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2015 Fantasy Baseball Advice and Tips | Cleveland Indians Preview

Come to your friends at Moxyball for Fantasy Baseball Advice and Tips as you prepare for your 2015 Fantasy Baseball Drafts!  Today, we continue our team by team previews with the Cleveland Indians.


The Cleveland Indians are at a bit of a cross roads. They have a lot of younger talent that should be hitting their prime (Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana) and a lot of veterans coming off the worst or most injured season in their career (Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Gavin Floyd ).
Tito has a tough job on his hands managing a fairly deep roster with a mix of veteran and young talent on his hands and more questions then answers.
Are Michael Brantley and Cory Kluber franchise players or have they reached the apex of their development?
Has father time caught up with Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher?
Is Carlos Santana ever going to be as good as people would like him to be?
Can Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall be solid every day regulars?

Before we look to examine some of these points further lets recap how the Indians did last year:

  • The tribe finished 11th in the league in runs with 669 and 13th in team ERA with a 3.57.
  • One of the more interesting points about this Indians team is it has a particularly deep roster (now even deeper thanks to them procuring Brandon Moss from my beloved A’s for a wink and a smile)
  • This can cause a lot of lineup shuffles which give players a shorter leash on full time roles or most likely just lose about 100 at bats a year to the Mike Aviles, David Murphy, Zach Walters and Ryan Raburns of the world.
The rotation seems fairly set with maybe the 5th spot being up for grabs and could take a big step forward this year if Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer can make some strides.
All in all The Indians should be providing quite a nice landing spot for fantasy owners.
Proceed With Caution – Lonnie Chisenhall 
  • Lonnie broke out in 2014. Well, broke out from his previously established norm of being a terrible fantasy option.  A .280 average with 13 homers and decent counting stats is actually not a bad option at 3rd base in deeper leagues and Lonnie treated his owners to serviceable stats from a draft slot that likely didn’t cost them much. Lonnie improved his batting average by 65 points and is still getting better at the age of 26 so a lot of folks expect him to continue to get better year over year and draft him accordingly. That’s where the problem lies for me. I do not see Lonnie getting much better than last year, he regressed a lot during the second half (hitting .218 with 4 homers compared to .320 with 9 homers) and if he continues that trend he could see himself losing time to the Mike Aviles, or Jesus Aguilar’s of the world (they could slide Santana back to third). Lonnie is rosterable in AL only and Deep Mixed Leagues, but it’s not by much and I honestly do not see much difference in rostering him vs some of the Indians bench bats like the aforementioned Aviles, or David Murphy.

The Breakout – Danny Salazar

  • His stuff is off the charts. He had over a K/Inning in a ‘down’ year and his FIP 3.52 did not line up with his ERA 4.25. The training wheels will be off this year for Danny Boy and if a rise back to his historical K rate (around 11 per 9) happens with his ERA coming closer to his FIP over 150+ innings and you are getting yourself a good mixed league option and a solid #2/#3 for AL only leagues. I like Danny more than most and value him similarly to his teammate Carlos Carrasco but with a higher upside.
The Question Mark – Carlos Santana 
  • Carlos Santana is a very polarizing fantasy player. Experts will point to his elite K/BB rate (it’s nearly 1/1), age (28) and the fact for the last two months of every season he looks like Babe Ruth and predict Mr. Santana to make the leap.  I for one, have never bought into this and typically end up getting into long winded email fights with those that do (I’m looking at you, Jared Kwart). I often relish the fact that Carlos is usually hitting in the low .150s every June and point and laugh at everyone who drafted him expecting 30 90/100 with a passable BA. Then just as assuredly as the weather in Cleveland heats up every summer, so too does Carlos Santana, who usually tears the cover off the ball until the end of the season and ends with a slightly disappointing yet solid (especially for a catcher) 20+ homers decent counting stats and a slightly corrected average. Last year, I took full advantage of Carlos’ annual false start and began playing him almost daily in the later months in DFS and likely owe him a sizable percentage of my DFS winnings because of this. But what should we do this year now that he has lost his catcher eligibility? How does he compare to other corner infielders? In season long leagues, likely worse than you think in my opinion, he’s out of my top 5 3rd basemen and is not the type of player I like to hang my hat on in season long leagues (I always choose consistency over upside near the top of my lineup) so my recommendation is too avoid him unless he slips on draft day, that being said few players in the league can match his upside at 3b so he’s one of the bigger question marks in the league.
 
The Underappreciated – Jason Kipnis 
  • When you have a 2013 like Jason had following it up with a 6 HR, 22 SB campaign where he hits .240 is a massive disappointment. He was slotted in as a lot of people’s #1 2b last year and this year he won’t come with anywhere close to that price tag. Last off season he bulked up to hit for more power and the result was a slower player, not only on the basepaths but with also with the stick as he went from a Godly 17.7 wFB (fastball runs above average) to a -0.3. While that kind of drop off is terrifying for an aging slugger for a young batter entering his prime I would expect that to raise back towards his career average (closer to a 10) which should see a spike in his numbers. Finding ‘buy low’ players in fantasy is always a struggle as the game evolves and competition becomes more statistically savvy, in my opinion Kipnis is a potential top 5 fantasy 2nd basemen and a sure fire top 10 making him a potential steal on draft day. Let others draft the Kolten Wong’s and Ian Kinsler’s of the world well ahead of Jason, wait on him and strike and reap the rewards of a player rebounding for the 2015 season.
Keep an Eye on – Carlos Carrasco
  • The curious case of Carlos Carrasco was a story line that I was following quite closely ever since he was called up last year around mid season and started become a bit of a DFS darling. For those baseball nuts whom have been following Carlos since his days as a Phillies prospect you had already washed your hands clean of Carlos and put him on your season long (and daily) DND (do not draft) lists. Then while you turned a blind eye to young Carlos (only 27 this year) something magical happened, he made a deal with the devil to increase his k rate to 9.3 and reduce his BB rate to under 2. Vastly improving over his disastrous 2013 (5.97 K rate and 3.47 BB rate), Carlos made the leap to being a reliable fantasy starter in all formats. So why did Carlos improve? Is it really the deal with the devil I mentioned above? I would venture to say that it more likely was due to the fact he started throwing his fantastic slider 22% of the time up from a career average of 10%. This pitch not only provided a great out pitch for Carlos but also allowed him to rely less on his changeup/fastball combo which he so heavily relied upon in the minors. So where do you draft Carlos? Near the backend of your shallow mixed league rotation or as a #3 in your AL only leagues but with upside for more. Also, Carlos and his slider are two items I will be watching very closely in the first month as I build up my DFS favorites.
 
Prospect that may get the first call – Fransisco Lindor 
  • If you read the buzz last year pundits would have had you believe Fransisco would be starting by now. He’s got a MLB ready glove and put a decent line in AAA for a 21 year old (.273/.307/.388). The problem was the then rated 6th best prospect on the Indians (Jose Ramirez) came up to the big leagues and put up decent numbers (more so in fantasy than in real life 10 SBs in 237 ABs.) and is an intriguing deep league play in his own right. The upside for Lindor is that of a gold glove cornerstone at shortstop with a higher upside than Jose hitting wise. The problem is for 2015 Fransisco may not be as ready as Jose and when Jose is given the ball, he could run with it. The reality is if Jose can put together a ‘good’ season he will end up looking like an Erik Aybar type (half dozen homers and 20+ steals) and if Lindor were to put together a ‘good’ season it would likely look worse much worse from a fantasy perspective due to a lack of foot speed. The recommendation from me is to treat these two both as deep mixed or AL only plays and handcuff them with each other. They both deserve to be owned in those formats but again, temper your expectations.

Projected Lineup

  • 1b – Carlos Santana
  • 2b – Jason Kipnis
  • 3b – Lonnie Chisenhall
  • SS – Jose Ramirez
  • RF – Brandon Moss
  • CF – Michael Bourn
  • LF – Michael Brantley
  • DH – Nick Swisher
Bench: Mike Aviles, David Murphy, Zach Walters, Ryan Raburn, Jesus Aguilar
 
Pitchers
  • SP1 – Cory Kluber
  • SP2 – Carlos Carrasco
  • SP3 – Danny Salazar
  • SP4 – Trevor Bauer
  • SP5 – Gavin Floyd/TJ House/ Cody Anderson

Prospects that could impact fantasy players

1. Fransisco Lindor
2. Jesus Aguilar
3. Cody Anderson
If you liked this article, then check out our latest Team Previews, as we sweep through all of the MLB teams:

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