Ranking the 2013 Cleveland Indians’ Roster
12 New Players Make The First Rankings of 2013 Much Stronger Than Last Year
By Jim Piascik
April 1, 2013
Now that the baseball season is upon us, it is time once again to undertake the task of ranking the Cleveland Indians' 25-man roster. Just like last year, I will do this five times throughout the season, revisiting the rankings to see who has risen, who has fallen, and what new players are crashing the party.
This year's roster is particularly interesting after an offseason spending spree orchestrated by general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona overhauled the roster. Of the 26 players ranked here, 12 were not on the team last season. Nearly half of the team changed, and the changes have left the team looking at contending in 2013.
Before we start the rankings, one little sidenote: I typically only rank players on the 25-man roster, but with the roster shenanigans involving Carlos Carrasco's suspension and Jason Giambi's DL stint, I am leaving Carrasco unranked. Just in case you were wondering.
#26 Jason Giambi, DH (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 59 G, 125 PA, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB, .208/.323/.358 line, -0.4 WAR
No one can argue that Giambi is not the player he used to be. At 42 years old, he skills are diminished and he is here more as a player-coach.
Now, I have no doubt that Giambi will be helping the young players on this team and will raise the level of play in Cleveland this season. The problem is there is no easy way to measure that effect.
So feel free to bump Giambi out of last place if you feel so inclined; his veteran presence is likely worth it. But whenever Giambi's actually in the lineup, I wouldn't expect much.
#25 Rich Hill, LHP (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 31 G, 27.1 IP, 9.56 SO/9, 3.96 BB/9, 3.96 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 0.2 WAR
On rate stats alone, Hill is a very effective reliever and a great member of a bullpen. Of course, that would be ignoring his lengthy injury history. Due to a shoulder procedure in 2009 and Tommy John surgery in 2011, Hill has only thrown 31.2 innings at the major league level over the last three seasons, hardly making him a reliable bet to stay on the mound in 2013.
Still, Hill is an effective reliever when he is pitching and has value. Cleveland is flush with right-handed bullpen depth, but the left side is lacking a bit. Hill will have use for Terry Francona and will move up these rankings if he stays healthy.
#24 Ryan Raburn, UTIL (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 105 G, 361 PA, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB, .232/.286/.389 line, 0.2 WAR
As I have said before, the addition of Raburn used to be one of the bigger moves of a Cleveland offseason. Signing a rebound candidate (because, really, how could it get worse than the .171/.226/.254 line and -1.5 fWAR Raburn posted in 2012) cheaply and hoping for the best works, but not as the linchpin of an offseason plan.
Luckily, as you all know by now, Raburn is not the big addition to the team. Instead, the front office signed Raburn to come off the bench and spell multiple positions. He's nothing special, but provided Raburn bounces back to his 2009-2011 form, he will be a useful piece to have filling in every once and awhile.
#23 Bryan Shaw, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 72 G, 68.1 IP, 6.72 SO/9, 3.29 BB/9, 4.22 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 0.1 WAR
It is not exactly clear how the 25-man roster will work once Giambi is eligible to come off of the DL. One of the members of the eight-man bullpen will probably head down to Columbus and Shaw is a leading candidate, as he still has options.
It certainly is not that Shaw is a bad pitcher. He was drafted in the second round of the 2008 Draft, was ranked in Arizona's Top 30 by Baseball America in 2011, and has found success at the major league level (3.18 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 0.6 fWAR in 87.2 career innings). Shaw may bounce between Columbus and Cleveland a bit this year, but he should be a decent reliever for the team and was a great secondary addition in the Shin-Soo Choo trade.
#22 Matt Albers, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 60 G, 63.0 IP, 7.57 SO/9, 3.71 BB/9, 4.29 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Just like Shaw, Albers is a low-key part of the Shin-Soo Choo deal that could pay great dividends later. As you can tell by his (and Shaw's) projected stat line, Albers likely will not repeat his 2.39 ERA from 2012 and is not an elite reliever by any means. Albers is, however, a perfectly good pitcher who adds depth to an already deep right-handed relief corps.
Bullpens are flammable and it is always good to have multiple options. Cleveland has done a great job of doing that and Albers is a key part of the depth that should get the team through the season.
#21 Scott Kazmir, LHP (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 11 GS, 55.2 IP, 5.98 SO/9, 5.01 BB/9, 5.98 ERA, 5.74 FIP, -0.3 WAR
Now, those projections are simply nasty, but you have to bear in mind that they are heavily influenced by the last time Kazmir pitched in the major leagues. You know, that 6.17 ERA and -1.3 fWAR he put up in 151.2 innings between 2010-2011.
Kazmir very well could pitch like that again. There is a chance, though, that he has found a way to regain some of the form that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball in the mid-2000s. If Kazmir can be an effective fifth starter for Cleveland, that will be an unqualified success. I need to see it in major league games before I move him up these rankings, however.
#20 Lou Marson, C (End of 2012 Rank: 14)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 94 G, 331 PA, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 6 SB, .225/.317/.308 line, 0.7 WAR
Marson is what he is at this point: a serviceable backup catcher without much upside. He does not hit very well, he is atrocious against right-handed pitching (.197/.286/.266 line in 576 plate appearances), and he rates out poorly in pitch-framing research.
The writing seems to be on the wall for Marson. Yan Gomes is the heir apparent to the backup catching role in 2014 and he was sent down to Columbus to refine his defense behind the plate. Marson will hold the job for now, but he is very unlikely to hold onto his roster spot past this season.
#19 Nick Hagadone, LHP (End of 2012 Rank: 36)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 42 G, 49.3 IP, 8.03 SO/9, 3.83 BB/9, 4.56 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 0.0 WAR
I am going to move past Hagadone's blowup last season. Everyone remembers it, he does too, and hopefully it was a painful lesson learned and won't be repeated.
As for Hagadone when he's actually on the mound, Cleveland might not have a pitcher with a better fastball in the entire system. He throws it hard and pairs it with a slider that can make hitters look silly.
The projection does not have much faith in Hagadone, but I do. I think that Hagadone could establish himself as a very good back-end guy in 2013 and someone who can be trusted in the late innings. He still needs to work on control (both of his pitches and temperament), but if he conquers that, the rest of the league will be on notice.
#18 Brett Myers, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 28 GS, 178.0 IP, 6.17 SO/9, 2.22 BB/9, 4.25 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 2.3 WAR
Myers will likely not impress fans, but he should give Cleveland's rotation something they sorely need in 2013: an innings eater. Before he was converted to a closer last season by the Astros, Myers routinely threw 190 innings and could be relied on to take the ball every fifth day.
So why not rank him higher? Well, the questions surrounding Myers are pretty serious. Most pitchers see their results spike when moved to the bullpen, but Myers' strikeout rate fell fairly sharply (6.67 SO/9 to 5.65 SO/9). Myers was never much of a strikeout pitcher anyway, but he will need some if he wants to throw effective innings in 2013.
#17 Drew Stubbs, OF (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 146 G, 603 PA, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 33 SB, .220/.292/.344 line, 1.2 WAR
Stubbs was certainly miscast as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter last season, as he really struggled to get on base on a consistent basis (.277 OBP). He will not be looked upon to do that for Cleveland, however, as Francona will be hitting him in the last spot in the order.
In that role -- that of second leadoff hitter -- Stubbs may flourish. There will not be many expectations on him and he may be able to let his natural talent shine through. Stubbs can run and hit for power, and if he lets things come to him in 2013, he could see a return to the form that made him a first round pick in 2006 and a top 100 Baseball America prospect in 2007 and 2008.
#16 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 19)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 30 GS, 181.1 IP, 8.09 SO/9, 4.22 BB/9, 4.37 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 2.3 WAR
Does anyone know what to expect out of Jimenez? If you came back from the future to tell me about his 2013 season, I would probably believe anything you said.
Jimenez imploded, posted a 8.00 ERA in his first 10 starts and was cut? Sounds reasonable.
Jimenez finally regained his form, posted a 3.00 ERA, won a Cy Young, and started Game 1 of the World Series? Believable.
We are very close to seeing Jimenez in game action, which will give us real results to judge him in 2013. Until then? I have absolutely no idea what to expect. He probably becomes a decent #3/#4 innings eater, but the variance in what he could do this season is extreme.
#15 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (End of 2012 Rank: 16)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 116 G, 469 PA, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 2 SB, .255/.308/.398 line, 1.6 WAR
Chisenhall has been everyone's trendy sleeper pick for Cleveland this spring. He has gotten national love from Jim Bowden, local love from Jim Berdysz, and looks poised to seize an everyday job for the first time in his major league career.
I do think Chisenhall can have a nice season, but I am hesitant to go all in on him just yet. He has missed time for injuries (yes, the past few years have included freak injuries, but he missed time in the minors too) and has shown some inconsistency against left-handed pitching and on defense. I think that Chisenhall can be league-average in 2013, something that will not necessarily look great but will be very valuable to Cleveland this season.
#14 Zach McAllister, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 9)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 29 GS, 156.2 IP, 6.26 SO/9, 2.93 BB/9, 5.17 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 1.3 WAR
Needless to say, I do not agree with the ZiPS projections for McAllister in 2013. I think that he will progress in his development this season and not regress like the projections see him doing (and if you want an argument why, see Steve Orbanek's new column, Orbiting Cleveland, on McAllister from Friday).
I do worry about McAllister's ability to limit the damage after the defense lets him down (he allowed an insane 19 unearned runs in 2012), but he has the makings of a decent innings eater at the very least. McAllister is the second-highest rated starting pitcher in the rankings and has a decent shot at moving up to #1 if he performs well.
#13 Cody Allen, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 13)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 61 G, 64.2 IP, 8.35 SO/9, 4.17 BB/9, 4.31 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 0.2 WAR
If you know anything about me, I hope you know that I do not value relievers all that highly. Pitching 70 innings is fairly worthless compared to a 200 inning starter. So it is a sad commentary on Cleveland's rotation that there are four relievers left to go on this list.
None of that should take away from Allen, though. I love Allen's upside and how he raced through the system in 2012. He has great stuff that should translate well to the major leagues and allow him to pitch in the back-end of bullpens for years to come.
The projections are muted due to a lack of track record, so do not be surprised if he outstrips them in 2013. Allen will be a key cog in making the bullpen work this season and could even see some 8th/9th inning time depending on the performance of others/trades.
#12 Mark Reynolds, 1B/DH (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 143 G, 578 PA, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 6 SB, .212/.322/.422 line, 0.8 WAR
See, the projection above assumes that Reynolds is given enough time on the field to cost Cleveland 1.7 WAR on defense. I trust Francona and company to play him plenty at first base and designated hitter to mitigate the damage, pushing his projected WAR up.
Reynolds will strikeout frequently, but hitting seventh in the order, it should not hurt that much. The right-handed power potential Reynolds brings will more than make up for the punchouts and will give the lineup some balance.
Though someone needs to assist me in stealing his third baseman's glove. He is never allowed to play there again. Ever.
#11 Joe Smith, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 10)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 71 G, 61.2 IP, 7.00 SO/9, 3.79 BB/9, 3.94 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 0.3 WAR
ZiPS sees more regression for Joe Smith, though that would seem to be a little out of character for the right-hander. Smith is not an exciting pitcher on the mound, but over the past two seasons, he has had no trouble shutting down the opposing lineup.
Cleveland's bullpen remains a strength because of its depth and Smith is a part of that. He will never impress people nationally, but for those who watch the team regularly, Smith's value at the back of the bullpen is known. If the starting pitching can get through the sixth inning regularly in 2013, some combination of Allen/Smith/Pestano/Perez will finish plenty of wins for the team.
#10 Mike Aviles, UTIL (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 123 G, 482 PA, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 13 SB, .258/.291/.382 line, 1.7 WAR
Seeing Aviles ranked this high is weird, but I simply am bullish on him. He may not have an everyday job, but Aviles should find himself getting plenty of playing time as the team's primary backup infielder.
When the offseason rumors of an Asdrubal Cabrera trade were raging, I was not necessarily heartbroken because I believe Aviles could handle the position ably. Thanks to the rest of the moves of the offseason, though, Cleveland has the benefit of bringing a starting-capable player off of the bench. The team's depth has not looked this good in years.
If the starting pitching was not so bad, Aviles would slide down to a more fitting place in the rankings. As it is, however, he grades out well and should keep the starters well-rested throughout the season.
#9 Chris Perez, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 7)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 64 G, 59.0 IP, 8.54 SO/9, 3.36 BB/9, 3.81 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 0.4 WAR
Well, the winter came and went with Perez still wearing a Cleveland uniform. You could be forgiven for thinking him as good as gone after he seemingly torched every bridge in the city with his words last year, but things seem better now.
As for what actually matters, Perez will likely have another decent year pitching as the team's closer, even if he is not the team's best reliever. He will get saves, he will probably blow a few along the way, and he will be intense as only Pure Rage can be. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
#8 Justin Masterson, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 8)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 31 GS, 193.1 IP, 6.84 SO/9, 3.31 BB/9, 4.33 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 2.9 WAR
So which Masterson is the real one? The one that posted a 3.21 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 4.3 fWAR in 2011 or the one that helped the team collapse in 2012 with a 4.93 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 2.0 fWAR?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, just like the projection says. With how bad the rotation was last year, I think everyone would take that even if Masterson has flashed the ability to do more. Cleveland needs at least one pitcher to be above-average throughout the season and Masterson has the highest likelihood of pulling that off.
Masterson does not have to be an ace to help in 2013, but he does have to be better than he was last season. If he can figure out how to pitch to his projection, then the team should come in above the mediocre win projections.
#7 Vinnie Pestano, RHP (End of 2012 Rank: 6)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 67 G, 63.2 IP, 10.31 SO/9, 3.25 BB/9, 3.25 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 0.8 WAR
Relievers are especially fickle from year to year; all you have to do to see that is look at how Jose Valverde is still out of a job and Fernando Rodney is one of the best closers in baseball. So there is no way to know if Pestano will keep up his torrid start to his career in 2013, but as long as he maintains that elite form, Cleveland will have one of the best relievers in baseball in the bullpen.
To this point in his career, Pestano has 168 strikeouts, 53 walks, a 2.50 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 2.5 fWAR, and 4.5 rWAR in 137.0 innings. All I can say is more of the same, please.
#6 Michael Brantley, OF (End of 2012 Rank: 5)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 149 G, 641 PA, 7 HR, 57 RBI, 19 SB, .275/.335/.382 line, 2.2 WAR
If Brantley only produced at the level of this projection, he would constitute a massive upgrade over what Cleveland put in left field last year. I am not content with just that out of Brantley, however.
Brantley took a big step forward last year in limiting his strikeouts, nearly walking more than he struck out (9.2 K%, 56:53 SO:BB). He has always shown a great ability to just hit the ball, implying that he should generate more strong contact now that his good batting eye he always showed in the minors has found its way to the majors.
I do not necessarily see Brantley suddenly finding 20 home run power, but I think he could really square up a bunch of balls, hit a ton of doubles, and start driving in runs. Francona has already trusted Brantley with the fifth spot in the batting order and that could be why.
#5 Nick Swisher, 1B/OF (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 141 G, 592 PA, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 1 SB, .251/.347/.425 line, 2.4 WAR
The signing of Swisher was the first sign that this offseason was going to be different. Typically, top free agents like Swisher get an offer from Cleveland that is then used to drive up the price at a glitzier location. Maybe that is what Swisher was after and his other suitors decided they did not want to go higher; he was certainly being wooed by more attractive locations.
But ultimately, that does not matter, as Swisher is in a Cleveland uniform and will look to fill the shoes that Jim Thome left behind at first base. Playing first base will limit some of Swisher's value, but just having his bat in the lineup will make all the difference. Swisher is replacing Casey Kotchman's bat in the lineup this season and will fill a hole in the middle of the team's lineup; it would be hard to see how that is not a massive upgrade.
#4 Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (End of 2012 Rank: 4)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 147 G, 17 HR, 73 RBI, 12 SB, .271/.333/.422 line, 3.2 WAR
For all the complaining and people ready to ship Cabrera out of town, Cleveland still has an above-average player manning a critical position in 2013. Not that some of that frustration was not warranted, but I think at times it obscured the importance of Cabrera.
It is easy to pick at Cabrera's warts (his below-average defense at short, his second half fades, etc.), but as a whole, Cabrera is one of the best shortstops in the league. Those do not come cheap, as the Cardinals will attest. Cabrera (and the next player on the list) will give Cleveland great production up the middle and will be a vital part of the foundation of any playoff run the team wants to make in 2013.
#3 Jason Kipnis, 2B (End of 2012 Rank: 3)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 139 G, 609 PA, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 18 SB, .256/.328/.400 line, 2.6 WAR
Something that is very important to remember: 2012 marked Kipnis' first full season. As such, it should not be a big surprise that he faded down the stretch. Also of note is that in 188 career games (not much over one season), Kipnis has 21 home runs, 36 steals, a .260/.335/.403 line, and 3.9 fWAR.
There are people worrying about Kipnis. I am not one of them. The second baseman (who turns 26 on Wednesday) should be entering his prime over the next four years. If Kipnis has already achieved the level of production outlined above, he might be capable of more.
So I'll take the over on the projection. I'm all-in on Kipnis.
#2 Michael Bourn, OF (End of 2012 Rank: NR)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 154 G, 689 PA, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 46 SB, .266/.331/.362 line, 3.7 WAR
As exciting as the Swisher signing was, I believe adding Bourn will have the most impact on the 2013 season. Bourn’s impact on the game is truly all-around, as he can change the game with his defense, his baserunning, and his bat.
He has his warts, as his on-base percentage is not as high as you would like and he strikes out pretty often, but Bourn brings more to the table than he leaves off it. Putting Bourn at the top of the lineup allowed the rest of the pieces to slide down and fit together much better.
There are doubts about how Bourn will age since his game is predicated on speed – as there should be – but that is a question for another day. For now, Bourn makes the 2013 team significantly better and will be one of the best players on the team.
#1 Carlos Santana, C (End of 2012 Rank: 1)
2013 ZiPS Projections: 142 G, 600 PA, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 4 SB, .248/.367/.435 line, 4.4 WAR
As good as Bourn is (and he was 12th in the majors in fWAR last season, so that’s pretty good), I like Santana more heading into 2013. Plenty of people are unhappy that Santana has not taken the next step into stardom like he was “supposed to,” but he has been more than solid. He has real power, is willing to take a walk and get on base, and plays a premium position.
There are serious doubts about Santana’s ability as a catcher – specifically about his pitch framing – but I have faith that he is trending upward on defense. In my mind, Antonetti would not have essentially blocked the first base (Swisher) and the designated hitter (Reynolds) spots if they did not believe Santana could cut it behind the plate.
I thought that Santana was going to break out in 2012, but he “only” submitted another above-average season. With above-average as his floor – and stardom as his ceiling – give me Santana as the best Cleveland player as we begin the 2013 season.
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