The rankings are based on performance and playing time, as there is value in putting up strong numbers and on being trusted by Terry Francona and company to be on the field.
Part one is running today, with part two to come tomorrow.
All stats updated through Friday, May 22.
#34 T.J. House, LHP (Previous Rank: 14)
After impressing in the second half of 2014, House reminded us of the need for larger sample sizes before declaring players fully major league-ready. The left-hander should not be expected to continue walking nearly a batter per inning and allowing one out of every five fly balls to leave the park, but House will need to get back on track before being trusted with a major league rotation spot.
#33 Bruce Chen, LHP (Previous Rank: NR)
The last spot in Cleveland’s rotation has been unsettled essentially all year, with pitchers like Chen taking a crack at filling it. Chen’s brief major league time did not go very well, and after being designated for assignment, the left-hander elected to hang it up as opposed to attempting to make it back to the majors.
#32 Zach Walters, INF/OF (Previous Rank: NR)
Walters has struggled to make contact during his time in Cleveland this year, striking out close to half the time, and even when he made contact, the utility man has not seen many balls fall in for hits. The key to Walters’ success at the plate despite the swing and miss in his game is doing damage when he does make contact, which clearly has not happened this year as he is still looking for his first extra base hit.
#31 Tyler Holt, OF (Previous Rank: NR)
Given everyday playing time in the majors, it is entirely possible Holt would rank much higher than #31. But since the outfielder is still waiting for a shot in Columbus, he only edges the three players below him because that trio really struggled during the first quarter of the season.
#30 Yan Gomes, C (Previous Rank: 2)
It is not for a lack of talent that Gomes plummeted this far in the rankings, as the catcher’s knee injury has not allowed him an opportunity to rack up his usual value. Gomes is back now, however, and should shoot up this list by the time the next edition comes out over the All-Star break.
#29 Jerry Sands, OF (Previous Rank: NR)
On the same day Gomes went down with an injury, Sands elevated himself into cult hero status with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, which included two doubles and four RBI. That performance alone was not enough to convince the front office to make room for Sands, however, as the presence of a player like Ryan Raburn made his skill set redundant.
#28 Kyle Crockett, LHP (Previous Rank: 20)
Crockett has not spent much time in the majors this year, but Cleveland’s left-handed relief depth in Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Hagadone -- combined with Crockett having minor league options remaining -- made the decision to send Crockett down for roster space logical. The left-hander struggled since being sent down, though much of the problem has been a home run rate and BABIP allowed that really only ever happen through bad luck or injury. Assuming Crockett is healthy, his stats should regress down in time and he should be back in the majors later this year.
#27 Brett Hayes, C (Previous Rank: NR)
Gomes’ injury forced Hayes to the majors as a backup catcher, and while he has been roughly replacement level, things could have been much worse. The catcher showed some nice power during his limited time, though his on-base problems still leave him best suited to third-catcher duties.
#26 Austin Adams, RHP (Previous Rank: 25)
Adams is currently bouncing between Columbus and Cleveland as one of the last members of the bullpen and someone who still has options. The right-hander only struck out one batter during his 5.2 major league innings this year, though he looked much better (if wilder) during his time in Columbus.
#25 Nick Swisher, DH/OF (Previous Rank: NR)
The vast majority of Swisher’s playing time since coming off the disabled list has come as a designated hitter, which puts a large burden on his bat to produce value. So while his bat has been roughly league average since his return, the hitting standard for designated hitters is higher than that, driving him down to this fairly-low ranking.
#24 Michael Bourn, OF (Previous Rank: 8)
The good news for Bourn is he stayed healthy so far this year, though in a way, that has been a negative for Cleveland. Power has never been Bourn’s game, but that dropped off in 2015, with the center fielder also struggling to hit for average, get on-base, or put up even decent fielding numbers, leaving him essentially an all-around black hole in the lineup.
#23 Marc Rzepczynski, LHP (Previous Rank: 17)
The overall stats paint Rzepczynski as a replacement-level reliever this year, but going deeper, things should turn up for the left-hander over the rest of the season. Rzepczynski’s peripherals point to some positive regression potentially being in his future and, outside of a few uncharacteristic struggles, still looks pretty good on balance against left-handed batters.
#22 Shaun Marcum, RHP (Previous Rank: NR)
The current option for the #5 spot in the rotation is Marcum, who worked his way back from injury to putting up some strong numbers in his first two major league appearances since 78.1 ill-fated innings in 2013. Time will tell if Marcum can keep getting major league hitters out, but given his strong career track record, it is possible the right-hander will be another solid minor league signing for the organization.
#21 Anthony Swarzak, RHP (Previous Rank: 23)
Spots #21 through #16 are very tightly packed and are essentially interchangeable, though clearly someone has to slot into each spot. Swarzak’s results and inning total give him a case to be higher than this, but the fact that the organization designated him for assignment and the right-hander ended up going unclaimed on waivers knocks him to the bottom of this group despite solid peripherals.
#20 Scott Atchison, RHP (Previous Rank: 16)
Atchison avoided walks fairly well this year, though a lack of swing and miss ability combined with getting hit fairly hard left the right-hander hanging around replacement level and struggling to get his ERA and FIP down. Things could turn up for Atchison if the balls start staying in the park, which easily could happen given his extreme home run rate this year.
#19 Nick Hagadone, LHP (Previous Rank: 18)
Hagadone, on the other hand, is still getting plenty of strikeouts, though the fact that the left-hander’s walks have gone back up are making it hard for him to maintain solid results. There is some hope, as his high BABIP should regress in time, but given the left-hander’s short track record of success last year, this could be Hagadone settling in as a decent #6 or #7 reliever, not the dominant guy he looked like in 23.1 major league innings last year.
#18 David Murphy, OF (Previous Rank: 19)
Before the season, it appeared Murphy was a player without a spot, destined to be traded before too long. That may still be true over the long haul, but for now, Murphy managed to be a solid bench outfielder thanks to hitting quite well and not giving all of it back in the field (though he is still not a good defensive outfielder).
#17 Bryan Shaw (Previous Rank: 15)
The home run ball has been an issue for Shaw so far in 2015, as allowing so many dingers really hurt the right-hander’s peripherals. The ERA is solid for now, but if Shaw’s spike in walks continues and his strikeouts remain more solid than good, he could continue his descent from the really strong reliever he was in 2013 to being best used more in the middle innings.
#16 Jose Ramirez, SS (Previous Rank: 10)
Ramirez has been a replacement level player so far this year, and the fact that he finds himself in the top-half of these rankings is a large reason why Cleveland is below .500 this year. There is little chance Ramirez is really this bad -- his BABIP is extremely low and should rise over the rest of 2015 -- but the shortstop did not maintain his impressive glove work from 2014, reinforcing the fact that the 22-year-old probably profiles best as a super-utility man once Francisco Lindor finds his way to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
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