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Cleveland Indians 2019 Fantasy Projections – Another Talent Loaded Tribe Team
When the Cleveland Indians take the field in 2019, they won't quite resemble the team that finished last season. Five players left via free agent, and the head office traded away some bloated salaries. However, two of baseball's most talented middle-infielders still stack the top of the Cleveland lineup.
Indians 2018 Recap
Gone from the Tribe game day wardrobe is Chief Wahoo. However, the prospect of another playoff run is not. In 2018, the Cleveland brass succumbed to political correct pressure and removed their trademark logo from uniforms and stadium signs.
The Indians seemed to feel it was a foregone conclusion they would win their third consecutive Central Division crown, and they did, albeit not as convincingly as many thought they would. They still won 91 games and were a team seemingly in focus heading into the playoffs.
The defending World Series Champs quickly put an end to the 2018 season. While it's always exciting to win your division and make a playoff run, it seemed that providing an encore to their 2017 record smashing run left them with an emotional hangover.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best Arms to Believe in, in Believeland
Over their recent run of playoff success, Cleveland has been as balanced a team as there is in professional baseball. They could produce runs in bunches, and had pitching that could tack zeros up on the scoreboard.
This year the look is a little different. They have unloaded some heavy bats along with their heavy salaries, and opened the door for players who hit less, but field a lot. A strengthened defense means every starter on Cleveland's opening day staff is essentially fantasy worthy.
The number five starter, Shane Bieber ranks high on dynasty draft boards. Mike Clevinger at the four spot could be a number two quality starter on most teams in baseball. Carlos Carrasco and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber will be two coveted fantasy aces.
Don't forget, the consensus favorite for the best pitcher in the AL in late July was neither of these studs. Most baseball prognosticators had Trevor Bauer, head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league for his first Cy Young award. Batters weren't hitting Bauer, but an untimely leg injury did.
Corey Kluber SP – Klubot is only two years removed from his second AL Cy Young. While he didn't own as many statistical pitching awards as in years past, 2018 was the first time he won 20 games in a season. His ERA was below three runs per game for a second consecutive campaign.
Kluber has fanned over 200 batters for five straight years, and his WHIP hovers around 1.00 consistently. He is a top-five fantasy ace on any projection list, with some feeling the trade rumors that surfaced recently may inspire his bulldog attitude even more. One of the best pitchers in baseball will begin the season with a chip on his shoulder.
Carlos Carrasco SP – On any other team in Major League Baseball, besides maybe the Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians, Carrasco is the team ace. He's positioned at right around the number 10 spot on most fantasy draft boards, one spot ahead of another Cleveland starter.
Carrasco wins consistently and has struck out more than 200 hitters, three times over the last four seasons. His ERA hovers in the low 3.00 range, and he has WHIP that rivals Kluber. With a few more timely groundballs in 2019, Carrasco has 20-win potential as well.
Trevor Bauer SP – Bauer brings that same Kluber bulldog-like mentality every time he toes the rubber. He finished 2018 with more Ks than Kluber and won double-digit games for the fourth consecutive year.
In fact, midway through the summer, Trevor Bauer was the best pitcher in baseball. He dramatically reduced the number of long balls from previous seasons, the one stat that seemed to keep him just out of the fantasy ace conversation.
Bauer may not have had the opportunity to win a 20th game last season, but on a good team with a good defense, don't be surprised if he hits no worse than a victory total the high-teens in 2019.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best Bats on the Tribe
One familiar bat will be back in Believeland, after a one-year hiatus in the City of Brotherly love. Carlos Santana took a roundabout route to get back to Lake Erie. Philadelphia traded Santana to Seattle who dealt him back home to Cleveland in a three-team swap.
Santana isn't the same hitter who helped lead the Indians to the World Series, but he is the consummate professional bat. Over the past two seasons, nearly every spot in the Cleveland batting order was fantasy worthy. That isn't the case heading into 2019, yet.
Jake Bauers came in from Tampa, and he's a ripe 22. The power numbers are there, but his bat to ball contact rate has been iffy. Another potentially budding superstar, Bradley Zimmer, is coming back from a 10-month absence to recover from shoulder surgery.
Head coach Terry Francona knows he has tremendous pitching, so the Tribe has shifted their focus to a more defensive lineup. However, that Frankie Lindor and Jose Ramirez are still slated to hit in the top three spots.
Both have 30/30 talent and are must-own fantasy commodities. In fact, these talented Tribe teammates both rank in the overall top-10 in fantasy baseball.
Francisco Lindor SS – When you hit leadoff for one of the most prolific offenses in professional baseball you are fantasy worthy. When you smack home runs in line with a cleanup hitter, your value increases. If you're the AL all-star shortstop, you become a must-own commodity.
Some feel Lindor deserves to be part of the discussion as the best player in baseball. He is a rally igniter and a tremendous asset on defense. For fantasy baseball purposes, he is a 30/30 producer on a possible World Series contender.
Jose Ramirez 3B – Ramirez is slide back across the diamond to third base, and slide down one spot in the batting order to third. The move will bring Jason Kipnis back to the dirt, apparently ending a short-lived experiment that had him playing centerfield.
Every fantasy baseball projection board has Ramirez as a top-5 hitter, with some gurus strongly indicated he may be the number one most coveted hitter in fantasy baseball. The shift to third base does remove his two-bagger appeal, but he will also begin with dual-position eligibility. That fantasy lineup plus should remain all season.
Carlos Santana 1B/DH – According to Francona, don't be surprised if Santana adds outfield eligibility at some point later in the season. He start the season with dual-eligibility at 3B and 1B. Adding OF will make him an even more coveted commodity.
Batting fifth in the Cleveland lineup helps as well. One immediate problem is not if Santana will hit, but what sort of pitches he will be choosing from. Behind him in the projected lineup is going to be Jordan Luplow, an unproven, albeit talented youngster.
Fantasy Rank Team
Cleveland's rank as a hitting fantasy team has dropped as much due to unproven players as it is from a shift towards a more defensive mindset. That said, an already tough pitching staff is now full of top-tier fantasy arms.
The Bottom Line in Cleveland
Heading out of spring training, this Indians team is going to have a different look. They have unloaded a few high-priced salaries and shifted slightly towards a youth movement. They have an outstanding infield and an ace-quality pitcher at all five rotation spots. There doesn't seem to be any team ready to knock them out of their perch atop the AL Central Division.
That said, as October conversations become more relevant, prognosticators will certainly lament this change in team philosophy. Cleveland may not win games 10-4 like in years past, but having their pitchers hurl a goose egg is a realistic possibility every night. One thing they also have is a crafty manager who gets the most out of every uniform on his roster.