Breaking Down and Ranking the Indians Roster
In part one of my most valuable Indians rankings, I broke down 25 to 21. Here in part two we dig a little deeper. This time examining players ranked 20 to 11. Just who will fall into this second level? Looks like you are going to have to read on to find out. So without further ado, here is part 2 of Ranking the Most Valuable Indians. You can find part 1 here.
Most Valuable Indians 20-11
20. Jason Giambi: Ah, the Giambino. Honestly, the Indians probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without his contributions, and I’m not just talking about his #VeteranPresents. The Texas Rangers, who missed out on the second Wild Card spot by a game and a half, might have made it in if it weren’t for Giambi’s two walk-off home runs for the Indians in 2013. Say what you want about Giambi, but he can still swing the bat. His paltry .183 batting average was due in part to a .202 BABIP, easily the lowest of his career. He drew a walk in 10.6% of his plate appearances (which is quite good), and he’s shown that he can still run into one every now and then. The Indians signed him to a minor league contract at the beginning of the offseason, but I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster — unless he retires and becomes a coach or mentor, where the Indians would welcome him with open arms.
19. Lonnie Chisenhall: I’ve been in support of Chisenhall for a while now, but he has yet to sustain success in the major leagues. The Indians haven’t done anything to help his confidence, and it’s fair to suggest he might be pressing since the Indians have shown little to no patience with him. Still just 25 and once a top prospect, it’s far too early to give up on Chisenhall, especially given his strong numbers against minor league pitching (albeit with pretty bad plate discipline). However, the Indians have explored the market for third base help, and Mike Aviles is capable of playing there full-time if need be (and there’s a chance Carlos Santana might play some there too). The aforementioned David Adams could be an option as well. While Chisenhall still has a ton of upside left (which could certainly affect his value to the team), the Indians probably wouldn’t be missing too much without him now.
18. Bryan Shaw: Shaw quietly put together a solid season in 2013. He appeared in 70 games for the Indians, pitching to a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings, while posting sound peripherals (2.61 K/BB). Part of the three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Reds in December of 2012, Shaw was mentioned as a possible candidate to close for the Tribe in 2014, though the signing of John Axford likely means that he’ll continue his set-up role. However, he’s performed that role quite well, and has become an important part of the Tribe’s bullpen.
17. Whoever wins the fifth rotation spot: The Indians certainly have a gaping hole in the back-end of their rotation, and there are only a few candidates competing to fill it. Carlos Carrasco may be the one who gets it, but I feel that it will come down to Trevor Bauer, Shaun Marcum, and Josh Tomlin. Marcum and Tomlin are both in the process of returning from serious injuries (Marcum from thoracic outlet syndrome and Tomlin from Tommy John surgery), so it should be interesting to see how they recover. Bauer has all of the upside in the world, but an underwhelming 2013 season (thanks in large part to serious control problems) and reports of an unwillingness to learn may have caused his star to fall. However, the Indians are encouraged by improvements he’s made this offseason, so Tribe fans should remain hopeful that Bauer can figure it out. I seriously have no clue who will win the final rotation spot (it might not even be one of these three or Carrasco), and it’s for that reason that I ranked it this low. It’s hard for a player to be indispensable to a team when his role isn’t even defined yet.
16. Cody Allen: Allen is a terrific pitcher. In terms of pure ability and stuff, I think there’s no doubt that he should be the team’s closer. However, Allen’s lack of service time (saves equal big money in arbitration) means that it would be smart for the Indians to let Allen keep dominating as the primary set-up man, with the potential to close later on down the road. Allen posted a 2.43 ERA in 70 1/3 innings across 77 appearances in 2013. He also posted stellar peripherals (rates of 11.3 K.9 and 3.3 BB/9). Although last season’s American League rookie class wasn’t as strong as it had been in past seasons, Allen still finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting — not bad for a reliever. I think it’s probably safe to say that Allen is the Tribe’s best reliever, even if he won’t be the one closing games.
15. John Axford: Did somebody say closing games? That will likely be Axford’s role moving forward, and, for the most part, he’s been pretty good at it over the course of his career. As recently as 2011, Axford was one of the game’s elite closers (he posted a 1.95 ERA with a league-leading 46 saves for the Brewers that season). Last season, Milwaukee traded him to the Cardinals, and Axford began to look like himself again down the stretch for St. Louis (granted, he wasn’t the closer). Nonetheless, St. Louis decided to non-tender him rather than pay a projected $5 million arbitration salary. The Indians swooped in and signed him for $4.5 million. Axford is still under team control for a few more seasons after 2014, and if he can even come close to his past glory, it will be money well spent by the Indians. He’s also a great teammate, and he joins basically anything else from Canada on a long list of great things to come from Canada. Hopefully Axford left his razor in St. Louis, because his facial hair is downright epic (I’m still 15, so hopefully I can get away with using words like that).
14. Ryan Raburn: Even in his days with the Tigers, I always liked Raburn. He hits for decent power and he can handle second base, in addition to the outfield. After an abysmal 2012 season, Detroit released him. The Indians signed him to a minor league deal, and he won a roster spot after a terrific Spring Training. Raburn rewarded Tribe brass by posting an impressive .272/.357/.543 line in 2013, adding 16 home runs and 55 RBI in only 277 plate appearances. Numbers like that are probably unsustainable for him, but if he can maintain his career .263/.336/.492 line against left-handed pitching, he’ll form a terrific platoon in right field with offseason acquisition David Murphy.
13. Mike Aviles: Aviles is a great guy to have on a team. He’s a great teammate, he can play almost any position, and he’s a decent hitter too. His on-base percentage is almost entirely dependent on how much he’ll hit (his career walk rate is 4.1%), but he can do nearly everything else. He is, in fact, a pretty good hitter, and he’ll hit a few home runs every now and then too. He’s a good defender, and his versatility is a great help to the Indians because he can basically play anywhere.
12. David Murphy: I mentioned Murphy when I talked about Ryan Raburn, because the two will likely form a platoon in right field. Murphy has definitely hit better against right-handed pitching in his career (.280/.347/.469), but this is the same guy who hit .304/.380/.479 for the Rangers in 2012. While Murphy says that his struggles in 2013 (.220/.282/.374) were due to him trying to do too much, his .227 BABIP didn’t help anything either. If his BABIP can approach his career mark of .302, Murphy could very well take over right field himself — though there’s certainly nothing wrong with a platoon with Raburn.
11. Asdrubal Cabrera: Coming off a horrible 2013 season, many Indians fans were ready to ditch Cabrera as soon as possible. However, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to do so. His trade value is pretty low right now, and any improvement over his 2013 numbers (and significant improvement is a very real possibility) would be worth much more than anything the Tribe could get for trading him. If he struggles next season, they could let him walk in free agency and hand the keys over to Francisco Lindor in 2015. If he goes back to hitting like he’s capable of, the team could make an effort to keep him long-term. That could even involve moving him to third base, a very intriguing possibility suggested by Brian Heise in his argument as to why the Indians should keep Cabrera after next season (though his counter-argument brings forth many good points as well). Overall, Cabrera is very important to the Indians, no matter what some people will say. However, the ability of Mike Aviles to handle shortstop (and most other spots on the roster) is something that doesn’t bode well for Cabrera: if he struggles, the Indians have multiple candidates who could easily replace him.
That does it for Part 2 of my most valuable Indians rankings. Check back later for the conclusion, Part 3.