The Cleveland Indians on paper seem to be a team that could absolutely compete for the AL Central title this year. Whenever you have positional players like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez holding down the offense and starting pitchers like Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco on your roster, you would be more than likely to be competitive in the recently uncompetitive AL Central. However, this year seems to be different as the Chicago White Sox revamped their team this offseason, and the Minnesota Twins do not seem to be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
After winning 93 games last season and finishing second in the division while missing the playoffs for the first time in 3 years, the Indians did little to nothing to revamp their team. They traded Corey Kluber to the Rangers and let go Jason Kipnis (no big deal) while bringing in Cesar Hernandez and signing Domingo Santana to a minor deal to compete for playing time at DH/OF. At first look, this team seems to have a bevy of players that will be valuable for your fantasy teams this season with Lindor, Ramirez, Clevinger, and Bieber all being drafted within the first 3-4 rounds. Then there is quite the substantial drop off until the next batch of Indians being drafted in the 10-13 round range with the likes of Carlos Santana, Carrasco, Oscar Mercado, and Franmil Reyes. After that core of 8, there are late-round picks in deep leagues with Hernandez, Roberto Perez, and Domingo Santana being options. For this installment, I will breakdown the 8 fantasy players that I believe will have the most value for your teams this season.
Jose Ramirez (ADP 18): I honestly will jump all over Ramirez at this point in the draft. He has a high floor and a high ceiling has given how he fills up the stat categories across the board. Even with a down and injury-plagued season last year he still was a 20/20 guy and posted a solid .334 wOBA. I believe we are in store for an uptick in production. The prior two years he was worth 8 WAR and 6.5 WAR with wOBA’s north of .390. There are very few players that have 30/30 potential and especially at the 3B position. Obviously, his numbers he posted last year were skewed because of injuries and not worthy of a top 20 selection, but he should return to form this year and will lead your fantasy teams to victories.
ZiPS Projections: .281/.361/527 with 28 HR/97 RBI/28 SB and a .367 wOBA
Carlos Santana (ADP 116): Santana is an interesting choice at 1B this season. At first look, he provides for you in every fantasy category outside of SB. There is no doubt that he has the power and production value that is worthy of being drafted in the 10-11th rounds. The real question is do you believe that the upside he showed last year will continue at those rates. He had a career year last season with 34 HR/110 RBI and .380 wOBA/ 135 wRC+, which were all career highs. One of the main reasons for his increased production was his HR/FB rates at 19.3% which was a substantial increase from his career average (14.1%). I will not argue with you if you decide to take him accordingly. I am more inclined to hold off as the likes of Danny Santana (ADP 134 and position eligibility galore), Luke Voit (ADP 191), and Christian Walker (201) can be had later in the drafts while providing close to similar production but at a lower cost. Do I believe he will be productive again this season? Yes. Do I believe he will replicate his numbers from last season? No. His projections are calling for a substantial decrease in the 34-year old’s power production and average from last season.
ZiPS Projections: .253/.365/.455 with 24 HR/82 RBI and a .346 wOBA
Franmil Reyes (ADP 132): Boy that 28% K rate is certainly ugly, and you should expect A LOT of strikeouts from Reyes this year, but Reyes truly does have 40 HR upside. Especially hitting in the top 5 spots of this Cleveland lineup where he should have a bevy of RBI opportunities, there is no denying his potential upside combined with where he is being drafted. I am not the biggest fan of players that are streaky like Reyes and strikeout at a profound rate, but the man has a lot of power and there is a lot that goes with that in fantasy baseball. Given his crazy high HR/FB rate of over 31% and move to Progressive Field, I would not be surprised if he goes for 40 HR/100 RBI’s. He definitely comes with some risk, but this is a risk worth taking in those early middle rounds of your draft.
Shane Bieber (ADP 24): There are very few starting pitchers each season that are locked to replicate their prior season’s production, but Bieber is one of those pitchers. With his 4-seam (15 wFA)/slider (11.1 wSL) knock out pitch combination with an above-average curveball, Bieber is a stud pitcher. The 24-year old is only starting to blossom as one of the game’s premier SP and he is a surefire ace on your fantasy team. I think all of us were a little hesitant to jump on the Bieber bandwagon after his pretty dominant partial first season where he posted phenomenal numbers over 114 innings, but he proved all of us “doubters” wrong last year after posting 259 strikeouts and a 3.23 xFIP. The only number that is really in the air is his win-loss record as that is obviously somewhat dependent on his team, but I expect him to hit the 15-win mark like he did last year.
ZiPS projections: 195 IP/13 wins/3.63 ERA/3.39 FIP with a 9.8 k/9 and a 1.56 bb/9
Mike Clevinger (ADP 35): Being a former MLB scout, I would like to think I am pretty good at judging talent. However, I did not see this coming after he had a very impressive 2018 season. For some reason, I am still skeptical of drafting Clevinger with a top 40 pick, and I do shy away from given his ADP, but the numbers speak for themselves. Blame the numbers if this one doesn’t work out because there is nothing in his peripherals that suggests that he will have a decline in productivity. The one number that I am somewhat skeptical of, which could have some effect on his overall numbers is his monstrous jump in wFA value (19.3 from 2.1). He did only have 126 IP last season, and I do not expect another 12+ k/9 like last year, but he should have another stellar season.
ZiPS projection: 146 IP/11 wins/3.62 ERA/3.59 FIP with a 10.74 k/9 and a 3.31 bb/9
Carlos Carrasco (ADP 124): I usually have a breakout candidate on this list, but I wanted to highlight how much of a bargain Carrasco is. There seems to be a lot of trepidation in drafts this year with what Carassco went through last year, but very rarely do you get the opportunity to draft a guy with his upside in the early middle rounds of the draft. This is an absolute steal if you can get him in the 11th or 12th round. His peripherals were outstanding in his 80 IP last year (3.50 xFIP, 10.80 k/9, and 1.8 bb/9) and his ERA was skewed due to his unusually high HR/9 (2.02) and unlucky BABIP (.354). This is the point in the draft where you know you just stole a stud and can talk smack to all your fellow draftees for not doing their research or for being hesitant. Bargains like this don’t happen often so jump on Carrasco if given the chance. I would not be surprised if he outproduces Clevinger this year.
ZiPS projection: 131 IP/10 wins/3.97 ERA/3.96 FIP with a 10.42 k/9 and a 2.06 bb/9
Oscar Mercado (ADP 142): There is certainly a lot to like about Mercado. He has some power, some speed, and will be hitting in the 2-hole again this season. However, he just doesn’t get on-base enough to give me the reassurance that he will continue the production he had last year. His production warrants being drafted in the 20th round and not the 14th round. I would much rather look for SB elsewhere and take someone like David Dahl, Danny Santana, or Lourdes Gurriel, who are being drafted around the same time.
ZiPS projection: .251/.310/.380 with 12 HR/57 RBI/27 SB and a .302 wOBA
Francisco Lindor (ADP 8): All of the Lindor trade speculation this offseason was absurd for a variety of reasons, but nonetheless Lindor is still on the Tribe. He is a lock as a first-round pick and there are really only a handful number of players that I would draft in front of him. There are only a few players that will be apart of the 30/20 club this season and he contributes in every single fantasy baseball category. He was great last year with a .349 wOBA/.234 ISO and 22 SB and I have no doubt that he will produce close to his career wRC+ of 119. Jump all over Lindor in the middle of the first round if you have the option.
ZiPS projection: .289/.351/.523 with 34 HR/93 RBI/113 R and a .360 wOBA
Justin has been a DFS pro for 5 years now, focusing primarily on NHL and MLB. He has won numerous tournaments on Draft Kings and FanDuel and has made it to multiple live finals for hockey. Prior to becoming a DFS pro, he was an associate scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.