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Indians Baseball: A team that's accomplished some things.



Updated: 2018-01-18T11:58:20-05:00

 



The Indians should sign Lorenzo Cain

2018-01-18T11:58:20-05:00

Budget, roster space, the fact he probably doesn’t like Cleveland, all that be damned. It’d be cool. Before you read more, understand that I understand that the Indians probably aren’t going to spend any more money this winter. They’re spending somewhere around $125 million this year, and that includes about $25 million on Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. They need those players to bounce back hard. That’s a big albatross around a small market team, borderline Swisher/Bourn-esque. So there’s lots of hope of good luck involved in their planning. Not exactly a great idea for a team with title dreams. But I still think the Indians should sign Lorenzo Cain. There’s a ton of pseudo-stars still sitting in the free agency pool, and I want the Indians to sign them all. It’d be fun to see JD Martinez brutalize the Tigers for 19 games, and having Yu Darvish come in and make Trevor Bauer the Tribe’s fourth or fifth starter would be the greatest of good problems to have. But I like Lorenzo Cain. He’s fun to watch, he’s good, and he could help in ways the Indians could use it. So the Indians already have Bradley Zimmer, who is a better defensive center fielder than Cain and, if he hits even a little bit, is probably more valuable than any version of Cain except the 2015 type. That was the year Cain hit .307/.361/.477, good for a 128 wRC+. But I still want Cain because he could play the other corner outfield positions that are already full of question marks and indecision. What if Brantley can’t play more than 100 games, and needs to DH besides? What if Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall and whoever else fall into a crevasse for stretches of the season again? Why just have some fill-in replacement level guy like Melvin Upton, Jr.? Just have the greatest super sub in baseball history. There is, of course, the argument that Cain, built on speed, wouldn’t age well. It’s true, age degrades. But as Mike Petriello over at MLB.com pointed out, Cain should age gracefully. Barring injury of course. According to StatCast’s Sprint Speed metric, 30-year-old Cain is still as fast as Trea Turner. Even if you account for age fade, you wouldn’t think he’d lose that much range. Plus, if he’s playing the corners, he has less ground to cover, AND Progressive Field is much smaller in the outfield than Kauffman Stadium. My only real worry would be a Mike Cameron/Carlos Beltran incident, and perhaps Cain’s ability to play balls off the big wall in left. That was never a problem in Kansas City. It feels like a minor problem that he’d take good care of. He’s played dozens of games in that field already anyway. There’s a problem that all Kansas City hitters these days seem to have, something driven by the nature of their park. They simply hit way too many ground balls. Even in this era of fly ball fetishizing, they continue to beat the ball into the ground. Cain is no different, hitting fly balls only 32.9 percent of the time this past year and a grounder 44.4 percent of the time. My theory is Royals, in general, do this because the park they call home is just too big to consistently homer. That’s why it took Mike Moustakas more than 30 years to break Steve Balboni’s team record of 36 home runs in a season. On those humid Midwestern summer days when the air is thicker than molasses, fly balls just die unless they’re utterly crushed. Here’s my thought though. Cain leaves Kansas City and starts needing to lean on his bat a bit more as he ages. He already hits the ball as hard as Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, owning an 89.2 mph average exit velocity in 2017. And his max exit velocity this year, 112 mph, is just as hard as anything Edwin hit. A forward-thinking club points these things out, points out he could add 10, 15 home runs to his yearly total, become a whole new type of player and have a late-career renaissance. He still plays smart defense in the corner, still has some of those old center field wiles, but hits like a corner outfielder. This is what I imagine for him on the Indi[...]



Nolan Jones is our No. 6 Cleveland Indians prospect. Who should be No. 7?

2018-01-18T10:00:05-05:00

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The 2016 second round pick has one of the best batting eyes in the system

The votes are in, and LGT readers were jonesing for Indians 2016 second round draft pick Nolan Jones.

Jones was ranked as one of the better hitters in the 2016 draft class, but slid due to signability issues and the Indians were more than happy to scoop him up in the second round.

After a slow pro debut in 2016, Jones broke out in 2017 with an incredibly strong campaign, putting up a fantastic .317/.430/.482 slashline for the Low-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

After only collecting seven extra base hits in his pro debut, Jones teed off with 18 doubles, three triples and four home runs in 2017. Most impressively, he dropped his strikeout rate from 36.6 percent to 22.6 percent while maintaining an elite 16.2 percent walk-rate.

Jones is a rare combination of an elite eye at the plate with excellent contact ability and developing power. More home runs are definitely coming as he continues to grow into his 6-foot-4 frame.

The biggest issue with Jones is his defense. He committed 22 errors last year in 51 games started at third base. The ability to stick at third base will go a long way to retaining top prospect status.


WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 7 PROSPECT FOR 2018?

Will Benson, OF (Age 19)

2017 (A-): 236 PA, .238/.347/.475, 10 HR, 7 SB, 13.1 BB%, 33.9 K%, 146 wRC+

Strikeouts are an early red flag, but patience at the plate and power make him an an exciting prospect at 19 years old.

Conner Capel, OF (Age 20)

2017 (A): 492 PA, .246/.316/.478, 22 HR, 15 SB, 8.7 BB%, 22.0 K%, 121 wRC+

Only Indians prep player from the 2016 draft to skip Low-A and he responded by blasting 22 home runs in his first taste of full-season ball. Huge upside if he can stay in center field.

Willi Castro, SS (Age 20)

2017 (A+): 510 PA, .290/.337/.424, 11 HR, 19 SB, 5.5 BB%, 17.6 K%, 115 wRC+

One of the younger players at his level each season. Hit more home runs last year (11) than his first three professional seasons combined (10).

Yu-Cheng Chang, SS (Age 22)

2017 (AA): 508 PA, .220/.312/.461, 24 HR, 11 SB, 10.2 BB%, 26.4 K%, 110 wRC+

Displayed a significant power surge in 2017 in his Double-A debut, but at the cost of increased strikeouts and a major drop in batting average.

Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 22)

2017 (A): 10 GS, 57.0 IP, 22.5 K%, 2.1 BB%, 4.58 ERA, 2.51 FIP

2017 (A+): 17 GS, 107.2. IP, 21.1 K%, 2.2 BB%, 2.59 ERA, 3.40 FIP

Converted reliever impressed mightily after being promoted to High-A Lynchburg in 2017. Has the best slider in the Indians system, according to Baseball America.




Francisco Mejia is top MLB catching prospect

2018-01-18T06:52:00-05:00

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Morning News and Notes for Thursday, January 18, 2018

But will he stay at catcher?

Indians News

Francisco Mejia is No. 1 catching prospect | Cleveland Indians - According to MLB Pipeline, in fact, there is no catching prospect who merits a higher ranking than the up-and-coming Tribe backstop.

Corey Kluber receives Cleveland Sports Award - During the 18th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Hotel, Indians ace Corey Kluber was named the 2017 Professional Athlete of the Year.

Cleveland Indians announce player development staff assignments for 2018 | cleveland.com - Some familiar faces will be in new places among the Cleveland Indians' minor league coaches and player development personnel.

Indians announce spring broadcast schedule - That quest will begin on Feb. 23, when the Indians take on the Reds in their first Cactus League clash of 2018. That game will be televised on SportsTime Ohio, along with nine others during the spring, as part of the Spring Training broadcast slate that was announced by the Indians on Tuesday.

At B-Lark University: Where Barry Larkin shapes young stars…until he’s ready to manage the Cincinnati Reds - Every offseason, players like Dee Gordon and Francisco Lindor seek out the private coaching of Barry Larkin. Take a visit to B-Lark University.

Fantasy baseball preview: Cleveland Indians - Drink!

Around the League




What is Jose Ramirez’s future?

2018-01-17T12:00:05-05:00

He was surprisingly great in 2017. Can the Tribe third baseman do it again? Jose Ramirez was really good for the Indians in 2017. Like, really, really good. He was probably the best player on a team that had Francisco Lindor. Mike Petriello of MLB.com listed him as the third best third baseman in baseball, he came in a hair behind Kris Bryant’s 6.7 fWAR in 2017 (he earned 6.6) and he also performed well at second base with Jason Kipnis out. The fact it came form nearly nowhere made it all the sweeter. He’s only just turned 25, too. What can we expect going forward? According to Baseball Reference, there have been nine seasons since 1901 that saw a third baseman 25 or younger earn at least 6.9 bWAR and post an OPS over 140. Oddly, all these seasons have been since 2001, when Albert Pujols still played third, hit 37 home runs and 47 doubles and earned 6.6 WAR. Ramirez’s 2017 is right in the middle of the pack of these stunning seasons with his 6.9 bWAR (yes, it’s different than the fWAR I cited earlier, the two sites use different defensive stats) and 149 OPS+. Ramirez also gets a bit of a WAR bump defensively because he played 71 games at second base, which has a more generous positional adjustment than third does. That doesn’t take away from his ability though - he still had as many extra base hits as Giancarlo Stanton, produced more offense than Paul Goldschmidt, and was worth at least as many wins as Joey Votto. So where does he go from here? On that list of nine players I mentioned earlier, one that stuck out was David Wright. At 24, Wright was already a star, having been worth 17.2 bWAR the last three years and hitting .314/.396/.534 in that stretch. That’s very close to the .318/.374/.583 line Ramirez posted in 2017. Wright did walk more than Ramirez; he worked an 11.4 percent walk rate in that early stretch of his career compared to a 16.8 percent strikeout rate. Ramirez has been a bit more league average at the walking thing - 8.1 percent in 2017, but he also only struck out 10.7 percent of the time. This is a smidge from the year prior. So while their offensive profiles aren’t identical, both hit a good amount of homers at 24 - 30 for Wright, 29 for Ramirez - while also lasering doubles in bunches, Wright with 42 and Ramirez with an impossibly high 57. We all know what eventually happened to Wright, he suffered from general fall-apart as he approached 30 and will likely miss out on what looked like a booking in Cooperstown. But for several years there, he was incredible: By certain measures, that age 24 season was the best we ever saw of David Wright. And there is a chance that 2017 is the best we’ll ever see of Jose Ramirez. It was a very, very great season, borderline historic. It’s the ninth highest WAR by a third baseman in Indians history, and the 35th highest by any Indian position player, ever. Since integration, it’s the 19th best ever among Cleveland baseball players. They’ve been around a long time and had a lot of great players. It’s august company. Another comp that made some sense took a bit of delving, but I found out Danny Tartabull had a very similar start to his career. The gloves of the two players are a different story - Tartabull never topped 4.4 WAR because of his strange glove - but like Ramirez, he had his first full season at 23, was very good, and got better. It’s tough to compare a third baseman and an outfielder of course, but this makes sense to me: We are of course focusing on those age 23 and 24 seasons. Neither of them gave us enough to judge any earlier seasons, whether Tartabull’s insane highs or Ramirez’s crazy lows. If he followed the Tartabull track, he’d be a bit worse, but still excellent. And have the glove that Tartabull didn’t. Here’s the same chart, but including Wright: You can see where the injuries started taking the toll on Wright, and how the future could hold anything for Ramirez. Both of these players had v[...]



Shane Bieber is our No. 5 Cleveland Indians prospect. Who should be No. 6?

2018-01-17T10:00:10-05:00

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The king of command made it to Double-A in just his second pro season last year.

The people have spoken, and they all are coming down with a case of Bieber fever.

Shane Bieber was incredibly impressive in 2017, showcasing the best control in all of minor league baseball and the Indians rewarded him by promoting the 2016 fourth round draft pick not once, but twice. Despite being drafted just one and a half years ago, Bieber finished the season pitching for Double-A Akron.

The right-handed starter out of UC Santa Barbera has pitched 197.1 innings thus far in his minor league career across four levels.

He’s walked just 12 batters (two intentionally) while striking out 183, good for a disgusting career K/BB ratio of 15.25.

Bieber sits in the low 90s, but he was a late bloomer and has been adding velocity consistently, touching 94 last season with room to add a few more ticks to his fastball.

As he continues to progress through the system, he’ll have to start missing the zone on purpose to keep batters honest, but that’s a good problem to have at this point in his career.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Bieber could make an appearance with the Indians in 2018 if needed considering how aggressively he was promoted in 2017.


WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 6 PROSPECT FOR 2018?

Will Benson, OF (Age 19)

2017 (A-): 236 PA, .238/.347/.475, 10 HR, 7 SB, 13.1 BB%, 33.9 K%, 146 wRC+

Strikeouts are an early red flag, but patience at the plate and power make him an an exciting prospect at 19 years old.

Willi Castro, SS (Age 20)

2017 (A+): 510 PA, .290/.337/.424, 11 HR, 19 SB, 5.5 BB%, 17.6 K%, 115 wRC+

One of the younger players at his level each season. Hit more home runs last year (11) than his first three professional seasons combined (10).

Yu-Cheng Chang, SS (Age 22)

2017 (AA): 508 PA, .220/.312/.461, 24 HR, 11 SB, 10.2 BB%, 26.4 K%, 110 wRC+

Displayed a significant power surge in 2017 in his Double-A debut, but at the cost of increased strikeouts and a major drop in batting average.

Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 22)

2017 (A): 10 GS, 57.0 IP, 22.5 K%, 2.1 BB%, 4.58 ERA, 2.51 FIP
2017 (A+): 17 GS, 107.2. IP, 21.1 K%, 2.2 BB%, 2.59 ERA, 3.40 FIP

Converted reliever impressed mightily after being promoted to High-A Lynchburg in 2017. Has the best slider in the Indians system, according to Baseball America.

Nolan Jones, 3B (Age 19)

2017 (A-): 265 PA, .317/.430/.482, 4 HR, 1 SB, 16.2 BB%, 22.6 K%

Took a leap in his Low-A debut showcasing improved power, an elite eye at the plate and reduced strikeout percentage. Defense at third base needs work.




Free agency remains slow, but Christian Yelich could heat up the trade market

2018-01-17T08:00:07-05:00

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N&N Jan 17

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote about what else the alleged collusion this offseason could actually be.

One theory is... Scott Boras. This is great because I’m all for blaming Scott Boras for all of life’s problems. Get overcharged at the grocery store? Boras. Line to vote too long? Boras. Need four cups of flour but only have 2.6? Boras again.

But unfortunately, a better theory exists. The one where teams finally realized that signing free agents is usually a way to overpay for wins.

As one astute MLB official noted, “We pay you the minimum for three years and arbitration for three or four years, and then you get paid more in free agency for your decline?”

It’s so bad that

Any guesses?

Indians Link

• Tyler Olson’s 0.00 ERA was a long time in the making.

Around baseball

• Derek Jeter wants to ditch the Marlins’ gaudy-but-unique home run sculpture. He also wants to ditch all their players making more than $600,134.

• SPEAKING OF WHICH, their relationship with Christian “7,000,000” Yelich is broken and his agent desires a trade. Know any teams that could use an outfielder?

• If the Giants can not land Lorenzo Cain, they may sign his former teammate Jarrod Dyson.

• The Yankees signed LHP Wade LeBlanc to a MiLB contract.

• New Pirate Colin Moran has a new swing.




Greg Allen is our No. 4 Cleveland Indians prospect. Who should be No. 5?

2018-01-16T10:00:05-05:00

Allen got his first taste of the majors in 2017 and it won’t be his last. With a narrow victory over King of the Strikezone Shane Bieber, outfielder Greg Allen is our No. 4 Cleveland Indians prospect for 2018. Blink and you might have missed his MLB debut last season, but you can expect to see more of the six-foot speedster in 2018 and beyond. Before he set baseball world on fire to the tune of a .229/.282/.343 slash and a home run in September, Allen displayed his speed and excellent center field defense for the Akron RubberDucks of the Double-A Eastern League. His first month of the season was solid enough — though void of power — but he missed the entirety of June with a bizarre wrist injury. In an otherwise typical at-bat against the Altoona Curve, Allen began to show signs of trouble gripping the bat and shook his hands in apparent pain before even taking a swing. He did not return for the second inning, and it was later revealed that he suffered a broken hamate bone. After missing a month then rehabbing briefly in the Arizona Rookie League, Allen returned to the RubberDucks through August before getting his call to the majors in September. In some ways, Allen would be redundant on the Indians’ roster as a full-time player. Bradley Zimmer has shown himself to be a great defender in center field, he can make contact, and he has more power than Allen. But there could be a tipping point where Allen’s defense is so elite that it makes sense to shift Zimmer to right or left field and let the pair dominate the outfield while someone else wonders why they’re standing in the field doing nothing for nine innings. Allen made the jump from Double-A straight to the majors last year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get quite a bit of time in Triple-A with the Columbus Clippers in 2018. He’ll get his fair shot in spring training, of course, but he didn’t look ready to play everyday in his month-long debut last season, and there’s no reason to have him sitting on the bench in Cleveland. Whenever he does break through to an everyday role, his speed will be something to watch — in the absolute worst case scenario he’ll be a hell of a pinch-run option for Terry Francona. WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 4 PROSPECT FOR 2018? Will Benson, OF (Age 19) 2017 (A-): 236 PA, .238/.347/.475, 10 HR, 7 SB, 13.1 BB%, 33.9 K%, 146 wRC+ Strikeouts are an early red flag, but patience at the plate and power make him an an exciting prospect at 19 years old. Willi Castro, SS (Age 20) 2017 (A+): 510 PA, .290/.337/.424, 11 HR, 19 SB, 5.5 BB%, 17.6 K%, 115 wRC+ One of the younger players at his level each season. Hit more home runs last year (11) than his first three professional seasons (10). Yu-Cheng Chang, SS (Age 22) 2017 (AA): 508 PA, .220/.312/.461, 24 HR, 11 SB, 10.2 BB%, 26.4 K%, 110 wRC+ Displayed a significant power surge in 2017 in his Double-A debut, but at the cost of increased strikeouts and a major drop in batting average. Nolan Jones, 3B (Age 19) 2017 (A-): 265 PA, .317/.430/.482, 4 HR, 1 SB, 16.2 BB%, 22.6 K% Took a leap in his Low-A debut showcasing improved power, an elite eye at the plate and reduced strikeout percentage. Defense at third base needs work. Shane Bieber, RHP (Age 22) 2017 (A): 5 GS, 29.0 IP, 25.6 K%, 0.8 BB%, 3.10 ERA, 1.91 FIP2017 (A+): 14 GS, 90.0 IP, 22.9 K%, 1.6% BB, 3.10 ERA, 2.50 FIP2017 (AA): 9 GS, 54.1 IP, 22.4 K%, 2.3% BB, 2.32 ERA, 2.18 FIP Continues to have immaculate control at every level of the minor league system while maintaining an above average strikeout rate. [...]



Andrew McCutchen traded to the San Francisco Giants

2018-01-16T07:00:04-05:00

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Morning news and notes for Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

Happy Tuesday, folks!

Tribe news

Inbox: Strategy behind Brantley over Bruce? | MLB

Sure you can judge the Brantley signing over the Bruce signing now with the benefit of hindsight, but both moves could be justified given the timeline of events.

Righty prospect McKenzie part of Tribe’s future | MLB

The 20-year old right hander is not only the best pitching prospect for the Indians, but he’s also in the top 10 RHP prospects in all of baseball (per MLB). That’s pretty neat.

Around the league