All the little kids with the crimson lips say "Cleveland's Average. Cleveland's Average."
The Indians always seem like the team with a wealth of young major league talent, but they just can't break through and now they're left with a team that would be a surprise contender even in the AL Central. Twins? Doubtful. Royals? Interesting. White Sox? No. Tigers? They'll definitely win the Central. And the Indians?
The Indians are going to win some games because they're not untalented, they're just not that talented. In terms of fantasy though, they've got two of the hardest positions filled and that can't be ignored. Let's take a look.
Best Hitter: Asdrubal Cabrera
In the first four years of his career, Cabrera hit .284/.347/.394 with 18 TOTAL home runs. Last season he hit .273/.332/.460 with 25 home runs, 92 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He finished tied for fourth among SS in wOBA at .345 which puts him at the top of the 2nd tier of SS if not pushing Jose Reyes for 2nd overall because of HR, RBI.
Cabrera wins this battle over Carlos Santana solely because of position. How does Santana rank among catchers?
Obviously Carlos is an upper tier catcher with all the potential to be #1 but you can find similar production with Alex Avila, Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters, Brian McCann, and he finished tied in wOBA with even Yadier Molina because of Santana's .239 average.
You just can't find many SS with 20-HR power.
Best Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez
Forgive me if I'm going with name recognition or if I just am not ready to buy into Justin Masterson but I feel my gut telling me that Jimenez will return to his old self.
How does a pitcher just all of a sudden lost 3 MPH off of his fastball? My guess is that when Jimenez says he was dealing with injuries, he was dealing with injuries. And if he's saying now that he feels like his old self, I'll take a chance and trust him. Even when Jimenez wasn't good last year, he was still okay.
Overall, he posted a 3.67 FIP and 3.71 xFIP. His transition to the AL from the NL should balance out going from Coors to Jacobs. I am more confident in that than I am in Masterson, who sort of came out of nowhere to post career-best numbers and was luckier than Jimenez in the HR and LOB% department.
Somewhere in Jimenez there's a 95-96 MPH fastball. Masterson doesn't possess that. I'll take a chance because it's close enough to make a gut decision.
Potential Breakout: Jason Kipnis, 2B
Forgive me for not remembering the source, but a legitimate baseball writer tweeted someone saying "He's like a cross between Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia." Uhhh.. forgive me for not quite buying that, but Kipnis can be pretty good.
In AAA last season, he hit .280/.362/.484 with 12 HR/12 SB in 92 games. In 36 major league games, he hit .272/.333/.507 with 7 HR, 19 RBI and 5 SB. There was a lot of debate about Kipnis or Dustin Ackley over at MinorLeagueBall (guess which side I was on) though they're quite different at the plate.
For instance, Ackley wouldn't strike out 20% of the time and walk 8% of the time, which is how Kipnis profiles. He's got good power (15-20 HR) and speed (10-20 SB) and this year he could be in the discussion for a top 10 2B, if not higher.
Fellow infielder Lonnie Chisenhall struggled in his debut: 66 games, 3.6% walks, 22% strikeouts, .255/.284/.415, 7 HR, 22 RBI. Even as a third baseman, he'll have to do better than that to be on a fantasy roster. He could still hit 20+ homers though.
Adding a Sleeper Tag: Derek Lowe posted a 5.05 ERA last season, but had a 3.70 FIP and 3.65 xFIP.
Potential Disappointment: Chris Perez, CL
He saved 36 games last year on a 3.32 ERA but with a 39:26 K:BB ratio in 59.2 innings?? As Robert mentioned earlier.... Vinnie Pestano. 84 strikeouts in 62 innings.
Prospect Watch: Per BA
What was once a strength or at least a sign of hope is now without Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. There is some interest left however.
I won't talk about Lindor, the 8th overall pick, because he has 5 minor league games and is 18. Let's see how this season plays out. Same with Dillon Howard (2nd round, 0 minor league experience, 19)
Hagadone was acquired in the Victor Martinez deal, is 26, and is trying to win a spot in the bullpen. That's a bad sign for your #3 prospect. Hagadone struck out 77 in 71 minor league innings this year, but is not even the favorite to win the last bullpen spot.
Chen Lee might be better: He's 25 and struck out 99 in 71.1 minor league innings with 53 hits allowed and 23 walks. Still... a relief prospect!
McCalister, 24, showed excellent conttrol in AAA last year, posting 7.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 154.2 innings. He made four un-successful starts with the Indians however. Acquired for Austin Kearns, it's a no risk situation if he doesn't pan out.
Basically, the Indians have a very thin system. They either have guys like Lindor that are years away or they have major league ready pitchers that will have very little impact. Look around the roster and what do I see? Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Casey Kotchman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Perez, and Derek Lowe should all be trade candidates to help upgrade a very un-promising farm system.