Ranking the Cleveland Indians’ roster for the home stretch
By Jim Piascik
August 27, 2012
As we reach the home stretch of the baseball season, it is once again time to rank the players that the Cleveland Indians have used this season. Unfortunately for Tribe fans, this exercise is just another example of how poor the quality of player the Indians used this year was. I became thoroughly depressed while doing this and found myself thinking that the Indians won’t ever compete again. But that won’t happen, right?
So, if any of these write-ups get short or snarky, blame it on Antonetti/Shapiro/Dolan/Acta; I didn’t make this roster. There are some bright spots, as always, but there is a lot of crap to sift through too.
Previous ranks are their rank before the year, followed by at the 40-game mark, followed by at the All-Star Break.
#43 Dan Wheeler, RP (Previous Rank: 23, 28, 35)
It feels like so long ago that Dan Wheeler was on the big league roster, and his 8.76 ERA, 7.64 FIP, and 7.04 xFIP will keep him off it for the rest of the season.
#42 Aaron Cunningham, OF (Previous Ranks: 24, 23, 31)
Similar idea as Wheeler; Cunningham’s .175/.245/.247 slash line and .206 wOBA will keep him off the roster for the rest of the season. And yet, he was the best right-handed outfielder the Indians had available for more than half the season. Great, now I’m already getting bitter…
#41 Jose Lopez, INF (Previous Ranks: 22, 21, 15)
Lopez posted a .249/.272/.366 slash line and .273 wOBA while with the Indians, but somehow Lopez managed to get 224 plate appearances and had a decent amount of them in the cleanup spot. Ladies and gentlemen, I think it will take copious amounts of alcohol to get through this roster. Ugh.
#40 Vinny Rottino, UTIL (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Vinny Rottino spent two games in Cleveland and went 0-for-6. He might get another shot in September, but I don’t see the need. Rottino is what he is: a journeyman utility player.
#39 Luke Carlin, C (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, 33)
Carlin hasn’t been called up since his brief four game stint earlier in the season and remains simply catching depth for the Tribe.
#38 Frank Herrmann (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Frank Herrmann has only managed to appear in four games and 5.2 innings for the Cleveland Indians this year. He’s really far down on the bullpen totem pole and will likely be in danger of losing his spot on the 40-man roster in the offseason.
#37 Juan Diaz, SS (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, 32)
Diaz also hasn’t been called back up, but he at least has some upside. If his newfound power turns out to be real (.164 ISO between AA and AAA this season, .109 ISO for his career), he could be a stopgap option at shortstop between Asdrubal Cabrera and Francisco Lindor (or Ronny Rodriguez, Tony Wolters, Dorssys Paulino, etc.).
#36 Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, 30)
Well, Matt LaPorta is back up again. He’ll get one last chance to prove himself through the rest of the season, but it seems unlikely he’s finally put it all together. There’s a reason he’s only appeared in five games this season despite the Indians desperately needing right-handed hitting.
#35 Jason Donald, INF (Previous Ranks: 16, 29, 34)
Jason Donald has gone to the plate 89 times this year, has struck out in 29 of them, and owns a .222/.261/.272 slash line and .248 wOBA. Personally, I’d give playing time down the stretch to someone else.
#34 Josh Tomlin, SP (Previous Ranks: 11, 9, 20)
You don’t need me to quote Josh Tomlin’s stats to know that he fell off the deep end this year (though I’ll do it anyway for you: 6.36 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 4.75 xFIP). Hopefully those issues were all about his elbow injury and will be fixed when he returns from Tommy John surgery in 2014.
#33 Chris Seddon, SP/RP (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
15.0 inning pitched, 8:8 SO:BB, 5.40 ERA, 5.37 FIP, 5.69 xFIP; there is nothing to love about Chris Seddon’s performance with the Indians. I doubt that Seddon is going to make it through the season right now since they are deep with much higher-profile relief prospects.
#32 Nick Hagadone, RP (Previous Ranks: NR, 15, 28)
Nick Hagadone did not have a good season by any means (6.39 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 4.68 xFIP, one broken bone), but I have faith he’ll be better next year. Not all rookies can be Mike Trout; most struggle at first.
#31 Scott Barnes, RP (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 29)
Scott Barnes in the Majors: 8.10 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 5.27 xFIP in 10.0 innings. Scott Barnes in the Minors: 4.14 ERA, 2.44 FIP in 50.0 innings. Barnes should be better next year (and hopefully he’ll be a starter again), but I’d like to see him get more chances this year. He’s much better than he’s shown in a very small sample size.
#30 Jairo Asencio, RP (Previous Ranks: 25, 20, 27)
He was no Scott Barnes (5.96 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 4.01 xFIP), but Jairo fever wasn’t anything more than replacement level relief pitching. Just another failed offseason move for your 2012 Cleveland Indians.
#29 Jeremy Accardo, RP (Previous Ranks: NR, 27, 19)
Jeremy Accardo wasn’t necessarily a part of the problem for the Indians (7.13 SO/9, 4.08 BB/9, 4.58 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 4.25 xFIP in 35.1 innings), but he wasn’t much of a solution. The Indians are flush with relief depth, so his loss doesn’t hurt them very much.
#28 Rafael Perez, RP (Previous Ranks: 21, 18, 25)
Rafael Perez is still on the DL (he’s been there since April 27) and has suffered multiple setbacks during his rehab assignment. At this point, I don’t know if he’s a lock to be tendered a contract after the season.
#27 Johnny Damon, OF (Previous Ranks: NR, 22, 17)
After a weak .222/.281/.329 slash line and .274 wOBA, Johnny Damon found himself out of a job and with no suitors. I wasn’t a fan of giving Josh Willingham the third year on his free agent deal, but if I had known that Damon/Duncan was the alternative…
#26 Brent Lillibridge, UTIL (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Brent Lillibridge is a great utility player, but he really can’t hit a lick. His career stats (.212/.274/.356 slash line, .280 wOBA) are perfectly in line with his time with the Indians (.211/.224/404 slash line, .275 wOBA), and those are not something I want seeing run out there any more than every once in awhile.
#25 Derek Lowe, SP (Previous Ranks: 12, 4, 9)
At some point, peripherals can only tell us so much. After two years of consistently underperforming (5.05 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 3.65 xFIP in 2011, 5.34 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 4.65 xFIP in 2012), it looks like Derek Lowe simply cannot pitch at a high level anymore. The Indians put too much faith in Lowe as a middle-of-the-rotation starter when he’s a fifth starter at best.
#24 Roberto Hernandez (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Ah, good old Rob is back! It’s been a rough start for Roberto Hernandez (6.75 ERA, 6.77 FIP, 4.86 xFIP, two strikeouts in 12 innings), but it’s only two starts. I think that Hernandez might be able to round himself into a solid back-of-the-rotation starter with the time left in the season, but we’ll see.
#23 Jeanmar Gomez, SP (Previous Ranks: 19, 10, 24)
There’s still a chance that Jeanmar Gomez can adjust to the Major Leagues, but it’s hard to see him becoming more than a depth option after posting an ERA, FIP, and xFIP above five this year and now struggling in the minors (18 earned runs in his last three starts (13.2 innings)). Not the season any of us were hoping for out of Gomez.
#22 Ubaldo Jimenez, SP (Previous Ranks: 5, 19, 14)
Lackluster strikeouts totals (7.52 SO/9), extremely high walk rates (4.91 BB/9), an inability to keep the ball in the park (1.40 HR/9); that sounds like an ace to me! Kidding aside, Jimenez has been merely replacement level and is basically interchangeable with Derek Lowe, Roberto Hernandez, Jeanmar Gomez, and Corey Kluber. And that is quite possibly the biggest thing that has gone wrong with the 2012 Cleveland Indians.
#21 Corey Kluber (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Corey Kluber has had his issues with home runs since his callup (four in 23.2 innings) and doesn’t have great stats to date (5.32 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 4.63 xFIP), but he’s been pretty unlucky to date (.364 BABIP) and his stats actually compare favorably to Zach McAllister’s (Kluber: 7.23 SO/9, 3.42 BB/9; McAllister: 7.11 SO/9, 3.85 BB/9). So there’s that.
#20 Jack Hannahan, 3B (Previous Ranks: 10, 5, 16)
Jack Hannahan may add plenty of value on defense (small sample UZR be damned), but his bat (.226/.295/.326 slash line, .273 wOBA) is just terrible. It’s actually worse than Casey Kotchman’s. Speaking of Kotchman…
#19 Casey Kotchman, 1B (Previous Ranks: 9, 24, 23)
Nothing like getting a .233/.295/.351 slash line, .287 wOBA, and .118 ISO out of your primary first baseman in a year you are supposed to be contending. If I was in charge of playing time for the rest of the season, I would just leave Casey Kotchman on the bench. I’d rather see if Matt LaPorta can put things together by some miracle than continue down this path with Kotchman.
#18 Shelley Duncan, OF (Previous Ranks: 15, 25, 21)
There’s plenty of power when it comes to Shelley Duncan (.219 ISO), but nothing else (.204/.292/.396 slash line, .295 wOBA, 22.2 K%). Plus, Duncan has eaten up about half of a starter’s amount of plate appearances (257 PA) to date. This roster is just awful.
#17 Tony Sipp, RP (Previous Ranks: 20, 17, 26)
A powerful 9.27 SO/9, an actually in control 3.30 BB/9, and an out-of-control 1.65 HR/9. Yep, that’s our Tony Sipp. He still has value, but I’m starting to doubt he can be a viable member of a playoff bullpen. His 3.92 xFIP is nice and all, but he’s never been able to control his HR/FB (which xFIP adjusts for). He seems to be much closer to the 4.74 ERA pitcher he has been this year.
#16 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, 22)
I am desperately hoping that Lonnie Chisenhall will make it back with the Indians for a bit before the season ends since his development is a big key for the Tribe. They have so many holes that at least one needs to be filled internally by a top prospect.
#15 Ezequiel Carrera, OF (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
Ezequiel Carrera is currently the flavor of the month as he’s been on fire since his callup (.295/.323/.443 slash line, .330 wOBA). Yet, I do think this is the same old Carrera from last year. He’s been lucky (.395 BABIP), is still not a good defender, and has shown no plate discipline (27.7 K%, 4.6 BB%). Enjoy the ride while it lasts, because Carrera is still just a fourth outfielder at best.
#14 Lou Marson, C (Previous Ranks: 14, 26, 11)
Lou Marson has regressed back to his previous offensive standard lately (.235/.339/.315 slash line, .302 wOBA on the season), yet he hasn’t fallen much in these rankings. Just a sign as to how poor the Indians have been playing recently.
#13 Cody Allen, RP (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, NR)
I don’t know how long Cody Allen can maintain the dominance he’s shown since his callup (1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings) as he’s had some real struggles with walks (5.52 BB/9, 4.33 FIP, 4.84 xFIP). Still, Allen is a high-upside prospect who should join Vinnie Pestano at the end of games for years to come.
#12 Esmil Rogers, RP (Previous Ranks: NR, NR, 18)
For all the bad moves the Indians have made this season, the Esmil Rogers scrap-heap pickup has been a massive steal. There is real doubt that Rogers can keep up his elite results with the stuff he has (2.41 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, 8.92 SO/9, 1.93 BB/9), especially since he is so home-prone (1.21 HR/9), but it’s working for now. Rogers is only expected to be a middle-relief guy, and if he pitches like he has this year in the future, he will have a place in the Bullpen Mafia.
#11 Travis Hafner, DH (Previous Ranks: 8, 7, 12)
It may not be a sexy or popular pick, but Travis Hafner can still hit. His .239/.355/.453 slash line and .349 wOBA is one of the best on the Indians and is why he might end up being brought back next year on a cheap one-year deal.
#10 Joe Smith, RP (Previous Ranks: 18, 13, 13)
If it weren’t for the Bullpen Mafia, I honestly think that the Indians could be pushing the Astros for worst record in baseball. As the third-best member of the bullpen, Joe Smith has been solid all year (3.35 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.99 xFIP). Smith doesn’t get the same level of attention as Vinnie Pestano or Chris Perez, but Tribe fans know how important he’s been to the cause this season.
#9 Justin Masterson, SP (Previous Ranks: 3, 16, 4)
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with Justin Masterson ranking this high (and ahead of Joe Smith), but it’s just one of those things when it comes to comparing relievers to starters. Masterson has not been great this year, but he’s actually been a decent starting pitcher (4.60 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, 7.11 SO/9, 3.85 BB/9, 55.4 GB%). The problem, of course, is that the Indians need Masterson to be an ace – not a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. It is possible 2011 was the aberration, however. If this is what Masterson is, that still has plenty of value to a Major League team. The problem would be that the Indians would then need to go out and find two top-flight starting pitchers, and we all know how well that would go.
#8 Zach McAllister, SP (Previous Ranks: NR, 14, 10)
I feel that Zach McAllister is in a bit over his head with Indians fans right now, as he is a good pitcher but not an ace (3.50 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 3.99 xFIP). I love McAllister as a #4 or #5 in the future, but on a roster filled with depth starters, he may be forced to be the #2 next year. That’s a role that I think will expose the problems with McAllister’s game and is something I hope the Indians can find a way to avoid.
#7 Michael Brantley, OF (Previous Ranks: 13, 12, 7)
Michael Brantley has shown himself to be a solid center fielder this season who hits just enough to cover some defensive limitations (.291/.341/.420 slash line, .326 wOBA, -2.1 UZR). Brantley has his flaws, but overall he is the sort of consistent player that the Indians can count on for decent contributions.
#6 Chris Perez, RP (Previous Ranks: 17, 11, 6)
In a perfect world, the Indians would have plenty of performing position players and starting pitchers to push relief pitchers down in these rankings. As it is, though, the back-end pair of Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano has likely been a big part of keeping the Indians four games better than their Pythagorean W-L. The Indians would be much worse off if Perez had not bounced back with a dominant 10.03 SO/9, 2.12 BB/9, 3.47 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, and 33 saves. Things would be even worse if not for…
#5 Vinnie Pestano, RP (Previous Ranks: 7, 8, 5)
Vinnie Pestano and his dominance (9.92 SO/9, 3.42 BB/9, 1.79 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 3.74 xFIP) have been key in keeping the Indians from Astros-like futility. If I were the Indians, I would blow it up and rebuild after this season, which would be a good thing for Pestano. I would move Chris Perez for whatever I could get, allowing Pestano to ascend to the coveted 9th inning role. I love using Pestano as the high-leverage man out of the bullpen, but he should also thrive as a closer.
#4 Jason Kipnis, 2B (Previous Ranks: 6, 3, 1)
It’s been a rough stretch for Jason Kipnis, who has seen his batting line fall to .257/.329/.381 and his wOBA slip to a perfectly-average .319. Yet, there are still positives with Kipnis. The speed is still developing quite well (26 steals) and he is still one of the hardest workers out there. When you put what Kipnis has done in context (he’s only played 154 Major League games, posting a .253/.326/.377 slash line, .314 wOBA, 19 home runs and 28 steals), it is easy to see he is a building block for the future.
#3 Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (Previous Ranks: 2, 1, 3)
Asdrubal Cabrera is an above-average shortstop who the Indians are lucky to have. His bat is quite valuable (.274/.338/.430 slash line, .332 wOBA), and while his defense leaves plenty to be desired, Cabrera is still great to have. That said, Cabrera would work much better as a complementary piece as opposed to a focal point of the offense. The Indians will likely hold onto him in the offseason, but with plenty of middle infield talent pushing its way up through the minor league pipeline and a rebuild the best option at this point, a Cabrera trade could net them key rebuilding pieces. It’s unlikely, but most of the time you have to give something up to get something.
#2 Carlos Santana, C/1B (Previous Ranks: 1, 2, 8)
Plenty of people are down on Carlos Santana, but I am not one of them. Sure, his batting average is rough, but the rest of his game is solid (.242/.360/.401 slash line, .333 wOBA, 17.7 K%, 15.3 BB%). I do believe that Santana will continue to improve and get better as he adjusts to the Major League game (he has played 311 games, basically two full seasons’ worth). Consider the first part of the season Santana’s “sophomore slump” and next year as the season that Santana should establish himself as a big-time catcher like Buster Posey and Mike Napoli.
#1 Shin-Soo Choo, OF (Previous Ranks: 4, 6, 2)
Shin-Soo Choo has had his warts this season (massive struggles versus lefties, poor routes in the outfield), but right now, he’s my pick for best Indians player. His offense has been superb (.281/.366/.460 slash line, .361 wOBA, 15 home runs, 15 steals) and he is one of the few power threats the Tribe has. Unfortunately, it would seem to make a ton of sense to trade Choo in the offseason to a team in need of an outfielder (the Yankees if Nick Swisher leaves is one possible location). The Indians will need Choo if they plan on contending in 2013, but with a roster that contains more holes than Swiss cheese, I don’t see it happening. Trust me, I’ve spent hours trying to figure out a way.
So the best Tribe player (and three of the top six) should probably be traded to aid another massive rebuild. What a depressing season. For now, let’s use the rest of 2012 to enjoy seeing young players like Tim Fedroff (if they ever call him up) get their first chance in the show. It’s not a pennant race, but there is something fulfilling about watching guys happy just to be there give it their all. Despite the losses, this team should be fun to watch through the end of the season.
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So would Hannigan, a good catcher, Frazier, a fine young rookie former shortstop who plays all over.
So would Phillips and Ludwick, former Indian talent.
Votto & Bruce are so far beyond Choo it ain't funny.
Point? We're so far behind the Reds in talent, or the Angels, or the Tigers, or even the White Sox or Twins, that we really need to stop deluding ourselves & rebuild.
Why on Gods green earth is Mark Shapiro, John Mirabelli, And Chris Antonetti still employed by this loser Organization?
And I reiterate that I think it's wrong-headed to think trades can solve anything. The thing about Choo, Cabrera and Perez is they are not elite players. They are not going to get enormous contracts in free agency, unless they have monster seasons next year, and they're not going to net much in a trade (and if they have monster years next year, the Indians are probably competitive) Heck, Peralta's been better than Asdrubal the last 2 years, you going to give up prospects for Peralta? It's not money that will be the issue in retaining Choo, who clearly wants out of Cleveland as bad as anyone not named Chris Perez