit a strongly underwhelming .169/.245/.309.

He moved on the the Yankees, and hit a collective .239/.307/.340 in pinstripes in 2012 and 2013.

After the Yankees didn’t retain him, Nix signed with the Rays this offseason. The Phillies purchased him from Tampa Bay during spring training, and added him to the major league roster. However, Nix hit just .154/.214/.231 over 43 plate appearances in the majors before being released and re-signed by the Rays, who sent him to Triple-A.

He responded by hitting .274/.341/.411 in 215 plate appearances before the Rays released him on Friday to make room for Nick Franklin, who was acquired by the Rays in the David Price trade.

Nix wasn’t on the market for long, and was signed by the Pirates on Sunday. He has been added to Pittsburgh’s major league roster.

What Does the Future Hold: Former top prospects tend to have a longer leash around baseball than other players do, because most teams realize that, no matter how unlikely it may seem, these players could still have untapped potential. Top prospects were obviously top prospects for a reason, so there’s always hope that a team can build on a player’s past success and turn him into a solid big league player. Nix fits the bill, and the Pirates will hope that they can catch lightning in a bottle and find a diamond in the rough with him.

Still, it’s a bit surprising to see Nix signed to a major league deal. He’s posted solid minor league numbers throughout his career, so the Pirates probably either felt he had nothing left to prove there, or offered him a major league deal in an effort to entice him to sign with them instead of with a different team. However, it won’t be easy for Nix to find immediate playing time, though Josh Harrison has played really well this season and forced the Pirates to make room for him in the lineup. The Pirates have a fairly deep infield, but Nix could certainly see playing time if he hits well in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates are terrific at finding hidden gems, so even though most such players are pitchers, there’s still reason for hope for both Nix and the Pirates. Nonetheless, Nix is still just 31 (he turns 32 on August 26) and should still have big league opportunities left if he doesn’t last in Pittsburgh.

And even if he doesn’t, I still think he looks like Jason Bateman.

Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.

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