Indians: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Rajai Davis (20) celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Chicago Cubs in the 8th inning in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports



AL Central: KC, CWS, DET

The Cleveland Indians had an excellent season, making it to the World Series. They brought in a dangerous bat to be the difference maker.

The Cleveland Indians’ 2016 season was great. They won over 90 games and made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They also made it to the World Series for the first time since 1997. Unfortunately, they didn’t win but the series was great. There isn’t much the Indians need to improve on in order to have another great season.

However, the Indians lost an important part of the lineup in Mike Napoli. It took a while, but the front office was able to sign his replacement. And this signing improves the offense. Napoli didn’t have a bad season at all, 34 home runs, 101 RBI and a .239 average.

The hitter they replaced Napoli with can do all that and have a better average. Combining the new first baseman with the current Indians lineup makes them one of the favorites in the American League.

The starting rotation all won at least 11 games. While some of them need to improve their ERA and WHIP, they did enough to hold a lead for the bullpen. Three of the starters rank inside my top-30.

The bullpen features a dangerous combination. The two pitchers rank within seven spots of each other. The difference is not that one will get 35 saves and the other won’t. One will have over 100 strikeouts. They both need to be owned, regardless.

Progressive Field ranked fifth in home runs, fourth in hits, and third in runs. Long story short, this makes Cleveland a very hitter-friendly park. No wonder why seven batters had double-digit home run totals.

Overall, I have 11 Indians players ranked inside my top 300. Not one rank outside the top 30 in their respective position. The Indians are a dangerous team and having a few of them on your fantasy team will lead to good things.

Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Indians starting pitchers win. They combined for 65 wins in 139 starts, a 46.7 winning percentage. While I advocate for using quality starts, the majority of leagues use wins and the Indians pitchers are very valuable in those leagues.

The rotation is led by Corey Kluber, followed by Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar. Looking at the five names, this is one of the best rotations in the AL.

Kluber won 18 games and had a 3.14 ERA, 1.056 WHIP and 9.5 K/9. He dropped off in some stats but improved in others. Kluber is a guarantee for over 200 strikeouts. He comes in at No. 4 among starters. My colleague Brad Kelly wrote about Kluber’s value here.

Carrasco is the next-ranked Indians pitcher. He missed a few starts last season, but still put up good numbers. He had an 11-8 record with a 3.32 ERA and 1.148 WHIP. Carrasco had 9.2 K/9 and just 2.1 BB/9. I expect him back at 100 percent and make over 30 starts. He is my No. 15 pitcher.

Salazar ranks as my No. 32 pitcher. He had a 3.87 ERA, 1.340 WHIP and 10.6 K/9. He’s another one that made just 25 starts. If he can get to 30, then he’ll be a lock for 200 strikeouts. Salazar would be a steal if you can get him as your No. 4 pitcher.

Bauer and Tomlin are good, but with the depth at the position, they are late-round picks in standard leagues. They both had ERAs over 4.20. Bauer could give you a boost in strikeouts, but there’s a risk with the ratio stats.

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians

The Indians acquiring relief pitcher Andrew Miller was the turning point to their season. They were on the right path, but having that utility arm in the bullpen was the key.

He was used in multiple situations, especially in the playoffs. With both the New York Yankees and Indians, he had a 1.45 ERA, 0.686 WHIP, and 14.9 K/9. He had 12 combined saves and a 10-1 record. While he will be the set-up man to Cody Allen, Miller is an excellent relief pitcher with high strikeout numbers. He is my No. 12 RP.

Allen comes in at No. 19. You may think I have the ranks confused, but I don’t. Yes, Allen will be getting the saves, but his peripherals didn’t look good. His ERA and WHIP improved, but he pitched in three fewer games. He had 12 fewer strikeouts and two more walks. I do expect another 30 saves, but the low stats elsewhere hurt his value.

MLB: Cleveland Indians-Edwin Encarnacion Press Conference

This could be the biggest signing of the offseason. The Indians looked to be set with their lineup. But, when Napoli left, they needed someone to replace him.

Enter Edwin Encarnacion.

I talked about the signing here. But, there’s still more to talk about. He hit 193 home runs, 550 RBI, and .272 in 727 games over the last five season. Those are ridiculous numbers. Now, with the stats Progressive Field shows, he could hit 45 homer and 130 RBI next season. He is my No. 5 five baseman.

Catcher Yan Gomes doesn’t rank inside my top 20. He hit .167 in 74 games last season.

Jason Kipnis hit 23 HR/82 RBI/.275 in 156 games. He also stole 15 bases. It was the best season of his career and solid numbers from a second baseman. Kelly asks if Kipnis can keep up the power. He ranks at No. 9 with room to move up. As an eighth or ninth round pick, that’s a great value.

After a great rookie season in 2015, shortstop Francisco Lindor improved greatly last season. He hit 15 home runs, 78 RBI and .301 in 158 games. He also stole 19 bases on 24 attempts. I think his power will come down a little, but 15 home runs and 20 steals with a .300 average is great. He is my No. 4 shortstop.

Kelly also wrote about third baseman Jose Ramirez’s value for 2017 here. With some power, 11 home runs, speed, 22 steals, and contact, .312 average, Ramirez is a top-10 third baseman. I think he will be the steal of the draft this season.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

The Indians outfield went through some changes last season. The hope was that Michael Brantley would return for the second half of the season, but he played in just 11 games.

The team lost Rajai Davis to the Oakland Athletics, leaving left field open. Brantley underwent shoulder surgery in August and is questionable to start the season healthy. If so, I think Brandon Guyer will fill in temporarily.

Brantley’s ADP will drop if he won’t play on Opening Day, but use this as an opportunity to draft him late and stash him until he returns.

Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall are the other two outfielders.

Naquin had a good season. In 116 games, he hit 14 home runs, 43 RBI and .296. Chisenhall wasn’t as good, hitting eight homers, 57 RBI and .286 in 126 games. Neither rank inside my top-60 outfielders. However, Naquin could be a sleeper pick.

Kelly was on an Indians writing spree, the last piece was on DH Carlos Santana. He hit 34 home runs, 87 RBI and .259 in 158 games. He will have first base eligibility this season, too. I usually don’t purposely draft two players from the same team, but having Encarnacion and Santana is a possibility. He is my No. 12 first baseman, but No. 2 DH.

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians have valuable pieces throughout the roster. Three starting pitchers, a first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman and two relief pitchers. That’s a lot of fantasy depth.

The only liability is in the outfield. If you can draft Brantley or Naquin late, do it. They will have value in all league formats.

The starting pitching in the AL Central isn’t the best. Progressive Field also helps the Indians’ hitters fantasy value. The pitchers face some dangerous hitters, but they can get the job done, as we saw last season.