The Indians recently surprised everyone by releasing Chris Perez, who served as the team’s closer for the past 4 seasons. The closer role is one area the team will need to address this offseason, whether through promoting an in-house candidate or signing a free-agent acquisition. The starting lineup should be close to set, barring a trade or major free agent signing. Scott Kazmir is a free agent and Ubaldo Jimenez declined his team option in order to test the free agent waters this offseason, creating a need in the rotation. The ball club will look to take another step forward in 2014 after a nice showing in 2013 by earning a wild-card game birth. The Indians are a team you don’t want to sleep on in your fantasy draft next year. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Cleveland Indians top 5 fantasy options for 2014.
1. 2B-Jason Kipnis
The 26 year-old 2B has been remarkably consistent over his first 2 full seasons in the majors. The main difference was his improved batting average, which he raised from .257 in 2012, to .284 in 2013. Kipnis steals bases, hits a handful of homeruns, produces nice totals in RBI’s and R’s, and does all of that from a premium position. The 2B position is getting older with Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, and Chase Utley all closing in on their inevitable declines. In yearly leagues, the only 2B I’m drafting before Kipnis is Robinson Cano. And in keeper leagues, Kipnis is my #1 2B target for the future. If you are looking to draft upside at 2B, look no further than Jason Kipnis.
2014 Projection = 576 AB, .285 BA, 18 HR, 85 RBI, 88 R, 30 SB.
2. C/1B-Carlos Santana
Santana played in a total of 154 games last year. Only 84 of those games were spent playing catcher, as he also spent chunks of time at 1B and DH. Fantasy owners love a player that qualifies at catcher and is capable of contributing to their team almost every day. Santana has raised his BA from .239 in 2011, to .252 in 2012, to .268 in 2013. His best power output was back in 2011 with 27 HR’s, but he got back to 20 HR’s again last season. If Santana continues to improve his BA and he gets back to the power he is capable of producing, 2014 might be this young catcher’s break-out year.
2014 Projection = 529 AB, .269 BA, 23 HR, 84 RBI, 76 R, 3 SB.
3. SS-Asdrubal Cabrera
After constantly hitting in the .270’s each of the previous 3 seasons, Cabrera’s BA dropped to .242 in 2013. Cabrera maintained his usual consistency during away games, hitting .276 on the road, but had trouble finding his stroke during home games, hitting just .209 at Progressive Field. His counting stats in 2013 were almost directly in line with the numbers he produced in 2012. Cabrera’s breakout 2011 season is starting to look more like the exception than the rule. Expect Cabrera to get his batting average back closer to the .270 that we have become accustom to, but it might be wishful thinking to expect him to return back to his 2011 power output.
2014 Projection = 552 AB, .268 BA, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 72 R, 9 SB.
4. SP-Justin Masterson
Masterson has spent the past 4 seasons developing into the Indians staff ace. You can add a few extra dollars to his value in innings cap leagues, thanks to a strikeout rate of 9.09 K’s/per 9 IP in 2013. Masterson was put on the shelf and missed a few starts with an oblique injury towards the end of the year. When he returned, he pitched out of the bullpen. There is talk that Cleveland could use him to fill to closer role next season. I believe it is more likely that Masterson will make his way back into the rotation, but a closer with SP eligibility can be a very valuable commodity.
2014 Projection = 195 IP, 13 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 186 K.
5. OF-Michael Bourn
After stealing at least 40 bases each of the previous 5 years, Bourn accumulated only 23 SB’s in 2013. Base stealers usually start to lose their value as they get older, but this seemed to happen way too quickly for the 31 year-old. Bourn sat out 32 games over the course of the 2013 season with nagging injuries. It seemed as though Bourn’s injuries sapped his SB total and kept him from producing the numbers we have come to expect from the speedy outfielder. Expect a healthy Bourn to put up a stat line somewhere in between his 2012 and 2013 outputs next year.
2014 Projection = 585 AB, .270 BA, 5 HR, 50 RBI, 86 R, 32 SB.
*Honorable Mention: SS-Francisco Lindor
The Indians middle infield already boasts Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, so there isn’t room for Lindor to join the team immediately. But if he starts off well in Triple-A, and an injury or trade opens up a spot in the infield for the young prospect, he could become a valuable SB contributor from the SS position that lacks a lot of quality options at this point.
What do you think? Is everyone above listed in the correct order of fantasy value?
Did Nick Swisher, Corey Kluber, or Danny Salazar deserve mention?
What would your Top 5 Indians Fantasy List look like?
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