BY JUSTIN LADA
INDIANS BEAT WRITER
Now that the season is officially behind us and we’ve had some time to reflect, mourn, watch some playoff baseball and fall into that self-loathing phase watching guys like CC Sabathia and Jhonny Peralta take shots at a ring.
But now the real fun begins. Every team is once again 0-0 and looking to reshape their team. Before anything crazy happens and guys are moved in and out of the wigwam, here’s one man’s grades for how everybody who put on a tribe uni this year. I’ll also sort them in order of importance to the team.
1) Justin Masterson: C-: I have him ranked #1 because the Indians needed him to repeat his 2011. He didn’t. He still showed flashes of that talent, but 15 losses earn him a barely passable grade. The Indians could trade him, but his value right now isn’t as high as it was last year and with Terry Francona in the fold, it might be worth seeing if they can get him back to 2011.
2) Ubaldo Jimenez: F: If this were grade school, Jimenez would be held back a year and probably be given a personal tutor. He was a guy the Indians needed to have a good year in order to contend. Instead, he lost 17 games and allowed 25 home runs, threw 16 wild pitches; all team highs. However, his option was picked up and the Indians will count on him again if they want to improve.
3) Carlos Santana B: Most people won’t agree with this ranking; but the concussion he suffered in late May set him back. He hit .162 in June, the worst in his career. As he recovered, his average crept back up (.276 July, .277 August, .280 September). He had 0 home runs in June and 13 in July-September. The concussion doesn’t excuse his sometimes lacking effort, but it could also be the sophomore slump as well, being his second full season. He still has work to do defensively, but Santana still is the key offensive player on this team.
4) Jason Kipnis: B: Led the team in WAR (Wins above replacement) at 3.7. He even earned a 0.7 defensive WAR, which is far from gold glove status, but he only made six errors and has really worked hard to be reliable at second. Offensively, the only thing the Indians can ask is a little more consistency. He can be streaky at time and his home runs sometimes come in bunches. He would be helped if the Indians could find a regular home in the lineup for him. He’s not a leadoff hitter and doesn’t make enough contact to hit second. In a playoff lineup, he’d hit sixth or seventh. Either way, they need to find a spot that works and leave him there.
5) Asdrubal Cabrera C: Cabrera has a habit of hot first halves of seasons and tailing off. He hit .244 in the second half last season, and .251 this year post-all star break. Last year he was given a pass, as he tried to carry the offense nearly on his own. This year, his home runs regressed a bit, as expected, but he still managed 16 home runs. His defensive runs saved was a -5, down from +3 last year. He is supposed to be a team leader, but that and some of his conditioning has come into question. There is a shot the Indians could move him this off-season. Francisco Lindor, or one of their fine young shortstops are not far off.
6) Shin-Soo Choo B: He was nominated for a gold glove. While not many people in Cleveland consider him an elite defender, he has a good arm and runs well in the outfield. His .373 on base percentage led the team. His power numbers weren’t what they used to be, but he’s still on the good side of 30, coming back off of a rebound season. He’s a free agent at the end of 2013, and Scott Boras likes to take his clients to the market. It would be wise for the Indians to trade him because there is less than a 1% chance he re-signs here. But, weirder things have happened.
7) Chris Perez A: 39 saves, a 1.127 WHIP, an All-Star appearance, and the most honest person in Cleveland. It could be wise for the Indians to listen to the best offer. He’s due for a big raise, one the Indians can avoid, and trade him for other help and re-tool the bullpen with good in-house options. The Indians need to move their money around, if Perez ends up costing between $7-8 million, moving Perez makes more sense.
8) Michael Brantley A: 37 doubles, a .348 on base percentage and a standout defensively. He was reliable, day in and day out. Brantley can take on a larger role next year, and it might be time to re-visit Brantley as a leadoff hitter next year.
9) Derek Lowe C: I can’t fail Lowe, simply for the fact that over the first two months of the season, he was the stud of the pitching staff. Father time caught up and it might be the end of what was a pretty brilliant career. The Indians were counting on him to help lead this staff, and when he flamed out, it was a sign of things to come.
10) Vinnie Pestano A: Bullpen’s are extremely volatile and having Pestano follow up a brilliant rookie campaign with a 2.57 ERA, 76Ks in 70 innings was huge for the Indians early on. He could be asked to take on the closer’s role next year. His success in the eighth inning might have earned him the opportunity, but there’s no guarantee’s.
11) Josh Tomlin D: He had a few good games but mostly bad ones. After winning 12 games and making 26 starts in 2011, the Indians were hoping for those innings and a little improvement. Now having Tommy John, Tomlin may not pitch in 2013.
12) Travis Hafner D: He got hurt again and just couldn’t produce consistently like the Indians have needed. In limited games in 2011, Hafner was productive, but was even worse this year. It looks like the end of an era for the slugger named ‘Pronk’, who was one of the most feared hitters in the AL between 2004-2007.
13) Grady Sizemore F: It’s a hard F to give because he never played a game. The Indians overall get the F for investing $5million in him, leaving a lot of uncertainty with his health and counting on him to produce. It also appears to be end for Sizemore in Cleveland as well.
14) Jeanmar Gomez C-: Gomez was stellar in spring training and was even better early in the season. He seemed to hit a wall and suddenly became extremely hittable. The Indians sent him to AAA to work things out and get his confidence up, but even there he got hit around. Hard to say what kind of shot he’ll get going forward. He’s still young and has decent stuff. He could eat up innings at the least.
15) Jack Hannahan C: He was the team’s best clutch hitter early on and reliable defensively. He incurred a series of injuries and battled inconsistency. Still though, he gets the C because he provided what he has throughout his career, good defense and a below average bat. That’s what he has always been and he shouldn’t have been expected to be more.
16) Casey Kotchman C+: A lot of people will disagree with his grade as well. While he started miserable, he wasn’t a complete flop offensively. It was the second lowest average he posted in a full time gig in his career, he also hit the second most home runs in his career, and played gold glove defense. His defense is what still has him in the league, and the Indians counted on him too much offensively too.
17) Joe Smith B+: If you still don’t know who Joe Smith is, you might never find out. He’s due for quite the large raise this off-season too, thanks to a 2.96 ERA in 72 outings. The raise could force the Indians to move him because paying $1million or more for a 7th inning side armer, isn’t a smart investment, but he could take over the 8th inning if Perez and goes and Pestano moves to the bullpen.
18) Johnny Damon F: The Indians were desperate and tried to get Damon to fill a hole on the team, by bringing in another left handed hitter, without any spring training. He played in 14 games after the All-Star break when the Indians realized it was probably the end of the line for a guy who had a very good career.
19) Shelly Duncan D: Damon was only brought in because the Indians tried to go with Duncan in LF full time. He hit 11 home runs for the third straight year, but the other two years, he was a part time player. The Indians made the mistake of trying to make a full timer out of time, then DFA’d him later in the year.
20) Tony Sipp C-: Sipp pitched OK towards the end of the season, but really lost the trust of Manny Acta and has fallen out of favor with the front office. Hard to tell what the Indians will do with Sipp this off-season.
21) Zach McAllister B-: He had a rough end of the year, but the league finally had some scouting reports and film on him. He helped through injuries and ineffectiveness for the Indians pitching staff by throwing 125 innings. He’ll probably be counted on next year for even more.
22) Matt LaPorta F: He wasn’t even on the opening day roster and he wasn’t considered as a replacement for Shelly Duncan while he was on paternity leave. He got a late call up and did what everyone expected, failed. He was hot early on at Columbus, but is still a bust as a major league player.
23) Rafael Perez F: He wasn’t healthy all year, forcing the Indians to make all sorts of changes in his spot in the bullpen. Nick Hagadone worked for a bit and then Scott Maine was brought in late in the year. Not being able to depend on Perez when Sipp was struggling, was the only weak spot in the bullpen, but a big one.
24) Roberto Hernandez F: The Indians were really hoping to have him in the middle of the rotation, after picking up his $7.5 million option last off-season. But when Fausto Carmona turned into Roberto Hernandez, they didn’t have him. Not that they missed him, as he was hard to watch pitch when healthy. His career as an Indian, should be over.
25) Jose Lopez D: The Indians even at one point, leaned on Lopez for some offensive reliability. He is no longer the All-Star he was in Seattle. He ended the year in AAA and then a September call up with the White Sox.
26) Esmil Rodgers A: In 23 appearances with Colorado, he had an 8.06 ERA. He had a 3.06 ERA in 44 outings with the Indians. Whatever the Indians saw in him and helped him fix, worked out. Depending on the Chris Perez situation, he could slide into the 8th inning role.
27) Cody Allen B: 3.72 ERA in 27 outings, and came out on fire when he was called up. Started the year in Carolina, forced his way to Cleveland. It’s strange that the Indians were so aggressive with anyone, but he held his own and should be counted on next year in possibly a more high leveraged role.
28) Jason Donald D: Donald was counted on to be able to back up at shortstop this year. He still hasn’t been able to hit at the big league level and the Indians weren’t convinced he would be able to play shortstop sufficiently in a backup role.
29) Lonnie Chisenhall C+: He was starting to entrench himself at 3rd base before getting hit by a pitch and missing significant time. He came back strong offensively and defensively. He tailed off a bit at the end, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was a still a bit rough. Had he been healthier he might have had a chance to really solidify himself a little more.
30) Nick Hagadone C-: Hagadone is 6’5 and has an electric left arm. Once he controls his temper and doesn’t punch objects with his pitching hand, the Indians will give him another shot. What they need to work out is why he went from a 2.25 ERA in 12 June appearances, to 14.73 in nine July outings.
31) Lou Marson D: His defense, the best part of his game, regressed this year. His playing time took a hit even before that, but his offense, where he was normally able to hit lefties fairly well, disappeared. The Indians need to decide what to do with Carlos Santana and if they move him to 1st on a full time basis, can they go with Marson every day?
32) Dan Wheeler F: 2 strikeouts, 7 walks in 12.1 innings. The Indians left him in Boston on a road trip. They should have had him leave his jersey in Arizona. Nice guy, had a good career, but just hit the end of the line.
33) Russ Canzler C+; Canzler did some nice things offensively at the end of the season. Still unclear if he can hit enough or has a position, to help out full time, but he might be back.
34) Jairo Acensio C: He gets a passing grade more on the Indians thinking he might be useful, and keeping him over Hagadone out of spring training. He was a long reliever and shouldn’t have been counted on to do much.
35) Aaron Cunningham D: Good defensively, offensively, well…unless you saw the one game he hit a home run in, you didn’t see much.
36) Chord Phelps Incomplete: Wasn’t given much of a shot more than a cup of coffee after a stellar season in Columbus.
37) Thomas Neal: Incomplete: See Phelps, except Neal did his damage in Akron.
38) Ezequiel Carerra C: Carerra could be an effective part time player if used in the right spots. He’s certainly earned an invite back.
39) Juan Diaz C:+ He did a nice job defensively and wasn’t feeble offensively despite being rushed into action well before being ready.
40) Corey Kluber C: At times he looked OK, other times he looked like a place holder. Had an outstanding season at AAA and will have a shot to earn a job in the rotation.
41) Chris Seddon B After a rough early stint upon being called up, Seddon became a strike thrower and could get left and right handed hitters out. Someone who should have a shot at a bullpen job with the uncertain futures of Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp.
42) Jeremy Accardo: D: He pitched in 26 games. That’s 26 games too many for a contending team.
43) Scott Barnes C+ Barnes still has good stuff, but the Indians need to find a role for him and leave him there, so he can develop some consistency. He should have a shot at a bullpen or rotation spot as well, depending on off-season moves.
44) Frank Hermann C+: He developed a nice curveball this season. He’s still likely a spare arm who happens to have a Harvard degree and throws 95.
45) David Huff: D: Had a few good outings out of the pen late in the season, so the Indians gave him a start. Then he became David Huff again.
46) Brent Lillibridge: F: The Indians picked him up for defense and because they thought he could hit left handed pitching. He did neither.
47) Luke Carlin Incomplete: He’s a organizational depth guy who was needed for a few innings because of Carlos Santana’s concussion.
48) Scott Maine D: He was a left handed specialist who couldn’t get left handers out. Toronto did the Indians a solid by claiming him on waivers this week,
49) Vinny Rottino: F: Still cant figure out why the Indians claimed him on waivers, and then gave him at-bats in September to a 32 year old career minor leaguer.
Manny Acta: C+ Manny was not really the problem. This team was obviously devoid of the talent to win consistently, and the pitching regressed. However, he couldn’t get things out of the mud in August when it piled up on the team. There were reports his communication with the players wasn’t as good at the end.
Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, F: Both guys felt like they did enough last off-season, bringing in Casey Kotchman and Derek Lowe, to get this team into the playoffs. I think that explains the grade.
Ross Atkins (Farm Director) D: He passes only in part because of Cody Allen’s emergence and that the minor league system, AA-High A-Low A, were successfully. I’ve been told the scouts that work with him (whom Atkins has no control over as far as hiring, firing) have hurt his ability to do his job right. He may actually know more than we think, but he has as much to prove this year at his job, as the rest of the front office does.