The Indians have had their ups and downs during the first month of the season, but remain within 6 games of first place, despite a record below .500. This is not the time to look at team-wide successes and failures however, but to break things down and look at every player individually. Like in previous seasons, the players are ranked from first through 25th with a short description about why they are placed where they should be. The “Above,” “Even” or “Below” next to each player’s name is a comparison to their preseason expectations and the final number is their change from the initial Power Rankings created in March.
Unlike previous seasons, you, the reader, can have a voice. Burning River Baseball has partnered with Ranker.com, where you can vote on which players should be higher or lower. Just click here to see the fan rankings and vote.
1. Michael Brantley Above (Change from Pre-Season Rank +5)
Brantley has always been an above average hitter and top of the league defender, he has really hit a new level this month. He is still batting below his career average at .255, but has really impressed as the Indians most productive hitter, ranking first on the team with 20 RBI. While some of this increase has come from his team leading four home runs, his .326 average with runners on made him the second most “clutch” player on the team behind the next batter on this list.
2. David Murphy Above (+11)
There have been quite a few surprising successes this season and Murphy has been the biggest. Coming into the season, he was to be a platoon player with Raburn, but he has played himself into a much more consistent starting role. He played in all but two games this month and is second in RBI (18) and average (.282) behind Chisenhall. He still has extreme splits (.884 OPS vs RHP, .598 vs LHP), but he has been solid enough against both sides to stay in the line-up on a daily basis.
3. Zach McAllister Above (+6)
McAllister has been the Indians best and most consistent member of a group full of incredibly inconsistent starting pitchers. He has made it through five innings in all but his final start of the month and that was on short rest. He leads all Indians starters in ERA (3.82), wins (3) and home runs allowed (1). McAllister has never really been a strike out pitcher, but apparently, K’s are contagious as he has a 7.64 K/9, the second best of his career.
4. Jason Kipnis Even (-3)
The great thing about Kipnis is that even when he is at his worst, he is still better than almost everybody else on the team. Despite hitting just .234 in April, he is second on the team with 17 walks, three home runs and six doubles. He has also been solid in the clutch, knocking in twelve runs from the three hole, despite the poor start of number two hitter, Swisher. In addition to all this, he has been the lone bright spot in an absolutely dreadful infield on defense. He will get better offensively as the weeks go on and it shouldn’t take him too long to reclaim that top spot.
5. Corey Kluber Even (0)
Kluber has given the Indians more innings (37) than any other Indians starter and has pitched the Tribe’s best single start, but has not been as good as he can be. His 4.14 ERA is the second best on the team, but he was better last season with a 3.85 ERA. Like many of the Indians starters, he has tremendous potential, but it playing below that on a regular basis. As the season goes on, it is unfathomable that Kluber and Salazar won’t improve immensely.
6. Lonnie Chisenhall Above (+9)
Speaking of pleasant surprises, no one, outside the writers of this site, predicted Chisenhall to have a breakout season, but he has batted .362 for the first month of the season. There are two things keeping Chisenhall this low on the list. First, he missed almost half of the season due to the fact that he isn’t allowed to face left handers (he is 1 for 1 vs LHP) and was on the paternity list. Secondly, when being used, he has batted ninth more than any other place and had almost no production opportunities, knocking in just a single run all month.
7. John Axford Above (+5)
Axford was another player, like Murphy and Outman, that the Indians didn’t really know what to expect from. He has definitely smashed through any diminutive expectations based on his 2013 season and has been a very positive force as the final man out of the Indians bullpen. He has blown just one save so far (8/9) and struck out more almost a batter per inning. His three runs allowed in the month came in just two games, one of which was not a save situation. He may not be as good as Chris Perez at his best, but he is definitely better than Perez at his worst and a solid choice for the job this year.
8. Cody Allen Above (+3)
As expected prior to the season, Allen was one of the Indians best reliever this month. What wasn’t expected was the poor quality of the rest of the team, allowing him to move a few spots up the rankings. Allen has been about as good as possible, allowing three runs in 10.2 innings with a team high 13.5 K/9. Despite two great seasons to start his career, this is his highest K/9 and K/BB (3.2).
9. Bryan Shaw Above (+8)
Shaw is a perfect example of the Indians bullpen, allowing just three runs in 13.1 innings. He has thrown more innings than any other Indians reliever, although they have generally been in low pressure situations. He came into the season as one of the top options for closer, but has since fell behind Axford, Allen and Zep in the depth chart through no fault of his own. Of course, he still ranks second on the team in holds (4), behind Allen.
10. Yan Gomes Even (+0)
Gomes may have suffered from lofty expectations as much as anything else this season. Despite just half a season as a dependable starter, Gomes was named the starting catcher ahead of Santana and was given a seven year contract extension at the end of March. Since then, he has had issues both offensively and defensively, specifically when trying to throw out base runners at second. The Indians have struggled against left handed pitching so far this season and as a right handed hitter, Gomes was supposed to be part of the solution. Instead, he has batted .214 with no extra base hits against left handed pitchers (.250, 7 XBH overall).
11. Michael Bourn Even (NR)
Bourn got a late start to things after an early hamstring injury cost him the first two weeks of the season. He has since came back with a decent bat (.651 OPS), although it is possible the injury has cost him some speed. There have been a few balls that he had to extend himself for that he would have caught on the run in the past and he has been caught stealing three times in five attempts, a far cry from his 79% career success rate. The rest of the team has been significantly better on the base paths going 19 for 21 on the year.
12. Marc Rzepczynski Above (+6)
Just as he left off in 2013, Zep has had a tremendous start to 2014. His 2.53 ERA is impressive, although he has only pitched 10.2 innings. Only about half his batters faced have been left handers and he has been even better against them, allowing just three hits and no runs in five innings. His .176 average and 0.80 WHIP against LHH (his specialty) are second on the team to Allen.
13. Josh Outman Above (+7)
The Indians didn’t know what they were getting from Outman, who was brought in mostly because he was cheaper than Drew Stubbs. He has been more than serviceable, especially against his specialty, left handed hitters. Against lefties, he holds a .188 BAA with seven strike outs in 4.2 innings and he hasn’t been completely terrible against right handers with a .313 BAA, three strike outs and 3.2 innings. Terry Francona didn’t learn from Outman’s 2013 campaign, when he couldn’t get a right hander out, but hopefully he will change his opinion after seeing it first hand.
14. Justin Masterson Below (-12)
It is a good thing that Kluber and McAllister have been as good as they have been as the Indians’ ace has been far from ace-like. He does lead the team in strike outs (35) and is second in innings (35.1), but he is not the stopper that is needed at the front of the rotation. In fact, Masterson has just a 0-1 record in his six starts, largely because of his inability to go late into games and his 4.84 ERA.
15. Asdrubal Cabrera Below (-7)
Cabrera has taken over Brantley’s position in the line-up from last season, moving up and down depending on the day and batting first, sixth, seventh and eighth on different occasions. Cabrera doesn’t like the inconsistency, but he hasn’t hit productively in either of his most regular spots, lead-off and sixth. Overall, he is batting just .220, but does have eight extra base hits and three steals, increasing his offensive value.
16. Nick Swisher Below (-12)
Always the team leader, Swisher currently leads the Indians in strike outs (32), outs made (86) and is second in errors (4). As the number two hitter, Swisher has also had the most at bats on the team and has responded with a .211 average. With the love Terry Francona has for “veteran” players, there is little chance for Swisher to be moved down in the line-up, and there is also little chance of the offense getting back to full strength with Swisher struggling.
17. Scott Atchison Above (+8)
Atchison has been more solid than anyone could have predicted, posting a 2.31 ERA with 8 K’s in 11.2 innings. The only thing keeping him ranked below the other relievers on this list is the same thing that kept Matt Albers down last season, he is never used in key situations. That being said, it is players like Atchison and Outman that keep things from getting out of hand and are an important part of the team, just not as important as the closer and set-up men.
18. Carlos Santana Below (-15)
There exists no player on the Indians that has been more disappointing than Santana. Coming into the season, he was supposed to provide the team’s power and the core of the line-up. In fact, the move to third base was done to make sure his bat was in the order every single day. Now, he is batting .151 in a significant 93 at bats. He did finally start heating up in the last series of the month, bringing him up to three home runs and nine RBI, but he still has a long way to go to get back to his normal self.
19. Mike Aviles Below (-5)
One of the biggest advantages the Indians had in 2013 was the fantastic bench, which was nicknamed the “Goon Squad.” To a man, each of the players from the “Goon Squad” has fallen off this year, including the now starting catcher, Gomes and the super utility man, Aviles. Aviles hit the Indians’ first home run of the year, but has only one extra base hit since and is 12-50 overall. With Santana playing third and the rest of the infield rarely taking a day off, Aviles has added outfield to his list of positions, allowing him to grab some extra at bats when Bourn was on the DL or taking a day off.
20. Danny Salazar Below (-13)
There are two things keeping Salazar from being number 25 despite a 6.04 ERA and a .310 opponent batting average. One, is that unlike the bottom of this list, he has actually played a considerable amount. Secondly, the Indians didn’t need him to be amazing from day one. Unlike Carrasco, Salazar is still 24 years old and in just his second Major League season. There is room in the rotation for one all or nothing starter and Salazar has shown flashes where he looks like the best pitcher in the league.
21. C.C. Lee Even (NR)
Lee has been the most average reliever still on team, but has been significantly better than the two who were sent down to AAA, Pestano and Wood. He has been very similar to two of the Indians starters to be mentioned later, in that he has been both dominant and disappointing. The biggest difference between the has been the amount of pressure. Since Lee isn’t a starter, he isn’t allowed to get into as much trouble as the two young starters, keeping his numbers (5.14 ERA, 6 K’s, 7 IP) looking significantly better.
21. Ryan Raburn Below (-6)
Raburn’s start shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who looks past what is actually happening and into why it is. Raburn’s success last season was due to his .311 BABIP, up almost 90 points from the season before. This year, his BABIP has dropped again, down to .225, significantly lower than the league average. The good thing for Raburn, is that these lucky/unlucky streaks rarely last too long. While he probably won’t reach last years numbers, he won’t end the season batting .164 either.
23. Carlos Carrasco Below (-6)
The Indians have seen both sides of Carrasco this year, but he has yet to actually put something together for an entire game. He has multiple great starts through three innings, but has had issues getting past that point. His 24 strike outs in 23.2 innings is very impressive, but his average of just over five innings per start is not. He sat on the borderline of moving to the bullpen in favor of Trevor Bauer for a long time, but eventually, Francona and Chris Antonetti tired of his 6.46 ERA and moved him back into the bullpen a few days ago.
24. Elliot Johnson Even (-2)
Johnson has just 15 at bats so far this year and that is actually a good thing. It means the Indians infield has been hitting and playing defense so well, they don’t need a single day off. Or else, it means that Francona knows that Johnson would be an even worse option. Combined with the next player, the Indians have a defender that is such a poor hitter, he can’t even make it into the line-up and a hitter that is so feeble, he can’t be used in the field. While the Indians’ bench looked extremely versatile on paper, the fact that everyone can play everywhere isn’t all that useful if they can’t do anything else.
25. Jason Giambi Even (NR)
Giambi is fulfilling the newly created position of player/coach, which allows him to use a 25 man roster spot without actually producing anything on the field. He is yet to have a hit in 2014, including his rehab in Akron and multiple Spring Training appearances. In the regular season, he has gotten into three games and went 0-8, but did reach base once, when he was hit by a pitch.
No Longer With Us (In no particular order)
Vinnie Pestano Below
Justin Sellers DNP
Trevor Bauer Above
Nyjer Morgan Above
Blake Wood Below