Cleveland Indians 2015 Team Preview

Corey Kluber

Coming off a 92-win season, the Indians regressed a bit and finished third in the AL Central behind the Tigers and Royals. The team was among the least active this offseason and looks almost identical to last season’s club, meaning they are banking on their many homegrown players developing into starting-caliber talents this year. They’re also counting on former All-Stars like Jason Kipnis to bounce back in a big way.

The Indians do have a solid offense and a potentially strong pitching staff (again, depending on development) but will they be able to improve enough to compete with Detroit, KC, and now the revitalized White Sox without adding any impact players aside from Brandon Moss?


Last Season:

Record: 85-77

Runs: 11th

Batting Average: 13th

ERA: 14th

WHIP: 17th



Notable Additions: Brandon Moss, J.B. Schuck, Scott Downs, Gavin Floyd, Bruce Chen


Notable Losses: Jason Giambi



1B: Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher

Santana continued to struggle with his batting average in 2014 but remained an on-base machine as he led the American League in walks with 113. Despite his .231 BA and 124 strikeouts, Santana matched his career-high with 27 home runs, drove in a career-high 85 RBI, and added a .792 OPS, 68 R, and 25 doubles. We’d like to see his average get back to the mid-.200s but his power numbers are great and his walk totals are off the charts.

It remains to be seen how the Indians use Swisher after he posted the worst season of his career in 2014. He batted a career-low .208 while posting career-worsts in OPS (.608), home runs (8), RBI (42), runs (33), and doubles (20) in 97 games. Though he was limited by injuries, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether the 34-year-old is done.

2B: Jason Kipnis, Mike Aviles

Though he battled through injuries, Kipnis played 129 games but was a far cry from the All-Star we saw in 2013. He batted a career-low .240 while posting a mere .640 OPS, six homers, 41 RBI, and 61 runs. He remained good on the base paths as he stole 22 bases but that’s about the only silver lining to his season. He’s still nursing a finger injury so it’s hard to get overly optimistic right now but he could be a major steal in fantasy drafts after looking like a legit MVP contender just a season ago. The Indians didn’t do much in the offseason but a Kipnis rebound would be just as good as adding a top tier middle infielder through free agency.

Expect to see a lot of Aviles all over the field. He’s a singles hitter but has a solid glove, good speed, and seldom strikes out.

3B: Lonnie Chisenhall

Though his power remained on the mediocre side, Chisenhall established himself as a quality third baseman in 2014 as he batted .280 with a .770 OPS, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 62 R, and 29 2B. He’s not a great defender but if he can continue to get the extra-base hits he’ll be a very strong bat in the middle of the order.

SS: Jose Ramirez, Zach Walters

After the team sent Asdrubal Cabrera to DC, Ramirez had the second-most hits and runs and the third-highest batting average on the team over the last 52 games. He also flashed a great glove and looked great on the base paths as he stole 10 bases on 11 attempts.

In the minors he owned a .306 BA through 291 games and stole as many as 38 bases though he did get caught more than you’d like.

Walters may get some time at short if Aviles is used elsewhere. Walters showed good power as he hit 10 home runs in 127 at-bats between the Nats and Indians but batted just .181. He did put up a .282 career BA in the minors, though, and hit as many as 29 home runs in a season.

Of course, the Indians still have Francisco Lindor, BaseballProspectus’ #6 prospect, waiting in the wings. Lindor owns a .278 BA through 357 minor league games and has stolen 25+ bases in three straight seasons while playing a decent shortstop. He may also get time at second if Kipnis struggles or is hurt.

C: Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez

Gomes has quickly become one of the league’s best hitting catchers as he put up a .278 BA, .785 OPS, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 61 R, and 25 2B in his first full season. He’s also great behind the plate and looks ready to establish himself as one of the elite backstops in the game this year.



Michael Brantley: After playing solid ball for three years, Brantley broke out in 2014 as he posted career-highs in BA (.327), OPS (.890), HR (20), RBI (97), R (94), SB (23), and 2B (45). That’s a stellar year that you could put up against the likes of Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. Of course, he had never hit more than 10 home runs prior to 2014, and never owned more than 66 runs, 17 steals, or a .288 BA. Can he continue to play at an elite level, especially given that he never hit for power in 566 games in the minors or his first few years in the Bigs? I wouldn’t risk a first-rounder on him in fantasy drafts but Brantley could very well prove the doubters wrong.

Michael Bourn led the AL with 10 triples but his .257 BA, 28 RBI, 57 runs, 17 doubles, and 10 steals are all the worst we’ve seen from him since 2008. Speedy outfielders have a shorter shelf life and, given that he’s stolen just 33 bases over the last two seasons while producing few runs, you can pretty much forget about him in fantasy. His glove work has also declined since moving to Cleveland so the only thing that will keep him starting in center is the $14 million the Indians owe him this year.

David Murphy is an unexciting outfielder both at the plate and on defense. He’s good for around 40-50 RBI and runs, 25 or so doubles, and around 10 homers, but that’s about it.

Brandon Moss is likely to DH for Cleveland as he recovers from hip surgery but will likely give the Indians some good pop in the middle of the order. He has hit 55 home runs over the last two seasons while driving in 80+ and scoring 70+ run in each. He strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit a lot of doubles but he’s here for his power and consistently delivered while in Oakland.


Starting Rotation:

Corey Kluber is coming off a Cy Young-winning season that saw him win an AL-best 18 games while posting an impressive 2.44 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 269 strikeouts to 51 walks. He’s got a great arm and has developed into a true ace for the Indians. With a ton of strikeouts, you’d be remiss if you didn’t look at him early in fantasy drafts.

Carlos Carrasco struggled with injury and consistency since 2009 but finally played a full season between the bullpen and the rotation in 2014. He was equally as good as a starter as he was a reliever, posting a 2.67 ERA and 0.978 WHIP while striking out 101 batters and walking just 20 in 91 innings as a starter. He’s poised to establish himself as a top strikeout arm in 2014 if he can stay healthy.

Trevor Bauer looked decent in his first full year in the Bigs, posting a 4.18 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and 143 K to 60 BB. The former top-10 prospect posted very impressive numbers in the minors despite struggling with walks thanks to his 9.7 K/9. If he can continue to work on his control, Bauer may very well hit his top prospect potential this year.

Danny Salazar put up 10 impressive starts in 2013 but was fairly mediocre in 2014 as he posted a 4.25 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Unlike Bauer, walks aren’t a huge problem for Salazar, it’s his 9.6 H/9 and 1.1 HR/9 that did him in. He’s got great strikeout numbers but will need to do a better job of limiting baserunners and keeping the ball in the park if he’s to reach the next level this year.

Gavin Floyd has started just 14 games over the last two seasons and, despite a 2.65 ERA in nine starts for Atlanta last year, has never been better than a 4.00 ERA pitcher. I don’t see him lasting in the rotation.

T.J. House should be the fifth starter, if anything. He gave up a lot of hits and posted a 1.32 WHIP but limited the walks and put up a 3.35 ERA in 19 appearances. He keeps the ball in the park and limits the damage despite consistently giving up more hits than you’d like and could be a very solid backend starter for years to come.

The Indians also have Zach McAllister who struggled last year and put up a 5.23 ERA/1.44 WHIP, Josh Tomlin who was only able to put up a 4.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, and Bruce Chen who’s coming off a horrid year that saw him post a 7.45 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 48 innings.



Cody Allen was solid a middle reliever in 2013 and turned into a decent closer as he saved 24 games while posting a 2.07 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 91 K to 26 walks. He did blow four saves but, at 26, he’s still developing and has solid potential.

Bryan Shaw put up three strong seasons before establishing himself as one of the better middle relievers in the game. He led the AL with 80 appearances and put up a 2.59 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

Scott Atchison bounced back after a rough season with the Mets to go 6-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 72 innings last year. At 38, he’s just trying to stay in the league.

Marc Rzepczynski was much better after being traded from St. Louis to Cleveland in 2013 and was a quality lefty-specialist in 2014 as he put up a 2.74 ERA despite allowing a lot of walks and posting a 1.33 WHIP.

Nick Hagadone posted two rough seasons for the Indians before he was finally able to string together 23 quality innings last year. The former top-50 prospect may finally be reaching some of that potential after posting a 2.70 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 27 K to just six walks.



Offense: B

Defense: C+

Starting Pitching: C+ to B-

Bullpen: C+ to B-

Overall: B-

author avatar
Igor Derysh
Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and