Fantasy Articles

Many are picking The Tribe as the favorites to repeat as AL Central champions despite the Detroit Tigers’ influx of new, big-name players and overall improved team.  They have quite a few players worth picking throughout the whole draft.  

Top Tier

Grady Sizemore (OF): Sizemore is one of the top outfielders in the draft and will likely be off the board within the first few rounds.  He set a career-high in steals last year with 33, so expect at least as many (if not more).  His batting average dipped a bit from his previous two years, but after drawing 101 walks, he was able to post the highest OBP of his career.  You can pencil him in for 20 HR and 100 runs, all while (hopefully) staying healthy (he’s still young and played in all 162 games each of the past two seasons).  He strikes out a lot, but that’s a small price to pay for the rest of the numbers you’re getting here.

Victor Martinez (C): When planning your draft strategy, you’ll want to look at filling your catcher position with Martinez in the early rounds.  Here’s a guy who can post 20+ HR with 100+ RBI along with a .300 average – and you’re probably not going to get that from any other catcher.  The only knock on him is that he won’t provide any stolen bases for your team, but you won’t get that from this position anyway (unless you go with Russell Martin, in which case you won’t be getting the power numbers you will from Victor).  Hitting in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup should enable him to continue putting up gaudy offensive numbers. 

C.C. Sabathia (SP): As the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Sabathia is likely to be picked early in most fantasy drafts.  His 2007 numbers were indeed worthy: 19-7, 3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 209 Ks in 241 IP.  Those are great stats for fantasy owners as well, and 2008 brings promise as he prepares for free agency after the season.  However, time will tell if Sabathia is truly an elite pitcher (as he was in 2007) or if he’s just a very good pitcher; he never broke the 200-K mark before, and this was the first time since 2002 that he pitched over 200 innings. Nevertheless, you’ll prefer to watch him in 2008 if he’s on YOUR team, not someone else’s.

Second Tier

Travis Hafner (1B/DH): It’s hard to label Pronk as a second-tier player, but it looks like that’s what he is after his disappointing 2007 season.  His production dropped dramatically. While he did post 24 HR and 100 RBI, that’s a far cry from his 2006 totals (42 HR and 117 RBI in nearly 100 less at-bats).  His average, .266, was the lowest since 2003, when he was a part-time player.  However, fantasy owners will hope for a return to his .300 average, 30+ HR days, which isn’t out of the question.  His career numbers suggest that 2007 was an anomaly, so a return to form appears likely.

Fausto Carmona (SP):  Carmona made the most of his first season as a full-time starter, going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  A sinkerball pitcher, he doesn’t give up a lot of home runs and is able to erase many baserunners with double plays.  His strikeout totals left much to be desired (137 in 215 IP), so go elsewhere for a strong K contributor.  It’s not unexpected for him to repeat last year’s success, if not at the same level then still among the upper-echelon of AL pitchers.  Despite his big 2007 numbers, he still may be a “sleeper” pick in some drafts.  If you decide to draft him, plan on doing so around the middle of the draft (somewhere in rounds 7-9), as he probably won’t be around much longer after that. Picking him up before those rounds might mean that you’re passing up, among other things, better strikeout numbers. 

Third Tier

Ryan Garko (1B): Garko showed much promise in his first full-time season as the Indians’ starting 1B, and it looks like he’ll have a chance to continue producing at that position this year.  He belted 21 HR with .289/.359/.483 numbers in 484 ABs.  He was a bit inconsistent, sandwiching a .192 June between outstanding months in May and June (.385 and .375, respectively).  However, when the draft is in its teens and you’re looking to fill out your bench and backup players, Garko could be a nice addition to your roster.

Jhonny Peralta (SS): Peralta’s main attraction comes in his ability to hit home runs – he’s hit 20+ in two of his last three seasons.  However, he hasn’t come close to a 100-RBI season yet, and his 2007 OPS was .771.  He doesn’t steal many bases either, which makes him a less-desirable shortstop (despite his HR ability).  2007 was a step in the right direction for returning to his career-high 2005 numbers (24 HR, 78 RBI, .292/.366/.520).  He’s still young (he’ll turn 26 this May), so he still has time to improve and have a comeback season in 2008.

Rafael Betancourt (RP): The Indians’ setup man is among this year’s class of top non-closer relievers.  By the time the draft is dwindling down and all of the save-registering closers are off the board, you may be looking for more pitching, and Betancourt provided fantasy owners with a good return in 2007.  He registered right at a strikeout per inning (80/79.1) to go along with his 1.47 ERA and 0.76 WHIP.  It would be a smart move to draft Betancourt in the late rounds, especially because the Indians’ closer is the erratic Joe Borowski, who will likely continue to make manager Eric Wedge reach for the antacid frequently in the 9th inning.

Question Marks

Cliff Lee (SP): Lee struggled to stay healthy in 2007 after two consecutive years of 200+ IP and 32 combined wins.   Indications are that he’s healthy and recovered from abdominal muscle injury, though he’s battling for a rotation spot this spring.  Lee’s last full season, 2006, saw good results: he went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA after his career year in 2005 (18-5, 3.79 ERA).  He posted a 6+ ERA in his 16 starts in 2007, so whether he can produce anywhere near his 2005-2006 numbers is a big question mark.  Keep an eye on Lee, and if it looks like he’s healthy, he could provide some quality innings and wins.

David Dellucci (OF): This former 29-HR player struggled through his worst season in 2007, his first in a Cleveland uniform.  A hamstring injury played a large part as he played in only 56 games.  He will likely spend time in a platoon with Jason Michaels this year, so his playing time will continue to be diminished.  There’s not really much upside to selecting Dellucci on draft day, though if you’re interested, make him a player to watch during the year and stay posted. 

The Great Debate

Joe Borowski (RP): Borowski led the AL in saves last year, so you would think that he’d be a cinch to be a first- or second-tier player, right?  Well, along with those 45 saves came an ERA of 5.07, a WHIP of 1.43, and eight blown saves.  He also doesn’t register strikeouts at the same rate of other closers (58 out of 65.7 IP in ’07).  He’s a similar closer to Bob Wickman and Todd Jones in that they tend to make the 9th inning exciting, and that’s not necessarily a good thing if you’re a Tribe fan or Borowski owner.  Nevertheless, he gets the job done and gets the save.  Given his high save totals, Borowski will almost certainly get picked in drafts. The thing to keep in mind is that while he will help you with saves, he’ll also hurt you with ERA and WHIP.

Prospect Watch

Adam Miller (RHP): Miller was a first-round pick in the 2003 draft, so his timetable would suggest that he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues.  The rest of Cleveland’s brass thinks so as well, although his progress has largely been hampered by injuries.  His spring training debut was delayed by a blister on his middle finger.  However, if Miller can put together a long string of healthy starts in Buffalo this year (that may be a big “if”), then that will improve the odds of seeing him either starting for Cleveland at some point this summer or helping out in the bullpen.