Fantasy Baseball Team Previews – Cleveland Indians

Corey Kluber

2015 was a relatively disappointing season for the Cleveland Indians considering they started the year in the reckoning for the division. In addition, they saw Brantley struggle through injuries before having to have offseason surgery, and their defense greatly let them down early in the year. However, there were positives in the emergence of two more superb pitchers in Carrasco and Salazar to combine with Kluber atop their rotation. They also got to have a good look at their exciting young shortstop who defied expectations.

They have had an interesting offseason where they haven’t really added a huge amount of note, but also haven’t lost a huge amount of note, either. The addition of Napoli as a first baseman has value in that it gets Santana out of the field whilst also giving them a veteran presence at first. Uribe’s recent signing gives them an upgrade over Urshela at third and the arrival or Rajai Davis gives them a speedy leadoff man who can play daily whilst Brantley is out before becoming a platoon option later in the season. On the outside of things there is nothing of note to report with Chris Johnson and Mike Aviles being the ‘key’ losses.

The Indians have some interesting pieces in their farm system, especially at outfield, and we could see a couple of them if they are in a position to compete this year and need outfield re-enforcements. With a superb top end of the rotation, two interesting pieces at the back end and some decent if not amazing talent in their starting line-up, the Indians could be an interesting team to watch this year who can challenge Kansas City for the top of the division.

AL East

AL Central AL West NL East NL Central NL West

Baltimore

Chicago WS Houston Atlanta Chicago

Arizona

Boston

Cleveland Los Angeles A Miami Cincinnati Colorado

New York Y

Detroit

Oakland New York M Milwaukee

Los Angeles D

Tampa Bay

Kansas City Texas Philadelphia Pittsburgh

San Diego

Toronto Minnesota Seattle Washington St. Louis

San Francisco

Projected Starting Line-up

  1. Rajai Davis
  2. Francisco Lindor
  3. Jason Kipnis
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Yan Gomes
  6. Mike Napoli
  7. Lonnie Chisenhall (vs RH), Joey Butler (vs LH)
  8. Juan Uribe
  9. Abraham Almonte

DL: Michael Brantley

Jason Kipnis, 2B

Has Jason Kipnis got what it takes to be the elite option he was a few years ago?

Has Jason Kipnis got what it takes to be the elite option he was a few years ago?

Kipnis had another head scratching year in 2015 hitting nine homers and stealing 12 bases whilst hitting a career high 0.303. Whilst it was an improvement in average and power from 2014, he had 10 less steals than the previous season and 18 less than in 2013. Enter 2015. It is hard to know exactly what to make of Kipnis. In terms of ratios, Kipnis hit for a similar power to 2013 just without the home runs, he had more doubles and triples last year than in 2013, so the hitting is there but the lack of steals is concerning. However, steals can rebound as so much of it is down to manager choice and game situation so it is hard to massively downgrade Kipnis because of that concern. I actually have Kipnis to get back up to around 20 steals whilst hitting eight homers and I have him projected at 0.275, so I may be a little conservative on the average. Interestingly Kipnis is projected to bat third in a decent Indians line-up so there is the potential for some decent run and RBI numbers.

Francisco Lindor, SS

Lindor was one of a number of rookies who broke out big time in 2015, hitting 12 homers and stealing 12 bases. Lindor’s numbers far outstripped the hitter he was in minors with more homers than he had hit in any other season and a batting average .030 higher than his average. It would be a mistake not to build some regression into Lindor’s power and batting average numbers, but to counter that I would expect his home run numbers to increase closer to 20. I have projected Lindor using a best case scenario and a regression to the mean scenario, and I have him coming out as my third overall and 8th overall SS in each scenario, respectively. Lindor is currently being drafted as the sixth hitter in the 76th overall pick range, which is about right. However, there are some guys I like lower down, Jhonny Peralta is my fifth projected SS in roto and can be got on average at pick 184.

Carlos Santana, 1B/DH

Santana is an interesting proposition who has name value from his time as a catcher but now has actually crept towards being undervalued in fantasy. His batting average and strikeouts are a big concern in both formats, but he is a legitimate 20-ish homer guy who can steal five-ish bases and bats in the middle of a decent line-up. I actually have Santana rated as my 15th first baseman in roto and 14th in points despite the strikeouts and batting average. Santana has even more value in an OBP league his walk rate saves his vcalue in points league despite the 120 ish strikeouts he can have in a season. I like Santana as a solid corner outfield option in roto leagues, and he is a nice fall back option in points league if you missed out at the high end.

Michael Brantley, OF

The big issue with Brantley enter 2016 is the injury question, when he will return and how he will feel when he returns. A fully healthy Brantley has 20/20 potential whilst hitting around or even better than 0.300. Batting in the middle of this line-up would also give him a decent shot at a combined 180 runs and RBI. However, it is beginning to look as though 100 games is his ceiling this year and that will be depressing value in draft. Currently going 29th among outfielders at pick 103 on average is good value in shallow leagues where you can draft decent covering options until he returns. Even in deeper leagues you can still get useful outfielders in the shape of Altherr, Martin and Rajai Davis among the 100th outfielders being taken in the 300+ picks range but the deeper the league the less inclined I would be to gamble on Brantley

Yan Gomes, C

Yan Gomes

Can Yan Gomes bounce back from an injury hit 2015?

Following a decent 2013 and a superb 2014, Gomes had a tough injury hit 2015 in which he had the worst year of his Cleveland career. However, with a full offseason Gomes should be back as close to full health as he can be entering the year so I expect his numbers to bounce back somewhat, even if they don’t get to the high of 2014. Gomes is currently going 192nd overall as the 11th catcher off the board where he is decent value for me if you didn’t jump in on Posey, Schwarber or Lucroy. If I miss out on those three, then Gomes is a guy I am targeting in the later rounds in a one catcher league.

Any Other Business?

  • Rajai Davis, OF: Comparatively I am insanely high on Davis because I look at this Indians outfield and don’t understand how he doesn’t see decent playing time even when Brantley returns. Davis is a legitimate 30 steal guy who can be got for virtually no cost with the potential to score a lot of runs as well atop this order.
  • Mike Napoli, 1B: I have Napoli projected as a potential 20 homer guy with a 0.240 average who should be among the 30th-35th best first baseman. This makes him viable as a corner infield/utility option in 16+ team leagues.
  • Abraham Almonte, OF: Almonte is one of the guys I see being in danger of losing playing time to Davis once Brantley returns. He does have 10/10 potential but his value is greatly depressed by being slated to bat 9th.
  • Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS: Ramirez is an interesting sleeper who has the potential to be extremely useful for fantasy. However, the signing of Uribe blocks a potential path to 3B and a lot of his value lays upon his SS eligibility. A name for the watch list.

Projected Rotation

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Danny Salazar
  4. Trevor Bauer
  5. Josh Tomlin

Corey Kluber

Kluber suffered quite heavily from poor defence in 2015 as demonstrated by having an ERA 0.5 higher than his FIP. His fantasy value was further damaged by losing 16 games and winning just 9 pitching in a Cleveland team who struggled last season. His WHIP, K per nine and hits per nine were equivalent to his Cy-Young award winning season. I expect Kluber to bounce back to have an ERA closer to his FIP in 2015 so whilst he probably won’t be at his 2014 best he will be a solid ace in all formats.

Carlos Carrasco

Carrasco had a monster 2015 and will be looking to back that up with another superb season

Carrasco had a monster 2015 and will be looking to back that up with another superb season

Carrasco followed up a really good 2014 with a fantastic 2015 in which he struck out over 10 batters per nine with an ERA of 3.63 and a 1.1 WHIP. Carrasco’s numbers could have been even better had it not been for the bad fielding from last year as he had a FIP of 2.84. I expect Carrasco to end the season fairly close to Kluber and if he can get over 200 innings he could be even greater come the end of the year.

Danny Salazar

Salazar makes it three potential aces in this Cleveland rotation, but he comes with just that little bit more risk than Kluber or Carrassco. Salazar was the only one of the three who out pitched his FIP in 2015 and that is why I think his potential is below Carrasco and Kluber who both could have had better years if they had got some more help. Salazar has another concern in the big jump from 110 to 185 innings between 2014 and 2015. Salazar is a good young pitcher with ace potential but there is enough risk to keep him around the 25th pitcher mark.

Trevor Bauer

Bauer is another superb young pitcher who can strike out close to a batter per innings but he has massive control issues which will push his WHIP up over 1.3 and ERA over four and close to the 4.25-4.35 range. Bauer will have patches where he pitches superbly and has an ERA in the threes but he will also have periods where his ERA is five-plus, so choosing the right games to use him is crucial in deeper leagues.

Josh Tomlin

Tomlin is coming off a 2015 in which he well out pitched expectations across his 65 innings. He will get the first crack at the fifth starter job, but as player who has had an ERA in the mid 4s previously it is hard to be excited about him especially now he is in 30’s. Definitely a guy to keep on the watch list to see how he starts.

Closer:

Cody Allen

One of the safer closing options for me with nobody of note breathing down his neck. However, among those safer options has among the worst projected ERA and WHIP so he is definitely closer to the 10th relief option. He is currently being drafted last of this group of 11 and then there is a relatively large drop off at the position for me after him so if I have missed out on the top 10 guys then I would be hoping to grab Allen.

Prospect Potential

  • Tyler Naquin, OF: Naquin will end being a better real life option than he will a fantasy option given his solid but unspectacular hitting and his superb fielding. Looking at this outfield entering 2016 it would only take a Brantley set back and I think we see Naquin. Chisenhall and Almonte don’t fill me with excitement and getting Naquin’s glove in the line-up wouldn’t cost them too much with the bat. Naquin has 5-10 power potential with 10-15 steals upside but that would require him to play every day. He is probably outside mixed league relevance but does have some deep AL-only relevance if he comes up
  • Bradley Zimmer, OF: 2017 strikes me as being more likely but if the Indians are in the hunt and the Almonte/Chisenhall/Davis combination isn’t getting it done then we could see the arrival of Zimmer earlier than expected. Zimmer has double digit homer potential with 25+ steals potential. If he gets the call then he is a decent bench option in deep mixed leagues who could end up seeing relevance in shallower leagues.

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