Cleveland Indians Fantasy Report: Opening Day

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Sep 28, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder

Michael Brantley

(23) and second baseman

Jason Kipnis

(22) leave the field after the Indians

Cleveland Indians Opening Day is finally here and we have your fantasy updates

There is nothing better than Opening Day and we finally have it upon us, so lets look at our first week of games and check in on who you might want to start and sit on the Cleveland Indians. Most of the information will be for those playing in daily leagues or the leagues where you can change your lineup every day of the week, but I will also touch on who to look for if you have a league that locks in your weekly lineup on Mondays.

Cleveland plays a three game series at the Houston Astros Monday, Wednesday and Thursday before their home opener against the Detroit Tigers Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you were looking at park factors for the Houston stadium, Minute Maid Park, you would find out that the perception of the field being a bandbox and homer friendly is actually a little overrated. It grades out on ParkFactors as an average park, due to its immensely deep center field with a hill and flag pole, both of which are in play. The fences are only 315 ft form home plate in left field, so those right handed pull hitters could do some damage, and Terry Francona has already stated that with lefty Dallas Kuechel taking the mound on Opening Day for Houston, Ryan Raburn will see the starting lineup.

Detroit has a slightly more pitcher friendly field at Comerica Park, which again, would buck the perception of the stadium. Checking back with ParkFactors, the fences are easily accessible down the lines, same as in Houston, and a 420-foot center field fence makes fly balls pop ups for the center fielders.

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  • The Tribe rotation will go as expected: Corey Kluber on Opening Day and again on Sunday, making him the lone Indians starter to get a 2 start week for those in weekly leagues or head-to-head matchups. Carlos Carrasco will start on Wednesday against the Astros and Trevor Bauer will take the mound on Thursday. Zach McAllister will start the home opener against Detroit on Friday, followed by TJ House on Saturday and the aforementioned ace Kluber will get his second start on Sunday. The only surefire starts out of those pitchers in a standard league, which I mentioned here, are Kluber and Carrasco, both of whom start against the swing happy Astros. Houston, as a team, struck out in 23.8% of their plate appearances last year, and that was before acquiring Evan Gattis (who struck out in almost 25% of PAs last year) to play LF/DH and deciding to play Chris Carter (31.8% K/PA) at first base full time. Bauer could see a spot start in deep mixed or AL only leagues due to the matchup with Houston, but with his homer-friendly spring training, keeping him on the bench against such a power heavy lineup (3rd in the AL in HRs a year ago) might not be the worst idea.

    Mar 10, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians pitcher

    Trevor Bauer

    throws against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training baseball game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Looking at the pitchers the Indians will face is a strategy that a lot of fantasy owners overlook when filling out lineups. I’ve already mentioned that Francona will sit one of his regulars to use right handed bat Raburn against the lefty Kuechel, but it remains to be seen who exactly will be sat for Raburn. It’s conceivable that Francona could opt for Raburn in RF and have Brandon Moss play DH, one reason is to keep his hot bat in the lineup and the second would be to give his hips another day of rest. Wednesday, the Tribe will face righty Scott Feldman and Thursday will see Asher Wojciechowski make his big league debut. For Cleveland’s home opener Friday, Detroit will trot out Shane Greene for his team debut, David Price on Saturday and Justin Verlander, tentatively, on Sunday. Verlander is battling a triceps cramp and is scheduled to make the start, but that could all change after a throwing session scheduled for Tuesday. If Verlander could not go, look for Anibal Sanchez to move up a spot, but a call up from Triple A Toledo could also occur.

    Lineup construction is something that is very fluid with Francona, especially at the onset of a season, so it’s hard to predict exactly what his every day lineup will be, but my prediction is it will look something like this:

    More from Away Back Gone

    1. Michael Bourn-CF
    2. Jason Kipnis-2B
    3. Michael Brantley-LF
    4. Carlos Santana-1B
    5. Brandon Moss-RF/DH
    6. Yan Gomes-C
    7. Lonnie Chisenhall-3B
    8. Ryan Raburn/David Murphy-RF/DH
    9. Jose Ramirez-SS

    When it’s all said and done, week one for the Tribe looks to be a hitter friendly outing. Houston’s pitching staff is talented, but young. Kuechel had a breakout season last year, but it remains to be seen whether that was a fluke or the real thing. Wojciechowski is making his major league debut after having a great spring, highlighted here, but again, it’s his major league debut. Feldman is a decent starter, but his K/9 rate has slowly decreased every year and his FIP was higher than his ERA on what was a middling defensive team last year. Detroit brings some big names in David Price and Verlander, but with right handed batters such as Gomes, Raburn, and Santana (a switch hitter who, for his career, hits 50 points better right handed than left), a lefty starter is not the death knell it once was. Plus Verlander could find himself on the DL before Sunday’s start.

    Next: MLB: The Show simulation

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