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2017 Team Preview: Cleveland Indians

The Indians became a part of baseball history last season when they lost in an epic World Series Game 7 to the Cubs. Getting so close to a championship before losing is never a good feeling, but after four months to digest the loss Indians’ fans should realize that the outcome of the World Series does not define their 2016 campaign as a failure.

The Indians finished 2016 with a record of 94-67 and finished first place in the AL Central by eight games. With a depleted pitching staff heading into the postseason, the team proceeded to sweep the Red Sox and dispatch the Toronto Bluejays without both top pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Then, after having the Cubs on the ropes with a 3-1 series lead, the Indians failed to close the deal and ended up losing in seven.

Sure, they did bring home their ultimate goal, but the Game 7 loss should not overshadow the Indians’ great accomplishments last season which included a franchise-record fourteen game win streak from mid-June into July. With last season’s experience under their belt, the Indians will approach this season with a vengeance. The core of the team remains intact and they’re poised for another championship run. 

Lindor 2

Encore!

Notable Additions & Subtractions for 2017

The Indians lost three very important veterans hitters from last year’s pennant winning team. Heralded for his game tieing home run in Game 7 of the World Series, Rajai Davis did not resign with the team and is now an Oakland Athletic. Also, Mike Napoli did not return to Cleveland as he is now a member of his former club the Texas Rangers, and Coco Crisp has yet to sign with anyone this offseason. Finally, on a less important note, reliever Jeff Manship will play this season in Korea for the NC Dinos of the KBO.Encarnacion.jpg

The loss of these players was mitigated by one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when Cleveland inked power hitting slugger Edwin Encarnacion. The deal is worth $60 million over the next three years. Encarnacion is expected to split time with Carlos Santana between first base and designated hitter.

The other offseason signings by Cleveland were all minor, pun intended, as the Indians reached minor league agreements with big leaguers Austin Jackson and Chris Colabello. They also signed a washed up Wily Mo Peña, who hasn’t played in MLB since 2011, and claimed former prospect Richie Shaffer off waivers from Cincinnati.

Projected Opening Day Lineup & Notable Bench Players

  • Jose Ramirez (2B)

    Santana 1

    Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez supply the Indians with plenty of plátano power

  • Michael Brantley (LF)
  • Francisco Lindor (SS)
  • Edwin Encarnacion (1B)
  • Carlos Santana (DH)
  • Lonnie Chisenhall (RF)
  • Yan Gomes (C)
  • Tyler Naquin (CF)
  • Giovanny Urshela (3B)
  • Jason Kipnis * – strained rotator cuff in right shoulder

Francona will likely mix and match the lineup throughout the season depending on health and who the team is playing. A notable omission from the roster above Jason Kipnis who will start the year on the disabled list. This means the versatile infielder Jose Ramirez will slide over the second and Giovanny Urshela will play third while Kipnis is sidelined. It also possible the team could have some turnover in the outfield, which we’ll touch on later.

Projected Opening Day Rotation & Notable Bullpen Arms

Starters:

  • Corey Kluber
  • Carlos Carrasco
  • Danny Salazar
  • Josh Tomlin
  • Trevor Bauer

The starting rotation looks almost exactly the same as it did for most of the last season. Kluber anchors the staff as the ace at the top and is followed by Salazar, Bauer, and Tomlin. Both Carrasco and Salazar have dealt with the injury plague in the past so unfortunately, it’s tough to imagine either makes it through the season unscathed. If one needs to spend time on the DL, Mike Clevinger is first in line to take their place.

Bullpen:

  • Closer – Cody Allen
  • Set up – Andrew Miller
Miller 1

Nope…

The Indians have the rare case of their closer not serving as their most dominant reliever. That accolade goes to Andrew Miller who was acquired from the Yankees at last season’s trade deadline. Miller’s dominance makes him an option even in leagues that don’t count holds while the closer job is firmly in the grasp of Cody Allen. Both of these guys deserve a roster spot in all fantasy leagues.

Prospects to Know for 2017

Bradley Zimmer

Zimmer is the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians’ system and is a dynamic outfielder that has the ability to both hit for power and steal bases. At 24 years old, he’s older than your traditional prospect these days but the Indians are an organization known for marinating their prospects on the farm. He raked this spring at Indians’ camp and received a clear message from manager Tito Francona when he was sent to Triple-A: “Knock the door down. Make us call you up”. For a more in-depth report on Zimmer’s skill set check out the Minor League Marauders series here. Chances are good we’ll see this guy in Cleveland midway through the year and he is his power, speed combo makes him worthy of a stash if you have an extra roster spot. 

Greg Allen

Allen won’t wow scouts with his size or strength but epitomizes a grinder mentality. He was an unheralded sixth-round draft pick in 2014 but since then has shot up prospect rankings and situated himself for a big league call-up. Allen’s outfield defense is the primary tool that will carry him to the next level but, from a fantasy perspective, he offers a cheap source of steals and OBP contribution. He’d likely earn the second outfielder call-up this season after Zimmer, and with the volatility in the Indians’ outfield, it’s a real possibility. For another more in-depth report check out the Minor League Marauders series here and make sure to keep an eye on Allen later in the season if you’re scouring the waiver wire for stolen bases. 

Yandy Diaz

Diaz is competing for a utility infield job this Spring Training after signing a contract out of Cuba in 2013. He can play a variety of positions on the diamond including outfield and shortstop but is best at third base. From a fantasy perspective, the bat could provide some value in OBP leagues as he’s known for a disciplined, advanced approach. It remains to be seen whether he’ll break camp with the team but he’ll likely get some time as a utility man this season.

Key Spring Training Position Battles

Catcher

The two candidates for the job behind the dish are Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes, and they’re likely to split time over the course of the season. There was a time when Gomes was a promising fantasy catching option but the injury bug has plagued him and Perez has proven himself a worthy option for Francona. Since they’ll share time during the season, these two guys are the most relevant in AL-only and two-catcher mixed leagues.

Outfield

The outfield is probably the biggest question mark for the Indians headed into this season. Last year Tyler Naquin burst into relevance but there are many members of the baseball community that are skeptical of his ability to continue that production. Michael Brantley is an All-Star caliber player when he’s on the field but at constant injury risk, and the Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer platoon is nothing to write home about. Austin Jackson is also in the mix. As noted above, there are top prospects knocking on the door and although they won’t start the season with the team they’ll like earn a call-up later in the season. 

Fantasy Breakdown

The Indians’ roster offers a collection top-class fantasy stalwarts at the top of their roster. The top three guys are Corey Kluber, Edwin Encarnacion, and Francisco Lindor. We’ve come to expect elite performance from these guys and they’re the type of player that can anchor your fantasy squad. The two bullpen arms, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, also both deserve recognition here as models of consistency and steady bullpen performers. 

Below these elites are a handful of very, very good fantasy assets including Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Santana deserves recognition as a tick above the others because he doesn’t come with as much injury risk. The others are all great when healthy, but heading into the season there are lingering question marks.

There is one name in particular on this roster that intrigues me. It is Jose Ramirez who is coming off of a monster breakout season that earned him a lucrative contract extension. However, the fantasy community seems torn on his value. On some sites, he’s getting drafted above his perceived value and others way below. He’s not a guy that’s a “must-get” on draft day but definitely someone to keep on your watch list. He proved last year he can everyday play and if he falls to a reasonable price, scoop him up.

Final Thoughts

Francisco Lindor has become on of the most electric shortstops in the game. Kluber is a true ace. The team added perennial All-Star, Edwin Encarnacion. They have a roster full of talent and promising prospects on the farm. The list goes on and on… Simply put, it’s a fun time to be an Indians fan. The expectation this season is championship or bust, and if this team can stay healthy they are the favorite in the American League.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Native Mainer. Ski the East. I enjoy dynasty league formats and am partial to Latin American prospects. Currently living in the Dominican Republic.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Joe Iannone (@JoeIannone2)

    March 29, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Awesome read Brad. Thanks for your tips the other day. Looking into the software.

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