Where We Were: Final 2012 Rankings 1-15

The Indians season is over, so this will be the last Player Rankings of the year. Next season this segment will be changed to be a Player Power Rankings and will be directly coralated to the Player of the Game equation. Today’s ranking will differ from the others done this season (April, May, June, July, August and September) as it will list each players highest point on the rankings during this season, followed by an evaluation of their performance in 2012 compared to preseason expectations. The list is still a ranking of each players importance to the team during this past season.

1. Jason Kipnis (1) Even

The one thing keeping Kipnis from a second successful season was his .257 batting average and subsequent .335 OBP. Kipnis should be working on becoming the perfect top of the lineup hitter, which will include getting on base at a very high rate, and he is simply not there yet. A few of the other aspects of the speed game have already been conquered by Kipnis, however. His 31 steals are the most since Grady Sizemore in 2008 and he is only the second Indian to steal 30 bases in the last 12 years. He also lead the team with four triples in addition to his other 36 extra base hits.

2. Shin-Soo Choo (1) Even

Choo lead all Indians in 2012 in OBP and SLG, while still stealing 21 bases. The problem with Choo’s season this year stemmed from his change from middle of the lineup hitter (where he belongs) to lead off hitter. In his first three season, Choo hit 14, 20 and 22 home runs, with expectations for him to increase his power as he matured as a player. What happened instead is he was turned into a lead-off hitter, simply focused on setting the table for the following hitters. The problem is that the Indians don’t have any power hitters so they need to take advantage of what they do have. Choo did hit another level in hitting doubles with his 43, the most since Sizemore hit 53 in 2006.

3. Carlos Santana (2) Even

Santana lead all Indians with 76 RBI and 91 walks. If based on just the second half of the season, Santana would have far exceeded his expectations. After the All-Star break, Santana hit .281 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI, but his .221 average and 5 home runs before the break really took down his season. The best part of his game is that he walked more than 40 times in each half, although his SO/BB ratio was much better in the second half. Santana understands the importance of getting on base and has a great eye at the plate, which doesn’t fail him when he is struggling.

4. Michael Brantley (3) Above

Brantley did everything that could have been asked of him in 2012. In addition to his magnificent defense, he played in 35 more games than last season, getting more hits, doubles, RBI and walks while raising his batting average by more than .20 points. Brantley was everything a dependable centerfielder needs to be, taking just 6 games off all season that weren’t for injury. He is the player who should be hitting lead-off for the Tribe, allowing them to move Choo back down in the lineup. He has the perfect skills for lead-off, with a good awareness of the strike zone and ability to get on base. He also hit 37 doubles and four triples, but just 7 home runs, so it is not wasting his power to bat him lead-off, but actually helps as he can move himself along the bases. His one drawback in 2012 was that he was caught stealing nine times in just 21 attempts. This rate needs to be improved for him to be a threat on the bases.

5. Asdrubal Cabrera (2) Even

It is kind of unfair to compare Asdrubal to his 2011 season as it will probably be the best in his career. No one expected him to do what he did then, and no one should expect it from him again. This year was certainly a much more typical season as he hit 16 home runs with 68 RBI, down from 25 and 92 a year ago. What is impressive is that he kept his average around .270 still, and while that might not be good for the AL as a whole, it’s great for the Indians. Only Choo and Brantley managed a batting average above Cabrera this year and no one hit over .300. Cabrera’s fielding is one place that needs work. While he has excellent range and makes plays that should keep him on Sports Center for years, he also doesn’t make plays. Cabrera had 19 errors this year, most in the AL. While some of these errors are caused by his good range, because he can get to balls other players can’t, but then can’t make a play on them, many have to do with poor throws, or bobbles on what should be routine plays. Kotchman certainly saved him from having even more errors this year. Cabrera will have to work on these fundamental plays if he ever wants to grab the Gold Glove, that he should be able to take.

6. Vinnie Pestano (5) Above

A team’s best pitcher should never be in the bullpen, but Pestano is something special. He pitched in 70 games this year and struck out more batters (76) than all but three starters. He also broke the team record for holds (with 36) and pushed it to a new level. If there is one reason Perez got as many save opportunities as he did, it was Pestano keeping the other team from coming back during the 8th inning, setting the game up for Perez. When the two pitched they were unbeatable. Pestano came in for the save or hold 41 separate times and blew a total of three. In just his second season, Vinnie has basically had the greatest two consecutive seasons for any Indians relief pitcher ever. 

7. Travis Hafner (1) Below

Any year that Pronk spends more days on the DL (74) than he does in the lineup (66) it is a recipe for a disappointing season. What is most disappointing is that he still ended up being the 7th most important player on the team despite missing half the season to injury. If you just look at his SLG and OPS, he had a good year, second to just Choo in the first and Choo and Santana in the second stat, but there is a lot more to baseball than that. Hafner hit 12 homeruns (pretty good for his amount of playing time), but just knocked in 34 runs. That’s almost to a Duncan level of non-production. For those who think that he didn’t get enough chances, Hafner stranded 63 runners in scoring position, more than any other player with less than 460 at bats. Hafner had 219 at bats.

8. Chris Perez (7) Above

Much like Pestano, Perez was almost perfect this year. He is already among the top four closers in Indians history when considering total saves and completion percentage. Although he is outspoken, he gets his job done well and that’s all that should matter. With Perez having the 9th locked down, the whole bullpen falls into place with Pestano in the 8th and Smith in the 7th. This provides an almost unbeatable bullpen for any pitcher who can get himself through the 6th.

9. Joe Smith (9) Above

Smith is the third part of the Indians Bullpen Mafia that remains solid since 2011. Like the other two, he is almost unhittable (.213 BAA), but he doesn’t strike out as many hitters as Perez or Pestano. Because he wasn’t used as exclusively in close games as either of the other two pitchers, Smith actually pitched more games(72) than any other pitcher.

10. Casey Kotchman (7) Below

There were only two things the Indians were looking for coming into this season as the Tribe’s biggest free agent pick-up, his famous “greatest defensive firstbaseman in MLB history” glove and a decent batting average, like the one he had last season for Tampa Bay. Kotchman was everything as expected defensively. While he did make a couple errors, he certainly saved more errors from Cabrera and Hannahan than he caused. On the other part, he failed miserably. Kotchman was, by far, the worst Indians regular hitter ending the season with a .229 batting average. While many Indians hitters had a poor first half, most were able to salvage the second half of the year to bring them to respectability. Kotchman was not able to do this.

11. Esmil Rogers (11) Above

Rogers came to the Indians through a mid-season trade with Colorado. He had struggled his whole career with command, despite having electric stuff. As soon as he moved closer to sea level he showed the kind of promise the Rockies must have originally seen in him. With Cleveland, he struck out 54 and only walked 12, definitely far away from having a control problem. In fact, it is a ratio about twice as good as the Indians own Smith. After a long trial period, Rogers become a trusted member of the bullpen and ended up pitching in 44 games. There is no part of Rogers game that can be faulted after he joined the Indians and he should be an important member of the bullpen in 2013.

12. Jack Hannahan (4) Below

After Kotchman, Hannahan was the most disappointing regular starter. Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be more than a stop gap while waiting for Chisenhall, but a stupid front office move combined with a hit by pitch made Hannahan the most used third baseman. Not only was he bad offensively, but he was even bad on defense, he one supposed skill. Hannahan commited 14 errors, second most on the team and had a dreadful .949 fielding percent. Offensively, he was worse than replacement level with both Carrera and Canzler vastly outperforming him in their short times with the team.

13. Ezequiel Carrera (13) Above

Carrera only played 48 games with the team, but he should have played much more. Carrera had higher rate stats across the board than Damon, Duncan, Cunningham and Lillibridge, all the other players mainly used in left field this year. This shouldn’t even have been a surprise as he played well while with the team last season. He is also a much better defensive outfielder than anyone else on the Indians 40 man roster. While he is prone to a stupid mistake from time to time, these occur a lot less often then the errors caused by lack of ability from the other players. He also brings about an element of speed often missing from Indians teams over the past decade. This year he stole 8 bases, just being caught once and hit three triples, one shy of the team lead, in very limited time.

14. Zach McAllister (7) Above

McAllister is the first of a group of pitchers all used as starters (or long relievers) that came in with no expectations and gave something back to the Tribe. This group includes Seddon and Kluber as well, so rather than write the same thing three times, I’ll just put it here once. All three pitchers came into this year with little or no Major League experience and were immediately thrown into a terrible situation where they were asked to take on much more responsibility than they should have. McAllister was asked to be the ace of the staff in his first full year with the two supposed aces struggling, Seddon was forced to bounce between starter and reliever without any notice and Kluber was changed from relief pitcher in 2011 to starter in 2012. All pitchers struggled at times, and all outperformed my expectations of them. All three deserve a chance to make next year’s team, with McAllister already earning a spot in the rotation.

15. Lonnie Chisenhall (14) Below

This has to have been an incredibly disappointing season for Lonnie. He came into Spring Training as the favorite for the starting third base job and didn’t even make the team out of camp. It wasn’t until the middle of the season before he got his first chance, then he was hit by a pitch on his arm, breaking it. After how well he played in his short time with the team last season, it was sad to see him in just 43 games this year. In those games, he did not play well, knocking in just 16 runs, even though he hit five home runs. 


The rest of the team rankings will be coming tomorrow, including those players who are no longer with the Indians.

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