|Fantasy Take: The 2006 Cleveland Indians|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 23, 2006
Last year, the Cleveland Indians’ franchise infused a lot of young talent to put together a pretty good team. If it hadn’t fallen apart at the end of last year, that ballclub could have gone deep in the postseason. However, it didn’t, and we’re left looking at this season’s fantasy talent.
The Top Tier
C Victor Martinez – After a slow start to last season, Victor Martinez scored opposing pitchers the second half. We shouldn’t expect him to be as skewed this season as last (.236/.312/.380 before the All Star Break vs. .380/.449.578 after), and something closer to the middle is very likely. You know, along the lines of .310/22-25/95-90. Yeah, he’s the best catcher in fantasy baseball.
SS Jhonny Peralta – Usually, I would like someone more proven in the top tier, but Jhonny Peralta gets in based on the strength of last year. His .292/24/78 puts him in the running for top 5 shortstop in the Major Leagues, but at age 24, we can expect more of an upward trend in the coming seasons. Draft him thinking he’ll be the cheap man’s Miguel Tejada. He won’t be Miggy Tejada, but he’ll be a cheaper version of him.
The Second Tier
2B Ronnie Belliard – When super prospect Brandon Phillips flamed out, Belliard took over at the keystone position. The Indians couldn’t be happier. Last season was a .284/17/78 year for him, and we can easily expect similar numbers next season. People are going to draft Robinson Cano much higher up (or for more money) because they recognize his name, but Belliard will produce the same, if not more, for less of a cost to you.
SP Cliff Lee – Lee spent much of the season making a name for himself, winning 18 games with decent numbers. The southpaw had a 3.79 ERA and 149 Ks in only 202 innings. We should expect more of the same next year, when he turns 28, closer to the peak age for pitchers. Twenty wins, 3.50, and 165 Ks are not out of the question given normal progression and good luck.
SP CC Sabathia – Another Indians’ lefty, Sabathia, knows how to win. Before turning 24, he had 46 wins, only three behind active career leader Greg Maddux. With this team and offense getting back on track, look for Sabathia to easily surpass last year’s 15 Ws and put up near twenty, with a good deal of strikeouts and a so-so ERA. Even better news is that he is beginning to take his weight situation seriously, which makes him a lock to improve his stats this year.
OF Grady Sizemore – When Sizemore moved into the leadoff spot, the Indians took off. He ranks among one of the best young players in the game and should put up some amazing numbers this coming season. When you draft him, expect an outside shot at 30/30 numbers. The only difference between him and Bobby Abreu is that Sizemore will have a slightly less batting average, but more runs scored, for a fraction of the price. Sounds like an amazing player to me!
CL Bob Wickman – I don’t expect much continued success for this right hander. He’s an excellent guy, and a joy to watch, but striking out 41 batters in 62 innings just won’t cut it. However, at age 36 last year, he saved 45 games (in 50 opportunities) with a 2.47 ERA. No matter how you splice it, those are good numbers. Fantasy baseball doesn’t care if it’s done by smoke and mirrors or by true talent. His luck might start running out soon, but I hope not. Wickman is an excellent guy, and I hope success until the day he retires.
The Third Tier
SP Paul Byrd – Byrd has impeccable control. It doesn’t help out his strikeout numbers, but he won’t walk many. Combine that previous fact with the sure reduction in the number of hits he’ll give up (the Indians are an amazing team defensively), and you’ve got someone whose ERA and WHIP could potentially help your ballclub. The Tribe is a very good offensive club, so we might even see some of those hard luck losses from last year turn into much-beloved wins. Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying he’ll win seventeen games again, but he’ll put up some fine numbers and will be a steal towards the end of your draft.
OF Casey Blake – In recent seasons, if you gave this guy the playing time, he’d give you some power. That’s a pretty nice tradeoff. Next season, he’ll have outfield eligibility, but look and see if he qualifies at third base in your league. If given a full slate of ABs, Blake will hit .250-.260/25/70. The only question will be his playing time and whether or not you can stomach that low batting average.
3B Aaron Boone/Andy Marte – Spring training numbers are very hard to judge a player by and sometimes an exercise in futility, but let’s take a look at the candidates for the Indians’ hot corner next season.
A. Boone: .440/.500/.880/3/7
Even though the numbers are very similar, Boone leads the competition by a slim margin. He is another year removed from knee surgery, which means he should be even healthier than last season. Wait for him to prove himself early in the season, but do remember he has some success down the stretch last year. Marte will only become a factor if he starts out hot in Triple A and Boone pulls a Bret Boone and falls flat on his face.
1B Ben Broussard – In 2004, Broussard showed great progression from his 2003 rookie season. Last year, the Indians’ first baseman has a precipitous decline across the board, hitting .255/.307/.464, but with 19 home runs. He turns thirty years old this season, so we can’t expect much of an upward trend, maybe .275/15-20/80 RBIs, which doesn’t help much unless you use him when he’s hot.
OF Jason Michaels – He never got an entire seasons’ worth of ABs, which makes it difficult to estimate just what kind of numbers he could put up. However, if we extrapolate from last year, we should expect .300/10/70 with around 120 runs scored. That’s if he stays around for an entire year playing at paces established earlier in his career. I’d be willing to take that chance.