In sports, there is a burning desire to project results. While fans are cognizant of the unpredictable nature of these games of chance, that cognizance does not diminish the inkling to attempt to predict outcomes. As depicted every March in office pool’s around the country, being frequently wrong is not a deterrent to participation in the prognostication arena.
As with picking teams for March Madness, there are often multiple ways to observe each particular MLB player’s outlook for the approaching campaign. Some of these are positive trends. Others are disturbing trends that reveal reasons for panic within a fan base. This particular venture would be the result of a pessimistic negative trend investigator grabbing the reigns on writing a 2019 preview for Cleveland Indians players.
The Cleveland Indians have a contention window. That window was slammed nearly shut by a drastic payroll reduction, courtesy of a team owner saddled with slumming it in a business class middle seat on a Southwest flight to Phoenix. Paul Dolan, controller of an asset worth nearly a billion buckaroos, was forced to ride with the common folk for a few hours because the monetary stress of paying Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes, and Yonder Alonso was too immense to bare.
Now, the Indians ballclub is strapped in and ready to roll with a few studs and a cast of misfit toys. The warts of some of these misfit toys may be too intrusive to win the most winnable division in baseball.
Roberto Perez (That guy who hit like a pitcher last year?)
Postseason hero to beleaguered capo behind the dish. One might wonder if there was a considerable hole in his hitting instrument last season. His arrival at negative values in the 2018 season was an incredible one considering his aptitude behind the plate. Most notably, his pitcher level hitting output was supported by an aversion to extra base hits. Only two players in major league baseball with at least 200 plate appearances offered a slugging percentage output lower than his 0.263 mark.
Hanley Ramirez (That guy who was released last June?)
The Boston Red Sox were a very good team — eventual World Series champions — that decided Hanley Ramirez’s services were not sufficient last summer. After his release in June, Hanley failed to latch onto another club. Sounds like the perfect designated hitter for a slashed payroll. Dwelling down to a near career low in hard contact and a spray profile with more than fifty percent ground balls makes it difficult to find the silver lining in the HanRam signing.
Jason Kipnis (That guy is still on the team?)
If you just ignore his first month and a half last season, he was actually serviceable. That’s not how this works. Kipnis was decidedly below average at the dish last season. Coupling a meager 89 wRC+ with a weak arm and slow double play transfer is a scary second base concoction. Hey, he has some range and hit a foul ball that almost was that one time.
Francisco Lindor (That guy who is hurt?)
Even the most pessimistic of pessimists would be hard-pressed to find something to dislike about this superstar. That is, before his recent calf injury. Calf injuries are completely manageable, just ask other superstars Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Jose Ramirez (That guy who disappears when it counts?)
As if lighting the world on fire with an eight WAR season wasn’t enough, fans are demanding that Jose Ramirez go nuclear in the postseason, too? Tough crowd.
Leonys Martin (That guy who almost died last year?)
The Leonys Martin health scare was frightening and unexpected. An infection that nearly incapacitated him left him watching from a hospital room for the stretch run just five months ago — and now he’s supposed to man center field for a championship contender? Everyone is rooting for him, but it’s a considerable weight to put on his shoulders.
Carlos Santana (That guy who the Phillies ditched for nothing?)
As with Hanley Ramirez, a contender moved on from Carlos Santana. Though this was part of a trade, the Phillies’ return indicated that they were more concerned with getting Los’ contract off their hands. Of course, ballooned contracts are not typically within the range of a market constrained team, but the Indians must not have been able to avoid his onslaught of double play balls and free passes with runners in scoring position.
Jake Bauers (That guy who strikes out a ton?)
Of course, Yandy Diaz and his 100 mile per hour exit velocities were not enough to contribute last year, so grabbing a guy like Bauers makes sense. Who can resist 25 percent strikeout rates? Also, first basemen can always man left field adequately, just ask Carlos Santana.
Corey Kluber (That guy who got shelled in the ALDS?)
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you about Corey Kluber’s velocity losses. He keeps fighting valiantly, yet is losing tick after tick with age. While this might be related to alleged back problems, that relationship does little to qualm concerns about his projections moving forward. High octane offenses like the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox are salivating at the thought of facing another burnt out Kluber this October.
Trevor Bauer (That guy who won’t shut up?)
Breakout year or not, Trevor Bauer has a problem — he really, really doesn’t know when to stop tweeting. Whether it is hypothesizing that another teammate should be traded or assigning political belief structures to the remainder of the locker room or simply outlining his attitude towards dating, there is little value in his social media outbursts. On the field, any amateur hour sabermetrician would be quick to tell you his home run per fly ball rate of 6.2 percent is not sustainable, and that regression should be expected.
Carlos Carrasco (That freak injury magnet?)
How many times can a guy take a liner off a body part and still be counted on? Curse his statistical outlook, Indians fans know too well that an Ian Kinsler line drive will find a way to shelve him when it counts.
Shane Bieber (Is that Justin’s cousin?)
Contenders can’t count on a guy named Bieber. That’s in the sports rule book somewhere.
The Bullpen (Wait, who is in it besides Brad Hand?)
Brad Hand is superb. The rest of the bullpen has more question marks than an inquisitive adolescent after opening his parent’s door at the wrong time. Lefty specialists Oliver Perez and Tyler Olson can face one hitter at a time. Neil Ramirez and Dan Otero are perfectly suitable options, well, when losing by six in the eighth inning. Cody Anderson and Danny Salazar could be electric, given they can bounce back from debilitating arm injuries. Where’s the staples button for the bullpen fix?
Of course, the American League Central division is a seismic mess of rebuilding teams. Perhaps the payroll slashing was an act of kindness towards the other members of the division to, you know, give them stone’s throw of a chance at playoff competition. The Dolans were feeling philanthropic after flying with the common folk in business class.