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November 27, 2013

Fantasy Team Preview

Cleveland Indians

by Craig Goldstein and Bret Sayre


Coming off their first playoff appearance since blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2007 ALCS, the Indians will look to get back to the Promised Land (if you can call a one-game playoff the Promised Land). And they’ll have to do it with two of their three best pitchers from last season, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, potentially departing. The lineup remains intact, though they have added underrated outfielder David Murphy so that they don’t have to give nearly 500 plate appearances to Drew Stubbs again.

Yes, the Indians are a better franchise now than they were 25 years ago when they had Ricky Vaughn and Jake Taylor in uniform, but that element that causes us not to take them seriously as a World Series contender still exists. They have a couple of strong, underrated players about to enter their primes in Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, but they’ll need others to step up and join them on that stage to make a deep playoff push. With the Tigers improving their roster (and flexibility) by trading for Ian Kinsler and the Royals possibly on the rise, the Indians will have their hands full in the AL Central.

Projected Lineup

  1. CF Michael Bourn
  2. 1B Nick Swisher
  3. 2B Jason Kipnis
  4. C Carlos Santana
  5. LF Michael Brantley
  6. SS Asdrubal Cabrera
  7. DH Ryan Raburn
  8. RF David Murphy
  9. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall

There has to be some concern about Bourn’s fantasy value after last season. After swiping 103 bases over the 2011-12 seasons, Bourn amassed… 23 in 2013. That’s a putrid number if you’re also going to put up with a sub .700 OPS. His BABIP was lower than the last few years, but not decidedly so, so we can’t blame it on the luck dragons. There should be some hesitation in projecting him as normal, so there’s an opportunity for value here, though it does come with a sizable amount of risk. Swisher also experienced a dropoff, as the two pricey imports helped legitimize Cleveland despite their downturn in production. Swisher did experience a significant BABIP decline, but we can also assume that going from the short porch in the Bronx to Progressive Field affected him. Kipnis and Santana remain studs, with the former a top-notch (top 3-4 depending on how you feel about Matt Carpenter) option at the keystone.

Brantley made some waves with a hot start to 2013, and posted career highs in both home runs and stolen bases. That said, he’s only a middling power type with a mild on-base percentage. You can do worse as a fourth outfielder, but there’s limited upside here. Asdrubal had an ugly year, no doubt, but he’s got his position working for him and his batted-ball profile wasn’t drastically different from previous seasons. He’s not going to be special, but if someone has thrown in the towel, there’s ample opportunity for a rebound, and he’s got back end top-10 SS potential. Despite a clear preference for facing southpaw’s Raburn logged almost equal at-bats against right-handed pitching. While they’ve previously destroyed him, Raburn did well enough (.800 OPS) in 2013 to make his overall stat-line worthwhile. His 1.000 OPS against lefties is unlikely to be repeated though, so while he’s likely to be a fine platoon bat in fantasy, counting on him for anything more would be foolish. Freshly signed David Murphy is another platoon bat, though unlike Raburn, he is banking on a return to 2012 form.

Projected Bench

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