The Cleveland Indians had the best record in the American League before falling to the Yankees in the ALDS. The pitching staff was perhaps the best in baseball. They were 1st in ERA and 1st in strikeouts. Led by AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, the starting rotation was awesome. It featured two 18-game winners in Kluber and Carlos Carrasco and a 17-game winner in Trevor Bauer. Even Mike Clevinger (12) and Josh Tomlin (10) finished the year with double digit wins. High expectations follow this team in 2018.
Let’s take a look towards 2018.
The Superstar: Corey Kluber
The reigning 2017 AL Cy Young winner enters 2018 as a surefire top 4 fantasy SP. He’s coming off of back-to-back 18 wins seasons. He actually has three 18-win seasons in the past 4 years. Kluber set some career marks in 2017. A 2.25 ERA and .087 WHIP were both career lows. He also had career bests in both K/9 (11.7) and BB/9 (1.6). Over his final 20 starts of 2017, Bauer was 13-2 (yeah, he actually lost 2!) with a 1.53 ERA! This stretch also featured 12 double digit strikeout performances. He good.
The Sleeper: Trevor Bauer
Sometimes high draft picks take a little longer to pan out. With Bauer, a former 3rd overall selection in 2011, perhaps 2017 was a sign of things to come. Bauer posted a 4.19 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over 31 starts last year. These numbers are pretty in line with his career marks. The difference was the huge jump in strikeouts coupled with the decrease of walks. Bauer had a 10 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9 in 2017, both career bests by a considerable margin. Over his first 18 starts of 2017, Bauer had a 5.59 ERA and looked bad. Something clicked for Bauer and he finished the year with a 2.60 ERA over his last 13 starts. He even cut his BB/9 down to 2.49 in that stretch. I think this version of Bauer sticks in 2018. His pedigree has always teased this type of potential. He’s a top 40 SP for me in drafts with a ceiling of top 20.
The Guy to Avoid: Edwin Encarnacion
Since 2012, Encarnacion has AVERAGED 38 HR 110 RBI and 91 R with a .907 OPS. He also has a stellar 1.22 K/BB ratio in that span. Naturally, I’m saying DON’T draft him! The numbers are declining and he’s getting older are pretty much my only points supporting this selection. Encarnacion finished 2017 the #11 first baseman despite the crazy power numbers. I think he’ll be great again in 2018, but I think his Expect Consensus Ranking is too high. The ECR for Encarnacion is #32 overall. This has him 7th at 1B. I’m not arguing the first base ranking (although I do have him at 9). His overall ECR has him ahead of players like Nelson Cruz, Anthony Rendon, and Andrew Benintendi. All of whom finished higher last season than the Indians first baseman. Encarnacion’s decreasing batting average and lack of steals make him a 7th round pick rather than a 4th round selection for me.
The Prospect To Watch: Francisco Mejia
The #1 catching prospect in all of baseball is also the #14 overall prospect. I say this because only the top 4 catching prospects crack the top 100 overall. Mejia is a great hitter and could be a future top 10 catcher as soon as next season. Over 92 games in AA last season, Mejia hit .297 with 14 HR and 52 RBI. He also stole 7 bases and had 52 runs. He doesn’t walk much but the strikeouts are low as well. He’s a contact hitter who is progressing nicely defensively and should serve as an everyday catcher for the Indians whenever the team is ready for him. Mejia could be a .275 hitter with 15 HR 70 R 70 RBI and 5 SB. These numbers would have made him a top 5 catcher in 2017.