I sure hope Indians fans don’t really believe that 2013 is going to be their year. They will be better offensively, but the starting pitching is a mess. Hopefully corrections to Ubaldo Jimenez’ delivery and the emergence of Trevor Bauer can lead to a rise of the Indians star. They’ve got some talent that can help fantasy teams, and they’ve made steps in the right direction, but .500 seems like more of a pipe dream than reality this year.
With that in mind, let’s focus on that fantasy talent.
Here are 10 to watch in 2013.
Carlos Santana (C): The young catcher possesses top-flight offensive skills and flashed them in the second half last season when he hit .279-42-43-47 following a difficult first half. I don’t see him evolving into a .300 hitter, but catchers who can hit in the neighborhood of .270 with 20-30 home runs and might ring up 100 RBIs aren’t all that common. Draft with confidence and hope he can avoid injury.
Michael Bourn (OF): The Indians went out and inked Bourn to a 4-year deal worth $48 million this offseason. He’ll bat leadoff and do what Michael Bourn does best -- steal bases, lots of bases and score plenty of runs. He should be fine this year, but speed is usually best in the below 30 crowd and a decline is coming. Still you can probably pencil him in for 40-50 stolen bases so long as he avoids injury. The .270ish average won’t hurt either.
Nick Swisher (1B/OF): Swisher isn’t a top-flight fantasy talent, but he’s consistent. Seemingly every year you can count on him for 20 odd home runs, 80-90 RBIs and a decent average. He moves from batting in the bottom of the lineup with the Yankees to the center of the lineup with the Indians. Hopefully that will lead to a slight uptick in RBIs. His age is his only real liability, but at age 32 the skills should still be solid.
Jason Kipnis (2B): Kipnis is someone you need to be aware of on draft day. He’s arguably a top 5 second baseman, mainly because he has real power and speed. 10-10 should be a sure thing, 15-15 more than likely, and 20-20 is definitely possible, and so is more. The bigger numbers will be a reach, especially if he can’t figure out to hit lefties better. He won’t be a major contributor in RBIs as he’ll bat at the top of the order (behind Michael Bourn), and his average will probably be meh. But in a thin second base crop he should definitely stand out.
Asdrubal Cabrera (SS): Just moving into his prime, Cabrera is a player who has significant upside offensively. An improvement in his power numbers and batting average are reasonable expectations. How high can he go? His flyball rate in the second half last year makes us think that he could make a run at 25 home runs once again like he did in 2011. That being the case, there could be major dividends for owners in 2013.
Drew Stubbs (OF): Stubbs wore out his Cincinnati and was shipped to Cleveland as part of the deal for Shin-Soo Choo. He possesses great speed, but has always struggled to get on base and his batting average too often is under .230. The Indians are hoping they can help solve that issue. If so his value will go up. If not, be thrilled with the 30 odd steals that Stubbs is likely to produce.
Mark Reynolds (1B/DH): Reynolds is another average-challenged player but always offers 30 home run power. He’ll primarily serve as the DH and hit in the No. 6 slot in the lineup. Because of that he’ll offer plenty of counting stats and maybe even steal the odd base or two. He’ll be a bargain in most leagues, the epitome of cheap power.
Chris Perez (CL): Perez has true closer stuff, sometimes. He was inconsistent in 2011 but took a step forward in 2012. If he can build on that he could move into the elite stratosphere. However maintaining his job could be a bit of a concern due to his increased salary and his well publicized friction with former manager Manny Acta. That could lead to a trade at some point, and there are no assurances that he’d be a closer if that happened.
Vinnie Pestano (RP): Pestano is the handcuff to Perez. He’s the closer in waiting and has traditional closer stuff, averaging more than a K per inning and possessing a solid WHIP. He won’t be elite, but he’d be a much better than average closer if he could wrap his head around it. In the meanwhile that strikeout rate, holds and the few vultured saves he’ll rack up can still be helpful.
Trevor Bauer (SP): It’s hard to recommend any of the current Cleveland starters, but Bauer isn’t the present, he’s the future. He’s been excellent this spring and has made a showing worthy of inclusion in the opening day starting staff. Still he’s young and inconsistent and could certainly use more seasoning. Barring a setback he should get a chance for an extended show at some point during the season. His high K rate (better than 1 per inning) and high groundball rate are the main attractions.