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Ranking the 2014 roster at the All-Star Break, part one

Swisher, Murphy come in the bottom half of the ranks

Ranking the 2014 roster at the All-Star Break, part one
Lonnie Chisenhall & Nick Swisher (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)
July 14, 2014
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There have been plenty of ups and downs for Cleveland so far in 2014, yet the team is entering the All-Star break at a perfectly average 47-47. There have been a few notable breakout stars and players performing above their true talent, but given the number of disappointments Cleveland's gone through, .500 actually feels pretty good right now.

These rankings represent a snapshot of each player's performance to date, meaning there are some people ranked higher who will regress down as the season goes on and vice versa. Players with more playing time are typically given some preference to those with less, which is why someone like Roberto Perez -- who performed well in one game -- is not #1.

If you would like to see the rankings from before the season (part one and two) and at the 40-game mark, click on the links.

In-text photos from ESPN

#42 Austin Adams, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Adams' major league debut came on Saturday, though it did not go particularly well (three runs allowed in 0.1 innings), we cannot draw much of a conclusion from one bad outing. The right-hander throws hard, racks up strikeouts, and started limiting his walks in 2014; given time, that combination will play at the major league level.

#41 Tyler Holt, OF (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Holt did not get a plate appearance in his major league debut -- only appearing as a defensive replacement -- though the outfielder has hit much better in the minors in 2014. With the ability to play all three outfielder positions, if Holt can maintain any of the offensive gains he has made this season (.305/.429/.386 in 83 games between Akron and Columbus), he would be a very good fourth outfielder down the stretch.

#40 Roberto Perez, C (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Like Adams and Holt, Perez has only appeared in one major league game, limiting his value to date. Perez is another plus defender, which makes him a prime candidate to become Yan Gomes' backup for years to come. An offensive surge in 2014 -- which was on display in Perez's debut -- could give the catcher a higher ceiling, though time will tell if the 25-year-old can maintain that offensive improvement.

#39 Elliot Johnson, INF/OF (Previous Rank: 24, 33)

Elliot Johnson (Photo: ESPN)Johnson is still hanging around in Columbus and owns a solid .259/.336/.396 line in 57 Triple-A games. The trademark flexibility that makes Johnson special has been on display for the Clippers, with the 30-year-old appearing at every position but catcher and third base -- and yes that includes pitcher -- though right now it seems Johnson will be utilizing those skills in Columbus for the rest of the season.

#38 Mark Lowe, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

A veteran reliever the organization was able to bring in on a minor league contract, Lowe has yet to find success at the major league level this season. Lowe is back in Columbus -- where he has found more success with a 2.41 FIP to go with a 5.40 ERA in 25.2 innings -- though the right-hander's struggles in Cleveland (3.86 ERA, 7.70 FIP in seven innings) are what got him another return trip down I-71.

#37 Jason Giambi, DH (Previous Rank: NR, 32)

Giambi really struggled while on the field -- posting a .128/.212/.277 line in 15 games -- and has spent most of the season out with various injuries. Though the running joke is Giambi keeps getting "hurt" in order to free up roster space, his presence on the 60-day disabled list and status as a 43-year-old trying to survive the rigors of a major league schedule could mean the wear and tear is simply adding up.

#36 Nick Hagadone, LHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Nick Hagadone (Photo: ESPN)Hagadone has not seen much time at the major league level this season, but the 28-year-old has done pretty well down in Columbus. Outside of a bit of a home run problem -- not that surprising in Huntington Park -- Hagadone is mowing down International League hitters and showing some promising ability. Whether he can harness it at the major league level -- or if he gets the chance to -- remains to be seen.

#35 Blake Wood, RHP (Previous Rank: 25, 29)

Following being claimed on waivers by Kansas City on June 2, Wood has only thrown 8.2 innings in the Royals' minor league system. Wood ended his year in the Cleveland organization with 6.1 replacement level innings in the major leagues.

#34 Justin Sellers, INF (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Sellers struggled in his brief time in the major leagues and has not been much better in Columbus, only posting a .256/.315/.332 in 76 Triple-A games. The infielder still has his great defensive abilities, however, which will keep him around as a depth option in case things go wrong at the major league level again.

#33 Jose Ramirez, INF (Previous Rank: NR, 28)

Jose Ramirez (Photo: ESPN)After only seeing limited time during his major league stint, Ramirez is back in Columbus and performing quite well. There is not a clear path to get Ramirez back into the big leagues this season, but given his success as a 21-year-old in Triple-A, the infielder is gaining value and could be an attractive trade chip at the deadline if the organization chooses to be buyers.

#32 Jesus Aguilar, 1B (Previous Rank: NR, 31)

Aguilar is another prospect in the system splitting his time between Columbus and Cleveland, and like Ramirez, there is not an easy way to get the first baseman time at the major league level. For the time being Aguilar will continue punishing International League pitching, though the 24-year-old has cooled following his red-hot start to the season.

#31 Vinnie Pestano, RHP (Previous Rank: 22, 30)

Despite finding success in Columbus, Pestano looks like the same guy whose had issues over the past few years. Though the rough numbers look fine -- a 13:1 SO:BB in nine major league innings -- Pestano has been hit hard in that time and demoted twice. Even if he seems to project well based on those peripherals, Pestano's lack of velocity and the organization's lack of faith in the right-hander really tell the story right now.

#30 C.C. Lee, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, 22)

C.C. Lee (Photo: ESPN)Lee has not gotten an extended chance in the majors, and since he posted a 4.76 ERA and 4.80 FIP in those 11.1 innings, it was an easier decision to send the right-hander down. With a 2.83 FIP to go with his 4.13 ERA in 24.0 Triple-A innings, Lee is someone who should get another shot in the majors this season; the 27-year-old is far too talented not to get that chance.

#29 Chris Dickerson, OF (Previous Rank: NR, NR)

Acquired from the Pirates for cash in response to Michael Bourn's hamstring injury, Dickerson is currently getting some time in the major leagues after destroying the International League in Triple-A. Still, a 32-year-old Triple-A outfielder available for cash is likely going to be replacement level in the long term, though for now, Dickerson is contributing to a major league outfield that needed help.

#28 Nyjer Morgan, OF (Previous Rank: 21, 15)

Morgan hit quite well in the majors in 2014, and before his knee injury, could have been someone who took the spot Dickerson currently holds. But given the delays in his injury rehab, it seems Morgan may not be back until August or September. The outfielder did not project as a critical piece this season, but he would have been useful given Bourn's injuries and David Murphy and Ryan Raburn's struggles.

#27 George Kottaras, C (Previous Rank: NR, 27)

George Kottaras (Photo: ESPN)We were starting to see Kottaras' regression before he was claimed on waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals, with the catcher striking out 40.7 percent of the time through 10 games. Kottaras can make the high strikeout rate work when he is hitting for power -- which he is this season -- but he is better suited as a backup than an everyday starter. Cleveland had that choice given its catching depth, but due to Yadier Molina's injury, the Cardinals needed to take that chance.

#26 Josh Outman, LHP (Previous Rank: 20, 21)

Outman's problems with home runs and walks really hurt him this season and led to his demotion to Columbus in mid-June. The left-hander also found himself unable to truly shut down left-handed batters, with a good-but-not-great .304 wOBA against lefties compared to a .393 wOBA against righties. The case is much better in Columbus, where Outman has a 2.48 FIP in 6.2 innings, though the amount of relief depth in the system and Outman's removal from the 40-man roster will likely make it hard for him to make it back to Cleveland this season.

#25 Ryan Raburn, OF (Previous Rank: 16, 24)

Now we reach the point in the rankings where we have the players who have logged significant time without performing well. First up is Raburn, whose .199/.248/.265 line and 43 wRC+ have him as one of the worst regulars in baseball this season. Raburn's inability to hit for power and draw walks -- both of which were critical components of his impressive 2013 season -- have gone away, leaving Raburn as a light-hitting, strikeout-prone outfielder with below-average defense. Obviously there is some hope for Raburn, considering he was much better just last season, but the focus right now should be on getting the 33-year-old back to decent before expecting 2013 again.

#24 Nick Swisher, 1B (Previous Rank: 9, 20)

Nick Swisher (Photo: ESPN)Joining Raburn on the list of worst regulars in baseball this season is Swisher, who is struggling like he never has before. After consistently hitting at an above-average level year-in and year-out (except for one solitary season in 2008), it is hard to believe Swisher is suddenly an awful hitter. With that in mind, Swisher's recent better performance is not unexpected, framing his early season struggles as more fluky than the beginning of the end. It has been bad at times, but assuming Swisher continues to regress upward, there is some hope he can turn it around in the second half.

#23 Danny Salazar, RHP (Previous Rank: 5, 18)

Salazar was supposed to be the top-of-the-rotation option the rotation needed in 2014, but after posting a 5.53 ERA and 4.70 FIP in 40.2 major league innings, the right-hander found himself back down in Triple-A to make some needed adjustments. Those are not showing up in Salazar's Triple-A stats (4.50 ERA, 3.92 FIP in 48.0 innings), but given he is down in Columbus to improve his fastball command and secondary pitches, the raw results are not telling the whole story. Still just 24 years old, it is not surprising Salazar still needed some time to learn and grow before becoming a consistent major league option.

#22 David Murphy, OF (Previous Rank: 12, 11)

David Murphy (Photo: ESPN)Despite a well-documented platoon split in his career, right now, Murphy is actually running a nearly identical split in 2014. With a 91 wRC+ against left-handers and a 90 wRC+ against right-handers, Murphy is just hitting at a below-average rate all-around this season. Considering Murphy's .255 BABIP against right-handers -- the group he is supposed to do well against -- it does seem possible the outfielder will hit at a much better rate in the second half. But after half a season below replacement level -- potential positive regression aside -- the early returns on Murphy's signing are not positive.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Matt
July 15, 2014 - 7:54 AM EDT
Great post rich. When you put it that way it makes me wonder how the heck we are 500. im still on the fence on whether I want us to be buyers or sellers. If improvements come with our "established" hitters and we add a pitcher we could shape up well for a short series (Kulber twice, new pitcher, masterson) could look pretty good for getting to ALCS,

But on the other hand, this team is SO inconsistent I'd hate to see them trade something meaningful to make a go at it, when this team does not look like a world series contender, let alone winner.

Also if we sell we may get rid of A-Cab, which would make me happier than it should. every time he comes up to bad I look at my wife and say "hes just...the worst" Even when he performs well! I dont understand my dislike for him, but it doesnt seem to be going away.
Tony
July 15, 2014 - 12:20 AM EDT
Just more proof that the Indians were lucky to be .500 at the break considering how inconsistent or very bad they were in so many facets of the team and so many guys underperforming. Makes you wonder though if the rotation can find any consistency whether the Indians can get on a roll.....the hot second half from Ubaldo and Kazmir paved the way last year...can it happen again?
Walter
July 15, 2014 - 12:18 AM EDT
I think Perez did more in one game than what Johnson and Sellers have done for longer period of time. would have had him ranked ahead of them.

I agree with Rich, it is a miracle that the Indians are at 500. They have struggled all year with there defense, clutch hitting, and consistent outings from there starters. I do see Bauer getting better from outing to outing. Hope he joins Kluber to become a reliable starter. Masterson and Salazar could be wild cards if the could return to last year performances. I believe Carasco needs more of important role in the bullpen going down the stretch. Francona has over used Shaw, Atchison, Scrabble, Shaw and Allen.

Not sure what to say about Santana, Swisher, and Kipnis. They have pissed me off this season with there sub par play.

Rich
July 14, 2014 - 11:11 PM EDT
Murphy has been better than that. He's second on the team in RBI (44), trailing only Brantley, despite the fact that he's platooning. He's hitting .336 with runners on, .362 with RISP, and .444 with the bases loaded, which explains why he has a lot of RBI's despite his modest batting average.

I don't know how Murphy rates lower than Axford, who started out as the closer, got demoted, and was pitching only in garbage time until the last couple of weeks.

It's absolutely incredible the Indians are at .500 considering two members of the Opening Day starting rotation quickly pitched themselves out of the rotation (Carrasco and Salazar) and another one has severly underperformed (Masterson). Another one got injured and missed a big chunk of time (McAllister). The only starting pitcher who has stayed healthy and consistently pitched well has been Kluber.

The Opening Day closer (Axford) and set-up man (Pestano) both imploded. Pestano got sent to the minors and Axford to garbage time.

Our cleanup hitter (Santana) has been under .200 most of the first half. So has our starting 1st baseman (Swisher). Raburn has also been struggling to keep his head above the Mendoza line (and still is). Kipnis and Cabrera have been under their career averages for most if not all of the first half. Bourn continues to disappoint.

The fact that the Indians are at .500 at this point is almost a miracle. The schedule is favorable in the second half so if some of these underperformers start progressing to the mean, and most of them already are, then it could be a very nice finish.

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