Forecasting the Indians 2013 Fantasy Baseball Seasons: Who to draft and who to avoid
By Kevin Schneider
As the Indians’ new additions gel with last year’s holdovers, it’s also time for fantasy-baseball owners to fine tune their draft strategy.
This draft promises to be an intriguing and perhaps hard-to-predict one for Tribe fans. Questions include:
How will speedster Michael Bourn’s stats hold up in a switch to the slugger-heavy American League?
How will new Indians darling Nick Swisher adjust from being a good player on a powerhouse team to being the big fish in a smaller pond?
How will closer Chris Perez start this season compared with his blown save in last year’s Opening Day after also dealing with trade rumors throughout the off-season?
How will Asdrubal Cabrera’s reportedly in-shape show up to Spring Training affect the start and long-haul of his season’s production?
Will new addition and mostly DH Mark Reynolds be worth a selection for his power and RBI production, despite his imminent strikeouts?
Along with these questions, as a fantasy player, it’s important to know the other owners in your league. As an Indians fan, you likely play in a league with other Tribe followers, so most likely everyone will draft the team’s players higher than the average fan. If you know an owner is a Yankees (gasp!) fan or Reds follower, know that owner likely will place on premium on a few of those team’s players.
With that said, in what follows, I look at the average drafting position, according to Yahoo Sports, spring-training performance, and season projections to give a prediction on which Indians players are underrated, overrated, or about right going into the upcoming 2013 drafts.
I based my recommendations on expected player performance in major categories including batting average, runs, RBIs, HRs, and stolen bases for everyday players and ERA, SO, WHIP, wins, losses, and saves for pitchers. Again, I’ve based this list on how Yahoo Sports drafters have valued the Indians players compared to how I expect them to perform.
1. Carlos Santana, C, (average draft position: 80.5): Buoyed by his expected drop in the lineup, Santana should return from his World Baseball Classic championship ready to live to the expectations Tribe brass always has held for him. Francona likely won’t play him at first base much this year, allowing him to focus solely on catching and hitting. His eligibility at catcher and first base in most leagues add to his value. Expect him to blow away last year’s production of .252, with 18 HRs, 76 RBIs, 72 runs, and 3 steals. I agree Buster Posey and Yadier Molina should be ranked above Santana, but Joe Mauer’s higher rank with only 10 HRs and 85 RBIs last year seems high. I’d take Santana instead.
2. Michael Bourn, OF, (average draft position: 86.2): The perennial National League steals leader wouldn’t be the first OF I’d want on my team. But Bourn, sprinkled in once you’ve drafted power, provides sure-fire steals, a hard to get commodity that Francona has said he values. Expect him to push Bourn to run in the leadoff role and set Kipnis and Cabrera up to knock him in from scoring position. His .274 average, with 57 RBIs, 96 runs, and his trademark 42 steals should kick start the Tribe’s lineup.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, (average draft position: 99.3): I would draft Cabrera around his ranking before Kipnis at his ranking for a couple of reasons. First, Cabrera’s in shape and shouldn’t fade in the second half, especially with Francona vowing to use backup Mike Aviles to sometimes spell Cabrera and put him in as the DH. Cabrera came to camp aiming to disprove detractors, who pointed to his growing weight, slow second halves, and potential trade as reasons to avoid drafting him. His 16 HRs and 68 RBIs should increase from last season with more runners on base to drive in. And his 9 steals from last year should go up based on Francona’s interest in running.
4. Justin Masterson, SP, (average draft position: 241.2): My belief Masterson will perform better than Yahoo’s draft position relies on him getting more wins from being on a better team this year and from being more consistent partly based on the confidence Francona has shown in him. He’s ranked just below the Royals’ Ervin Santana, who last year had a 5.15 ERA with 133 strikeouts. Masterson last year had a 4.93 ERA, with 159 strikeouts; he haunted fantasy owners based on his inconsistency.
5. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, (average draft position: 236.9): He’s being drafted as the 24th best third baseman. If he hits 20 HRs, though, as expected, and plays consistently, he would be a bargain at that drafting position. The Orioles’ Manny Machado, for instance, hit .262 with 7 homers and 26 RBIs in 51 games and is being drafted an average of 20 spots ahead of Chisenhall. In 43 games, Chisenhall his 5 homers with 16 RBis to go with his .268 average. Chisenhall has been blistering the ball in Spring Training, and I predict a breakout season from a young player able to relax and hit low in the order.
1. Jason Kipnis, 2B, (average draft rank: 62.5): I snapped up Kipnis last year, and he didn’t disappoint, racking up the valuable 31 steals to go with a .257 BA, 14 HRs, 76 RBIs, and 86 runs. Kipnis still could have a great season but not live up to what others expect of him. With more power in the Indians lineup, for instance, I don’t expect him to finish near the league lead in steals again. He’s had a disappointing spring but his placement as “overrated” stems more from him not being able to live up others’ skyrocketing expectations in his second full season of action.
2. Chris Perez, RP, (average draft position: 169.1): I put Perez in the “overrated category” given his injury history and the possibility of the Indians trading him if the season doesn’t start well. Also, the Indians have Vinnie Pestano and maybe Cody Allen waiting to close. Last year, when I wrote this similar column, I was wrong about the Indians being better than the 25th best team. I’m confident they’ll be much better than that this year, and Perez should be racking up the save opportunities unless – can we dream? – the Indians are ahead by so much so often, Perez won’t get many save opportunities. If he’s traded, though, he could settle in as a set-up man on a stacked team instead of being the man, like in Cleveland. But if he stays healthy in Cleveland, he’s better than RPs Tom Wilhelmsen of Seattle, being drafted an average of eight spots ahead of Perez.
3. Trevor Bauer, SP, (average draft position: 244.4): Maybe Bauer eventually this year will earn the ranking as the Indians’ second best starting pitcher. Based on his recent demotion to Triple A, though, I can’t see drafting him above pitchers such as Clayton Richard (245.3 average draft position), who last year finished a respectable 14-14 with 3.99 ERA in San Diego. He’s being drafted ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez, who he might replace in the rotation when he comes to Cleveland for good.
4. Mark Reynolds, 1B/DH, (average draft position: 258.2): Reynolds’ 159 strikeouts last year in only 135 games would keep me from drafting him. His 23 HRs and 69 RBIs, though, could increase. He has hit .221 the last two years, but Reynolds could be a backup first-base option if you need some power.
Just About Right
1. Nick Swisher, OF/1B, (average draft position: 154.2): Knowing Swisher hit last year in one of the hitter-friendliest parks in baseball, I was pleased to learn he hit 13 of his 24 HRs last year away from home. While some expect his production to fall with his placement in a leadership role, I disagree. He should match his power production, but his 141 strikeouts would worry me if K’s are a category in your league. His durability is a plus, though, as is his eligibility for OF and first base. He’s ranked just below Orioles OF Nick Markakis, who hit only 13 HRs and 54 RBIs last year but hit .298.
2. Vinnie Pestano, RP, (average draft position: 249.6): If you draft Perez, it might make sense to pair him with Pestano, who would take over the closer role if Perez is traded or gets injured. Last year, the setup man posted a solid 1.10 WHIP to go with his 2.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts.
3. Michael Brantley, OF, (average draft position: 255.3): The Indians officials’ indications they want to sign Brantley to a long-term contract points to the consistency Brantley can bring with a solid average of .288 to go with 60 RBIs, 63 runs, and12 steals. He hasn’t hit for power, though, with only 6 homers last year. He should increase his steals total from 12 last year.
4. Drew Stubbs, OF, (average draft position: 255.4): Based on his 30 steals last year, I’d probably take Stubbs over his Tribe outfielder colleague. His .213 average and only 40 RBIs might scare owners, but he brings 14 HRs from last year, and eight of them came away from the Reds’ hitter-friendly ballpark. However, Stubbs’ 166 strikeouts last year would keep me from drafting him.
1. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, (average draft position: 246.3): Certainly, if Jimenez hadn’t have cost the Tribe two first-round pitching picks, he wouldn’t be the number two starter heading into camp. Some expect him to make it an entire year in the rotation. But he might be worth a pick in the last few rounds just in case what Francona and some Tribe leaders say about Jimenez, that he’s working on his mechanics and improving, is true. I’m not listing stats because they’re so misleading with Jimenez. Last year, the pitcher had stretches of brilliance and many outings that would make you want to be away from baseball. Maybe Francona can give him the truth, not baby him, and make him a decent pitcher again. Again, I’d only draft Jimenez if he drops considerably. He might be overrated in fantasy world still, but if he succeeds – at all – I think he’ll be a pleasant surprise to Tribe fans. Hence, I call him a dark horse.
2. Scott Kazmir, SP, (average draft position: ? ): While probably not a candidate to be drafted, Kazmir has pitched well in Spring Training and could be a steal as a 5th starter. If he shows consistency, he could be picked up off the waiver wire likely after you have an injury. He’s not listed with an average draft position on Yahoo, which means he’s not likely being drafted.
Those are my fantasy-baseball expectations going into the upcoming draft of my league. What’s yours, Tribe fans?
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com