Michael Brantley

May 2014 Player Power Rankings

The Indians have added a lot of new blood to the rankings this month, because of a vast amount of injuries and some very unimpressive starts. The new players have had mixed results with one shooting all the way up to number seven on this month’s rankings, despite playing in just five games. As always, the rankings are based on the entire 2014 season while the evaluation of their performance (Above, Even or Below) are based on the month of May. The +/- is their change from the April Power Rankings. Players who played in May, but did not finish the month with the team will be listed below the rankings.

One positive to take out of the month when the Indians went 15-13 is that the offense has improved completely across the board. In April, five hitters played at a level far below their expectations, but none did in May with a few playing vastly above their career averages. While pitching hasn’t improved at the same rate, there are four pitchers that made significant noise this May.

1. Michael Brantley Above (Change from April +0)
Michael BrantleyFor the second month in a row, Brantley has been the obvious choice to lead the Indians power rankings. Not only has he been one of the best Indians, but one of the best hitters (and defenders) in the league. Currently he ranks 8th in runs (34), 13th home runs (9), eighth in RBI (39) and tenth in OPS (.884) in the American League. In addition, he is first in the Majors with six outfield assists. Moving on from being the best player on the Indians, Brantley is an early MVP candidate and the favorite to be the an Indians representative in the All-Star game.

2. Corey Kluber Above (+3)
Kluber was solid in April, but has been among the best pitchers in baseball in May, striking out more than any other pitcher during the month (60), leading to an MLB high 95 on the season. In fact, only one other pitcher, Yu Darvish last season, has struck out 60 batters in month in the past decade. Only Dallas Kuechel and Jered Weaver have posted lower ERAs in May than Kluber’s 2.09 with at least 31 innings pitched (Kluber pitched 43, second most in the AL). With Masterson struggling, McAllister on the DL and Salazar in AAA, Kluber has become the Indians stopper and defacto ace.

3. David Murphy Even (-1)
Murphy has been almost as good as Brantley and is 16th in the AL in RBI (31). Murphy has brought a type of swing that has been missing from the team since Ronnie Belliard left. He has a two strike strategy that has allowed him to just serve balls into the opposite field that most players would strike out on.

4. Lonnie Chisenhall Above (+2)
Chisenhall could bat .400 and not get a regular place in the top of the Indians lineup, but he can’t avoid the top of the Power Rankings. After batting just .225 in 2013, Chisenhall has completely turned things around, batting .369 and slugging .554, both currently leading the team. Like Murphy, Chisenhall has been known to be unable to hit against lefties, so his time has been limited in these situations, but he has still went 9/16 with two walks in the first two months. The biggest difference between his past two months is that he has been given more regular playing time and higher in the lineup leading to 14 RBI in May after just one in April.

5. Bryan Shaw Above (+4)
There is always a primary closer in a “closer by committee” and Shaw has been that man for the Indians. He saved two of three opportunities in May and posted a very impressive 0.71 ERA, especially considering that he has been used in 28 of the Indians 56 games. In fact, extra innings and short starts have lead to four relievers pitching in at least 25 games. Shaw has been the best of these, posting a team best 1.37 ERA and a .196 BAA.

6. Yan Gomes Even (+4)
Gomes has been considerably better offensively in May, hitting three more home runs and batting .282, but that hasn’t been anywhere near as important as his improvement on defense. While he is still not perfect, he has kept the cannon under control and now caught 10 of 35 attempted base stealers. With Santana on the DL and unlikely to resume a regular catcher role upon his return Gomes will need to continue this solid play.

7. Josh Tomlin Above (New)
Tomlin throws his fast ball in the low 90’s and doesn’t walk anybody, which is an amazing recipe for success. He has done this his entire career and it has culminated into a 3.04 ERA with 22 strike outs in 26.2 innings this season. He missed out on the rotation to begin the season due to Carrasco’s lack of options, but now that he is in, he is making it impossible to send him back down.

8. Scott Atchison Above (+9)
Atchison was great all May, but a blown lead in the final game of the month shot his ERA from 0.76 to 2.84. While he was included in the “closer by committee,” he is the least used in pressure situations of those relievers. On a team that is striking out batters at a record pace, Atchison is last on the team in K/9, but has had no problem keeping runners off the bases with an impressive BAA (.220) and WHIP (0.87).

9. Michael Bourn Even (+2)
Bourn may take a lot of criticism for not being worth his mega contract signed before last season, but he has been a solid offensive producer this season. He has been getting on base regularly (45 hits and ten walks in 36 games), the most important quality in a lead off hitter and has hit for some power as well, posting the fifth best slugging percentage among starters. While his speed isn’t quite where it used to be (what 32 year old is?), he is still quick enough to distract the opposing pitcher, which is good enough.

10. Mike Aviles Above (+9)
Aviles has always played more than the normal reserve, as his bat and defense are well above those of the normal reserve. He has been thrust into a starting role in May due to the injury to Kipnis and has responded in kind, batting .301 in May after hitting just .240 in April. He also came in second on the team in RBI for the month with 16. Especially impressive for Aviles is the fact that he hasn’t committed an error while providing some flashy defense at second base. This has been beneficial for a Tribe defense that has struggled majorly through the first two months.

11. Asdrubal Cabrera Even (+4)
Cabrera has brought things to another level in May, posting an OPS of .777 after a .219 average and .620 SLG in April. This fits in line with his career numbers as he has averaged a .721 OPS in April, .800 OPS in May and .828 OPS in June over his career. Cabrera stepping things up was critical to for the Tribe as he has essentially had to take over Jason Kipnis’ role in the offense. It also has allowed Aviles to play second, rather than have to be an all around utility man.

12. Josh Outman Even (+1)
Outman has done exactly what he was brought in for, get left handers out. His .162 BAA against left handed hitters is third on the team only to the Tribe’s other left handed reliever, Rzepczynski and Allen. He hasn’t been much worse against right handers, though, holding all hitters to a .232 average. He has pitched less often than the rest of the regular relievers and in less high leverage situations, but has done what was asked of him as a left handed specialist.

13. Cody Allen Even (-6)
Even with Axford deposed, Allen has remained the eighth inning pitcher for the most part and that is a good thing as he has struggled slightly during the past month. In 12.2 innings, he has allowed five runs and 17 base runners. With Shaw overused, Allen did get a chance to save the final two games of the month, throwing his first 1-2-3 innings in 12 days. One positive for Allen this month is that he has struck out 13 batters and been dominant against left handers, posting the best BAA (.154) vs LHH among right handed pitchers on the Indians.

14. Marc Rzepczynski Below (-2)
Like Allen, Zep has had some issues since gaining a role of increased prominence. He has allowed eight runs in 9 innings (although just four were earned) and his numbers are made to look even worse when compared to the great month produced by Outman and even Kyle Crockett. As the season continues, Terry Francona will have to solidify the ninth inning, whether it means giving it back to Axford or officially naming Shaw or Allen to the role. Either way, the certainty of his role should help Zep get back on track.

15. Jason Kipnis Even (-11)
Kipnis lost almost the entire month of May to the DL, but did return to the team in slightly less than a month, a quick comeback after a severe oblique strain. After the major failures of Johnson, Ramirez and Sellers, the he couldn’t have come back at a better time. Kipnis played in just the final three games of the month so it is impossible to properly rate his production.

16. Justin Masterson Below (-2)
While Kluber has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this month, Masterson has been one of the worst. He allowed a team high 33 hits and 18 walks in 32 innings for the Tribe, leading to a terrible 5.63 ERA. Masterson was not put in the best of situations including a start on three days rest and a rain shortened game against Chicago, but the results are what matter. While he is hurting the team, no one is going to get worse results than Masterson himself, who is a free agent at the end of the season.

17. Trevor Bauer Below (New)
Bauer is one of those prospects that has graduated from the minors, but still needs a little higher education. His dominance in AAA shows that he is not challenged at that level, yet he is still having troubles with location in the Major Leagues. While nowhere near as bad as last season, he is still having issues with walks (8.5 per 9 in 2013, 3.7 per 9 in 2014) and as he falls behind in the count, is often the victim of the home run ball. He has only made four starts this season, though, and 12 in his career. It seems at this point, all he really needs is more experience against Major League hitting

18. John Axford Below (-11)
Axford was removed from his closer role early in May and has since been unable to get anybody out in any situation, posting a 4.91 ERA for the month. While Terry Francona has stated that the role is there for Axford if he can earn it back, it seems that he is much closer to being DFA’d than to be getting any saves in the near future. The Indians minor league system is loaded with Major League ready talent and Axford, Carrasco and Lowe are all candidates for release.

19. Carlos Carrasco Above (+4)
Just like last season, Carrasco has bloomed since being placed back into the bullpen, posting an ERA of 2.57 in eight appearances (14 IP) compared to his 6.95 ERA in four starts. While this is a relatively small sample size, it isn’t when included with the rest of his career and should be the only proof needed that Carrasco’s home will be in the Indians bullpen from now on.

20. George Kottaras Above (New)
Kottaras played in just one game this month, during his first appearance with the team and it was an amazing one. For those questioning how he could be this high in the rankings after just three at bats, Kottaras has two home runs in those three at bats and every hitter left on the rankings combined has a total of three. If the Indians thought that there was any chance of him continuing this success, he would have gotten a few more at bats, but for now, he has still had a better season than Raburn, Giambi and Aguilar.

21. Ryan Raburn Even (+1)
Raburn was one of the worst hitters in April, but has batted .260, good enough to get his season average above .200. This improvement has been essential to the Indians offense as Raburn has seen a significant increase in playing time with all the Indians injuries. He is still ranked above two other hitters, despite just one home run and 12 RBI on the season mostly because of his value in the field.

22. T.J. House Even (New)
House made his first two career starts this May and had just about as opposite results as are possible. In his first start, Baltimore knocked House around for five runs and 11 hits in six innings. In his second, he held Chicago to a single run on five hits with eight strike outs through 6.1. Putting those two starts together, House has had a very average month with a 4.50 ERA and nine K’s in 13.1 innings. It is unknown how long he will stay in the rotation with Salazar in AAA and McAllister on the DL, but if he makes a couple more starts like the one against the White Sox, the Indians will find room for him on the team.

23. Mark Lowe Even (New)
Lowe has a solid looking 2.08 ERA, but things break down if you look any further. His own error cost most of the damage of his four unearned runs allowed and his 2.31 WHIP is about as bad as it gets. He was called up initially after some bullpen abuse left the team without enough available relievers and has managed to stay around for a week. Most likely, he will be sent down soon as C.C. Lee, Vinnie Pestano, Nick Hagadone, Kyle Crockett and Bryan Price are waiting in AAA.

24. Jason Giambi Even (+1)
Giambi finally got off his hitless streak this month, with a two singles and two home runs to get him to 4/26. His first home run was in similar fashion to last year’s heroics, a three run shot that gave the Indians a one run lead. It however, important to remember that more often then not, he has failed in those situations. That was, in fact, his first hit with runners on in 2014 as he has gone 1/15 in those situations. His .067 average with runners on is worse than any batter with the Indians this year and his .154 overall average is worse than any hitter except #25.

25. Jesus Aguilar Even (New)
Aguilar has gotten off to a slow start in limited action, with just three hits and two RBI so far in 16 at bats. He was thrust into a more regular role with the injuries to Swisher and Santana and that should help him gain some consistency at the Major League level. For the most part, Aguilar has not shown the power he has at every level of the minor leagues, but he did hit one to the center field wall against Colorado, but was robbed by Charlie Blackmon.

No Longer With Us

60 Day DL
Nyjer Morgan Above

15 Day DL
Nick Swisher Below
Zach McAllister Below

7 Day DL
Carlos Santana Below

Elliot Johnson Below
Nick Hagadone DNP
C.C. Lee Below
Danny Salazar Below
Jose Ramirez Below
Justin Sellers Below
Kyle Crockett Above

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB