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2018 Indians: The Chief's Farewell Tour

Discussion in 'Adopt-a-Team' started by Ford Frick's Asterisk, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    429
    I've delayed starting this thread in the hopes Cleveland would take advantage of the free agent market that never developed or finally pulling the trigger on a trade for a corner outfielder, but I'm now resigned to the idea this is the team heading into the 2018 season.

    C - Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez
    1B - Yonder Alonso
    2B - Jason Kipnis
    3B - Jose Ramirez
    SS - Francisco Lindor
    LF - Michael Brantley*
    CF - Bradley Zimmer
    RF - Lonnie Chisenhall
    DH - Edwin Encarnacion

    UT - Yandy Diaz
    UT - Eric Gonzalez
    OF - Brandon Guyer*
    OF - Rajai Davis

    SP - Corey Kluber
    SP - Carlos Carrasco
    SP - Trevor Bauer
    SP - Mike Clevinger
    SP - Josh Tomlin/Danny Salazar*/Ryan Merritt

    RP - Cody Allen
    RP - Andrew Miller
    RP - Nick Goody
    RP - Tyler Olson
    RP - Dan Otero
    RP - Zach McAllister

    *Might start season on the DL

    In: Yonder Alonso (2 yr/$16M + 2020 $9M option)
    Out: Gone: Carlos Santana, Brian Shaw

    The backup spots in the outfield are still fluid depending on the health of Brantley and Guyer, plus the March performances of Davis, Abraham Almonte and Melvin Upton (as well as the defensive progress of Kipnis and Diaz). Eric Gonzalez will still have to beat out Gio Urshela for a bench role, but is the only experienced shortstop in the running. The Indians will also hold their annual competition of NRI relievers for a final spot in the pen.

    This year the Indians appear more reliant on their starting pitching than any Cleveland team in my 30+ years of following them. It should be among the top rotations in the game, and if Salazar can show his shoulder is healthy, they could still use the depth to land Domingo Santana or some other slugging right-handed bat.

    Yandy Diaz looks like an important piece to how this season plays out. With Brantley and Chisenhall starting in the corners of the outfield, it's a given they'll need at least 100 starts from somewhere, and Guyer is the only other right-handed option they have (switch-hitting Almonte would likely be used from that side as well). He won't replace a heart of the order bat like Santana, but if he hits like he did after being recalled in late August (31 g, 304/407/402), he can save the team the talent it would cost to trade for their most obvious need. With Brantley and Chisenhall also both in the last year of their deals, this is definitely the time for Diaz to pave his future.

    Francisco Mejia is the other kid to watch this year. The top catching prospect in the game (#5-20 overall) should be major league ready, but the Indians have two solid but unspectacular catchers already under contract for 2+ years. Still, if/when Mejia shows he's ready, they'll find a way to make it work. He has some experience at 3B, but at least publicly the team states that's only to prepare for a future where he's so good they decide to protect him from catching. I think Mejia is practically untouchable in a deadline deal, though.

    The minimum expectation for this club should be 90+ wins and the AL Central title, as they compete with 3 divisional rivals taking on rebuilds, and a Twins team that wants to compete, but can't attract competent pitching. This is essentially the same approach as the basketball team that plays just beyond left field -- spend the regular season trying fine tune things and acquire that piece that can put them over the top... and then hope you're healthy and hitting on all cylinders at the end of the regular season. I'll try to add some positional battles and opinions as things develop over spring training.

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  2. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    Trevor Bauer's pursuit of the perfect slider.

    Bauer has always been a polarizing figure (personally I'm a fan)… and I think a good bit of the criticism is of the ridiculous old school notion that players aren't supposed to act like individuals or try new concepts, combined with his resting bitch face. However, no one can claim that Bauer doesn't put in the work.

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  3. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    The next week or so should determine the long-term future of at least three Indians: Gio Urshela, Erik Gonzalez and Ryan Merritt are all out of options, and Urshela and Gonzalez are competing for one utility spot.

    Urshela is having a monster spring (16-for-29, 2 hr), but his hitting has always been what's kept him from establishing himself as a major leaguer. I think if he could simply put up numbers anywhere on the right side of .240/.300/.350 he could get a shot to start for some team, because his defense is that good. However, he's more of a 3B who has the hands to play the middle infield. Gonzalez is more than capable around the infield, and the better hitter, but needs to improve his plate discipline to have a major league career. Both are too talented to pass through waivers, but the odds are slim that either ever plays a large role in Cleveland.

    The one thing the Indians have more than any other team is positional depth. If someone in the starting lineup goes down, they already have someone else in the lineup who can play that position on a daily basis. That means they can always move their best bench player into the lineup rather than their next-best second baseman or third baseman for example (excepting catcher, but that's their deepest position). Of course, having Jose Ramirez, who could legitimately start daily at any of four positions is the biggest reason. So any disadvantage Urshela has in the battle for the utility spot is mitigated by this... if Lindor or Kipnis goes down, Ramirez would start at their position, and Urshela would play 3B.

    Because of the options crunch, this seems to mean Yandy Diaz will start the season in Columbus. I still think Diaz will prove to be really important this year as a RH outfield option, but at this point he hasn't been part of the outfield discussion. Rajai Davis is a lock to make the team, either as the starting LF while Michael Brantley takes an extra week or two to test his ankle, or as a platoon partner with Bradley Zimmer in CF. If Brandon Guyer also starts the season on the DL, Melvin Upton Jr could make the roster, but all signs point to him being toast.

    Ryan Merritt, who famously shut down the Jays (and shut up Jose Bautista) in the 2016 ALCS, is a victim of the starting depth. Josh Tomlin does enough each year to remain the team's 5th starter, and while Merritt gives the Tribe their only left-handed option, his stuff is no more overpowering than Tomlin's. That said, the kid gets results. Former All-Star Danny Salazar will likely take the 5th spot in the rotation if he can get healthy (rotator cuff inflammation). He is throwing again, but since the rotation will probably only be 6 deep through April, they might carry Merritt in the pen. They want Salazar on a routine, so he'll most likely start when he returns.

    Merritt's future could determine whether one of the NRI relievers makes the team, but Matt Belisle seems likely to make the pen one way or another (Nick Goody is struggling and has options). Alexi Ogando is still in the running.

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  4. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    Opening Day Roster
    C: Yan Gomes
    1B: Yonder Alonso
    2B: Jason Kipnis
    SS: Francisco Lindor
    3B: Jose Ramirez
    LF: Tyler Naquin
    CF: Bradley Zimmer
    RF: Lonnie Chisenhall
    DH: Edwin Encarnacion
    C: Roberto Perez
    UI: Erik Gonzalez
    OF: Rajai Davis
    OF: Brandon Guyer

    SP: Corey Kluber
    SP: Carlos Carrasco
    SP: Trevor Bauer
    SP: Mike Clevinger
    SP: Josh Tomlin
    RP: Matt Belisle
    RP: Zach McAllister
    RP: Nick Goody
    RP: Dan Otero
    RP: Tyler Olson
    RP: Andrew Miller
    RP: Cody Allen

    No real surprises here... Michael Brantley will open the season on the DL, but has been playing with no real restrictions, so should be back in 10 days. They simply delayed the inevitable decisions: Gio Urshela and Ryan Merritt, both out of options, will open the season on the DL. They aren't even trying to come up with a legitimate injury for Merritt... first it was a "tired shoulder", now they settled on something about a knee. I guess he'll wait until someone comes down with a real injury or maybe Belisle gets lit up a couple times.

    News on the other vets in camp: Mike Napoli accepted a minor league deal, where he'll audition for another club and work as prospect 1B Bobby Bradley's personal tutor... nothing short of Encarnacion/Alonso DL stint would get him to Cleveland. Melvin Upton Jr was released. Abraham Almonte has been DFA'd.

    This team really needs a better right-handed hitting outfielder, but that's been obvious since last fall.

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  5. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    The Indians are shut out to drop to 3-5, with the offense scoring 3 runs per game. To the surprise of no one, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall managed to stay in the same starting lineup for 9+ innings. Chiz, whose robust .235 average leads the team, will be heading to the DL with a calf injury... Tyler Naquin headed back to Cleveland. For a team that's trying to win a championship, not adding a RH corner outfielder capable of starting was an obvious mistake over the off-season.

    Interesting comments from Trevor Bauer after he lost 1-0 today after Lucas Duda homered on the first pitch of the 7th inning. According Bauer, MLB has shortened the time between innings too much this year to allow the pitcher to warm up... or at least when it's 34°F out. After saying he made the bad pitch to Duda because he wasn't ready to start the inning, he walked it back a bit and told reporters the home run was his fault, but he said a lot of pitchers aren't happy about the shortened time and that their health should be more important than a few extra minutes of game time.

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  6. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    18 games into the season...

    The offense, which was always going to be the team's biggest weakness, has been a disaster. They rank 28th in scoring, 30th in BA and OBP, and 27th in slugging. Several cold weather games haven't helped, but also don't explain just how bad the lineup has been. Edwin Encarnacion is more important to this year's lineup with the departures of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, and he's hitting .138/.243/.323. At least the rest of the lineup has seen moderate improvement over the past week or so.

    That said, the pitching staff has the 2nd lowest ERA in baseball. Four of the five starters currently have an ERA of 2.67 or better, and their top three relievers have a combined ERA of 0.39. That's put the team on pace for 90 wins, and 1st place in a weak division where they have all season to find solutions.

    Random thoughts and numbers:

    • Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis are the only right-handed hitting outfielders on the team. They each have 131 AB vs. LHP since the start of the 2017 season. Guyer has hit .237 with 2 HR in those at-bats. Davis has hit .229 with 2 HR. Davis is better suited as a guy coming off the bench and backup CF than as a platoon player. Guyer serves no other purpose. Unless everyone else gets healthy and hits, they can't wait until July to address that hole.

    • Jose Ramirez hit 102 doubles over the 2016-17 seasons, leading MLB with 56 last year. He has 0 through 68 AB this year.

    • Indians pitching has allowed more than 3 runs once in the last 13 games.

    • Mike Clevinger picked up his first career complete game with a 2-hit shutout of Baltimore on Saturday. Over the past calendar year, he's 14-6, 2.87 ERA, 158 ERA+.

    • The April schedule + cancellations have allowed them to limit the 5th starter (Tomlin) to 2 starts. Although Tomlin hasn't allowed an earned run since his first start, at some point in May he'll be battling with Danny Salazar (shoulder inflammation) to keep his spot.

    • Bryan Shaw led the AL in appearances 3 of the last 4 years, so someone from the group of Dan Otero, Zach McAllister and Matt Belisle needs to step up this year. The Indians have had a knack for picking up a really useful reliever on an NRI each season, but Belisle isn't keeping the streak alive. With Ryan Merritt officially on rehab and out of options, Belisle could be on a short leash.

    • All of the Indians notable departures - Shaw, Santana, Bruce and Austin Jackson - are off to terrible starts. Santana never hits until the official start of summer, and while I don't blame him for taking the biggest offer, I thought Philadelphia with its weather and unforgiving fans was a less than ideal fit for him.

    • Prospect Watch: Shane Bieber doesn't have the front-of-the-rotation stuff of top prospect Triston McKenzie, but the control specialist has put up some of the best video game numbers in minor league baseball. Bieber is off to a 2-0 start with 20 shutout innings at AA. He also hasn't walked a batter yet. In 217.1 innings in his pro career, he's walked 12 batters (2 intentionally). His fastball sits 90-92, but did show improvement last year, and his slider and change-up aren't considered real plus pitches, but the 23-year-old former 4th rounder has pitched his way onto the prospect lists. His nearly 2:1 GB/FB rate is what makes him more than just the potential second coming of Josh Tomlin. He scaled three levels last season, and should reach AAA this year, where there are really no significant pitching prospects. Once the weather warms up, I'll be following the RubberDucks schedule for an opportunity to see Bieber in person.

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  7. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    The Indians continue to take the Cavs approach to the regular season, with a break even 22-22 record and a 2½ game lead in the AL Central. If there's one thing we know for certain, it's that Cleveland will overpay in talent to acquire a set-up man this summer, as the bullpen is currently a dumpster fire.

    The trouble started when Andrew Miller went on the DL with a strained hamstring in late April, at which point Nick Goody got lit up in 4 consecutive appearances and went on the DL with a sore elbow. Without 2 of their 3 top relievers, the rest of pen went into full panic mode, and has yet to pull out of it, even with Miller back. In fact, Miller has joined the implosion allowing 4 earned runs on 3 hits & 5 walks in 1.2 IP since his return, and has been unavailable the past two days due to back trouble (he believes he'll be ready to pitch Sunday). There are basically open try-outs for the front of the bullpen. Zach McAllister and Dan Otero needed to step up this season and have done just the opposite. The solution so far has been to avoid the pen (the rotation leads the majors in innings per start at 6.5).

    This team always needed to add a RH outfielder, and that's also becoming harder to overlook with Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin all on the DL. Zimmer seems to following the Chisenhall and Michael Brantley career path of making multiple trips to the DL per season, although he does it more in the Grady Sizemore style of never learning to avoid the outfield wall. Melky Cabrera will get the next crack at filling a role, probably in the next week or so, but he hasn't really shown enough in his 42 AAA at-bats (.286/.286/.381) to say where his bat is at.

    • Cleveland's offense has recovered from a frigid April slump to lead MLB with 67 home runs.

    • Francisco Lindor became the first Indian to ever win back-to-back AL Player of the Week honors. In his last 32 games he's hit .353/.426/.713 with 13 doubles and 12 home runs.

    • Jose Ramirez in his last 29 games: .361/.425/.731 with 14 doubles and 10 home runs.

    • Jason Kipnis' season long slump finally led to him being replaced in the #2 spot in the lineup by Brantley. Since the move, Brantley has a hit in all 8 games, batting .361 with 4 home runs.

    • Edwin Encarnacion in April: .160/.243/.350. EE in May: .327/.389/.612.

    • Erik Gonzalez and Gio Urshela were competing for the utility infield role in spring training, both were out of options, and Urshela was having a great March before getting injured a week before the season started. Gonzalez received little playing time, was 2-for-11 in April, and the Indians were less than 48 hours from having to designate one of the two. Given just his second start of the season, Gonzalez came up a home run short of the cycle, and then collected 4 hits in a double-header the next day. He's now 11-for-23 in May and Urshela was traded to Toronto.

    • The Indians have won their last 70 games when giving Corey Kluber 4+ runs of support.

    • Josh Tomlin has allowed 15 home runs, 3 more than any other pitcher in the majors, and done it in just 31 innings.

    • Prospect Watch: At age 26 and a fastball that usually sits 90-91 mph, Adam Plutko isn't a high ceiling prospect, but he got the job done when the Indians needed him to start a double-header earlier this month (7.1 ip, 3 er). He's posted a 2.25 ERA in 7 starts at AAA this year, with a 0.818 WHIP. This should mean the leash on Tomlin has become extremely short.

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    #7 Ford Frick's Asterisk, May 19, 2018
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
  8. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    Shane Bieber will spend his 23rd birthday on Thursday making his MLB debut in a spot start against the Twins (Trevor Bauer is getting an extra day of rest following his 127-pitch outing). Bieber will return to AAA after the start.

    He isn't considered a top-of-the-rotation prospect, but Bieber's made a quick assent out-pitching all expectations. He's a relentless strike thrower, and also a ground ball machine. In his last start he threw a rain-shortened 7-inning no-hitter, and hasn't allowed a run in 20.1 innings. He began the season with 20+ shutout innings in AA... a streak in which he also didn't allow a walk. I go to some AA games (only 2-3 a year now after I used to do 12-15 ten years ago), and was really hoping to see him there, but he was promoted to AAA before I got to my first game this year.

    His velocity is improving, but his fastball usually still sits 90-92, and none of his change-up, curve or slider are especially nasty. However, he has plus command of all his pitches, and a 2:1 GB/FB rate. In 10 starts between AA/AAA this year, he has a 1.38 ERA in 65.1 innings and has walked 3 batters. He's only walked 15 batters in 47 career games.

    So while he might not be the next Corey Kluber, this will likely be the most anticipated MLB debut for an Indian until at least Tristan McKenzie, who hasn't reached AA yet.

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  9. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    429
    From MLB:

    Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor has been voted the Budweiser Presents American League Player of the Month for May. The announcement was made earlier today on MLB Network.

    Lindor posted a slash line of .373/.432/.737 with 27 runs scored, 44 hits, 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 23 RBI, 12 walks and a stolen base over 27 games played to claim his first career AL Player of the Month Award.

    Among qualified AL hitters, the switch hitter finished his strong month first in runs scored, hits, doubles and batting average; third in slugging percentage; tied for third in home runs and on-base percentage; and tied for sixth in RBI. This is Cleveland’s first Player of the Month Award since Francisco’s double play partner Jason Kipnis in May 2015.

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  10. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    I've always been a Jose Ramirez fan. I watched him play in the minors, and thought he could still be a good super-sub even after he hit .219 in 2015. However, if you had told me then he would someday be neck and neck for the league lead in home runs at mid-season, I'd have thought it was one of the craziest things I'd ever heard. He's on pace for a 2nd straight top 3 finish in MVP voting.

    Carlos Carrasco (bruised elbow from line drive) pitched 4 shutout innings in his rehab start Saturday night. He'll rejoin the rotation this week, and Adam Plutko has already been sent back to AAA to give former Indian Marc Rzepczynski a shot in the pen in the meantime. Shane Bieber has a 2.22 ERA, 202 ERA+, 2.69 FIP, and the Indians have won all 4 of his starts. He's not leaving Cleveland. If Carrasco can establish some consistency, I'd take that rotation over anyone's.

    In the absence of Andrew Miller and Nick Goody, the bullpen has finally found a couple of new dependable veterans in Oliver Perez and Neil Ramirez. I also like taking the flyer on George Kontos... it's not often you can pick up a guy with his resume mid-season on waivers. Miller is throwing off flat ground without issue, but they're taking a slow approach and haven't targeted a return date. My pure guess is that he'll rejoin the team after the All-Star break. Goody will hopefully be back in late July. Speaking of injuries, Danny Salazar continued to have unexplained discomfort in his shoulder and is undergoing exploratory surgery today. There's no reason to think he'll pitch yet this season.

    Upgrading the bullpen before the trade deadline is a given. The Tribe will be in on most of the relievers, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them add more than one if it's a buyer's market. Their preference will be guys with additional years on their contract or team control, and have been connected to the Marlins' Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider. I presume they'll be in talks for the Padres pen... Craig Stammen seems their type. They also need to add an outfielder, either in center or right. They're getting a .215/.267/.299 line from the CF spot this year. They're also being connected to the 3B market. Under that scenario Ramirez would move to 2B, with Jason Kipnis getting bumped from the starting lineup (possibly playing some outfield again), but that seems the least likely upgrade. Kipnis has hit .278/.345/.460 over his past 34 games, so it's riskier to give up trade chips for what could very well not improve upon what they already have.

    Prospect Watch: Teams are going to be asking for the Indians top 3 prospects this month -- Triston McKenzie, Francisco Mejia and Shane Bieber -- but unless they go for broke on one of the top players on the market, they won't be going anywhere. Guys more likely to be on the move are a couple AAA hitters who are blocked -- 3B Yandy Diaz or SS Yu Chang -- another is Hi-A pitcher Eli Morgan. With one of the best change-ups in the minors, Morgan is quickly climbing prospect lists. The 22-year-old has a 2.13 ERA across two stops this season, with a 1.8 bb/9ip rate while striking out 10.6. At 5'10", he'll probably have to continue to prove the doubters wrong that he's a starter and not a future reliever though.

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  11. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    The Indians continue to come up in the trade rumors surrounding Manny Machado, but I'll be absolutely shocked if that becomes a reality. I don't think the Indians have traded their top prospect, let alone multiple top prospects, for a rental player... even going back to the John Hart era. Long-term planning is an ingrained team policy. It would be crazy to give up their best trade assets for something that isn't even one of their top two priorities. Cleveland needs one or two relievers and an outfielder, while Jason Kipnis has hit .275/.356/.475 over his past 33 games.

    I fully expect them to land one of the top relievers on the market with additional years remaining on his contract. With Cleveland almost certain to lose one if not both of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen this winter, they'll want more certainty heading into next season. I could see them shopping at San Diego's "Relievers-R-Us" and getting one or two of Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen, but the list of possible relief targets is so long it's difficult to speculate.

    After scouring rosters for outfielders, there aren't many obvious candidates. I'm surprised I haven't seen any rumors surrounding Andrew McCutchen. Unless the Giants still have lofty dreams for this year, I'd think they'd be happy to unload the last ~$6 million on McCutchen's contract. The money should keep the talent exchange relatively low, but he's still positive offensive player, can fill RF with Chisenhall out. When Chisenhall returns, he could play practically every day, platooning in RF and doing his best center fielder impression... although a good defensive CF would be nice to have between Chisenhall and Brantley. Cleveland was rumored to have serious interest in McCutchen back in his Pirates days. With both Brantley and Chisenhall on expiring contracts, this could also be an area where they trade for someone with additional years of team control remaining. I don't expect them to make much of an effort to resign Chiz.

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  12. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    The Giants are somehow only 3 1/2 out, don’t think they’re moving anyone.
     
  13. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    You're right, I shouldn't be surprised that there haven't been rumors about them selling off players yet. Although being tied for 3rd in the division and only 2 games above .500, it seems they're only one bad week away from from seller status. It might not happen, but they certainly look like a team that should recognize they don't have a championship roster and shed some veteran contracts.

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  14. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    You're probably right, but I don't think that's in their DNA, especially since they've had so much success in recent years just sneaking into the postseason and handing the ball to Bumgarner. They loaded up on vets like Longoria and McCutchen coming into the season, they'd have to be way out of it to consider selling and that doesn't look like it will happen by the end of the month.
     
  15. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Anthony Castrovince‏Verified account @castrovince

    Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are both on pace for 90+ extra-base hits (they have 52 apiece) in 2018. Here is the complete list of teammates to have 90+ XBH in the same season:

    *Babe Ruth (97) and Lou Gehrig (117), 1927 Yankees

    That's the list.
     
  16. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    To be fair, Betts and Martinez are also on pace for 90 each
     
  17. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    That makes sense, would be funny if the list went from 1 to 3 in one season.

    FFA, what do you think about a Clint Frazier for Shane Bieber deal? I haven't thought about it too much, but both teams would be dealing from strength to fill a weakness, and CLE could get Clint back just as he looks poised to blossom.
     
  18. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    I generally don't like seeing Bieber's name in trade rumors, but that's one deal I think I'd agree to. Granted, it's not the type of deal that typically gets made. Bieber has constantly outperformed expectations to the point that at 23 he already looks like more than was ever predicted of him, which was a back-half of the rotation guy. I'd like for him to stick around and see if he can add a little filthiness to a pitch or two and become a front line starter. However, if it meant landing a long-term outfielder with an all-star ceiling, that certainly fills a bigger need for Cleveland. At least the "Big 4" are all under contract through 2020... at which point they'd hope Triston McKenzie or some other high ceiling prospect is forcing his way into the rotation.

    Cleveland has two areas that need to be addressed before next season: (1) The back of the bullpen, where Allen and Miller are both in their walk year, and (2) the outfield, where Brantley and Chisenhall are also facing free agency and Zimmer has taken a step backwards. I think this month is the time to answer at least one of those holes, because they can't compete in free agency for the best talent, at least not for multiple players. Best case scenario is that they acquire a back end reliever this month, Brantley's market doesn't materialize this winter due to his injury history and declining defense, and that Allen might take a hometown discount. I think someone definitely overpays Miller, and no one is going to miss the BABIP-fueled career of Chisenhall.

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  19. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Yeah, I doubt they’ll deal with each other since they could play in the postseason, but NY has outfielders and relievers to spare, and needs a SP or two. I haven’t seen it rumored anywhere but it does seem like a good fit.
     
  20. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    The Indians shook up their roster coming out of the All-Star break, even beyond their big trade:

    In: Brad Hand, Adam Cimber, Melky Cabrera, Yandy Diaz
    Out: Francisco Mejia, Adam Plutko, Greg Allen, Tyler Olson (activated from DL/demoted)

    Because the team hasn't needed a 5th starter around the break, Shane Bieber was sent back to Columbus, but someone will be sent out when Bieber returns Tuesday. Diaz was presumed to be that guy since he has options, but he also collected 4 hits in his season debut Friday night.

    I don't put a lot of weight in the idea of showcasing prospects for a week or so, but that might just explain the timing of the Diaz promotion, who will always be defensively challenged, but should already be in a major league lineup. I haven't seen any quotes about it, but the team seemed to decide after last season that Diaz is never going to be a right fielder, which would have given him an immediate opportunity in Cleveland. Instead, he's considered a corner infielder. He's a total on-base machine, but Diaz certainly missed the train for the launch angle revolution. He looks like a professional bodybuilder, but has just 25 home runs in 1800+ pro at-bats.

    The Indians second half started out as a microcosm of the first half, with the bullpen blowing yet another lead before they won in the 11th (Zach McAllister allowed 3 singles to lead off the 10th and then didn't allow a run). Cody Allen has become a mess, allowing 9 runs over his past 3.2 innings (4 outings), including 3 home runs. Andrew Miller looked good in his first AAA rehab appearance, and will pitch again on Sunday. He'll need at least 2-3 more appearances, and the beginning of August is probably a soft target date for his return.

    I can't see the Indians making a trade that would cost them one of their remaining premier prospects (Bieber, Triston McKenzie), but they seem certain to try to patch up their shaky outfield. Bradley Zimmer just had shoulder surgery, so it seems almost certain he's no longer a candidate for the remainder of 2018. Rajai Davis is now the primary center fielder, but even with him hitting .309/.367/.382 since the start of June (only 55 AB), they need reinforcements. Lonnie Chisenhall is out until at least September, and won't be counted on to return at all, which leaves them with a Tyler Naquin/Brandon Guyer right field platoon, unless Melky Cabrera plays his way into the mix. I think Diaz and/or Plutko could be the biggest trading chips they'd part with.

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  21. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    Messages:
    429
    Yay! Zach McAllister DFA Day has finally arrived! You have no idea how long I've waited for this holiday.

    Andrew Miller has been activated from the DL, with McAllister as the casualty. With the bullpen reinforcements they'd added before the trade deadline, it was time for either McAllister or Dan Otero to go. News about Nick Goody's recovery is unfortunately hard to come by... the original timetable for his return was sometime in August, but I can't find any updates within the past month. If he returns this season, Otero will likely be on the chopping block then.

    Tyler Naquin underwent hip surgery today, and has a similar timetable to Lonnie Chisenhall -- neither is officially done for the season, but even the best case scenario would get them back on the field only after the minor league season is over.

    This is the newest version of the Tribe roster:

    C: Yan Gomes
    1B: Yonder Alonso
    2B: Jason Kipnis
    SS: Francisco Lindor
    3B: Jose Ramirez
    LF: Michael Brantley
    CF: Leonys Martin / Rajai Davis
    RF: Melky Cabrera / Brandon Guyer
    DH: Edwin Encarnacion
    Bench: Erik Gonzalez (INF), Roberto Perez (Bauer's personal catcher)

    SP: Corey Kluber
    SP: Trevor Bauer
    SP: Carlos Carrasco
    SP: Mike Clevinger
    SP: Shane Bieber
    RP: Dan Otero (mop-up)
    RP: Neil Ramirez
    RP: Oliver Perez (LOOGY)
    RP: Adam Cimber (ROOGY)
    RP: Andrew Miller
    RP: Brad Hand
    RP: Cody Allen

    Francona will likely play straight platoons in RF & CF with names that aren't going to strike fear into opponents, but Martin is a needed upgrade, and the other three have all been playing well lately:

    Davis: .301/.346/.411 with 8 sb in 79 ab since the start of June
    Cabrera: .351/.385/.486 in 11 games since being recalled.
    Guyer: .345/.441/.655 in his last 29 ab, although most of that came in a 5 game stretch.

    Other recent performances of note:
    • Hand has allowed one run (HR in his debut) over 7 innings with the Indians, only 5 base runners.
    • Carrasco is 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA since returning from the DL. He's walked 4 and struck out 42 in 31.2 innings.
    • Kluber may have taken himself out of the Cy Young race with a 5 game stretch in which he went 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA sandwiched around 10 days on the DL while getting an injection to relieve discomfort in his knee. However, after struggling in the 1st inning of his last start, he got better and better by the inning, allowing just the 1st inning run over 7.1 ip. If the rotation is fully healthy, there's no reason the team can't get on one of the hot streaks they've been known for over the past couple of years.
    • Shane Bieber's rotation spot is probably safe, but he's been mediocre in 4 of his last 5 starts, and got destroyed in the other (1.2 ip, 7 earned runs against the streaking Pirates).

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  22. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

    Messages:
    40,983
    I think everyone is sleeping on this team, they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs, although it looks like they will draw the Astros to start.
     
  23. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    Messages:
    429
    The Indians continue to lower my expectations. The list of issues that need resolved over the next month is growing pretty long:

    • Trevor Bauer, their top pitcher this year, will be out until late September with a stress fracture in his leg.
    • 2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is 6-5, 4.05 over his past 13 starts, sandwiched around a short DL stint for a sore knee.
    • Leonys Martin, their deadline upgrade in CF, lasted 6 games before coming down with a life-threatening bacterial infection.
    • After fixing a mechanical issue with Cody Allen in late July he appeared to be pitching his best all year (1 run in 12.1 innings), but now he just inexplicably sucks (4 runs on 6 hits & 2 walks over his past 3 appearances -- 2 IP).
    • Jason Kipnis has forgotten how to hit again (.190/.290/.261 over his past 100 PA).
    • Adam Cimber, who they acquired with the thought of him being a playoff ROOGY, instead looks unusable (.382/.462/.676 in 13 Tribe appearances).
    • Nick Goody, originally expected back by the end of August, needed elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and is out for the season.
    • Lonnie Chisenhall (calf) had a set back and probably doesn't have a significantly shorter timetable than Tyler Naquin (hip)... neither is certain to return this season.

    On the bright side:
    • Andrew Miller's "stuff" has returned. In 8.2 innings since returning from the DL, he's allowed 1 run on 3 hits, 3 walks (+3 hit batters!), and struck out 10.
    • Brad Hand has been exactly as advertised (.182/.250/.291 in 15.1 IP)
    • Greg Allen is a pure slap hitter who still has plenty of room to improve on fundamentals, but he's actually been the center field upgrade the team needed (.365/.403/.429 over his past 19 games). If he makes the defensive plays he needs to, gets some hits in the 9-hole, and steals some bases, they don't need to worry about center field.
    • In Melky Cabrera's second stint with Cleveland this season, he's hit .307/.358/.535 in 101 AB.
    • Yan Gomes is enjoying his best season since 2014, and is hitting .300/.329/.425 in 23 games since the All-Star break.

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  24. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    Messages:
    429
    Only 9 games left in Cleveland's exhibition season, so it's time to look at how things are shaping up for the real season. Seriously though, I've forgotten the last time the Indians played a less enjoyable season. At least there's only one more week of watching Josh Tomlin and Dan Otero pitch with games on the line. Even their hottest streak of the season -- 7 straight wins against the dreck of the AL Central in late June -- was sandwiched between two stretches of losing 4 out of 5. It seems they've never reached a point this year where everything has clicked, and yet they've been able to sleepwalk to another AL Central title (which they can do again next year).

    Trevor Bauer had a positive return to action Friday night, and is scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday and next Sunday to build up his pitch count for the playoffs. Even if he isn't ready to start without a pitch limit in the ALDS, I think it only makes sense to still use him as a starter, since they can still control when and how much he pitches then. After all, the point is to win and move on, with Bauer building back up to regular usage for the next series. Shane Bieber has shown an ability to be a very effective pitcher for several innings, but then starts missing his spots and can't be removed quickly enough. At this point, I think he'd be ideal with the Rays approach of limiting him to once or twice through a lineup. That was essentially what he was set up for Friday night, but for some reason Francona tried to get starter innings out of him, and left him out there to destroy his confidence with no one warming up in the pen. Hopefully, he'll work out better if they need him in October and "Playoff Tito" is quick to the relief aces.

    Cody Allen was given the past week off to rest (no injury), but will begin to ramp up for the playoffs now. He'd pitched 8.1 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits, over his past 9 appearances. Hopefully, he can pick up where he left off.

    Edwin Encarnacion's ankle is something to keep an eye on, as he sprained it last Saturday and then was given 2 games (3 days) off. It came during one his hottest streaks of the season. He's currently 2-for-9 since his return, obviously isn't running at full strength, and wore the golden sombrero Friday night.

    Josh Donaldson is expected to play every game this weekend, and feels he's getting close to full strength. He's 5-for-23 with 2 home runs, and 4//4 bb/k since joining the Indians.

    Jose Ramirez has tanked his chance at AL MVP over the past month (30 games: .171/.299/.270 with 1 HR). Since looking like he might break out with a 3-hit (2 xbh) game last Saturday, he's 1-for-15 with only a misplayed bloop double.

    My attempt at the postseason roster:

    C: Yan Gomes
    1B: Yonder Alonso
    2B: Jose Ramirez
    SS: Francisco Lindor
    3B: Josh Donaldson
    LF: Michael Brantley
    CF: Jason Kipnis
    RF: Melky Cabrera
    DH: Edwin Encarnacion

    Bench: Roberto Perez, Erik Gonzalez, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Yandy Diaz.

    SP: Corey Kluber
    SP: Carlos Carrasco
    SP: Mike Clevinger
    SP: Trevor Bauer

    RP: Shane Bieber
    RP: Neil Ramirez
    RP: Oliver Perez
    RP: Adam Cimber
    RP: Adam Miller
    RP: Brad Hand
    RP: Cody Allen

    I think the question among position players is Rajai Davis vs. Greg Allen, and while Allen has been better, Davis is better at the fundamentals and has the history of postseason success with the Tribe. They're rather redundant, so I think it's one or the other. Guyer is at least capable of being a tough out vs. lefties, and Yonder Alonso has been pretty useless for awhile now, so Diaz could get a chance or two to play.

    They carried 11 pitchers on last year's ALDS roster, and with no one else deserving of pitching, there's no reason to think this year will be different. The battle would seem to be Ramirez vs. Dan Otero vs. Adam Plutko to be the guy who would eat innings in a blow out. If they get 6+ innings out the starters, this will be Miller, Hand and Allen with Perez and Cimber in match-up situtations in the 6th/7th innings.

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