2021 Cleveland Indians
Cleveland finished with a winning record in each of the last eight seasons, leading to five trips to the postseason. After winning the AL Central from 2016 t0 2018, they played second fiddle to the Twins in 2019 and 2020. Their last World Series win came in 1948.
Last season they led the American League in ERA (3.29 – 2nd in the majors behind the Dodgers). Cleveland does have concerns with their offense after sliding to 24th in runs scored (248) and 26th in home runs (59).
With SS Francisco Lindor getting closer to a massive payday, Cleveland decided to trade him and SP Carlos Carrasco to the Mets for 2B Andres Gimenez, SS Amed Rosario, OF Isaiah Greene, and SP Josh Wolf. They also made a minor deal with Marlins to unload RP Adam Cimber. Cleveland didn’t re-sign Carlos Santana.
Both Gimenez and Rosario move into the starting lineup, but their offense looks to be in transition with only two anchor bats – 3B Jose Ramirez and DH Franmil Reyes.
Cleveland didn’t re-sign Carlos Santana. In late January, they added OF Edie Rosario and 2B Cesar Hernandez to help improve the direction of their offense.
The development of SP Zach Plesac, SP Aaron Civale, and SP Triston McKenzie gives Cleveland plenty of depth in the starting rotation behind their ace SP Shane Bieber.
Cleveland decided not to pick up RP Brad Hand’s option on his contract, leaving the ninth inning to the electric arm of RP James Karinchak.
Pitching will keep Cleveland in the hunt, but a deep postseason run will hinge on their offensive success.
1. 2B Cesar Hernandez
Last year Cleveland hit Hernandez first or second in the batting order for all of his at-bats except two.
His walk rate (9.2) has been an asset in five of his previous six seasons. He tends to be slightly better than the league average in his strikeout rate (21.8 – 19.1 in his career).
Hernandez posted his highest contact batting average (.375) over the past five seasons. His average hit rate (1.439) remains short while not supporting his uptick in power in 2018 (15 home runs) and 2019 (14 home runs).
He started his major league career with only 17 home runs and 122 RBI over his first 1,698 at-bats, with nine of those home runs coming in 2017.
Hernandez continues to have a low fly-bat rate (27.5), while his HR/FB rate (6.4) came in below his previous two years (10.2 and 9.5).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With only three home runs and no steals on his stats sheet in 2020 over 233 at-bats, Hernandez brings no excitement to a fantasy roster. Two years ago, he looked to have a 15/15 skill set. His speed is fading, and trust in his power is waning bases on his ground ball favoring swing path. At best, a bench option in deep leagues with an ADP of 400, but he may bat lead-off again this year.
2. OF Oscar Mercado
All the gains by Mercado after his 2019 success were given away quickly after he hit his way out of their starting lineup. Over his first 41 at-bats, Mercado only had five hits with no home runs or steals. He finished the year with minimal playing time (45 at-bats over seven weeks) and no spark in his swing.
Mercado ended up being a good waiver wire find for fantasy teams in 2019 after being called up on May 15th. His bat was quiet over his first 61 at-bats (.262 with one HR, four RBI, and two SBs). Over 23 games in June, he hit .347 with 15 runs, three home runs, 13 RBI, and four steals over 95 at-bats). He regressed on batting average (.227) over his next 184 at-bats while being serviceable in runs (26), home runs (6), RBI (19), and stolen bases (6).
Over seven seasons in the minors, Mercado hit .254 with 33 home runs, 218 RBI, and 210 steals over 2,403 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (17.4) was favorable in 2019, but he whiffed 29.0 percent of the time last season. Mercado also has a low walk rate (5.7), limiting his chance at batting leadoff.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His drawing card will be his upside in steals. Mercado should be much better than 2020 while being discounted in drafts due to his cloudiness with playing time. His combined stats between the minors and the majors in 2019 came to .275 with 94 runs, 19 home runs, 69 RBI, and 29 steals over 557 at-bats, which looks like a steal based on his early ADP (370). At the very least, Mercado has stash and cash value if he failed to win a full-time starting job out of spring training.
3. 3B Jose Ramirez
Ramirez finished as the third most valuable hitter in fantasy leagues in 2020 based on his SIscore (4.60). In 2018, he was the fourth-best hitter in the fantasy world.
His batting average (.292) had a correction last year thanks to a rebound in his contact batting average (.364 – .313 in 2018 and .301 in 2019). Ramirez continued his dominating way in his average hit rate (2.078), which is also helped by a high fly ball rate (51.1). His quest for power does lead to some easy outs. Ramirez finished with his highest HR/FB rate (18.9) of his career.
He tends to have a low strikeout rate (11.9 in his career), but it regressed in 2020 (16.9) while posting a high walk rate (12.2). Ramirez was dominant vs. left-handed pitching (.386 with eight home runs and 14 RBI over 57 at-bats).
Over the last four seasons for Cleveland, Ramirez hit .284 with 330 runs, 108 home runs, 317 RBI, and 85 steals over 1,864 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: When combining his approach to his overall production in five categories, Ramirez ranks near the top of the league. There is no doubt home runs are vital to him based on his changing swing path. When out of rhythm at the plate, he won’t hit for a high average when putting the ball in play. The overall cast around him in Cleveland looks better than early January. Ramirez has the 11th highest ADP in 2021. The edge here is steals at third base while being productive in the other four categories. Possible .300 batting average with a 100/30/100/20 skill set.
4. OF Eddie Rosario
Rosario developed into a middle-of-the-order bat over the past two seasons, highlighting his RBI rate (20 and 19).
Last year he was on pace for 84 runs, 35 home runs, and 113 RBI over 567 at-bats, which fell in line with his breakthrough season in 2019 (.276 with 91 runs, 32 home runs, and 109 RBI).
Rosario finished with the best walk rate (8.2) of his career while almost matching his growth in his strikeout rate (14.7) from last season.
His hard-hit rate (35.4) doesn’t separate him from the field. He has a rising fly-ball rate (46.6). Rosario posted almost the same HR/FB rate (15.9) as in 2017 (16.4) and 2019 (15.8).
Over his last four seasons, he hit .281 with 288 runs, 96 home runs, 306 RBI, and 23 stolen based over 1,873 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Rosario was an excellent signing by Cleveland. He protects Jose Ramirez while offering developing power and an improving approach. His ADP (106) is reasonable while trending toward 85 runs, 30+ home runs, and 90 RBI.
5. DH Franmil Reyes
Reyes ended up being a steady player in 2020 while never having a hot streak in power. His stats projected over 550 at-bats would come to 70 runs, 23 home runs, and 89 runs.
His average hit rate (1.638) came in well below his success in 2019 (2.057), but Reyes did produce a high contact batting average (.408). His strikeout rate (28.6) was better than the previous year (32.5) while remaining in a risky area.
Reyes didn’t have a home run off a left-handed pitcher (.261 with two RBI over 46 at-bats) compared to .280 in 2019 with seven home runs and 23 RBI over 125 at-bats.
Over his three seasons in the majors, he hit .263 with 132 runs, 62 home runs, and 146 RBI over 966 at-bats. Reyes did show growth with runners on base in 2020 (RBI rate – 17). His HR/FB rate was impressive in 2018 (29.6) and 2019 (31.1) despite having a low fly-ball rate (33.0) in his career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Reyes is a pure power hitter who only has a DH qualification this season. His bat will be streaky while taking on batting average risk until he shaves off some strikeouts. Next step: 40 home runs with 90+ RBI. Reyes has an ADP of 161 in the early draft season.
6. 1B Josh Naylor
The Padres only gave Naylor 36 at-bats (.278 with one home run and four RBI) over their first 36 games. Cleveland snatched him up at the trade deadline, but his bat failed to make an impact (.233 over 60 at-bats with no home runs and two RBI).
Naylor came to the majors via a first-round draft pick in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over five seasons in the minors by the age of 22, he hit .288 with 50 home runs, 271 RBI, and 27 stolen bases over 1,742 at-bats.
He showed growth in power in 2018 at AA (.297 with 17 home runs, 74 RBI, and five steals over 501 at-bats). His fast start at AAA in 2019 (.314 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI over 223 at-bats) led to his first experience in the majors.
His strikeout rate (14.4) was low in the minors, with a league average walk rate (8.4). Over his 383 plate appearances in the majors, Naylor posted a 19.8 percent strikeout rate and 7.8 percent walk rate.
Hidden in his 2020 stats were two great games in the postseason (5-for-7 with three runs, one home run, and three RBI).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Naylor almost looks like a layup in the early draft season based on his ADP (430). His future with Cleveland should be at first base. His foundation in approach and build point to a 30 home run hitter with help in batting average. I’m going to put him in the must-own category with eyes on 550 at-bats. Naylor will even chip in with some stolen bases. Over 56 at-bats in the majors against lefties, he hit .304 with one home run and seven RBI.
7. OF Daniel Johnson
Over four seasons in the minors, Johnson hit .284 with 235 runs, 49 home runs, 198 RBI, and 60 steals over 1,601 at-bats.
His bat showed growth in 2019 at AAA (.306 with 51 runs, nine home runs, 44 RBI, and six steals over 337 at-bats). Johnson has a low walk rate (6.6), while his strikeout rate (19.8) came in better than the league average.
When Cleveland needed another outfielder bat in 2020, they gave Johnson five games of action (1-for-12 with no production and five strikeouts).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Not a lot to get excited about as Johnson has been an older player at almost every level in his minor league career. At age 25, his window for a major league opportunity is closing fast. Johnson is more of a follow this March than a target in a fantasy draft. His lefty swing may lead to a potential platoon role.
8. C Roberto Perez
Coming into 2019, Perez hit .205 over his first 1,207 at-bats in the majors with 21 HRs and 99 RBI. He emerged as the top catching option for the Indians in 2019, which led to career-highs in at-bats (389), runs (46), hits (93), home runs (24), and RBI (63).
Three games in 2020, Perez was on the injured list for three weeks with a right shoulder injury that bothered him for the remainder of the season.
His contact batting average (.355) in 2019 was well above his previous three seasons (.257, .308, and .275), which is where it ended up in 2020 (.271). Perez had a high strikeout rate (28.9) while showing the ability to take a walk (10.8).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: 2020 was a lost season for Perez as his shoulder issue led to a sharp decline in his average hit rate (1.313). After seven seasons with Cleveland, he hit .212 with 46 home runs and 167 RBI over 1,304 at-bats. Only low-average power dart throw at C2 in deep leagues while being frustrating to watch when Perez is playing only three days a week.
9. SS Amed Rosario
After showing growth in 2019 (.287 with 75 runs, 15 home runs, 72 RBI, and 19 steals over 616 at-bats), Rosario ended up falling short of expectations last season. His path in runs (20), home runs (4), and RBI (15) gave him a chance to match his previous year’s stats with a full season of games, but he lost all value in the stolen base category while also fading in batting average.
His average hit rate (1.472) remains in any area where 15 home runs would be a challenge if he didn’t have 600 at-bats. Rosario went from the lowest strikeout rate (18.9) of his career in 2019 to 23.1 percent last year. His walk rate (4.3) suggests a bottom of the order opportunity when paired with his contact batting average (.330).
Rosario only hit .209 against right-handed pitching last season with three home runs and six RBI over 86 bat-bats. A big part of his failure was a massive jump in his ground ball rate (57.8), which has been high for his whole major league career (49.9). His HR/FB rate (13.8) did reach new heights.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Rosario can be a steady piece to a fantasy team if he regains his previous value in speed. His ADP (306) is much lower than his last two seasons while being the 29th shortstop option drafted in 12-team leagues in mid-February.
I don’t expect him to bat leadoff for Cleveland over the long haul, but Rosario will get his chances when playing well. I view him as a neutral player in four categories, while stolen bases should be an asset. A viable middle infielder option thanks to volume of at-bats while being discounted in drafts.
2B Andres Gimenez
Gimenez made the jump from AA to the majors in 2020. His best asset with the Mets was his stolen bases (8) while also producing a high run rate (58). He finished with a shallow walk rate (5.3) and a league-average strikeout rate (21.2).
Over four seasons in the minor, Gimenez hit .278 with 218 runs, 22 home runs, 152 RBI, and 93 steals over 1,438 at-bats. Even with success in stolen bases, he was caught 31.1 percent of the time. His average hit rate (1.516) remains in a weak area, but it will improve once he fills out.
In his first season at rookie ball, Gimenez finished with more walks (46) than strikeouts (22) over 214 at-bats. His defense grades well, which will earn him the starting shortstop job for Cleveland early in his career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The addition of Cesar Hernandez is a significant problem for Gimenez to secure a full-time start job with Cleveland. I don’t expect him to add value to any category other than steals.
His approach isn’t high enough at this point of his career to command a higher slot in the batting order. On the positive side, Cleveland lacks the right skill sets on the roster to hit first and second, giving Gimenez a window to shine if he’s playing well.
With the right fantasy team structure, his 10 home runs and 25 steals may be enough to help win some leagues based on his lower ADP (179).
OF Jake Bauers
Bauers failed to make the major league roster in 2020 with Cleveland, leading to a season with no playing time.
After two seasons in the majors, Bauers only .214 over 695 at-bats with 23 home runs, 91 RBI, and nine steals. He’ll take his share of walks (12.2 percent), but strikeouts (27.0 percent) remain a problem.
Bauers didn’t make an impact in any month in 2019 with struggles against both right-handed (.224) and left-handed (.231) pitching.
Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .275 with 352 runs, 55 home runs, 343 RBI, and 63 stolen bases over 2,308 at-bats with steady production over 772 at-bats at AAA (.266 with 123 runs, 21 HRs, 102 RBI, and 38 SBs).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Bauers has a lot of work to earn a starting job in the majors. Only a player to follow this spring if the reports point to him finding a job in Cleveland.
C Austin Hedges
Hedges hit .204 over the last four seasons with 46 home runs, 134 RBI, and nine steals over 1,071 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (27.7 in 2020 and 28.8 in his career) is much too high while offering a below-par walk rate (7.2 in 2020 and 6.3 in his career).
Hedges was a disaster over the last two seasons (.171 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI over 381 at-bats while striking out 132 times).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Hedges hasn’t been good of late, but he still has the tools to outhit Robert Perez for the starting catching job in Cleveland. Only a low-average power hitter with a questionable role in 2021.
OF Bradley Zimmer
Zimmer brings an interesting combination of power and speed. In 2015 at between High A and AA, he stole 44 bags over 473 at-bats while adding 16 home runs. Zimmer hit .271 over six seasons in the minors with 46 home runs, 179 RBI, and 109 stolen bases over 1,319 at-bats.
In 2019, he only had 56 at-bats between AAA and the majors due to his recovery from a left shoulder injury that required surgery in July of 2018. Last year an oblique issue led to only 37 at-bats with Cleveland (.162 with one home run and three RBI).
His swing for the fence type of approach led to a high strikeout rate (26.0) in the minors, with much more failure in the majors (32.2).
Over 455 at-bats with the Indians, Zimmer hit .224 with 11 home runs, 51 RBI, and 24 steals.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His first step is staying healthy. If Zimmer makes the opening day lineup, he needs to make better contact while only offering a platoon role. For now, only a waiver-wire option in deep leagues.
OF Jordan Luplow
Luplow played well over three seasons at AAA (.301 over 519 at-bats with 82 runs, 17 home runs, 75 RBI, and 13 stolen bases). Over this stretch, he posted a favorable strikeout rate (19.1) and walk rate (10.9) while not being far off his 2019 season in the majors (strikeout rate – 23.4 and walk rate – 12.6).
His bat was more than serviceable with the Indians in 2019 (.276 with 15 home runs and 38 RBI over 225 at-bats) while doing more of his damage vs. left-handed pitching (.320 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI over 128 at-bats). His average hit rate (2.000) and contact batting average (.378) had strength in 2019.
2020 was a lost season due to an early August hamstring issue and a back injury in September.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Luplow is almost a lock to start against lefties with enough upside to secure playing time against right-handed pitching. Bench flier only with matchup value.
Bobby Bradley (1B): Bradley is getting close to the majors. Over six years in the minors, he hit .254 with 147 home runs, 490 RBI, and 13 stolen bases over 2,401 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (28.2) is high while showing the ability to take walks (11.1 percent). Over the last two seasons at AAA, Bradley hit .262 with 36 home runs and 93 RBI over 516 at-bats, but he did strike out 196 times (33.7 percent).
Cleveland gave him 45 at-bats in 2020, leading to a .178 batting average with one home run, four RBI, and 20 strikeouts.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Bradley has a swing and miss bat with plenty of power if he finds his stride at some point in 2021. His 40.8 percent strikeout rate with Cleveland suggests he needs more time to develop.
1. SP Shane Bieber
Over his three seasons with Cleveland, Bieber went 34-14 with a 3.32 ERA and 499 strikeouts over 406.1 innings. His ability to throw strikes separates him from the field.
Last year he led the American League in wins (8), ERA (1.63), and strikeouts (122). His strikeout rate (14.2) was well above his first two years (9.3 and 10.9) despite regression in his walk rate (2.4 – 1.7 in 2019). Bieber was extremely tough to hit (.167 BAA) while cleaning up his previous struggles with home runs allowed.
His AFB (94.4) was the highest of his career. He earned his success with three plus pitches (curveball – .106 BAA, slider – .128 BAA, and changeup – .063 BAA) while battling his cutter (.317 BAA).
In his minor league career, Bieber only walked 19 batters over 277 innings (0.6 per nine), which highlights his command.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Bieber was the most valuable pitcher to fantasy teams in 2020 with a SIscore of 4.47. Fantasy owners have him priced as the third-best arm this draft season with an ADP (9). His drawing card is his edge in WHIP, while his strike-throwing allows him to pitch deep in games earning valuable wins and strikeouts. Bieber has a chance at 18+ wins with a sub 2.50 ERA and 275 strikeouts.
2. SP Zach Plesac
Plesac figured out how to throw strikes over his eight starts (six over 55.1 innings), which led to an impressive season (4-2 with a 2.28 ERA and 57 strikeouts). He shaved 2.1 walks per nine off his rookie season, leading to a jump in his strikeout rate (9.3). His only blemish was eight home runs allowed.
After three great starts (three runs and 14 baserunners over 21 innings with 24 strikeouts), Plesac missed 23 days of the season due to disrespecting the team’s Covid protocols.
His AFB (93.0) was 1.1 MPH lower than 2019 (94.1). Plesac dominated with his slider (.067 BAA) and changeup (.164 BAA), but batters could hit his four-seam fastball (.326 BAA with five home runs allowed over 89 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With a full season of starts, Plesac will give back some of his command improvement. His minor league resume (16-10 with a 3.02 ERA and 247 strikeouts over 259.1 innings) supports part of his growth. He is almost back-drafting Shane Bieber, up the pitcher rankings. His ADP (70) is based on a short sample size. My starting point is 13 wins with a 3.25 ERA and 175 strikeouts. I expect his WHIP to land in a favorable area.
3. SP Aaron Civale
Civale appeared to a great find for fantasy owners last year over his first six starts (3-3 with a 3.15 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 40 innings), but batters ran over him in four of his final six starts (6.62 ERA, .324 BAA, and six home runs allowed over 34 innings). He allowed the most hits (82) in the American League.
The combination of his walk rate (1.9) and strikeout rate (8.4) painted a better picture. Civale lost his way against right-handed batters (.333 with eight home runs allowed over 144 at-bats).
His AFB (91.5) is below the league average. Civale only had success with his changeup (.105 BAA).
Over his four seasons in the minors, he went 25-16 with a 3.12 ERA and 317 strikeouts over 381.1 innings. Civale walked only 1.4 batters per nine innings.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Another strike-thrower with the resume to support a sub 3.50 ERA with Cleveland. His secondary pitches aren’t quite there yet, but Civale did throw the ball well enough over his first 24 starts in the majors (3.69 ERA) to expect a rebound in 2021. His mid-February ADP (194) isn’t a layup.
4. SP Triston McKenzie
The Indians drafted McKenzie in the first round (42nd pick) in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. Cleveland gave him a full workload at High A in 2017, and he responded with an excellent season (12-6 with a 3.46 ERA and 186 strikeouts over 143 innings).
In 2018, he started the year on the minor league injured list with a right forearm injury. His first appearance at AA came in early June with no further setback over the next two months. He finished the year with a 7-4 record with a 2.68 ERA and 87 strikeouts over 90.2 innings. Over his last 11 starts, McKenzie posted a 2.09 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 64.2 innings.
Unfortunately, he missed all of 2019 with an upper back injury.
Over four seasons in the minors, McKenzie went 26-16 with a 2.68 ERA and 394 strikeouts over 329 innings. In 2018, his strikeout rate (8.6) at AA didn’t match his previous success (10.8).
When Cleveland needed a spot starter in late August, McKenzie responded with an electric showing (one run over six innings with 10 strikeouts). Over his eight appearances, he finished with one poor game (five runs and three home runs allowed over 4.1 innings). His season ended with four shutout innings with six strikeouts in relief.
His AFB (93.1) had inconsistent velocity from game to game, but his four-seam fastball (.203 BAA) was tough to hit. McKenzie showcased a plus slider (.107 BAA) and curveball (.077 BAA) while his changeup (.286 BAA) needed work.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: There’s a fun ride here with more upside once McKenzie adds more bulk. His ceiling should be higher than Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale, but Cleveland won’t push him too hard in 2021 with only 33.1 innings on his arm since 2018. Let’s set the bar at 125 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 140 strikeouts. McKenzie has an ADP of 192in 12-team leagues.
5. SP Cal Quantrill
Cleveland picked up Quantrill at the trade deadline last season in the deal for Mike Clevinger. Over 18 appearances in the majors, he went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 32 innings.
In 2019, his arm was a liability over his 103 innings with the Padres (5.16 ERA and 89 strikeouts). Quantrill also struggled over his four seasons in the minors (20-23 with a 4.46 ERA and 312 strikeouts over 336.2 innings). Despite his failure, he did have a good ratio in strikeouts to walks (8.3:2.8).
His AFB (95.6) should be an asset, but his slider (.289 BAA) invited failure in the majors. Quantrill did have success with his low volume changeup (.231 BAA).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Quantrill has an inning eater feel. His resume in both the minors and majors points to a bullpen role where he had the most success in 2020. Easy to dismiss while sharp fantasy owners will keep an open eye to his spring training and progress.
SP Logan Allen
Over his first four seasons in the minors, Allen went 24-20 with a 2.75 ERA and 378 strikeouts over 360.1 innings. In 2019, he struggled over his first five starts at AAA (8.15 ERA). Over his next five games in May, Allen allowed two runs over 25 innings with 30 strikeouts.
The Padres called him up on June 18th, which led to two good games (two runs over 13 innings with 10 Ks). Allen pitched his way to the bullpen in San Diego in July (12.41), followed by a trade to the Indians.
In the end, he had a disaster ERA in the majors (6.18) and the minors (5.85). Cleveland gave him three relief appearances in 2020, with most of the damage coming on August 23rd (three runs and nine baserunners over 4.2 innings with two strikeouts).
His strikeout rate (9.4) had strength in the minors with some work to do with his walk rate (3.1). Both of these stats were ugly so far in majors (5.6 and 4.7). His average fastball came in at 94.4 MPH in 2020 with tossing a slider, changeup, and curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: There is a better arm than he showed in 2019 and in his short major league career, but Allen needs to rebuild his momentum before being considered for a starting job with Cleveland.
SP Ethan Hankins
Cleveland drafted Hankins 35th overall in the 2018 June Amateur Draft out of high school. His price point was discounted due to a right shoulder injury. Over 16 appearances over two seasons in the minors, he had a 2.71 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 63 innings. His walk rate (4.3) needs more work while showcasing upside in strikeouts (11.0 per nine).
Hankins has a mid-90s fastball with more upside as he develops. Both his curveball and changeup have a chance to edge pitches.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season, Hankins will resume his development at AA. His next step is building up his arm strength to handle a full season of starts down the road in the majors. He looks to at least one more year away from Cleveland.
CL James Karinchak
With Brad Hand no longer on Cleveland’s roster, Karinchak has an exciting path to the 9th inning in 2021. Last he posted an electric strikeout rate (17.7) while being extremely tough to hit (.159 BAA). His one weakness was a high walk rate (5.3).
Karinchak averaged 95.8 MPH with his fastball. Both his four-seam fastball (.214 BAA) and curveball (.143 BAA) created a winning edge.
He also posted a tremendous walk rate (5.5) in the minors, but batters have struggled to hit him over the previous two years (.177 and .150).
In 2019 between AA and AAA, he struck out 22 batters per nine innings.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The wise guys in the high-stakes market will be eyeballing Karinchak before the live events in Las Vegas. His ADP (98) looks favorable in mid-February as the sixth reliever drafted. With a full season in the ninth inning, he has the tools to be the top closer in baseball with 40+ saves and a run at 125 strikeouts. No need to finesse here; draft him as the first closer off the board in 2021.
RP Emmanuel Clase
After struggling early in his minor league career as a semi starter in the Padres system, Clase looked sharp in 2018 at Low A for the Rangers in the bullpen (0.64 ERA, 27 strikeouts, and 12 saves over 28.1 innings).
In 2019, he made the jump from AA (3.35 ERA, 39 strikeouts, and 11 saves over 37.2 innings) to the majors with success. In Texas, Clase finished with a 2.32 ERA over 23.1 innings with 21 strikeouts, and one save.
His walk rate (2.3) has been much better as a reliever (4.2 with the Padres). He pitched well against righties (.233 BAA) and lefties (.227 BAA).
His AFB (99.4) is one of the best in the game, which he threw about 79 percent of the time in 2019. Batters did have a tough time vs. his slider (.231 BAA).
Clase missed all of 2020 after failing a PED test.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: More of a one-trick pony while needing to improve his command in and out of the strike zone. Once Clase figures out how to get ahead more in the count and gain trust in his slider, he’ll be tougher to hit, which will lead to a much higher strikeout rate. Closer in waiting with a bench-warming ADP (468).
RP Nick Wittgren
Over his two seasons with Cleveland, Wittgren went 7-1 with a 2.99 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and four saves. His upside in success came from a higher strikeout rate (9.7) while maintaining his command (2.3 walks per nine).
Wittgren had more value against lefties (.178 with one home run over 45 at-bats). His AFB (93.2) is league average, but batters only hit .140 vs. his four-seam fastball. His changeup (.179 BAA) has become a plus pitch.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Wittgren is an improving setup man with a minimal chance of ever earning a closing job. Over his five seasons in the majors, he went 16-6 with a 3.36 ERA and 204 strikeouts over 209 innings.
2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks