Cleveland started yet another season slowly, but as we hit the 40-game mark and reach Memorial Day, the franchise has started creeping its way back toward .500 and playoff contention. With about a quarter of the season in the books, it is once again time to rank every player who has donned the Cleveland uniform in 2015.
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 ran yesterday, with part two coming up right now.
All stats updated through Friday, May 22.
#15 Ryan Webb, RHP (Previous Rank: NR)
Despite having quite a bit of right-handed relief pitching available in the minors, the organization chose to give Webb a shot in the majors. Though his peripherals preach patience, Webb’s low ERA so far has been a welcome addition for a bullpen that has largely struggled. It may not be sustainable, but Webb’s performance was sorely needed.
#14 Cody Allen, RHP (Previous Rank: 11)
Though his ERA is not all that great, the good news for Allen going forward is his peripherals do not think he has pitched quite this badly. Of course, there are also some signs of concern for Allen -- mainly that he should reasonably expect a few more balls to leave the park over the rest of the season -- which is a big reason the franchise should be looking for relief help if the team manages to climb back into legitimate contention.
#13 Ryan Raburn, OF (Previous Rank: 24)
Raburn has not played all that much in 2015, but when he has been on the field, he has continued to be an enigma. This year, being an enigma means bouncing back in a big way, as Raburn has been one of the better hitters on the team so far. Whether or not he can keep it up is anyone’s guess, but for now, Raburn has been a key reason Cleveland did not fall into an even deeper hole.
#12 Carlos Santana, 1B (Previous Rank: 4)
Thanks to his extremely high walk rate and relatively low strikeout rate, Santana continues to add value to the team. Of course, with his power backing up a bit so far in 2015 and -- most importantly -- so few balls falling in for hits, Santana’s overall offense has been more average than his customary above average. That should regress back in time, but on the whole, Santana’s relative struggles have hurt the lineup to date.
#11 Mike Aviles, INF/OF (Previous Rank: 21)
Like Raburn, Aviles has not played in all that many games relative to a starter, but he has put up plenty of value while on the field. A big part of that value has come from uncharacteristically high power and BABIP rates, but the key thing to remember is these performances are locked in. Aviles will likely regress in time, but his stats helped keep the ship relatively afloat while the organization waits for other scuffling players to get back to performing at their norms (i.e., Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, etc.).
#10 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (Previous Rank: 9)
Heading into this past offseason, and even entering the season, the easiest place for Cleveland to upgrade seemed to be at third base, as Chisenhall did not have a long track record of success or a long-term financial commitment attached. That idea is likely on ice right now, as despite an ice-cold BABIP, Chisenhall still performed at an average level this year, made plenty of contact, and had a little pop. The third baseman is not a star, but it seems more and more likely he can be a solid starter on a contending team.
#9 Zach McAllister, RHP (Previous Rank: 13)
The best case scenario for McAllister would have been finding a way to stick as a starter, but now that he is in the bullpen (maybe for good), the right-hander put up some big numbers and has been Cleveland’s best reliever in 2015. It is possible McAllister will improve overall in the bullpen and get one last shot in the rotation later in the year -- like Carlos Carrasco in 2014 -- but for now, the franchise has a much-needed power reliever in the bullpen racking up strikeouts and not walking too many batters.
#8 Brandon Moss, OF/1B (Previous Rank: 7)
There have not been many surprises with Moss this year, as the outfielder provided plenty of power and plenty of whiffs, which comes out to a valuable combination all things considered. The drop in Moss’ on-base percentage is a bit concerning, though there is a chance it is simply all BABIP related. Either way, Moss provided some nice power to date, which is really what any team is looking for from the 31-year-old.
#7 Roberto Perez, C (Previous Rank: 22)
The absence of Yan Gomes could have been even more disastrous, but despite not hitting for much average, Perez’s combination of plus defense, plenty of walks, and pretty good power allowed Cleveland to survive the time Gomes spent on the disabled list. This six-week stretch reinforced the idea that Perez could handle starting duties somewhere and having that kind of option available off of the bench is a great benefit for the organization.
#6 Danny Salazar, RHP (Previous Rank: NR)
The raw talent has always been there for Salazar, but right now, it seems the right-hander found the needed consistency to unlock that ability at the major league level. His home run problems still remain -- and may always be there -- but when a pitcher is striking out as many batters as Salazar does while also finding a way to avoid walks, he is going to be plenty valuable.
#5 Carlos Carrasco, RHP (Previous Rank: 5)
Carrasco is also racking up plenty of strikeouts while avoiding walks, but whereas Salazar’s ERA lines up well with his peripherals, Carrasco’s is completely out of whack. Based solely on his 4.74 ERA, the right-hander would seem to be taking a step back in 2015. But by now, we know better than to judge a pitcher solely on his ERA, and given Carrasco’s much better (and fairly elite) 2.64 FIP and 2.67 xFIP, the right-hander remains an electric arm to have pitching in any rotation.
#4 Michael Brantley, OF (Previous Rank: 3)
A lingering back injury kept Brantley off the field a bit earlier in the season, which hurt his ranking here some, but the outfielder did not miss much time and is still playing at an All-Star level even with the missed time. Brantley reached the point where he rarely misses and is maintaining his power surge from 2014, both of which combine to create a very valuable outfielder who should be a lineup cornerstone for years to come.
#3 Trevor Bauer, RHP (Previous Rank: 12)
When Bauer was acquired from the Diamondbacks in December 2012, he was still essentially a prospect with little major league time under his belt, and after some more marinating in the minors and majors, the right-hander emerged as a full-fledged starting pitcher. Bauer still walks more batters than you would like to see, but his command has improved from where it was, unlocking his strikeout ability once again. At only 24 years old, Bauer is still a young major leaguer with room to grow, a frightening proposition for the opposition given how good he already is.
#2 Corey Kluber, RHP (Previous Rank: 1)
Kluber is another pitcher whose peripherals pointed to a pitcher throwing much better than his ERA indicated, with the right-hander still looking like a Cy Young-worthy starter in every area except ERA and pitcher wins. Those superficial stats are falling back to a more reasonable levels as the season goes along, and while he may not repeat as the Cy Young because of them, Kluber is still one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and leading the way among pitchers in these rankings.
#1 Jason Kipnis, 2B (Previous Rank: 6)
Kluber does not take the top spot, however, due to the reemergence of Kipnis. The second baseman is putting up MVP-type numbers through a quarter of the season, and while he should fall back a bit once his BABIP and strikeout rate trend toward his career norms, the fears from last year that Kipnis was turning into a lemon early in his long-term contract seem unfounded. Injuries play a bigger part in the game than it seems on the surface, and while we on the outside do not have the ability to pin Kipnis’ struggles last year entirely on playing through an oblique injury, then playing through the aftermath of an oblique injury, the 2015 season is making a compelling case that the injury was the main problem (if not the only problem) all along.
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