Ranking the Cleveland Indians’ Roster at the All-Star Break
By Jim Piascik
July 11, 2012
For a team competing for a division title and a playoff spot, the Cleveland Indians have had more than their fair share of disappointing players. Numerous players throughout the year have come and gone, but their issues remain the same: not enough power, not enough right-handed bats, the bullpen, first base, left field, the rotation, etc. It’s to the point right now that if it weren’t for big contributions from some of their best players, the Indians would be out of the playoff hunt.
Yet the Tribe is sticking around as we hit the All-Star break with a 44-41 record, 3 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the division and 1 game out of the second wild card spot. Looking at the 35 players that have been on the Tribe’s active roster this year, there is more than enough mediocrity and disappointment to go around, but you can also see the talent shining through. Ranking the roster from 35th to 1st shows that while the Indians aren’t the ’27 Yankees, they still have plenty of good players and have managed to find replacements for most of their problem areas.
Previous ranks are their rank before the year, followed by at the 40-game mark.
#35 Dan Wheeler, RP (Previous Rank: 23, 28)
Dan Wheeler’s been putting in work at Columbus since he was designated for assignment on May 13, but I don’t really think he’ll end up back in Cleveland. Sure, his 8.10 SO/9, 2.70 BB/9, 2.70 ERA, and 3.75 FIP in 20.0 innings looks nice, but is that really going to erase the memory of the 8.76 ERA, 7.61 FIP, and 7.04 xFIP he had in the Majors to start this year? I doubt it and expect to see Wheeler let go at some point to allow an Akron reliever to get a chance in AAA.
#34 Jason Donald, INF (Previous Rank: 16, 29)
After his horrendous start to the year, Jason Donald has been in AAA for all but two games. Like Wheeler, his numbers are good in Columbus (.252/.356/.381 slash line, .337 wOBA), but will it matter? Donald has struggled in the Majors when he not getting regular playing time (see his .188/.226/.208 slash line and .210 wOBA this season) and thus has no role on the 2012 Indians. I still think he could play at this level, but I don’t see a real way for that to happen in Cleveland at this point.
#33 Luke Carlin, C (Previous Rank: NR, NR)
Like Juan Diaz, Luke Carlin was called up as depth due to injuries and not expected to play in any games. Also like Diaz, Carlin found himself actually in the game a few times, posting a .214/.214/.286 slash line and .233 wOBA in four games. Carlin’s value to the Indians is that he is a great AAA catcher who understands he is and will always be the third catching option at best for the big league club. He’s a great guy to have around, but not one you actually want to see getting into Major League games.
#32 Juan Diaz, SS (Previous Rank: NR, NR)
Juan Diaz was nowhere near ready or deserving of a big league callup, but the Indians needed an extra infielder on the bench, so he got to don an Indians uniform. Fate ended up putting him into five games while he was in Cleveland, where he posted a surprisingly strong .267/.353/.267 slash line and .290 wOBA. However, Diaz has been average at best in Akron (.257/.307/.400 slash line, .311 wOBA) and is far too inconsistent with both his bat and his glove right now to see the big leagues again this year.
#31 Aaron Cunningham, OF (Previous Rank: 24, 23)
As nice as it would be to get rid of Aaron Cunningham and his .191/.265/.270 slash line and .223 wOBA, the question still remains as to who would replace him. The replacement would have to be able to play centerfield and likely would need to be able to hit lefties. From what I can tell (since minor league splits are hard to come by), Trevor Crowe, the best option, is a switch-hitter who struggles against lefties. Tim Fedroff and Ezequiel Carrera, the other options, both hit left-handed. So as much as we like to complain about Cunningham’s presence on the roster, I’m not sure if there is actually a replacement available in the Tribe’s system.
#30 Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF (Previous Rank: NR/NR)
Well, Matt LaPorta riding to the rescue fizzled out pretty quickly, as he only got into three games and posted a .182/.182/.182 slash line and .160 wOBA in that limited time. He’s still been great at AAA (.304/.393/.575 slash line, .422 wOBA, 17 HR), but it’s clear that, for whatever reason, the Indians don’t trust him to do that at the Major League level.
#29 Scott Barnes, RP (Previous Rank: NR, NR)
Scott Barnes has only thrown seven innings for the Tribe this year, and he’s shown some flashes of brilliance (9.00 SO/9). Unfortunately, Barnes – a starter until earlier this year – has struggled to find comfort coming out of the bullpen (6.43 BB/9, 7.71 ERA, 5.92 FIP, 5.31 xFIP). Still, Barnes is a young player who has a lot of talent and should be better now that he’s up with the big league club again.
#28 Nick Hagadone, RP (Previous Rank: NR, 15)
Through 40 games, Nick Hagadone had been an impressive addition to the Bullpen Mafia, posting an impressive 2.13 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 9.24 SO/9, and 3.55 BB/9. How quickly things change. Hagadone’s SO/9 is still the same, but his walks have skyrocketed due to poor command (5.33 BB/9), he can’t keep the ball in the park (1.42 HR/9) and his stats have ballooned as a result (6.39 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 4.63 xFIP). Plus, he may be done for the season after injuring his hand in anger after his outing Friday night. Hagadone can still be a very good reliever in the Majors, but he has some growing up to do – both on and off the field – before he can realize that potential.
#27 Jairo Asencio, RP (Previous Rank: 25, 20)
Jairo Asencio is what he is: a very replaceable last guy out of the bullpen. His stats in Cleveland before being designated for assignment on May 28 (5.96 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 4.01 xFIP) and his stats since the Cubs claimed him (2.84 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 5.93 xFIP) average out to a 4.93 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 4.65 xFIP, and 0.0 fWAR. I liked Jairo fever while it lasted, but there was little reason to keep a reliever with a 0.0 career fWAR and no real future on the roster.
#26 Tony Sipp, RP (Previous Rank: 20, 17)
It’s still all about the long ball with Tony Sipp. He strikes people out (10.05 SO/9 in 2012, 9.56 career), seems to be controlling his walks (3.14 BB/9 in 2012, 4.55 career), but still allows far too many home runs (1.88 HR/9 in 2012, 1.53 career). Sipp’s xFIP tells us that if he got his home run rate (10.5% HR/FB) to league average, his ERA would fall from 5.65 to somewhere around 3.66 this year – a very respectable number. Since he’s never been able to sustain that, however (17.1% in 2012, 12.5% career), I don’t have faith that he’ll suddenly figure out how to keep the ball in the park.
#25 Rafael Perez, RP (Previous Rank: 21, 18)
Rafael Perez has been on the DL since April 27 and he has yet to go on a rehab assignment. I’d expect to see him back at some point this season, but right now, I have no idea when that would be.
#24 Jeanmar Gomez, SP (Previous Rank: 19, 10)
Through 40 games, Jeanmar Gomez owned a 3.75 ERA, 3.64 FIP, and 4.21 xFIP, making people like me optimistic that he would be one of the stable elements of a fairly unstable starting rotation. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out on Gomez after that (5.18 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 5.00 xFIP on the season), leading to his demotion. Gomez is still pretty young and only has pitched 189 Major League innings. There’s still growth in Gomez, but for now, he needs to work on improving himself in Columbus.
#23 Casey Kotchman, 1B (Previous Rank: 9, 24)
Casey Kotchman’s fWAR rates out pretty negatively (-0.3) due to a bad defensive rating, but I think that’s a reflection of the unreliability of advanced defensive statistics. Kotchman’s .241/.299/.372 slash line and .298 wOBA, however, are completely on him. As I feared before the year, last year was a fluke and Kotchman just can’t hit well enough to be a Major League first baseman. He is a good defender, but I really wish there was a way for the Tribe to upgrade from his meager offensive output.
#22 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (Previous Rank: NR, NR)
Lonnie Chisenhall could’ve been better in his brief time in the Majors this year (.278/.297/.458 slash line, .324 wOBA), but he seemed to be figuring it out and starting to become a real option at third base for the big league club. So of course he would get hit by a pitch, fracture his right ulna, and likely be out for the year. It’s really unfortunate because of how it affects the Indians in the short-term (Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez haven’t been all that good this year) and in the long-term (allowing Chisenhall to grow and realize his vast potential).
#21 Shelley Duncan, OF (Previous Rank: 15, 25)
Sure, Shelley Duncan’s been a pretty average hitter this year with some pop (.222/.319/.424 slash line, .317 wOBA, .203 ISO), but the Indians needed him to be so much more for them. Duncan was supposed to be the strong right-handed bat that kept opposing teams honest, but I can guarantee no team is game-planning around Duncan. He has been awful, but I don’t see the difference in calling up Matt LaPorta or Russ Canzler to see if they can play a bit better than Duncan.
#20 Josh Tomlin, SP (Previous Rank: 11, 9)
Well, after striking out more people than normal earlier in the year, Josh Tomlin has regressed back to the mean. He’s still a guy that limits walks (2.27 BB/9), doesn’t punch many guys out (5.45 SO/9), and has some issues with home runs (1.36 HR/9). Tomlin’s peripherals suggest that he’ll be better in the second half (5.45 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 4.43 xFIP), but that FIP and xFIP still aren’t all that good. I like Tomlin, but I wonder if he’s a #5 starter miscast as a mid-rotation guy on this team.
#19 Jeremy Accardo, RP (Previous Rank: NR, 27)
There have been no complaints about Jeremy Accardo, who has put in a strong showing in 23.1 innings since being called up (8.10 SO/9, 4.24 BB/9, 3.47 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 3.80 xFIP). Accardo’s not a back-end bullpen option, but he’s a massive improvement for the Tribe in the middle innings. Relievers not named Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, or Chris Perez have largely struggled this year, but Accardo has not been part of the problem.
#18 Esmil Rogers, RP (Previous Rank: NR, NR)
Esmil Rogers also has not been part of the problem since coming over from Colorado on June 12. I still wonder about his issues with home runs and walks long-term, but there’s no denying how pretty his stats are in Cleveland (12.15 SO/9, 0.68 BB/9, 2.03 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 2.57 xFIP in 13.1 innings). We’ll see where Rogers goes from here, but for now, it’s nice having him as someone to bridge the gap between the starter and the Pestano-Perez 8th and 9th inning combo.
#17 Johnny Damon, OF (Previous Rank: NR, 22)
Johnny Damon was much better in June (.254/.319/.444 slash line, .338 wOBA), giving hope that he will be at least average the rest of the way for the Tribe. While his season line is still ugly (.215/.285/.344 slash line, .282 wOBA), he will likely see an uptick in BABIP (.226) and slowly round about closer to what we saw from him in June. It may not be pretty, but I think the Indians could use a first baseman to replace Casey Kotchman more than they need a left fielder to replace Johnny Damon.
#16 Jack Hannahan, 3B (Previous Rank: 10, 5)
Through 40 games, I wrote that “I don’t think that Hannahan will remain this hot for the full season.” Turns out I was right, as Jack Hannahan has struggled offensively (.245/.318/.355 slash line, .293 wOBA) and defensively (7 errors, -0.8 UZR) in 2012. If Lonnie Chisenhall had not gotten hurt, I would have been alright with him remaining in the starting lineup after Hannahan returned from the DL. Since Chisenhall did get hurt, however, the Indians will need Hannahan to improve in a big way as they chase a playoff spot.
#15 Jose Lopez, INF (Previous Rank: 22, 21)
As much fun as Jose Lopez’s power is, he’s still a guy with a .290 OBP. His wOBA reflects his struggles in that department (.305), as does his fWAR (0.1). He and Jack Hannahan are both basically replacement level players this year and aren’t going to do much for a team chasing a playoff spot.
#14 Ubaldo Jimenez, SP (Previous Rank: 5, 19)
Ubaldo Jimenez’s season stats are still pretty ugly (6.79 SO/9, 5.12 BB/9, 4.50 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 5.06 xFIP), but he’s really turned it around recently. In his last seven starts, Jimenez has an 8.61 SO/9, 3.13 BB/9, and 2.93 ERA. He’s still struggling a bit with the long ball (6 in those 46 innings, driving his FIP up to 4.16), but the point is Ubaldo’s on the right track. He may not be the ace the Indians traded for right now, but it looks like he may be able to get there before too much longer.
#13 Joe Smith, RP (Previous Rank: 18, 13)
Joe Smith stayed exactly where he was in these rankings because he’s a solid, reliable member of the Bullpen Mafia. I shudder to think how the Tribe’s bullpen would have fallen apart without Smith and his 3.13 ERA, 3.33 FIP, and 3.53 xFIP. Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez are as good as they come, but someone has to get it to the 8th inning. Unlike many of the relievers that have been in the bullpen this year, Manny Acta and Tribe fans can have faith that Smith will get the job done.
#12 Travis Hafner, DH (Previous Rank: 8, 7)
Injuries have robbed Travis Hafner of playing time this year, but he’s hit pretty well when healthy. His .231/.370/.429 slash line, .348 wOBA, and .197 ISO are a sturdy rock in the middle of the lineup and he makes the lineup much better with his presence. There’s no guarantee that Hafner will remain healthy, but if he does, he will continue to be an important hitter for the Tribe.
#11 Lou Marson, C (Previous Rank: 14, 26)
There has been no stopping Laser Lou Marson of late. In addition to his respected defense, Marson has added impressive offense (.297/.398/.407 slash line, .363 wOBA) to his game. Now, there is still some small sample size applying here (he only has 108 plate appearances this year), but if Marson is finally coming into his own as a hitter, he will have great value to the Indians as a player and potentially as a trade chip.
#10 Zach McAllister, SP (Previous Rank: NR, 14)
Somehow, the only Indians pitcher who has avoided alternating between highs and lows this year is Zach McAllister. Despite not being on the Opening Day roster and being demoted after a strong start to his season, McAllister has posted a very impressive 8.72 SO/9, 2.13 BB/9, 3.40 ERA, 3.06 FIP, and 3.80 xFIP in seven starts. McAllister has struggled at times with rebounding from errors made by the defense, but he’s still pitched very well. We can only hope that McAllister keeps building on his already solid 2012 campaign.
#9 Derek Lowe, SP (Previous Rank: 12, 4)
It’s been a painful regression for Derek Lowe, but he’s still doing what the Indians expected after trading for him in the offseason. Lowe is eating innings and posting average numbers (4.43 ERA, 4.14, 4.42 xFIP) in 2012; no more, no less. The Tribe’s issue this year is that they have too many #5 starters, but that’s not Lowe’s fault. Lowe is doing his job quite well and has helped the Indians on the whole this season.
#8 Carlos Santana, C/1B (Previous Rank: 1, 2)
Carlos Santana was supposed to be one of the breakout stars of 2012, but instead, he’s struggled to be league average. He’s fallen to a .221/.339/.336 slash line, .302 wOBA, and a .115 ISO that is lower than Michael Brantley’s. Because he is a catcher and his defense is being rated positively, Santana still has a solid 1.2 fWAR and 1.1 rWAR, but so much more was expected of him. The Indians will need Santana to do what he is capable of in the second half if they want to make the playoffs.
#7 Michael Brantley, OF (Previous Rank: 13, 12)
Michael Brantley still is not walking very much (6.6 BB%), but he isn’t striking out very often (9.2 K%) and is hitting the ball well (.288 AVG). Brantley’s .334 OBP and .319 wOBA still leaves something to be desired, as does his -5.7 UZR, but he is seeing the ball well and will hopefully continue to grow throughout the second half.
#6 Chris Perez, RP (Previous Rank: 17, 11)
Chris Perez has blown the first game of the year and the last one before the All-Star break, but he was almost perfect in between. Overall this season, Perez has a 9.74 SO/9, 1.95 BB/9, 3.34 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, and 24 saves. With the struggles the Bullpen Mafia has gone through as a whole, it’s great to see Perez rebounding in fine fashion and helping keep the Tribe’s season afloat.
#5 Vinnie Pestano, RP (Previous Rank: 7, 8)
Vinnie Pestano continues to get the job done for the Indians in grand fashion. His 10.75 SO/9, 3.75 BB/9, 1.75 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 3.47 xFIP have paired with Chris Perez to basically end the game if the Indians are winning after seven innings. Pestano is a very special player that is an integral part to the Tribe’s success in 2012.
#4 Justin Masterson, SP (Previous Rank: 3, 16)
Justin Masterson struggled through the first part of 2012, but he has rebounded in a big way. His 4.40 ERA is still troublesome, but Masterson’s other stats (7.30 SO/9, 3.69 BB/9, 3.88 FIP, 3.94 xFIP, and 54.7 GB%) are much better. Masterson needs to continue improving moving forward, but he’s been the best pitcher on the Indians this year (1.8 fWAR) and will need to be their ace in the second half.
#3 Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (Previous Rank: 2, 1)
Asdrubal Cabrera fully deserved his All-Star nod, posting a .286/.364/.467 slash line and .357 wOBA in the first half. Cabrera also continued doing a decent job of drawing walks and limiting strikeouts (13.1 K%, 9.9 BB%), helping his overall offensive profile. I still don’t love his defense, but there is no doubt that Cabrera is a very good player that I’m glad the Indians locked up with an extension before the season.
#2 Shin-Soo Choo, OF (Previous Rank: 4, 6)
2011 and the beginning of 2012 were rough for Shin-Soo Choo, but finally the Choo we know and love is back. It could be a complete coincidence, but somehow moving him to the leadoff spot got Choo started. His season line right now is a robust .299/.384/.492 slash line, .381 wOBA, and .193 ISO, easily the best line for anyone on the Indians. UZR is really down on him defensively this year (and his routes to balls have been really bad at times this year), but regardless, Choo is looking more and more like the guy who was baseball’s most underrated player headed into last season and someone that can help lead a playoff charge in the second half.
#1 Jason Kipnis, 2B (Previous Rank: 6, 3)
If you don’t love to watch Jason Kipnis play baseball, then you simply don’t love the sport. Kipnis is a player that plays the game with all he’s got and someone who leaves it all out there day in and day out. Simply talking about his .277/.345.419 slash line, .344 wOBA, 11 HR, 20 SB, 2.7 fWAR and 3.4 rWAR isn’t enough; Kipnis is easily the most popular Indians player and is someone who has just connected with the fans. He may have been passed over for the All-Star Game, but that may end up working out better for the Indians in the end. Kipnis is the sort of player that can use a chip on his shoulder to push him to bigger and better things. It would not shock me one bit if Kipnis comes out on fire for the rest of the year to show everybody that they made a mistake leaving him out of the All-Star Game. Hopefully, that’s what happens and the rest of the team is energized by the best player on the Indians squad – Jason Kipnis.
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Who better to represent the Indians and Cleveland?
..alright...have to go through this all again...I have some major differences with a couple of guys past the top 6 or 7...