It’s no surprise the Cleveland Indians landed five players on MLB Network’s “Top 100 Players Right Now.” Where did the Tribe representatives rank?
Not among them is Roberto Perez, who was selected as the best defensive player in the entire sport in 2019. Though Perez’s offense doesn’t stack up very well with better all-around catchers like J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal (and the rankings clearly favor hitting over defense), the Tribe backstop’s absence from the list tells us everything we need to know about how expansive the MLB talent landscape truly is.
The first Indians player to appear on the list is Carlos Santana at 86th. In a resurgent 2019 season, Santana decimated his previous career bests in just about every meaningful hitting category except for home runs–which he tied.
Santana was a key reason why the Indians weren’t completely out of the postseason hunt by Father’s Day; it’s well to see him recognized as one of the best players in the league.
The next to appear on the list is Shane Bieber, who somewhat surprisingly comes in at 58th. Bieber gave AL Cy Young horses like Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole a respectable run for their money last season, and he took over captaincy of a rotation that lost all four of its other members for one reason or another.
It’s likely held against Bieber that he only has one full season under his belt, but the argument could certainly be made for the blossoming ace to crack the top 50 players in MLB.
Jose Ramirez and Mike Clevinger sit in close proximity to one another, at 50th and 47th, respectively. Clevinger will miss some time due to a knee injury, though the extent to which he’ll be absent is not known at the moment.
Ramirez is arguably the most interesting player on this list in terms of where he’s ranked and where he could actually wind up. Ramirez’s character arc through the first half of 2019 parallels that of Larry Johnson or Muggsy Bogues in Space Jam, his hitting ability so inexplicably and mysteriously absent that it would not have been impossible to believe a cartoon alien had stolen it from him.
As great hitters normally do, Ramirez broke out of whatever invisible shackles held him to a 68 wRC+ before the All-Star break. Ramirez’ second-half wRC+ was a ridiculous 176, and he hit 16 of his 23 home runs despite missing a month due to a late-August injury.
It’s safe to say those responsible for compiling this list are weighing his bizarre first half heavily, which is fair. But assuming Ramirez avoids an extended stay at the Mendoza Line in 2020, he’s proven to be much better than a top-50 player in the league.
To get to the fifth and final Cleveland representative, we have to jump up a ways. Rounding out the top 10 is none other than Francisco Lindor, the highest-ranked shortstop on the whole list. The wide gap between Lindor and Ramirez is telling, as the two are quite similar when both are firing on all cylinders.
Lindor gets bonus points for playing shortstop, of course, but he’s also been the more consistent player offensively over the last two years. While there’s an argument to be made that Ramirez might actually be better at his best than Lindor, the latter has avoided going missing for long stretches.
2020 is almost definitely a make-or-break year for this Indians core. That core includes five of the best 100 players in baseball. Let the games begin.