2015 Fantasy Outlooks: Cleveland Indians

Can Brantley come back from injury early or is doomed to be a fantasy disappointment?

After finishing 3rd in the AL Central the Cleveland Indians had a very quiet offseason. They added just one significant piece in Moss and they lost absolutely no one who would be considered a significant piece. The addition of Moss is interesting for the fantasy value of those he will bat behind and the fact he is the only addition means the Indians believe in what they have I their current roster and the prospects that are behind them.

Hitting

Predicted Line-up (courtesy of www.rosterresource.com)

  1. Michael Bourn, OF
  2. Jose Ramirez, SS
  3. Michael Brantley, OF
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B
  5. Brandon Moss, OF (vs RH), Ryan Raburn, OF (vs LH)
  6. Yan Gomes, C
  7. Jason Kipnis, 2B (vs RH), Mike Aviles, 2B (vs LH)
  8. Nick Swisher, DH
  9. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B

Fantasy Superstar: Michael Brantley, OF

Brantley broke out in a big way last season by moving from a middle of the pack #3 outfielder in 2013 to become a stud #1 in 2014. Of course having the 5th most AB’s of the position always helps and Brantley cashed in the playing time to become a new 20/20 talent in the days where 20/20 is becoming tough to get. Can he hold his production from 2014? To some extent yes but at the same time no. I don’t see there being as many home runs as last year with 15 being a more realistic expectation. However, 20 steals should still be well within reach and they should be accompanied by really solid average as well as good numbers in the counting stats.

Fallback Power: Carlos Santana, 1B

If you skimped on the elite power in the early rounds then Santana is a great fall back for your corner infield or utility spots. Capable of hitting 25-30 home runs Santana is in a decent line up that should allow him to put up decent counting stats but at a less than helpful average and with no help in steals.

Bounce Back?: Jason Kipnis, 2B

Just last year Kipnis was seen as a top 5 second baseman entering the season coming off a 2013 where he hit 17 homers and stole 30 bases. Last year he managed just 6 homers and 22 steals which is a big drop off from not just 2013 but 2012 as well. While I’m not banking on him getting even the 2012 numbers (14-31) I do expect a little bounce back. His average and OBP in 2014 was the lowest of the three years so I expect a little increase in that as well. I am scared to stick a 7th round pick on him which is where he is currently going because I like some of the other options at second base but if he falls down into the 8th/9th/10th second baseman off the board then it is a gamble I would take.

Serviceable Option: Yan Gomes, C

I really do not love Gomes entering 2014 even at a position as weak as catcher. Gomes doesn’t offer any significant improvement over the group of Montero, Norris, Martin or even Zunino who you can get late in drafts in a one catcher league. In a two catcher league ideally I want my number one to be higher than Gomes and he is a too high of an investment for my #2. Catcher won’t excite you much this year at all but Gomes really doesn’t excite me and is just too middle of the road for the investment in my opinion.

Mid/Late Round Power: Brandon Moss, 1B/OF

Moving on from a guy I am not completely sold on to a guy I am sold on especially at his current value. Moss was a really solid fantasy producer in Oakland I don’t see a move to Cleveland hugely damaging that. I still expect him to be a platoon guy this year but in the 14th round you probably aren’t worried about an everyday guy especially if what you have instead is a guy who gives you 30 homers and can also be replaced in the line-up when he does sit. His limited playing time do damage his counting stats but hitting 5th should mean he gets decent RBI numbers even if he doesn’t get great runs or steals totals.

Any Other Business?

  • Michael Bourn, OF: An everyday player who can steal 15+ bases does have some late round value in deep leagues but the lack of homers, RBI and low average mean he is nothing more than a late round speed guy with little upside.
  • Jose Ramirez, SS: There is some concern he loses his job to Lindor (covered below) but if he can get half a season he should give you 15+ bases which is rare once you get outside the top 10 at SS. Worth a late round flier if you waited on SS or missed out on a decent second baseman for your MI and need some speed.

As for the rest of the line-up; only Swisher is even worth consideration in my opinion and that I in a super deep league. Chisenhall is incredibly meh and the platoon guys for Moss and Kipnis are going to be on the short sides of those platoons which will seriously damage their value

Pitching

Projected Rotation:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Gavin Floyd
  5. Danny Salazar

Fantasy Superstar: Corey Kluber

Kluber shot to fantasy relevance last year leading many people who gambled late on him to fantasy championships. Although it will be tough for him to repeat the innings pitched numbers from last year I don’t expect a massive drop off. At more than a strikeout per innings to go with an elite win total, ERA and WHIP even a slight reduction in innings means he should still be a top 10 pitcher with top 5 upside.

Potential Stud: Carlos Carrasco

Carrasco is definitely a man on the up as we creep towards the start of 2015. He took two attempts to show his quality in 2014 after losing his place in the rotation early before reclaiming and then stamping his authority on said place late in the year. Heading into 2015 he will have a longer rope than at the start of 2014 given the way he finished. I think his value lays closer to the end of season guy than the start of season but I think he is a little off the high he ended on. Right now he is projected to be a low end #2/ high end #3 starter who should give you a strikeout per innings whilst putting up a top end ERA and a WHIP that will rival Kluber.

Post-hype Sleeper: Danny Salazar

Salazar was a highly touted sleeper entering 2014 only for him to be demoted early before coming back after the all-star game. Even in his return he wasn’t the pitcher he was touted to be and he may find himself having to compete for the fifth starter’s job in spring. However, he does have top 20 upside so is worth a late round gamble in the hope you get the pitcher that we saw in 2013 when he was a rookie

As for the rest of the projected rotation; Bauer is a similar post-hype sleeper to Salazar except he is further removed from that hype. He was decent but unspectacular last season and even though he is more likely to be a starter than Salazar I am not sure the upside is there making him a less attractive option. Floyd was a decent option a few years back and he returned strong last season but to expect a repeat would be letting yourself in for a fall. Right now you are looking at deep mixed leagues or AL only for a pitcher I fear could lose his job by midseason to one of the young pitchers who misses out in spring.

Projected Bullpen

CL: Cody Allen

SU: Bryan Shaw

SU: Scott Atchison

MR: Marc Rzepczynski

MR: Kyle Crockett

MR: Nick Hagadone

LR: Zach McAllister

Cody Allen is a fairly sage option as a closer entering 2015 given how he has performed in the role and the way his strikeouts have progressed. There is a slight concern over the home run rates but there isn’t anything hugely frightening behind him that endangers his job. A safe number 2 closer with low #1 upside.

Prospect Report

  • Giovanny Urshela, 3B: Wouldn’t be shocked to see him at some point this year and there is a power upside. However, no guarantee of playing time and a so-so average are a concern but to see him replace Chisenhall would actually be something that would benefit the fantasy world as he can’t be less relevant than the current holder of the position.
  • Francisco Lindor, SS: Less concern over the playing time because Lindor is more highly touted than Urshela and the guy he would be replacing is even less impressive than Chisenhall. However, he is yet another guy who has a below par average and with no significant power or speed there is a concern what he adds for fantasy owners. Worth a gamble in the 20th round range in keeper leagues but there probably isn’t much more value than that.
  • House: There is the possibility he could beat out Salazar in the spring and if not he could replace Floyd. There isn’t anything significant to chase in drafts because pitchers are a dime a dozen and this one doesn’t even have a sure fire job yet.

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