Apr 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) hits a home run against the Houston Astros in the fifth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Two Indians Declared Players to Avoid by Roto World

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Should You Avoid Axford and Chisenhall?

Roto World, one of the foremost authorities in fantasy sports, recently released their lists of players to avoid this year in each division. It’s no real surprise that they selected someone from the Indians as players to avoid. Afterall, they had a list to fill out and had to include players that fantasy owners are likely to try to acquire. But, should you really avoid the players they said you should avoid? Well, let’s examine and find out.

The first Cleveland Indian Roto World said to avoid was likely Indians closer John Axford. Here’s an excerpt from what they had to say about him:

“Axford reportedly fixed a mechanical flaw and looked to rebound with St. Louis, holding a 1.74 mark across 13 games. However, I watched all of Axford’s appearances down the stretch and he still looked like to me a guy searching for his fastball command and a feel for his breaking ball. Not only am I not an Axford believer, but I’m a big fan of Cody Allen, the guy that will be breathing down his neck in the Indians’ bullpen. I’d put money on Axford being one of the first closers to lose his job this season.”

First off, it is true that Axford made a few adjustments once he got to St. Louis. However, it was less about fixing his command and more about tipping his pitches. According to Axford himself, the Cardinals informed him when he made it to St. Louis that he had been tipping his pitches for years. With a few mechaincal adjustments, he was able to stop tipping his pitches and return to his dominant form.

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Oct 11, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher John Axford (34) reacts after retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th inning in game one of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Second, Axford will be working with Mickey Callaway this year, the master of reforming once dominant pitchers. For that reason alone, it is worth an investment in Axford. If Axford is, in fact, “searching for his fastball command and a feel for his breaking ball,” I like his chances of getting both under control with the help of Callaway.

Lastly, there are a limited number of players who will be racking up saves this season. With dominant closers such as Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman going in earlier rounds or super expensive in auctions, why not invest in a guy slated to be the closer for a contending team (more opportunities) who will come significantly cheaper? And as for his assertion that Cody Allen will be breathing down his neck, that is unlikely. The Indians don’t want Allen piling up saves to artificially inflate his arbitration numbers in the years to come.

The second to be declared toxic by Roto World was third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. On Chisenhall, they had the following to say:

“Chisenhall wound up batting just .225/.270/.398 for the Indians while spending a month in the minors. Cleveland has been frustrated with Chisenhall’s lack of progress to the point that they are expected to give Carlos Santana a long look at the hot corner this spring. Even if Santana winds up not being able to hack it at third base, fantasy owners can do better than Chisenhall with one of their late-round picks”

Some of that is true. The Indians are frustrated by the lack of progress Chisenhall has been able to make at the big league level. However, that is not the primary reason for why Carlos Santana is getting a shot to play third. Santana is playing the hot corner this year because he doesn’t want to be a full-time DH. Due to Chisenhall’s struggles, it made the Indians curious. As we’ve explained several times prior, Santana has not been guaranteed playing time at third. Terry Francona explained as much in a recent interview:

“And he’s aware that just because he wants to play third, doesn’t mean he’s gonna play third. We have a responsibility to our team to put our best team on the field. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”

From that statement alone, we can infer that Chisenhall probably has the inside track to win the starting third baseman job. It will take an outstanding performance from Santana defensively to take the job away from him. Given his track record at the professional level as a third baseman, reportedly he was awful for the Dodgers, that doesn’t seem likely, at least not at the moment.

Offensively, there are questions that remain with Chisenhall. Even if he wins the job, it’s unlikely that he will see much playing time at all against left-handed pitching. That means if you do draft Chisenhall, you better be prepared with a viable backup option to plug in on the days when the Indians face a lefty.

On positive for Chisenhall is the way in which he closed out the 2013 season. In the month of September, everything finally seemed to come together for him, posting a .270/.325/.595 slash line over that time. What was most beneficial for him was being able to put the ball in play. During that stretch, he struck out only 4 time in 40 plate appearances, a 10% rate, compared to 52 strikeouts in 268 plate appearances, a 19.4% rate.

If he can continue to avoid strikeouts and put the ball in play, success may be sure to follow. Chisenhall has shown repeatedly what he can do at the minor league level. If that success finally translates to the big league level, he could be a fantasy sleeper and a steal in later rounds.

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Tags: Cleveland Indians John Axford Lonnie Chisenhall

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