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“Sauer Notes” Cleveland Indians 2016 Outlook

This week, we’ll take a gander into the outlook of the Cleveland Indians for the 2016 season. In doing so, let’s break down some numbers from last season, as well as, some numbers that may have had a positive or negative trend over the past couple of years for certain players. Assessing these numbers from past seasons, while taking into account the additions and subtractions from past seasons, can shed some light on the fantasy value of individual Indians. Immersing oneself in the bevy of statistics that are available via various outlets can also help project that actual pure baseball outlook for the team, and whether or not they are destined to take a step forward, or due for some regression. Let’s stop with all the words and banter, and get into the numbers shall we!francona

The Tribe finished 2015 one game over .50o, and actually have had three consecutive winning seasons. Over the last decade and a half, the Indians’ have made the postseason twice, and have been on a negative down-slope as of late. Just some quick hitters or drag-bunt type numbers to appease your appetite before we divulge into the actual team breakdown: the Tribe finished 12th in the league in runs (669) and 13th in the league in HR (141), while the strength of their team being the pitching staff as they boasted a league-high in strikeouts 1,407, and second-best American League ERA finishing at 3.67. With a pretty lights-out starting rotation, the Indians finished near the bottom in the league in saves with 38, and really need closer Cody Allen to take a step forward here in 2016. The front office did a nice job of bringing in guys like reliever Joe Thatcher to help close out games, as he had often success in 2015 handing the ball to Luke Gregerson last year for the Astros. There were some other moves that the team made that were questionable, to say it nicely, and we will get into those a little bit later.

So let’s tip this bad boy off with the positive aspect of the Tribe going forward into the 2016 season, and that is the pitching staff.

  1. Corey Kluber– Spoiler alert, I believe somebody else takes over this spot as the teams actual ace this season. Although, they may not make an actual statement about it. Nevertheless, after leading the AL in wins in 2014 with 18, he then followed it up by leading the AL in losses with 16 in 2015. In this time, he also lost a run in his ERA from 2014-15 finishing with a 3.49 compared to 2.44 in 2014. He was elite vs. RH batters (.197 with 11 HRs and 123 Ks in 390 at bats). His failure was more tied to LH batters (.261 with 31 doubles, 11 HRs, and 122 Ks in 429 at bats). His elite K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) sitting at a lofty 9.93 in 2015, and was no surprise as he has average a 9.5 over the last three seasons. He also has a solid 1.93 BB/9 (walks per nine innings), so these are some peripheral stats we like identify when looking for starting pitchers on draft day. One more advanced statistic that helps lend a hand of analyzing where a pitcher is at in terms of his talent and ability is xFIP. This statistic tells us about a pitcher’s strikeout and walk rates, which are very important, and also inherently provides us with information about their batted ball profiles because fly ball rate is built into the model. This stat tells us how well a pitcher has pitched (ability and talent) independent of their defense behind them, and strips out some of the randomness behind them that can be accounted for in an ERA. The league average xFIP is 3.80, with the awful pitchers hovering 4.70, and the elite pitchers sitting around 2.90. In Kluber’s down year of 2015, his xFIP was still near elite at 3.05, after a 2014 season where he finished with an astounding 2.57. Now these statistics are on a year-t0-year basis, and if Kluber can find his xFIP anywhere between his 2014-2015 numbers he can remain an elite ace of their staff, and your fantasy staff as well. With an average draft position (ADP, which are all from 5 different sources generated from fantasy of 40 this year may be a good buying opportunity on Kluber.
  2.  Carlos Carrasco-  carlosThrows flames like Tobasco, my pick to win the AL Cy Young this year has an ADP about ten spots behind Kluber (50), and in my opinion may be the better draft-day value when all is said and done. The flames he threw simmered from his scorching 2014 numbers as his AFB (average fastball) dropped from 95.3 to 94.5 in 2015. He threw a slider (.222 BAA) as his second best pitch followed by a changeup (.155 BAA) and curveball (.120 BAA). As great as his results look, Carrasco had an ERA over 4.00 in four different months (April – 4.60, May – 4.10, June – 4.02, and September – 4.21). His best month was August (1.47 ERA with 33 Ks in 30.2 innings). For the second straight year, he was a much better pitcher after the All Star break (2.99 ERA with 94 Ks in 75.1 innings). He pitched well vs. lefties (.216) and righties (.238). Carrasco does a nice job getting ground balls (51.2) leading to a short FB rate (29.8), but he did have a spike in his HR/FB rate (13.2). Big fastball with three pitches that are tough to hit, paired with great command, points to an ERA under 3.00 with high upside in Ks with more innings added. Want to talk about elite numbers, and just taking a look at ability and talent alone with the help of the aforementioned xFIP sabremetric, Carrasco had a 2.66 in both 2014 and 2015 only trailing Kershaw, Sale, and Arrieta. Pretty good company eh? He possesses enough talent to challenge Kluber for ace on the staff. Possible 15+ wins with 250 Ks and a sub 2.50 ERA. I am willing to go up a few spots and take him earlier than his ADP of 50, as his skills are having continued growth even if his overall ERA does not indicate that.
  3. Danny Salazar- Another guy I really like going into this season, Salazar was a gift on draft day in 2015 with his price point being really low due to him expected to start the year in the minors. He made all of one start in the minors (no runs and four hits in six innings with seven Ks) before debuting in the majors on April 18th. Over his first two starts with the Indians, Salazar allowed three runs in 13 innings with 21 Ks and his destiny was sealed in 2015. Over 30 starts, he allowed two runs or less in 17 games with only one game with more than five runs allowed (six runs and nine base runners in 3.2 innings). He finished with five double-digit K games (only one after June 6th). After the All Star break, he had a 3.13 ERA with a step back in his K rate (8.2 – 10.6 before the break). Over 10 starts in July and August, Salazar went 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA and 71 Ks in 66 innings. He has almost equal success against RH (.220) and LH (.232) batters, but he allowed 15 of his 23 HRs to lefties. His AFB (94.8) remains elite while being below his 2013 success (96.2). He really only trusts his split finger fastball (.144 BAA). His slider (.375 BAA) had less value in 2015, while adding a low level curveball (.200 BAA) with some success. Talented arm with a plus fastball and reasonable command (2.6 walk rate). Salazar has two swing and misses pitches. His next step is improving his secondary pitches with some growth in his command within the strike zone to lower the damage in HRs. Another 15 win pitcher with higher upside in Ks with added length to his starts. Borderline SP2 with impact upside if he gets his inning total over 210.
  4. Trevor Bauer-bauer If he changed the first letter of his last name, he maybe would see major improvements in where we can view him heading into the 2016 season. All joking aside, the Tribe has the trifecta of dominate SP at the top of their rotation, but can not stamp down the four and five spot. Over the last two seasons, Bauer has shown K ability (313 in 329 innings). His ERA (4.55) and whip (1.313) continue to be well below a winning formula in the majors as a result of a poor walk rate (4.0). Over the first 13 starts in 2015, he had a 3.22 ERA with 82 Ks in 80 innings. Bauer lost his rhythm and confidence late in June, leading to a 5.28 ERA over his next 16 starts. Both righties (.239) and lefties (.225) had a tough time hitting him. He allowed 47 of his 79 walks to LH batters in 325 at bats. His AFB (92.8) was a step down from 2014 (94.0). He tried to add velocity to his slider as his number two pitch. Bauer threw a screwball (six times), split finger fastball (55), cutter (six), curveball (332), changeup (255), slider (614), sinker (354), and four-seam fastball (1,238). He had the most success with his sinker (.218 BAA) and curveball (.127 BAA). Pretty much a hot mess with his thought process and command. After his step back in 2015, Fantasy owners will stay clear of this ERA and whip killer. His arm will offer upside if/when he figures out how to throw more strikes. Pretty much free on draft day with his only reward being Ks.
  5. Josh Tomlin- Prior to 2015, he had a 4.87 ERA in the majors over 448.2 innings with 282 Ks. He started the season on the DL with a right shoulder injury that required arthroscopic surgery in early April. He returned to the minors in early July, where he allowed 15 runs in 29.2 innings (4.55 ERA) with 25 Ks. When Tomlin was called up in August, he looked like a negative asset with minimal chances at delivering a reward. He ended up pitching his best ball of his career over 10 starts with the Indians (7-2 with a 3.02 ERA, 0.838 whip, and 57 Ks in 65.2 inning). His success was driven by an elite walk rate (1.1). A closer look at his minor league resume (56-28 with 3.14 ERA and 574 Ks in 667.2 inning) painted a better chance at success. He dominated lefties (.156) with a low slugging percentage (.279). RH batters hit .235, but they hit nine HRs in 119 at bats (.555 SLG). His AFB (88.4) remains a liability. His number two pitch is a cutter followed by a curveball and changeup. Last season Tomlin had a huge FB rate (46.2) and a losing HR/FB rate (15.3). His one asset (command) can’t outlast his short falls over the long haul. Soft tosser with HR risk equals job loss.
  6. Cody Anderson- andersonAnderson has moved pretty quickly through the Indians system other than some issues in AA (4.63 ERA) over two different years. He held his own over 15 starts in the majors in 2015 (7-3 with a 3.05) while delivering a solid walk rate (2.4), but he struggled to strikeout batters (4.3 per nine). Anderson allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts with only one disaster game (seven runs and 10 base runners in 5.2 innings with two Ks). He had success vs. RH (.225) and LH (.238) batters. His AFB (92.2) was just below league average. He threw a changeup (.207 BAA) as his number two pitch followed by a cutter (.240 BAA) and low level curveball (.250 BAA). In his minor league career, Anderson had a 3.44 ERA with 332 Ks in 436.1 innings. Tough to believe his 2015 success in the majors, but batters did have a tough time hitting all of his pitches. I see him as the top challenge for Tomlin for the 5th starting job. His low K ability makes him a low upside Fantasy option.

Now in the introduction, it was eluded to that the starting pitching was the strong suit, and they needed better pitching out of Cody Allen. So let’s take a look at some numbers for Cody Allen and where you should be thinking about taking him on draft day. In April, when Allen was beat up for nine runs and 18 base runners in five innings with seven Ks pushing his ERA to 13.50 on April 26th, fantasy owners were having huge draft day regrets. Over the next three months, he regained his form (1.82 ERA with 52 Ks in 34.1 innings). He had another rough patch in mid July to early August (seven runs and 14 base runners in 6.1 innings). Allen closed out the year with a strong September (one run in 13.1 innings with 15 Ks). He dominated lefties (.176 with one HR in 125 at bats) while only being about league average against RH batters (.260). His AFB (94.9) has drifted backward in his last two seasons. His only other pitch is a plus curveball (.130 BAA). He had a career high K rate (12.9) even with a weak walk rate (3.2 – career best). Solid 9th inning option with more upside when he improves his K rate. The Indians have strength in the starting rotation with a questionable offense leading to many close games. Possible league leader in saves with 100+ Ks.

So with the overview of the Indians’ strong suit in their pitching staff, now we must take a gander at what we can expect from their lineup heading into the 2016 season. We have some exciting young talent, as we saw with Fransisco Lindor and the base thief Jose Ramirez at the end of 2015. May we see a bounce-back season from the likes of Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes? Can we see some of the off-season acquisitions like Mike Napoli or Rajai Davis help boost their offensive output? Well, that is why you came here correct? Let’s break down the projected Opening Day lineup, and some options that may be ready to step in and make a difference if some player(s) struggle over the first few months.

  1. Fransisco Lindor (SS)- lindorLindor was not lighting up the scoreboard at AAA (.284 with two HRs, 22 RBI, and nine SBs in 229 at bats) when he received the phone call to play in the majors. He was expected just to be an elite defender and not provide much at the plate. This seemed to be the case over his first 26 games (.223 with two HRs, nine RBI, and one SB),  as he looked like he didn’t belong in the majors. His bat turned explosive after the All-Star break (.345 with 44 runs, 10 HRs, 42 RBI, and 11 SBs in 287 at bats) to put him in the elite conversation with Carlos Correa. He had solid success vs. righties (.308 with two HRs, 33 RBI, and 11 SBs in 250 at bats) and lefties (.321 with five HRs and 18 RBI in 140 at bats). His K rate (15.8) was above the league average, but a step below his minor league resume (14.0). His walk rate (6.2) showed more upside in the minors (9.8). Over his 390 at bats in the majors, he had a high GB rate (50.8) and low FB rate (28.7). His swing produced solid homers due to a 13.0 HR/FB rate. In his minor league career, Lindor hit .279 with 21 HRs, 162 RBI, and 90 SBs in 1,648 at bats. His skill set projects him to be a top of the order player. As great as his success in the majors looked in 2015, he isn’t on the same par as Carlos Correa. Lindor will have regression in 2016, but he should play well enough to deliver a solid season from the shortstop position. Taking the position scarcity into account, getting a guy with the current ADP of around 75, who can possibly put up numbers like .280 AVG, 100+ runs, 15 HR, 65 RBI, and 30+ SB may be a nice value on draft day.
  2. Jason Kipnis (2B)- Kipnis gained back some of the important parts of his game in 2015, but he failed in the two most important categories (HRs – nine and SBs – 12). His value was free falling in late March in the draft season due to concerns of a back issue. After a slow start in April (.218 with one HR, eight RBI, and two SBs in 87 at bats), he crushed the ball in May and June (.397 with five HRs, 25 RBI, and eight SBs over 214 at bats). Over the last three months of the season, he only hit .254 with three HRs, 19 RBI, and two SBs in 264 at bats. Kipnis landed on the DL with a sore right shoulder in August, which was probably the reason for his failed second half of the year. His bat had strength vs. RH pitching (.334 with six HRs, 35 RBI, and eight SBs in 353 at bats). His HR/FB rate (6.9) has come in short in his last two seasons (4.8 in 2014 and 9.3 in his career) plus his FB rate (28.1) was a career low. He has improved his K rate (16.7) in his last two seasons, but his walk rate (8.9) has regressed in back-to-back years, while remaining above the league average. A Fantasy owner really needs to decide in 2016 if his power and speed will come back. His approach remains strong enough to offer a slight edge in batting average, while his swing path points to less power and fly balls. Kipnis looks like an early 6th round pick in 15 team leagues, and as the 6th second baseman off the board he can be a great option and value if he steals 30+ bases. If you are willing to toss out his second half of 2015 due to the shoulder issue, we can set the bar at 15 HRs and 20 SBs with possible upside in both areas.
  3. Michael Brantley (OF)- Brantley battled a back issue late in Spring training, which carried over into the first month of the year. He only played two games over the first half of April. He had short production in April (.339 with no HRs, seven RBI, and one SB in 59 at bats) and June (.297 with no HRs, eight RBI, and two SBs in brantley91 at bats) while flashing his high upside in May (.282 with four HRs, 23 RBI, and six SBs in 110 at bats). He regained his form over the second half of the seasons (.320 with 39 runs, 11 HRs, 46 RBI, and six SBs), but his at bats were limited due to issues with both shoulders. Unfortunately, the Indians were slow to the trigger with the evaluation of his shoulder. He ended up needing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in early November, leading to a five to six month recovery window. His walk rate (10.1) was a career high with an impressive K rate (8.6). Brantley was very good against lefties (.321 with 10 HRs, 49 RBI, and 13 SBs in 315 at bats) with solid success against RH pitching (.294 with five HRs and 35 RBI over 214 at bats). His HR/FB rate (31.7) remains low, but it was his highest level in his career with full time at bats. His GB rate (45.8) is trending downward. Very talented player who has been a strong hitter with runners on base over the last three years. Surprisingly, his run rate (30) has come in short in four straight years, which points to weakness behind him in the batting order. Solid 20/20 skill set with an edge in batting average while offering upside across the board. Tough to gauge his value without a better update on possible missed games, plus he may lose some power due to his recovery from the shoulder issue.
  4. Carlos Santana (1B)- Santana continues to underachieve in batting average even with a league average K rate (18.3) and an elite walk rate (16.2). He matched his career highs in RBI (85) and SBs (11). His success in RBIs was due to massive RBI chances (480), but his RBI rate (14) remains only league average and well below the top clean up hitters in the league. His HR/FB rate (11.9) was well below 2014 (16.1) with a step back in his FB rate (37.1). He struggled vs. righties (.211 with 15 HRs, 61 RBI, and 10 SBs in 360 at bats) with league average success against LH batters (.268 with four HRs and 24 RBI in 190 at bats). Interestingly, he hit three HRs in each of the first five months in 2015 with most of his batting average risk coming over the first three months of the year (.213). With no catcher ability, his value will slide in drafts. His game doesn’t matchup with the best first basemen in the league pushing his value closer to a corner option. Santana has a 20/80 skill set. Even with his failure in batting average, I don’t think he will have continued risk in this area. This guy has a strong enough approach to pop one season. His price point seems more than fair with an ADP of 201. His power upside is somewhat hurt by his high walk total (108), which lowers his at bats. Possible 30 HRs with a .300 batting average if you want to bet on the come.
  5. Mike Napoli (1B)- napNapoli still has plenty of power, but his game isn’t high enough to warrant full time at bats. His K rate (25.2) improved in back-to-back seasons, while still restricting his upside in batting average. His K rate (12.2) remains a strength in his skill set. The best part of his game is against LH pitching (.278 with 12 HRs and 26 RBI in 151 at bats). His lack of success vs. righties (.191 with six HRs and 24 RBI in 256 at bats) points to a platoon role. In his career, he has a .243 batting average against RH pitching with a solid slugging percentage (.464). His HR/FB rate (14.8) was his lowest total since 2007 with three straight seasons of regression. In 2015, Napoli had only one month of value in the season long games (May – .242 with seven HRs and 18 RBI in 91 at bats). A free swinger with power and a high walk rate. If his thought process clicks, his batting average could come in better than expected. He has six seasons with 20 or more HRs. No real chance at full time or 500 at bats. Possible 20 HRs with 450 at bats with batting average risk.
  6. Yan Gomes (C)- After a week of the start of the season, Gomes was on the DL with a right knee sprain that cost him six weeks. As a result, he had limited production over his first three months (.204 with three HRs and nine RBI in 113 at bats). He was at least serviceable over the second half of the year (.244 with nine HRs and 36 RBI in 250 at bats). His K rate (26.7) has declined in back-to-back years with a fading and weak walk rate (3.3). In June, Gomes had one walk and 23 Ks in 74 at bats with similar failure in September (no walks and 25 Ks in 87 at bats). He struggled vs. lefties (.208 with one HR and seven RBI in 101 at bats). Other than batting average (.240), he maintained his production against RH pitching (11 HRs and 38 RBI in 262 at bats). In his big 2014 season, Gomes was an edge against LH pitching (.331 with six HRs and 21 RBI in 145 at bats). His FB rate (40.0) has improved in each year in the majors while setting a career high in 2015. His downtick in power was tied to regression in his HR/FB rate (11.3). With a healthy season, Gomes should have a floor of 15 HRs and 60 RBI with more upside if he regains his success against lefties. His free swinging style does limit his value in batting average. Twice over the last three years, he’s out hit his skill set in BA. With an ADP of about 204, and looking like the 10-12 catcher off the board, similar to what was said with Lindor about position scarcity, it can have an inflation effect come draft day due to the volatility of the catcher position behind Posey.
  7. Lonnie Chisenhall (OF/3B)-  Bonus points for having an awesome name, but don’t let that move him up your draftboard any, as this is where the Tribe’s lineup starts to get ugly and muddled. There was a whole lot of empty in Chisenhall’s swing in 2015 after posting an elite run in May and June in 2014 (.341 with seven HRs and 35 RBI in 173 at bats). His lack of success cost him at bats and a trip to AAA, plus potentially pushing him into the outfield to compete for at bats. His K rate (19.1) has taken small steps backwards over the last three years while grading around major league average. His wchisenhalalk rate (6.4) has never been an asset in the majors. Over 154 at bats in April and May, he hit .214 with four HRs and 19 RBI. At AAA, he also hit for a decent batting average (.280) with short production in HRs (three) and RBI (21). Chisenhall has spent part of four seasons at AAA (.299 with 20 HRs, 109 RBI, and three SBs in 635 at bats). His bat had a slight spark in August (.403 with two HRs, 14 RBI, and one SB in 67 at bats) while failing again in September (.183 with one HR and 11 RBI in 82 at bats). He didn’t have an edge against righties (.247 with a .382 SLG) or lefties (.241). His timing seemed to be off based on a huge percentage of infield fly balls (20.8). His HR/FB rate (6.6) was a career low and it has declined in three straight years in the majors. Low resume with no clear path to full time at bats. His swing is strong enough to offer 20/80 upside based on his minor league career (.282 with 64 HRs, 330 RBI, and 16 SBs in 1,852 at bats). Bench flier with enough underlying talent to become a Fantasy starter with short term upside if he regains his early 2014 form.
  8. Jose Ramirez (3B/2B)- The Indians gave Ramirez just over two months to prove he belonged in the majors. Over 46 games, he only hit .180 with one HR, eight RBI, and eight SBs in 150 at bats, leading a trip back to AAA and opening the door for Francisco Lindor. Ramirez had more success in AAA (.293 and 15 SBs), but he offered no power (one HRs in 174 at bats). When he returned to the majors in early August, he still lacked upside (.241 with one HR and eight RBI in 87 at bats). He found his power swing in September (.280 with four HRs, 11 RBI, and one SB in 75 at bats). Overall in the majors, Ramirez failed vs. lefties (.226 with two HRs, six RBI, and four SBs in 94 at bats) and righties (.226 with four HRs, 21 RBI, and six SBs in 221 at bats). His K rate (11.0) was a career low while showing growth in his walk rate (9.0). Leadoff type hitter who will be misplaced if asked to play third base. His best two assets should be batting average (.304 in his minor league career) and SBs (101 in 1,383 at bats in the minors). His future will be at 2B for the Indians. Tough to trust his at bats with his best attraction being his speed potential even with a low success rate (69.7). None of the 3B options for the Indians should be drafted (Ramirez, Urshella, Chisenhall 3B eligible some places), and Ramirez could be used if you have an injury to your starting 3B in conjunction with needing help in the steals categories, otherwise take the laissez-faire approach.
  9. Rajai Davis (OF)- davisThe Tigers didn’t give Davis the green light often, leading a career low in SBs (18). He scored 50% of the time when he was on base, which is an impressive number. His quest for power did lead to a spike in has K rate (20.5 – 17.2 in his career) while his walk rate (6.0) continues to be short. Davis had fewer than 70 at bats in each month in 2015, with his most success coming in September (.323 with four HRs and 12 RBI in 65 at bats). He hit .267 vs. righties and .245 against LH pitching (five HRs and 14 RBI in 139 at bats). His swing has delivered more line drives in three of his last four seasons and he set a career high in has HR/FB rate (9.1). The Indians have question marks at two outfield spots, never mind another hole possibly in April if Brantley starts the year on the DL. Excellent chance to see a rebound in at bats. Possible 10 HRs with 35 SBs in 450 at bats if the Indians don’t sign a starting outfielder.

Now that we have taken a look at the projected lineup for Opening Day, we can take a look at some bench players who may platoon or gain some playing time filling in for injured players. With some of the outfield spots up in question the only players worth mentioning from the Indians bench, are indeed OF.

  1. Abraham Almonte (OF)- Over 10 seasons in the minors, Almonte hit .269 with 57 HRs, 358 RBI, and 220 SBs in 3,152 at bats. His K rate (18.1) grades at about league average, while his walk rate (10.7) tends to be an asset. In 2014 in the majors, he struggled to make contact (27.3 K rate) with repeatable failure with the Padres in 2015 (30.7 K rate). After the trade to the Indians, Almonte had a much better approach (16.8 K rate and 8.1 walk rate). Over 178 at bats with Cleveland in August and September, he hit .264 with five HRs, 20 RBI, and six SBs. This success would project to reasonable success over 550 at bats (15 HRs, 62 RBI, and 19 SBs). He hit equally in batting average against righties (.250) and lefties (.250) with all his HRs (five) coming against RH pitching (172 at bats). His swing path tends to lead to a lot of ground balls (49.6 in his career), but his HR/FB rate (9.5 in his career) gives him double digit power. Showing growth and Cleveland seems motivated to give him starting at bats. Possible buy-and-hold type player with a low price point in drafts. His skill set will only work in centerfield over a long MLB season. Possible 15 HRs and 25 SBs with a full season of at bats with batting average and job loss risk.
  2. Collin Cowgill (OF)- cowgillCollin Cowgill will compete for playing time in the outfield. He missed most of 2015 with a right wrist issue. Cowgill is a career .236 hitter in the majors with 12 HRs, 57 RBI, and 14 SBs in 677 at bats. His K rate (25.7) is much too high for his skill set, while his walk rate (5.4) remains weak. He was a much better player in the minors (.294 with 59 HRs, 294 RBI, and 85 SBs in 1,865 at bats) while doing a much better job controlling the strike zone (16.4 K rate and 10.1 walk rate). At age 29, Cowgill won’t have a big window to prove his worth if given a starting opportunity.
  3. Will Venable (OF)- The Indians’ outfield looked like a mess in 2015 leading to them signing Will Venable to a minor league contract in late February. His K rate (24.1) continues to have risk with a bounce in his walk rate (9.5). Last season he struggled against lefties (.159) with below par success vs. RH pitching (.256 with six HRs and 29 RBI in 305 at-bats). In 2015, he lost his swing which led to a spike in his GB rate (60.4 – 47.2 in his career). Viable short-term fill in that gets exposed with full time at-bats. Possible short term value in April until Brantley returns to the starting lineup.

Lastly, we will dig into some prospects who can possibly make an impact in the Tribe’s 2016 season. There are not really any prospects that should be on your radar in terms of re-draft leagues, but they are good names to know if you are playing in dynasty leagues.

  1. Bradley Zimmer (OF)- Two years after the Royals drafted his older brother, Kyle, fifth overall, Bradley Zimmer became the second first-round pick in the family when the Indians selected him 21st overall. It marked the third straight year the Indians used their top pick on a center fielder, but Zimmer might end up having the most well-rounded game of the bunch. Zimmer has a polished set of tools and is capable of impacting the game in many ways. His smooth left-handed swing and advanced understanding of the strike zone allow him to make contact well. He has some loft in his swing that will likely translate to more home run power as he gets stronger. Zimmer’s speed is enhanced by his keen instincts, making him an asset both on the basepaths and in the outfield. The Indians believe he can stay in center field, but his strong arm will fit well in right field if he does have to move.
  2. Clint Frazier (OF)- frazierThe Indians made Frazier the first high school position player selected in the 2013 Draft and he got a franchise-record $3.5 million signing bonus. His first full professional season got off to a rough start, but he was able to get back on track in the second half for low Class A Lake County. Frazier stands out most for his power, which his exceptional bat speed helps to create. With his power, however, comes a lot of strikeouts. He whiffed 161 times in 2014, the third most in the Midwest League, and he’ll need to learn how to handle premium breaking balls as he advances in the Minor Leagues. Defensively, Frazier has above-average speed and the Indians believe he can stay in center field. But the Tribe has stockpiled a large group of center field prospects, which could lead Frazier to eventually slide over to right field.
  3. Rob Kaminsky (LHP)- The second of two left-handers selected by the Cardinals in the 2013 Draft, Kaminsky went 28th, nine picks after Marco Gonzales. While Gonzales rushed to St. Louis and won a pair of National League Division Series games in his first full pro season, Kaminsky has better pure stuff and a higher ceiling. The Indians acquired him in July in a straight-up trade for Brandon Moss. A New Jersey high school product who signed for $1,785,300, Kaminsky has one of the best curveballs in the Minors. He falls in love with his curve too much at times, but it’s easy to see why, because it’s a sharp downer that arrives in the upper 70s. Kaminsky’s other pitches both project as solid or better, an 88-92 mph fastball that can reach 95 and a changeup with some fade. He throws strikes with all three of his offerings and helps compensates for his lack of height by throwing from a higher three-quarters slot that adds some plane. He’s extremely competitive and chafes at the notion that his smaller size might push him to the bullpen. If the Indians’ have a trouble filling that fifth spot in the rotation and Kaminsky can put all of his tools together, there may be a chance he may get a shot at filling in.


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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 3rd, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #3 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our topic this week will be 1st base and 3rd base players to target or avoid this year.

Our guests this week are Zak Sauer and Eric Paulen. Zak is a writer with as well as an owner in MLFB and MLFF leagues. Zak’s articles publish every Thursday. Eric is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner with significant experience leading large film/video production projects spanning all genres of television. Eric has been successful at building and directing production teams in developing and implementing programming content for diverse audiences with well-known television networks and brands, including A&E, ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, The Travel Channel, WWE Network, The NBA, NHL Productions, NFL Films, and NCAA.

Come join a lively debate!


(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 6th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will help you build a better bullpen and we will also discuss catcher options for 2016.

This week’s guests are Joe Iannone and Mike Stromme. Joe is a writer with and you can check his articles out every Sunday. Mike is also a writer with MLFS and he is also the assistant editor.



  1. Joe Iannone

    March 3, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Zack – Breakin it down man!

  2. Corey D Roberts

    March 3, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Pretty Impressive bro!

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Ben WardiBen Wardi

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