The Player Power Rankings are back, giving order to the Indians 25 man roster. There have been few changes to last year’s roster so the changes in order have more to do with the increased expectations going into 2014 than anything else. Included in this list will be the players rank from 2013.
1. Jason Kipnis (2013 Final Rank: 1) Spring Stats: .353/.441/.510 in 51 AB, 11 RBI
Kipnis cemented himself as team leader in 2013 and will go into 2014 with his highest expectations yet. Not only is he the top hitter on the Indians, he can now be considered one of the greatest players in the league as he finished 11th in last season’s MVP voting. He has had the greatest start to a career by any home grown Indians second baseman and even one more great season could cement him as one of the greatest in Indians history.
2. Justin Masterson (4) 4 W, 1.09 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 25 K, 24.2 IP
In a disappointing turn of events, this will most likely be Masterson’s final season in Cleveland, but he is still undeniably the ace. Masterson lead the team in 2013 with three complete game shut-outs, proving that he has the ability to go the distance. If he hadn’t missed the final month of the season due to a strained oblique, there is a very good chance the Indians could have won the division instead of the Wild Card. If the Indians are going to return to the post-season this year, Masterson will be a big part of that.
3. Carlos Santana (2) .179/.270/.321 in 56 AB, 7 RBI
Santana is still the closest thing the Indians have to a power hitter and he lead the team in 2013 with 60 extra base hits. His new found versatility should allow him to continue playing 155 or more games each season in the future and should take some stress away as he won’t have to crouch behind the plate for every pitch this season. Going into his age 28 season, Santana is set for a career year and has very high expectations offensively even while his defense ability (especially at third) is very questionable.
4. Nick Swisher (7) .292/.414/.521 in 48 AB, 3 HR
Swisher had to have been the most disappointing player in 2013 (to people who didn’t know better) after signing the largest free agent contract in team history. He has since claimed to succumb to the pressure of the hefty deal, but is ready to perform at peak level in 2014. Expect him to do the same thing next year he has in his last nine seasons, 20-25 home runs, 50+ RBI, 60+ runs and a .250 average.
5. Corey Kluber (6) 5.60 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 23 K, 27.1 IP
Kluber was an underrated pitcher in 2013, throwing almost 150 innings with an ERA at 3.85 and 137 strike outs, but he will be out in the open in 2014 as the team’s second starter. Kluber’s biggest strength is his command of the strike zone and as long as he can continue throwing good strikes, he will be successful. His Spring numbers show a continuation of this trend (8/1 K/BB ratio), so there is little reason to think he will bow down to the pressure. The Indians don’t have a truly dominant ace (and haven’t since the trade of Cliff Lee), so a rotation made of consistent above average starters like Kluber is very important to their success.
6. Michael Brantley (3) .522/.558/.783 in 46 AB, 12 RBI
Brantley recently signed and extension to keep him around for years, so now all he has to do is worry about his on the field production. He was the team’s top defender in 2013 and already holds the record for errorless games in the outfield as an Indian. With the top of the lineup established, Brantley will be able to hit towards the bottom of the lineup where his incredibly ability with the stick could lead to a lot of continued rallies or bottom of the lineup scoring. Even without the offensive output, Brantley would be worth putting in the field on a daily basis just for his glove and arm.
7. Danny Salazar (14) 1.69 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5 K, 5.1 IP
No player on this Indians has expectations as high as Salazar in consideration for his age and Major League experience. The moments of excellence he showed in 2013 reminded those old enough to remember of Herb Score and there are hopes that Salazar can accomplish what Score was stopped from doing. It can be dangerous to put such pressure on a young starter, so the Indians are playing it safe by using him as the fourth starter. If he does prove to be as amazing as he could be, he has a chance to be one of the greatest strike out pitchers in team history and the ace of the future.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera (10) .327/.421/.449 in 49 AB, 6 2B, 9 Runs
This is Cabrera’s final year under contract and likely his last as an Indian. Since his career year in 2011, Cabrera has disappointed offensively every season and has developed into one of the worst defensive short stops in baseball. With Francisco Lindor waiting in AAA, this will be Cabrera’s last chance to prove himself. If he doesn’t, he could easily be shipped to New York (either one) or elsewhere prior to the trade deadline.
9. Zach McAllister (17) 6.06 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 16.1 IP
McAllister has probably been the Indians worst starter during the Spring, but luckily, Spring stats don’t mean anything. As the Tribe’s third starter, McAllister technically has the same role as in 2013, but will actually have more pressure as he won’t be following Ubaldo Jimenez anymore. With many questions remaining about the Indians rotation, it will largely be up to McAllister to provide the solid base in the middle.
10. Yan Gomes (15) .216/.259/.373 in 51 AB, 6 RBI
Gomes impressed both with the glove and bat in 2013, to the point that he was named starting catcher with no competition this Spring. He will be entering into his third professional season and is set to have a career year, since he has never played more than 88 games in a season. Based off last season’s production extrapolated to a full season, Gomes could easily be a 15 home run, 50+ RBI, .300 average hitter, placing him among the top catchers in the league. Even if he doesn’t hit these levels, his above average defense will legitimize his starter status and keep Santana looking for work elsewhere.
11. Cody Allen (8) 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8 K, 6.2 IP
Allen was the Indians most used reliever in 2013 and will be featured in an even more prominent role in 2014. He was rarely used in pivotal situations last season, but with Joe Smith and Chris Perez leaving through free agency, Allen will all of a sudden be the top, non-closing reliever. In fact, it was only his lack of experience in these situations that lead the Indians to sign Axford as the closer in the first place. As long as he continues his success in these, more difficult, late inning situations, Allen will be next in line for the closers role.
12. John Axford (New) 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8 K, 7 IP
Axford was the biggest free agent brought in during the off-season and was immediately made the closer to the thrill of all the Chris Perez haters. Whether or not he finishes the season in that role is another matter, however, as Allen and Shaw are standing by in case of injury or a couple untimely blown saves. Of course, after a disappointing 2013, pretty much any success would be above expectations.
13. David Murphy (New) .184/.259/.306 in 49 AB, 4 2B
Murphy was the second biggest free agent addition this Winter and is slated to be the starting right fielder although his actual amount of playing time will vary depending on his and Raburn’s success at the plate. The Indians have already stated they don’t care about right field defense when they traded Drew Stubbs to the Rockies, so Murphy’s starting status will have more to do with how he hits left handed pitchers than his range.
14. Mike Aviles (13) .311/.333/.511 in 45 AB, 7 RBI
Aviles is returning for his second season as super utility man and may be adding another position to his already impressive resume. With Michael Bourn out to start the season, Aviles has played some center field in Spring Training, making him more versatile than ever. Already he is the primary back-up at short stop, second base and will be the first player to take over for Chisenhall if he struggles. There is a good chance Aviles is the top offensive utility man in the league and because of this, he will play more often than the average reserve.
15. Lonnie Chisenhall (23) .316/.391/.561 in 57 AB, 3 HR, 9 RBI
Chisenhall has taken more lumps than any prospect since Matt LaPorta, but is sticking around as a “starter” on the Indians. Whether he will be at third base, DH or used as a late inning pinch hitter against right handers, he is poised to break out this season at the age of 25. Finally, no one is expecting anything from Chisenhall, so this is his time to prove everyone wrong. As long as he gets consistent at bats, there is a very good chance he will do that.
16. Ryan Raburn (12) .321/.375/.714 in 28 AB, 3 HR, 7 RBI
After an excellent 2013 campaign, Raburn is slated to be the reserve outfielder, but could easily earn himself a starting role with solid play. It is well known that new right fielder, Murphy, can’t hit left handed pitching, so Raburn will likely start against south paws from the beginning of the season and could earn himself more time if he does well in this role. As the top offensive bench player, he could also see time at DH when Santana is playing third or catcher or as a pinch hitter.
17. Bryan Shaw (16) 3.38 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 7 K, 8 IP
Shaw was a lower member of the 2013 bullpen, but will be pushed into a larger role, like Allen, due to the departures of Smith and Perez and the demotion of Pestano. While he doesn’t have amazing stuff, he does throw consistent strikes and has been dependable throughout his career. All that being said, Pestano, Wood and C.C. Lee all have greater upsides than Shaw and one of the three will likely push him back within a couple months into the season.
18. Marc Rzepczynski (22) 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 9 K, 7.2 IP
Zep proved himself in a short time at the end of 2013 when he replaced the ineffectual Rich Hill as the team’s primary left handed reliever. This year he will be a late inning match-up man, but he also has the ability to pitch against right handed batters, making him more valuable than Outman, who has struggled against hitters of that like.
19. Carlos Carrasco (36) 3 W, 5.17 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 16 K, 15.2 IP
Carrasco was the last starter added to the Indians rotation, more because of his lack of options than his actual performance this Spring. He will likely be on a short “leash” and will be the first pitcher out of the rotation if he struggles. With Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer waiting in Columbus, Carrasco will have to have the results to go with the hype in order to stay out of the bullpen.
20. Josh Outman (New) 3.24 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8 K, 8.1 IP
Outman was the only prize brought back in exchange for Drew Stubbs and signed a Major League deal in January, guaranteeing a roster spot. To get this spot, he beat out a large list of left handed relievers that had been invited to the Indians camp this Spring, including Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes, who have shown talent, but not results, to this point at the Major League level. The Indians will likely want to get those two back on the Major League stage as early as possible, so Outman’s role with the team could be in risk if he struggles early on.
21. Vinnie Pestano (24) 7.36 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7 K, 7.1 IP
Expectations have dropped off to the extreme for Pestano who has dropped from “closer of the future” going into 2013 to mop up man coming into this season. Even though he has to work his way up from the bottom, he has a great chance to become one of the top relievers in the bullpen again, just by pitching like he did from 2011 through 2012.
22. Elliot Johnson (New) .352/.397/.611 in 54 AB, 9 RBI
Johnson has always been a poor hitter and above average fielder at eight different positions, but things look a little different this Spring. After a career .218 average with just 12 home runs, Johnson hit two home runs and knocked in nine in March.
23. Blake Wood (30) 0.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11 K, 9.2 IP
The Indians took a risk on Wood at the end of 2012, bringing him on despite knowing it would be a year before he had recovered from Tommy John surgery. The pay-off for that risk is now as Wood has made the Opening Day roster after a stellar Spring. He will likely be used in low impact situations during early games, but could eventually work himself into a more prominant role.
24. Nyjer Morgan (New) .233/.340/.326 in 43 AB, 7 RBI
Morgan slipped onto the team after Michael Bourn was placed on the DL during the last week of Spring Training. He will likely start at least a few of the five games Bourn is expected to miss with a pulled hamstring, but will probably be the first player out once he returns. All he has to do to meet expectations is to play solid center field as no emphasis will be placed on his bat.
25. Scott Atchison (New) 2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10 K, 9 IP
Atchison had a strong Spring, but at 38 years old, it is hard to know what to expect this season. With an eight man bullpen and no long man, he is likely to be used strictly in a mop up role early in the season, thus making him deserving of being ranked the least important player on the team.