"This guy here's dead!"
Sorry, but if you thought I was going to start an Indians preview with anything other than my favorite line from
The story of Cleveland's offseason was the three-team trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland to Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer from Arizona to Cleveland. Arizona soured on him quickly, but Bauer is only 22 years old and was ranked the No. 9 prospect by Baseball America at the start of last season. If he can start to fulfill some of that promise this year, the Indians might field a decent rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez may never be what he was in Colorado, but the Indians are only asking him to be their No. 3 starter. With Justin Masterson at the top of the rotation and Brett Myers slotting fourth, it could be worse.
1. Michael Brantley, LF 2. Jason Kipnis, 2B 3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS 4. Carlos Santana, C 5. Nick Swisher, RF 6. Mark Reynolds, 1B 7. Mike Aviles, DH 8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B 9. Drew Stubbs, CF
1. Justin Masterson 2. Trevor Bauer 3. Ubaldo Jimenez 4. Brett Myers 5. Zach McAllister
The biggest difference: The diet of pitches Santana saw. Pitchers threw him fewer fastballs and increased the number of curveballs, changeups and split-finger fastballs with Santana at the plate. Most of his peripheral stats stayed in line, but his HR/FB ratio fell off a cliff, dropping all the way to 11.5 percent from 16 percent. While pitchers will likely keep feeding him off-speed stuff, that dramatic of a dive in HR/FB ratio feels fluky. This is Santana's age-27 season, so he should just be entering his prime. Given that he has strong on-base skills, he remains one of the better fantasy catchers. However, for the first time in a long time there's some depth in the catcher pool. I like Santana, but I can't rank him any higher than eighth on my board.
In 82 innings last year with Triple-A Reno of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Bauer went 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 97 strikeouts. The 35 walks were a bit high, but the ability to miss bats with that sort of consistency at that young of an age portends good things in his future. Moreover, Cleveland will be the best environment in which he has pitched in his entire professional career. He's a four-pitch pitcher, substituting a split-finger for the slider, though he will dabble with the latter on occasion. There will be growing pains, but there will also be some serous highlights. Make sure Bauer is on your board.
In the second half, all of Kipnis' peripheral stats went in the wrong direction. His line-drive rate fell two percentage points. His ground-ball rate jumped seven percentage points, pushing him north of 50 percent. His infield fly ball rate doubled. All these suggest a young player getting tired during his first taste of the major league grind. Now pushing up against the start of his prime, it would be a huge surprise if Kipnis wasn't better suited to handle the rigors of a 162-game season this year. I think a 20/30 season is in the offing, and I would not be shocked to see Kipnis finish the year ranked higher than Dustin Pedroia.
AL-only players to know