Sep 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) reaches for the ball on a two-RBI double by Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (not pictured) in the fifth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
This week on the Wroundtable, the Wahoo’s on First gang talks about their predictions for some of the Cleveland Indians players.
Projections are starting to come out for the 2015 season, but it’s always fun to eyeball players and guess what might happen based on comparables. On that note, give us some of your own predictions. Name your best guess for a Cleveland Indian most likely to regress, most likely to break out, most likely to bounce back and most likely to repeat his 2014 performance. The four answers should obviously not be the same player.
Brian Heise: My best guess for regression would be Michael Brantley. Last year was such a leap for him that it’s hard to expect him to be that good again. At the same time, what if 2014 was just the tip of the iceberg for Brantley? I can also see a scenario where he’s even better, leads the Indians into the playoffs, and gets legitimate MVP consideration. As for bounce back, how can it in t be Jason Kipnis? He wasn’t healthy and as a result he was awful. I think he’ll be a lot better. Lastly, I think the k train keeps on rolling with Kluber. I expect him to pick right up in 2015 where he left off in 2014.
Evan Vogel: My regression has to be Michael Brantley. He was great in 2014 and he likely has high expectations based on that. If he returns to his pre-2014 form, he’s still quite useful, but he isn’t anywhere near an MVP candidate. The bounce back candidate would be Jason Kipnis, if only because he can’t look as bad as he did in 2014 after his impressive 2013…if he hits lefties. I think that THIS is the year that Lonnie Chisenhall actually breaks out. He’s another year older, he made tremendous strides in plate discipline in 2014, and he NEEDS to succeed to keep his playing time with Giovanny Urshela on the rise behind him. As far as maintaining their gains in 2014, I’ll say that Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and second half Danny Salazar each repeat in 2015, making the Indians’ rotation downright sexy.
Richard Clark: I also think Michael Brantley is the most likely candidate for a regression, at least when it comes to his power numbers. His HR/FB% was 12.7% which is almost double his career average of 6.5%. His BABIP also skyrocketed to .333 last year though his career norm is closer to .300. I would be surprised if he can come near his 2014 numbers, though I do think he will still perform at a high level in 2015. My bounce back player is Nick Swisher. Swish has been dependable throughout his career, his knees should be healthy, and he is apparently down 15 pounds from last year. I think he is primed to post numbers at least on par with 2013. Jose Ramirez is my breakout player. He was a stud on defense last season down the stretch and he has high OBP potential. I think he will keep Lindor in the Minors most if not all of the year with his good play. I think Corey Kluber will maintain his gains in 2015. He has been recognized as having the best mechanics in baseball, making it likely he can repeat his success. His late-bloomer status can be explained by changes in his pitch repertoire, something the PECOTA projections ignored. Klubes all be elite again this year.
Robert Koval: I think Bryan Shaw is the most likely candidate to regress this year. Although he had a 2.59 ERA last year his FIP was 3.42 and his strikeouts were down last year with more innings pitched and HR/9 slightly up. Combine that with 150 appearances over the past two seasons and i can’t help but think he will regress a bit. Also, which scares me just to write it, his season in 2014 looks all to similar to Vinnie Pestano in 2012 before he took a nose dive. Pestano numbers in 2012 ERA – 2.57 (shaw 2.59) FIP 3.42 (shaw 3.42) innings pitched previous two year combined 142 (shaw 151).
Player most likely to breakout, and I know he is already one of the Indians top 3 position players, is Carlos Santana. You could argue he has already broken out but I expect big things this year out of him while he plays only 1b/DH. His numbers while playing those positions exclusively from June -Sept. of 2014 were .266/.384/.488 with a BABIP of .281. If you apply those numbers over the full 162 game season it amounts to .872 OPS with 34 HR 108 RBI and 112 BB. If he puts up those numbers I think we are talking about a top 5-10 player in the AL.
Player most likely to bounce back is Jason Kipnis. Big contract, added weight in the offseason and nagging oblique injury early in the season all contributed to his lost year in 2014. I do have some concerns that the all star in 2013 was fueled by his otherworldly June where we was the AL player of the month but I still expect his numbers to climb from last year and expect at least double digit home runs and 25 stolen bases while getting back to average defense at 2nd. If not I really wouldn’t mind a Lindor and Ramirez double play combination for the next half decade.
Most likely to maintain their gains is Jose Ramirez. I think what we saw last year in the second half of last season as a 21 year old shortstop is the the floor for Jose. I think he will continue to play top 5 defense at SS or wherever in the infield he ends up and put up roughly 700-720 OPS. I expect his OBP to rise a bit considering his minors average was .355 and he was right at .300 in his time in the majors last year. Add in 25 steals and you have a very productive everyday player.
Andrew Schmid: The player who I think is most likely to regress is Scott Atchison. Atchison broke out last year with the Tribe, and pitched to a stellar 2.75 ERA. His FIP of 3.08 also liked his work, but is much better than his career average of 3.59. His walk rate of 1.75 also was better than his career norm of 2.34. Given his older age, he turns 39 around Opening Day, I find it hard to expect a repeat year from Atchison.
My breakout candidate is Danny Salazar. Salazar struggled to begin the year, but after a stint in the minors, Salazar dominated. After returning to the big leagues on the 22nd of July, Salazar struck out 9.48 batters per nine and walked only 2.34, good enough for a 3.50 ERA. While this doesn’t sound like he will need to break out any more, I think that he can, and will, get any better. As good as his 3.50 ERA after the 22nd of July, his 2.83 FIP was even better. With Jose Ramirez, and eventually Francisco Lindor, set to recieve playing time, the Indians’ defense should be much better in 2015, and I expect Salazar’s ERA to drop in return. Also, his velocity continued to rise the entire year, and his fastball velocity increased a whole mile per hour. Combining his high velocity with a better defense makes Danny Salazar my 2015 break out candidate for the Tribe.
Nick Swisher can’t get much worse, and for that reason, he is my bounce back candidate. Last season he struggled through injuries and only played 97 games. With the amount of injuries plaguing his hips and shoulders, we witnessed Swish’s HR/FB ratio plummet to 8.3%, a full six percent less than his career norm. Although he is 34, it is fair for us to expect a bounce back from a healthy Swisher. The real question is whether or not Swisher will stay healthy, but I believe that he will. Letting Carlos Santana play first base should allow Nick Swisher become a full time DH, sparing his knees in the process. Given his offseason workouts, recovery from knee surgery, and change in position, I see no reason why not to expect 20+ home runs from Nick Swisher.
Jose Ramirez had a very nice 2014 with the Tribe, and I expect him to repeat that success in 2015. His .262/.300/.346 slash line is a little under his career norm, and his 4.9% walk rate should increase, but overall his performance should stay the same. Such an increase, however, would be marginal. With an UZR/150 of 18.9 over nearly 500 innings of short stop last year, a repeatable statistic given his defensive ratings, Jose Ramirez should continue his success in 2015.
Kyle Downing: I think Michael Brantley is most likely to regress. That doesn’t mean I think he’ll fall off a cliff, but I’m not sure he’ll sustain his .327 batting average (though I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 20 homers again). For my breakout candidate, I choose Trevor Bauer. With his improved mechanics, his intense love of science and his ferocious off-season training, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before his former top prospect status is finally realized. His fastball touches 97, his curveball is filthy, and he has about half a dozen pitches he can throw at any given time. My bounce back candidate is Jason Kipnis, though I think Nick Swisher will bounce back to a lesser degree. Kipnis has all the tools to hit for opposite field power again if he has a healthy season. It’s hard to imagine repeating his dismal 2014. Finally, I expect Cody Allen to repeat his 2014 performance. His stuff is filthy and there’s no reason to think he’ll regress. It’s also hard to imagine him topping his filthy K/9 rate of 11.8. What the heck is up with that number? Jeez.