Continuing from 2012, Burning River Baseball will be bringing you the Cleveland Indians Player Power Rankings. This is essentially a way to keep track of which players are performing above and below expectations. This first list is to set preseason expectations, while the rest will also include the players change in ranking from month to month and a rating of whether they were above or below expectations.
1. Jason Kipnis
Despite the many millions of dollars spent in the offseason, the most exciting player on the Indians was one that was already here. Kipnis lead the Indians offense last year with 76 RBI and 31 steals. In this years offense, he should be able to be less of a run producer and more of a table setter. Expect a drop in RBI, but an increase in average (around .290) and runs (100 or more) with more potent hitters batting behind him.
2. Carlos Santana
Like Kipnis, Santana was both here last year and will benefit from the increased Indians offensive prowess. He lead the Indians in home runs last year, but probably will not after the additions of Reynolds and Swisher. Chances are he will see more good strikes as well, which may lead to him walking less, but hitting for a higher average and more power than the past. Expect 20 or more home runs, a .275 average and a slight increase in RBI (in the mid 80s). Santana will also probably play less games now that the Indians have a real DH and first baseman.
3. Nick Swisher
Newcomer Swisher is the most talented new batter and has a good chance to lead the team in RBI in the upcoming season. He will be thrown right into the heart of the lineup, batting third or fourth, in front of Reynolds and behind Kipnis. Look for a decrease in his overall numbers from the past few seasons as the Indians lineup can't compare to the Yankees team he has been playing for. He will still be among the best hitters on the team though and should knock in between 80 and 90 runs with an average around .260.
4. Justin Masterson
While his scary Spring may bring some reservations, Masterson is still the ace of this team until proven otherwise. A positive outlook would see Masterson pitch 200 innings, strike out 175 and hold an ERA around 3.50. A more reasonable person should expect the innings with 25 less k's and an ERA above 4.50. As the ace, he warrants a ranking this high on the Power Rankings, but don't expect him to stay here very long.
5. Michael Bourne
Bourne will be the Indians new lead-off hitter and center fielder. He, along with Stubbs, looks to bring the steal back into style in Cleveland and could threaten to become the first base runner with 40 steals since Omar Vizquel took 42 in 1999. That looks to be about his ceiling however, so don't expect him to come near Kenny Lofton's record of 75. On base percentage (expect around .333) may be a concern as Bourne doesn't walk much and hits for an average batting average (somewhere in the middle .270s).
6. Michael Brantley
The Indians old center fielder is moving to left field and is almost the complete opposite at the plate from Bourne. Brantley is the Indians most likely hitter to break .300 this year, something no Indians hitter has done since Shin-Soo Choo in 2010. Brantley (and the Indians lineup as a unit) will benefit greatly by hitting in the bottom half instead of the top. He should see a massive increase in runs (closer to 80 than the 63 times he scored in 2012), depending on where he bats and could also knock in more runs and hit more home runs (around 10) as he continues with his career progression.
7. Mark Reynolds
Another new addition, Reynolds immediately becomes the Indians premier power threat and will hopefully give the Indians their first 30+ home run hitter since Grady Sizemore in 2008. The Indians have been completely devoid of power for years, but finally bought some in Reynolds and Swisher. Reynolds is also a right handed hitter, another scarcity in former Indians teams.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera will remain as the Indians short stop, just one of the three position players (along with Santana and Kipnis) maintaining their position from last year's Opening Day. He has regressed from his amazing 2011 season and hit his stride. Expect his numbers to remain similar to past seasons (.275 average with 10 to 15 home runs). His emphasis should be on his defense, which has fallen off over the past two seasons to the point he could be considered a liability. His range is simply not good enough to make up for his 19 errors last year. With the improved offense around him, Cabrera doesn't need to worry about knocking in runs and should focus on preventing them instead.
9. Vinnie Pestano
Pestano will be the Indians primary set-up man again in 2013 after being utterly dominant in his first two seasons. He is shaping up to be the greatest relief pitcher in Indians history and will look to set a new franchise record for holds this season (he is 25 away). He set the single season mark last year with 36. While bullpens can be one of the more fickle parts of a baseball team, Pestano can be expected to maintain most of his excellence and, combined with Perez, should shorten the game to seven innings when the Indians get a lead.
10. Chris Perez
Perez is still the Indians closer, despite a great season by Pestano and another Spring Training injury. Despite missing almost all of the Spring, Perez says he will be ready for Opening Day. Since Perez was able to save 39 games last year on a poor Indians team he should threaten Jose Mesa's single season save record if he remains the closer all year.
11. Lonnie Chisenhall
The Chiz Kid is finally starting at third base without the light hitting, poor gloved Jack Hannahan holding him back. Without the new additions, Chisenhall would be thrust into the middle of the lineup with pressure put on him both offensively and defensively. Now, he will be able to bat in the lower third of the order and focus on just getting on base, rather than actually producing runs. The RBI should come for Lonnie however and Indians fans can expect an average around .275 with up to 60 RBI. His power numbers should be interesting as he has hit the ball hard this Spring and at all minor league levels. His upside seems to be around 20 home runs, but since this is his first full big league season it is hard to tell.
12. Brett Myers
Myers is one of two starters new to the Indians staff this year and will be playing the role of Derek Lowe from last year's saga. He should be a considerable improvement from Lowe, but will still provide some veteran solidarity in the middle of the rotation. If all goes as planned, Myers would be the first pitcher to get pushed to the bullpen to make room for the phenom Trevor Bauer.
13. Drew Stubbs
The starting right fielder, Stubbs is another new player and converted center fielder. He is an all or nothing hitter, capable of impressive power and even more impressive strike out totals. He may be the Indians ninth batter, helping him reduce his strike out totals if pitchers follow Bob Feller's old adage of making the ninth batter just put the ball in play. Expect his strike out numbers (166) to maintain, despite an increase in playing time as well as a large increase in RBI as he is now batting behind his team's best players instead of in front of them.
14. Zach McAllister
McAllister is the number four starter and deservedly so after an impressive rookie campaign in 2012. In 22 starts he held an ERA just over 4.20, so his biggest struggle in 2013 will be increasing his innings load to around 200 while maintaining or lowering his ERA. If he can keep things even, he will give the improved Indians offense a chance to win every time out, which is all that will be asked of the Tribe's fourth starter.
15. Joe Smith
The Indians bullpen is the most tried and true part of the team and Smith is a huge part of that. With solid pitchers on either side of him, Smith is slated to be used as a right handed specialist, rather than a full inning pitcher. With two left handers (Hagadone and Hill) in the bullpen, the Indians will be a little more flexible than in the past, allowing them to match up against a lineup that alternates the handedness of it's hitters.
16. Cody Allen
Allen is moving into his second year and his first full professional season. He only spent parts of a single season in the minors after being drafted in 2011 and is already a trusted member of the bullpen. With questionable pitchers Tony Sipp and Esmil Rogers removed, this year's pen is even stronger than last years. That means Allen will be able to be used in low stress situations to make sure he is as good as he looked early on. His success this year could lead to a trade of Perez more than anything else as Pestano is ready to become the closer, but there is no obvious replacement for Pestano as set-up man.
17. Ubaldo Jimenez
After the travesty of a season Jimenez had in 2012, he doesn't deserve to sit any higher on this list, even though he is the number two starter. Jimenez may be the single most important player on the team when considering whether or not the Indians will make the playoffs. If he is on, he can be one of the best pitchers in the league, but when he is off, he makes it impossible for his team to win. He should be on a short leash after last season with Bauer itching to get back to the Majors.
18. Nick Hagadone
Hagadone has been one of the Indians top prospects and will be given his first chance to start the season with the team. The depth of the bullpen along with the availability of Hill make it seem that he will be used almost exclusively in single hitter match-ups. Once he proves he can excel against left handed hitters, he may be used in more lengthy outings. This Spring Hagadone threw 8 innings and struck out 11 without giving up a single run.
19. Mike Aviles
Aviles is the super-utility man that the Indians have always dreamed of and will be tasked with being the back-up at third base, short stop, second base and outfield after the release of Ezequiel Carrera. Rayburn is also available at third, second and the corner outfield spots, but is inferior offensively. Aviles should get to play at least a few games each week and may be used as a pinch runner late in games as he is the fastest player on the bench. His versatility will also help in this matter as he should be able to replace almost everyone in the field.
20. Bryan Shaw
Shaw came along with Stubbs in the Shin-Soo Choo trade and looks to be a definite upgrade in the bullpen. He is a young pitcher going into his third season and has a 3.18 ERA in almost 100 appearances. He looks like he should fit right in with the Indians bullpen, but will likely be used in low pressure situations early on as he shouldn't be needed in close games with Pestano, Perez, Smith and Hagadone available.
21. Rich Hill
Like Hagadone, Hill has had a perfect Spring through almost 8 innings. The former Cub, Oriole and Red Sox was a starter until 2010 when he signed with the Sox. His 2009 season was the only year since his great 2007 campaign that he pitched more than 20 innings, so this will be a big test to see if Hill has the stamina to be a reliever for an entire season. He certainly seems healthy and ready to pitch and the Indians using him as a left handed match-up reliever should aid him by slowly moving him into a full time role.
22. Matt Albers
Albers was the second reliever to come over in the Choo deal and was one of the last pitchers added to the bullpen. Like Shaw, he was strong last year for the Diamondbacks, finishing with a 2.39 ERA in 60 innings. As the old man (30) in the pen, he may be the first out when the Indians start making moves the first week of the season. Fifth starter Scott Kazmir is not being placed on the roster until April 6th, so the Indians need to drop a pitcher by that date.
23. Ryan Raburn
While Rayburn could be a diamond-in-the-rough, it is more likely that he will flop, just like he has in the past. In his last three Springs, he has hit at least four home runs and 11 RBI, but in 2012 he failed to accomplish in an entire season what he did in a single month in March. Expect an average below his career average of .250 and an OBP below .300. With all the talent on the roster, he will likely be used very sparingly, especially once another hitter is brough up after the first week of the season (see #25).
24. Lou Marson
In the biggest mistake of the 2013 roster, Marson will be returning as back-up catcher. The good news for the Indians is that with no other position for Santana to play, Marson will probably play less than his 70 games played in 2012. Expect his usual horridness along the lines of a .200 average with no home runs and very few RBI.
25. Carlos Carrasco
Carrasco is the defaul last player listed as he is only on the 25 man roster to serve a six game suspension he earned two years ago. Once he serves his suspension it is likely he will be headed back to AAA and a batter will be recalled to take his place as the Indians are carrying an extra pitcher. Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi are the two top choices for his replacement.
#22 is the Indians #1 going into 2013