The Cleveland Indians are as much of an enigma in the fantasy baseball world as they are on the real baseball diamond. There are players that show enough flashes of talent to give fantasy GMs hope, but wind up either bowing out with injuries (Grady Sizemore), pure lack of overall production (Matt LaPorta), or some other off-the-field ‘excitement’ (Fausto Carmona / Roberto Hernandez).
This is enough to make any fantasy GM wonder: Are there any keeper-worthy prospects on the Tribe roster? The reality of the Indians’ piecemeal situation, especially in the outfield, would make the answer seem like a ‘no’. However, there are a few players that I would recommend for extended looks in a Keeper League.
- RP Vinnie Pestano – It is difficult to judge a player off of only one year of Major League numbers, but Pestano was honestly dominant for a majority of the 2011 season. Sporting a sub-3.00 ERA, sub-1.20 WHIP, and around a 3.0 K/BB ratio throughout his career, both Majors and Minors, Pestano has shown a consistency that is very promising. He is also the best candidate on the Indians staff to poach saves from closer Chris Perez should the need arise. Pestano’s current ADP of 241.96 might make eyebrows raise, and his rankings in the “Big 3″ fantasy sites (ESPN #286, out of the top 100 RP on Yahoo!, out of the top 300 total on CBS) may leave owners wondering if my sanity has left me. However, I see Pestano growing into a solid, reliable, league-defining set-up man that will be worth setting aside a roster spot for.
- RF Shin-Soo Choo – A tumultuous 2011 campaign seemed to have Choo on the ropes; off-the-field issues, injuries, and contract talk were predominant, and as a result his stats suffered greatly. A quiet off-season (and a stint with the South Korean Army) later, Choo seems more humbled, wiser, and ready to get his focus back onto baseball. Choo, even nearing the age of 30, has the potential to continue as a consistent .290/75/20/75/20 5×5 threat for several years, and the Indians will be relying on him heavily to produce if they have a chance in the AL Central. With an ADP of 63.50, and relatively high Big 3 rankings (ESPN #75, Yahoo! #9 OF, CBS #75), a lot of folks are figuring for Choo to bounce back to the player of old.
- SS Asdrubal Cabrera – Most people were surprised by AsCab’s power surge last year (25 HR, 92 RBI), but lost in that was another solid hitting (.273 BA) and running (17/22 SB) season. While we shouldn’t expect another power-laden season in 2012, the Indians will be expecting him to fill a major contributing and leadership role with the team this year. A line of .275/70/15/70/15 in your 5×5 league is not out of the question. Many folks have seen the low risk/high reward of the Tribe’s shortstop; Cabrera’s ADP sits at 78.96 (ahead of Rollins and Jeter), and the Big 3 set him as follows: ESPN #63, Yahoo! #5 SS, and CBS #86.
- 2B Jason Kipnis – The Twitter hashtag #WeAreAllKipnesses made an appearance in the 2011 season when Jason Kipnis was called up to the Indians in July. The rookie wasn’t an instant hit, but put together an amazing month of August on the way to a final 5×5 of .272/24/7/19/5. Obviously using a keeper pick on anyone without a proven Big League record is inherently high-risk. But like Pestano, Kipnis has proven himself solid and consistent in his minor league career. With the chances high for the starting 2B job out of Spring Training, Kipnis’ upside is well worth the risk. His current ADP is 166.32, good enough to be in the top 15 in 2B league-wide. The Big 3 are equally kind, ranking him at #170 at ESPN, the #3 2B at Yahoo!, and #245 at CBS.
The Indians have a lot of decent pieces… But there are very few that will likely be breaking into Opening Day and producing consistently enough for recommendation. Plus there is the fact that the years past have proven that the weirdest things can happen in the City By The Lake. The above 4 players I see as key (and near untouchable) cogs in the quest to return the Indians to the dominance they had in the mid- to late-90′s.
Do you agree or disagree with my keeper recommendations? I’d love to get the conversations going with Tribe fans and non-fans alike! Go ahead and comment below, or feel free to follow me on Twitter (@JCPronkFan48) and continue the conversation there, too.
NOTE: All ADP values are from Mock Draft Central as of March 26, 2012.