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Cleveland Indians Midseason Player Grades
After a precarious 45-42 start the Indians are surprisingly only 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card slot. While having zero pitchers and one of the worst offenses in baseball for most of the year, the Indians aren’t completely out of contention.
Today I’m going to grade every key player that has appeared in the red, white, and blue this season. To make things fair, I’m going to grade players on a “curve” of sorts. Essentially, what were my expectations for this player at the beginning of the year, and have they upheld those expectations. A is nearly perfect, C is okay, and F means you sucked. Let’s get into our report card.
Shane Bieber: A-
Bieber has taken a step back from his CY Young winning 2020 season. A step back for Biebs is still a 3.28 ERA. The only thing stopping him from being an “A” is injuries. The best ability is availability, and Bieber isn’t available and has regressed from last year.
Aaron Civale: A
Whatever assistant pitching coach Ruben Niebla did to fix Civale’s wind-up has worked phenomenally. He went from average back-end starter to one of the best number two’s in baseball. He’s pitched the most innings for any Cleveland starter all while holding a 3.32 ERA. As long as he comes back from injury by the end of August, he will find himself with an end-of-season grade of an A too.
Zach Plesac: B-
This one is a weird situation. Plesac’s been amazing at points, and not so amazing at points. He’s also only thrown 62.2 innings this year. Fortunately for him, every other starter has been quite awful. Maybe if we can find someone to unbutton his shirts for him, he might just become an A when it’s all said and done.
Triston McKenzie: C-
My grade for McKenzie might be too high, but let me explain. Until his final start before the All-Star break, I would have honestly given him an F. He was putrid, but it seems he’s figured something out. His fastball velocity got up to 94, after sitting around 88 for most of the season. Not only that, he threw 7 innings of no-run baseball on only 85 pitches. This is just my mid-term report card, so I can give out any grade I want, and I think he’s only going to be trending upwards, so I’m going to be nice.
Cal Quantrill: B-
I had very low expectations for Cal this year and he’s exceeded all of them. He’s been our impromptu ace for the past month or so, and hasn’t completely fallen apart. He was phenomenal out of the bullpen and has been okay as a starter. If Quantrill was this team’s No. 4 or 5 man, I’d be happy, it’s just a lot more disappointing when he’s your number one.
Eli Morgan: D+
Morgan’s first start this year was in twenty mile per hour winds, where he couldn’t even look straight at home. Since then he’s been very okay. He hasn’t had games where we’re immediately out of it. He keeps us in games, plain and simple. Morgan’s ERA of 8.44 is kinda pitiful, but he’s been a heck of a lot better then the next three guys listed.
Sam Hentges, J.C. Meija, and Logan Allen: F
All three of these guys have had decent moments. Allen had a great first start, Meija made some fantastic outings out of the bullpen, and Hentges had some nice strikeouts starting and out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, they all have been optioned down to AAA. Their combined ERA’s sit over 8 and they’ve been rough. Allen has been most disappointing for me. I thought he was going to be our number three starter this year, but he can’t seem to throw strikes. Maybe the year off last season messed everything up, but they just aren’t good… yet.
Emmanuel Clase: A
No pitcher is perfect, not even Jacob DeGrom, but Indians fans feel that Clase should never make any mistakes. Let’s check back in with reality and realize just how great he’s been. Clase boasts a sub-2 ERA while also holding the 12th best FIP among all relievers in baseball. Stop freaking out and appreciate this greatness at hand.
James Karinchak: A-
Crazy James is great once again. When the MLB cracked down on foreign substance use, he definitely hit a rough patch, watching his ERA hit well above 3. Since then he’s righted the ship and been a much-needed steady force in this pen. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been very, very solid.
Bryan Shaw: B+
Hand up, I was dead wrong about Bryan Shaw. If you scroll through my Twitter, you will find hundreds of tweets slandering Mr. Shaw, but I’d like to formally apologize for all of them. He might’ve blown many games here in his first stint in Cleveland, but he’s been near elite this year. I still have my worries, but today’s not the day I will slander Bryan Shaw.
Phil Maton: C-
Maton has a very unfortunate role here in Cleveland. When our starters get roughed up, he comes in to clean up the mess, which happens more often than a college bar on Saturday nights. He has to go face red hot bats and try to stop the bleeding. He’s had some very bad games, but overall, Maton’s been just slightly below average for his standards.
Nick Wittgren: D
Coming into this season, Wittgren was supposed to hold down the closer role. He lost that position almost immediately. Since then, Nick’s seen minimal action and has also struggled to find any consistency this year. I don’t have much faith in him figuring this out, and overall he’s been a huge disappointment, especially when I felt so confident in him.
Trevor Stephan: C
If I’m being honest, when Stephan comes into the game, I usually have already turned the TV off. He throws a pretty good fastball, and with a little more control, he could maybe fill a similar role to Dan Otero.
Nick Sandlin: A
What a pleasant surprise. If Sandlin had enough innings to be a qualified reliever, he would have the 10th best FIP in baseball. Small roles, big roles, whatever Francona asks for, he accomplishes it. My favorite thing about him is that he throws kind of “submarine” style. Sandlin’s everything that I thought Adam Cimber would be, except he’s about a million times better.
Blake Parker: B
What a pleasant surprise… Well not like Sandlin, but still a very nice surprise. After being a disastrous closer his last few years in Anaheim, it seemed that Parker needed a huge change of scenery. He’s seemed much more confident in a smaller role and has been solid in his mid-inning role.
Kyle Nelson: D-
I’d like to apologize to Nelson, as I see him kind of like Stephan. He’s an advanced position player coming in to close out ball games. His 9.31 ERA suggests that he’s been awful, but he does have a 4.61 FIP which isn’t that bad. Maybe there’s room for improvement if he wasn’t thrown into the worst situations in all of his outings.
Jose Ramirez: A
Do we have to go over this one? He’s first or second in just about every stat on this team. His defense was rough at the beginning of the year, but even that’s improved recently. The GOAT is still doing GOAT things, end of the story.
Austin Hedges: D
When your OPS is .448, you shouldn’t be on a major league roster. Hedges does have above-average defense, but it’s still a significant step down from Roberto Perez. Personally, I think Ryan Lavarnway should still be on this roster, but who am I?
Jake Bauers: F
We traded Yandy Diaz for Jake Bauers. Ugh. Well, at least he’s no longer on the team.
Cesar Hernandez: C-
After being a +6 defensive runs saved, gold glove-winning second baseman, Hernandez has followed that up with a -4 DRS, and is one of the worst defensive second basemen in the league. He’s also dropped in just about every batting metric except home runs. His nice power spike is the only thing holding him from having a much lower grade.
Amed Rosario: B
Rosario’s been streakier than a newborn’s diaper. At points, he’s had WRC+’s over 100, but now it just sits at a much more discouraging 84 (league average is 100). His defense also leaves a lot to be desired. However, he’s made some clutch plays late in games and he’s shown signs of being a long-term fix somewhere on this team.
Eddie Rosario: C
What a disappointing free-agent signing. His only redeeming quality at the moment is that he hits a lot of RBI’s. He’s started to pull his average up a fair bit but his OBP is still under .300. Maybe Rosario hasn’t been all that bad, but I just expected more from our “big free agent signing”.
Bradley Zimmer: F
I don’t think I can watch another Zimmer plate appearance where he doesn’t lift the bat off of his shoulder. I was surprised to see that he has an OBP at nearly .400; however, even with that he still only has an OPS of .620. I just want anyone else to go out and play CF.
Josh Naylor: C
Naylor is wildly overrated. He has a well below average WRC+ of 89 and his defense has helped him generate a -0.5 WAR. I know he plays with a lot of heart and that he just got dealt a horrific injury, but maybe he’s just not that great… yet. I like Naylor but objectively he’s been kinda rough.
Franmil Reyes: A
While doing research for these grades, I noticed that the Franimal is only 25. This goliath of a human is absolutely smashing home runs. If he hadn’t missed part of the year, he’d be well on pace to knocking out 40 ding-dongs. When we traded for Puig, who would have thought that this would have been the ace of this trade.
Harold Ramirez: A
I’m going to admit extreme bias here, but I love Big Harold. When he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster, I was pretty disappointed as it seemed like he could be a pretty decent spark plug. I underestimated what a jolt he’d be to the lineup. Slashing a wonderful .280/.325/.457 with a solid 6 HR’s, he might just be one of the most underrated signings we’ve seen under GM Mike Chernoff.
Jordan Luplow: C-
How in the world is a guy hitting .173, but still manages to pull together a .769 OPS? Luplow has missed significant time this year and it’s helped me realize that his peak capabilities is a solid platoon corner outfielder. He’s never going to be a long-term fix, but he can be a solid bench player as long as he’s in Cleveland.
Bobby Bradley: A
An OPS of .913 and 10 home runs in just 31 games is unreal. I was doubtful that Bradley would produce at the majors, but we might have found our first basemen of the future. It’s the assassin’s world, we’re just living in it.
Yu Chang: F
This grade hurts me. Chang has that infectious smile that makes him very hard to dislike. Unfortunately, his baseball skills are very easy to dislike. He’s a utility player that isn’t good at offense or defense. That’s not much of a desirable skill set.
Roberto Perez: B
Don’t kill me with this grade just yet, let me explain. Perez played half of his games with a broken hand this year and he could hardly swing a baseball bat. His defense is still one of the best in baseball and hopefully, his bat comes up to .230.
The final grade of the day is what I’d give the Indians as a whole. Honestly, they’re a solid B. Most of the media counted us out before the season started, but Tito has saved this team from drowning. We might be sellers at the deadline, but if we decide to be buyers we might just sneak our way into the playoffs.
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