ZiPS 2021 Projections: Cleveland Indians

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Cleveland Indians.

Batters

Even after seeing the public relations fiasco that resulted from the Red Sox trading their franchise player last winter, Cleveland is preparing to do the same, making it abundantly clear that Francisco Lindor will most likely start the 2021 season wearing another uniform. Lindor’s short 2020 wasn’t a triumph, but he’s at that level of superstar where it takes a lot more than 60 games moonlighting as a mortal to change expectations by a significant margin. Now, it’s very possible that the players sent in return for Lindor will add more future wins overall than the star shortstop’s 2021 season will, but with the Indians in a three-way divisional dogfight, we know that they’re giving away high-leverage wins in the short-term. Lindor is on a Hall of Fame trajectory and should he reach Cooperstown, it seems likely that he’ll be more closely associated with his next team than his current one. The logo on Joe Morgan’s Hall plaque is that of the Reds, not the Astros, after all.

While there’s not a lot of good news concerning the lineup, José Ramírez further demonstrating that his late 2018/early 2019 struggles aren’t the new normal falls in that category. Ramírez hit .292/.386/.607 in 2020, leading the AL in WAR. If I had been an AL MVP voter, he would have easily had my first-place vote. He’s no longer a clearly above-average third baseman defensively and the days when it made sense to consider him an option at second on the right roster have probably passed, but his bat is good enough that it’s not really a troubling issue.

Whether Cleveland realizes it or not, making the decision to trade Lindor, when combined with the having already parted with Mike Clevinger, more or less commits the club to either fully rebuilding or throwing a lot of its saved cash back into the roster. Since the team does not seem all that sanguine about the latter, trading Ramírez seems like a necessary, though sad, follow-up to moving Lindor. And as good as Ramírez is, the rest of the lineup looks middling-to-worse at every position. The Mookie Betts trade didn’t restock Boston’s farm system single-handedly and neither will a Lindor trade. That ZiPS projects Nolan Jones as the third-best position player on the roster before he’s even reached Triple-A is a good sign for Jones but a bad one for an alleged contender next year.

Pitchers

As with the lineup, Cleveland’s penny-pinching has slowly drained the team’s depth, resulting in the few remaining stars having to carry more of the burden. Shane Bieber had an amazing 2020, somehow making as large of a performance leap from 2019 to 2020 as he did from 2018 to 2019, but the rotation as a whole looks a lot weaker than it did in 2017 and ’18. Carlos Carrasco recovering from chronic myeloid leukemia was one of the best stories of the year, so there’s reason to be positive about him, but the rest of the starters look fairly ordinary. Now, ordinary isn’t a negative, per se — that’s a typical description for most teams’ back-of-the-rotation starters. But Cleveland needs stars to balance out some of the team’s holes, such as its yearly exercise in outfield malpractice.

Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale both project as perfectly reasonable mid-tier starters, but they’re not so good that they have “extra” performance to paper over the fact that the team doesn’t project as all-that-impressive at catcher or first or second or left or center or right. Triston McKenzie projects as just a bit below-average and ZiPS is a big fan of Joey Cantillo, one of the players who came to Cleveland in the Clevinger trade.

While I grumbled about waiving Brad Hand like most of baseball’s Twitterati, Cleveland’s bullpen is likely to be good enough at the top that won’t be a gigantic loss. If you subtracted Hand’s WAR from the 2020 Indians, they still would have finished in the top 10 in baseball. Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, and Phil Maton form a solid top three and ZiPS is more optimistic about Nick Wittgren than Steamer is. The team should still add bullpen depth rather than simply reassign the losers in the fifth-starter competition there, but this might actually be possible, as there are likely some good deals to be had in this environment for a team not wishing to spend money.

Add the pitching into the hitting and assume that a Lindor package doesn’t add a ton to 2021 and this looks a lot like a .500 team without a huge amount of upside. I think Cleveland’s now the third-best team in the AL Central.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here

Batters – Standard
Player B Age PO PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
José Ramírez B 28 3B 619 537 98 154 42 4 32 103 72 91 26 7
Francisco Lindor B 27 SS 700 628 104 176 42 2 31 84 60 104 21 6
Nolan Jones L 23 3B 566 492 69 114 19 3 24 65 68 179 5 3
Yasiel Puig R 30 RF 546 495 68 130 26 2 24 81 43 115 16 7
Cesar Hernandez B 31 2B 647 578 79 152 30 3 11 52 61 127 8 3
Carlos Santana B 35 1B 526 439 69 109 21 1 18 65 81 87 2 1
Franmil Reyes R 25 DH 574 514 74 132 23 0 32 95 52 177 0 1
Jordan Luplow R 27 RF 412 360 52 87 20 3 15 54 45 97 4 4
Owen Miller R 24 SS 567 524 61 138 27 3 8 49 35 96 4 5
Roberto Pérez R 32 C 362 316 29 64 10 1 11 41 35 112 0 0
Josh Naylor L 24 RF 520 473 66 130 27 2 15 59 42 80 4 2
Tyler Freeman R 22 SS 588 543 62 142 30 5 3 39 21 72 14 5
Bobby Bradley L 25 1B 535 485 62 108 24 2 26 72 44 182 1 1
Bradley Zimmer L 28 CF 294 255 33 54 10 1 9 31 27 103 14 3
Domingo Santana R 28 LF 470 408 54 97 20 1 20 66 56 157 6 2
Oscar Mercado R 26 CF 523 476 61 115 22 3 11 48 33 117 23 8
Yu Chang R 25 SS 395 355 43 75 16 2 10 39 32 123 4 2
Austin Hedges R 28 C 334 301 30 62 12 0 13 42 22 101 3 1
Delino DeShields R 28 CF 440 385 52 89 15 4 5 25 40 113 20 6
Steven Kwan L 23 CF 585 536 61 137 26 8 4 39 41 69 10 7
Tyler Naquin L 30 RF 356 334 39 84 18 2 10 44 16 90 3 3
Jake Bauers L 25 LF 559 489 66 111 28 2 16 64 62 152 13 6
Gabriel Arias R 21 SS 557 523 58 122 22 4 17 63 26 173 6 5
Mike Freeman L 33 2B 272 242 30 57 10 1 4 22 22 69 3 2
Daniel Johnson L 25 RF 487 446 53 105 21 4 14 49 31 133 11 6
Ernie Clement R 25 SS 505 470 51 115 23 3 2 30 24 47 15 10
Tyler Friis B 25 2B 341 306 32 64 14 1 4 24 32 65 10 7
Jake Elmore R 34 2B 406 366 39 92 16 1 3 28 32 66 5 7
Sandy León B 32 C 270 240 23 44 7 0 6 22 25 70 0 0
Mike Rivera R 25 C 170 152 14 26 8 1 2 12 14 42 1 1
Wilson Garcia B 27 1B 452 433 47 111 26 1 15 60 14 65 0 0
Steven Baron R 30 C 231 212 19 42 6 0 3 14 15 63 0 0
Cameron Rupp R 32 C 313 283 30 55 12 0 11 32 25 110 0 0
Gavin Collins R 25 C 393 364 38 79 19 1 9 40 21 80 1 3
Mitch Longo L 26 LF 445 411 46 94 20 3 7 35 27 111 11 3
Jodd Carter R 24 RF 481 431 50 87 16 2 14 44 42 138 7 6
Beau Taylor L 31 C 316 276 29 52 11 1 5 25 34 100 0 0
Kungkuan Giljegiljaw R 27 C 391 363 38 78 16 0 11 38 22 117 0 0
Trenton Brooks L 25 RF 488 445 48 100 26 3 11 46 34 92 1 2
Tyler Krieger B 27 3B 446 405 45 87 17 2 8 35 31 122 12 6
Will Benson L 23 LF 460 409 48 74 14 3 17 49 44 172 14 5
Andruw Monasterio R 24 2B 413 371 36 75 10 2 3 21 33 88 7 6
Austen Wade L 25 CF 319 287 28 55 11 2 4 19 30 99 5 7
Mitch Reeves R 26 1B 467 419 43 84 18 1 6 33 40 134 3 4

Batters – Advanced
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
José Ramírez .287 .373 .559 143 .272 .295 8.1 2 5.7 Chipper Jones
Francisco Lindor .280 .347 .502 122 .221 .294 6.7 8 5.6 Miguel Tejada
Nolan Jones .232 .329 .429 99 .197 .311 4.9 2 2.3 Jay Bell
Yasiel Puig .263 .324 .469 107 .206 .298 5.6 3 2.0 Russ Morman
Cesar Hernandez .263 .337 .382 91 .119 .320 4.8 0 1.8 Felipe Lopez
Carlos Santana .248 .367 .424 110 .175 .272 5.6 1 1.8 Ron Fairly
Franmil Reyes .257 .324 .488 112 .232 .328 5.7 0 1.8 Travis Hafner
Jordan Luplow .242 .333 .439 103 .197 .290 5.1 6 1.7 Randy Bush
Owen Miller .263 .316 .372 82 .109 .310 4.2 2 1.2 Aaron Hill
Roberto Perez .203 .289 .345 68 .142 .275 3.4 9 1.2 Chad Moeller
Josh Naylor .275 .337 .436 103 .161 .304 5.5 -4 1.0 Nick Markakis
Tyler Freeman .262 .312 .352 76 .090 .297 4.1 1 1.0 Kevin Elster
Bobby Bradley .223 .290 .441 90 .219 .296 4.4 5 0.8 Dann Howitt
Bradley Zimmer .212 .307 .365 78 .153 .315 4.2 3 0.7 Damon Mashore
Domingo Santana .238 .332 .439 103 .201 .333 5.2 -7 0.7 Chris Shelton
Oscar Mercado .242 .295 .370 76 .128 .299 4.0 2 0.6 Buck Coats
Yu Chang .211 .282 .352 67 .141 .293 3.4 5 0.5 Justin Baum
Austin Hedges .206 .267 .375 68 .169 .262 3.4 4 0.5 Jim Horner
Delino DeShields .231 .305 .330 69 .099 .315 3.8 4 0.5 Andres Torres
Steven Kwan .256 .310 .356 77 .101 .287 3.9 2 0.5 Lance Johnson
Tyler Naquin .251 .287 .407 82 .156 .316 4.1 6 0.4 Jeff Schulz
Jake Bauers .227 .315 .391 86 .164 .296 4.3 0 0.4 Tom Lombarski
Gabriel Arias .233 .272 .388 73 .155 .315 3.6 2 0.4 Tony Perezchica
Mike Freeman .236 .305 .335 70 .099 .314 3.6 4 0.3 Ron Oester
Daniel Johnson .235 .292 .395 80 .159 .304 4.0 3 0.1 Otis Green
Ernie Clement .245 .287 .319 61 .074 .268 3.2 5 0.0 Hector Rincones
Tyler Friis .209 .285 .301 57 .092 .253 2.8 6 -0.1 Vicente Garcia
Jake Elmore .251 .317 .325 72 .074 .300 3.4 -1 -0.2 Denny Hocking
Sandy Leon .183 .265 .288 47 .104 .232 2.5 3 -0.2 Chad Moeller
Mike Rivera .171 .249 .276 40 .105 .222 2.2 2 -0.3 Brian Moon
Wilson Garcia .256 .279 .425 83 .169 .272 4.3 -1 -0.3 Jason Friedman
Steven Baron .198 .261 .269 42 .071 .267 2.4 2 -0.4 Charlie Greene
Cameron Rupp .194 .265 .353 63 .159 .272 3.1 -4 -0.4 Chad Moeller
Gavin Collins .217 .265 .349 62 .132 .255 3.0 -3 -0.5 Blake Barthol
Mitch Longo .229 .282 .343 65 .114 .297 3.5 2 -0.6 Dionys Cesar
Jodd Carter .202 .278 .346 65 .144 .262 3.1 3 -0.7 Chad Alexander
Beau Taylor .188 .280 .290 53 .101 .275 2.7 -4 -0.7 Clay Dalrymple
Kungkuan Giljegiljaw .215 .266 .350 62 .135 .285 3.2 -7 -0.8 Craig Tatum
Trenton Brooks .225 .284 .371 72 .146 .260 3.6 -2 -0.9 Jason Friedman
Tyler Krieger .215 .275 .326 59 .111 .287 3.1 -2 -0.9 Gary Miller-Jones
Will Benson .181 .261 .355 61 .174 .259 3.1 1 -1.1 Andy Brown
Andruw Monasterio .202 .271 .264 44 .062 .257 2.3 3 -1.1 Niuman Romero
Austen Wade .192 .267 .286 48 .094 .277 2.2 -5 -1.5 Ramon Zapata
Mitch Reeves .200 .275 .291 51 .091 .280 2.6 -3 -2.3 Tyler Eastley

Pitchers – Standard
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO FIP
Shane Bieber R 26 14 9 3.51 32 32 197.7 177 77 26 36 230 3.20
Carlos Carrasco R 34 11 8 3.85 27 23 140.3 129 60 21 37 162 3.71
Zach Plesac R 26 9 9 4.48 27 27 148.7 147 74 23 44 132 4.42
Aaron Civale R 26 9 9 4.75 25 25 140.3 150 74 25 32 115 4.69
Brad Hand L 31 5 3 3.28 61 0 60.3 47 22 9 19 84 3.58
Cal Quantrill R 26 7 8 4.98 33 22 123.0 133 68 20 40 106 4.69
Emmanuel Clase R 23 5 4 3.57 64 0 68.0 65 27 7 17 60 3.68
James Karinchak R 25 3 2 3.17 49 0 48.3 27 17 5 36 92 3.08
Phil Maton R 28 5 3 3.68 57 0 63.7 55 26 8 21 79 3.46
Scott Moss L 26 7 9 5.17 26 26 120.0 117 69 20 67 123 5.15
Joey Cantillo L 21 5 6 4.91 19 17 77.0 72 42 13 35 85 4.73
Adam Scott L 25 8 10 5.22 25 24 119.0 125 69 25 43 109 5.34
Jean Carlos Mejía R 24 3 4 4.66 21 10 63.7 64 33 8 27 51 4.67
Jefry Rodriguez R 27 5 6 5.13 24 18 100.0 102 57 14 54 82 5.13
Eli Morgan R 25 7 9 5.33 26 26 131.7 144 78 27 43 113 5.27
Triston McKenzie R 23 3 4 4.93 16 14 65.7 63 36 13 25 71 4.87
Nick Wittgren R 30 3 3 4.11 57 0 57.0 53 26 9 18 61 4.20
Oliver Pérez L 39 3 2 3.71 51 0 34.0 30 14 4 11 36 3.92
Adam Plutko R 29 6 8 5.38 25 20 110.3 121 66 23 32 85 5.36
Hunter Wood R 27 3 3 4.25 61 0 59.3 57 28 9 23 61 4.36
David Hernandez R 36 3 3 4.41 51 0 49.0 47 24 8 18 51 4.45
Dominic Leone R 29 1 1 4.45 54 0 56.7 50 28 10 27 71 4.45
Logan Allen L 24 5 6 5.50 21 16 88.3 94 54 17 40 80 5.40
Robert Broom R 24 3 3 4.60 46 0 58.7 55 30 8 30 57 4.70
Aaron Pinto R 24 3 3 4.85 33 1 52.0 53 28 8 19 43 4.80
Nick Sandlin R 24 0 0 4.72 27 0 26.7 23 14 5 14 34 4.76
Kyle Nelson L 24 3 3 4.89 33 1 35.0 33 19 8 12 41 5.01
Jared Robinson R 26 5 5 4.80 40 0 65.7 62 35 8 39 65 4.70
Skylar Arias L 24 2 2 5.13 31 1 47.3 44 27 6 33 48 5.08
Henry Martinez R 27 3 3 5.04 46 0 55.3 58 31 8 27 45 5.06
Sam Hentges L 24 5 8 5.91 24 24 115.7 126 76 22 66 94 5.92
Cam Hill R 27 3 3 5.24 34 0 34.3 33 20 7 15 39 5.04
Eli Lingos L 25 3 4 5.70 30 10 90.0 99 57 20 34 70 5.85
Ben Krauth L 27 3 3 5.37 36 0 58.7 59 35 8 41 55 5.33
Tanner Tully L 26 7 11 6.06 24 23 126.3 161 85 29 28 68 5.92
Zack Weiss R 29 2 4 6.35 22 1 28.3 30 20 6 19 27 6.25
Manuel Alvarez R 25 2 3 6.41 35 0 39.3 40 28 6 41 37 6.64
Anthony Gose L 30 1 2 8.87 29 0 22.3 24 22 6 33 23 9.31
Anderson Polanco L 28 1 2 8.08 22 4 42.3 46 38 10 49 39 8.09

Pitchers – Advanced
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR No. 1 Comp
Shane Bieber 10.5 1.6 1.2 4.5% 28.8% .301 129 77 4.6 Roy Halladay
Carlos Carrasco 10.4 2.4 1.3 6.3% 27.8% .302 118 85 2.7 Orel Hershiser
Zach Plesac 8.0 2.7 1.4 7.0% 20.9% .290 101 99 2.0 Chien-Ming Wang
Aaron Civale 7.4 2.1 1.6 5.3% 19.2% .297 96 105 1.5 Jack Russell
Brad Hand 12.5 2.8 1.3 7.6% 33.6% .288 138 72 1.2 Gabe White
Cal Quantrill 7.8 2.9 1.5 7.4% 19.7% .308 91 110 1.0 Benny Frey
Emmanuel Clase 7.9 2.3 0.9 6.0% 21.1% .294 127 79 0.9 Lindy McDaniel
James Karinchak 17.1 6.7 0.9 17.3% 44.2% .301 143 70 0.9 Mark Littell
Phil Maton 11.2 3.0 1.1 7.9% 29.7% .303 123 81 0.8 Jerry Dipoto
Scott Moss 9.2 5.0 1.5 12.3% 22.7% .298 88 114 0.8 Bill Wight
Joey Cantillo 9.9 4.1 1.5 10.4% 25.1% .295 92 108 0.7 Brian Bohanon
Adam Scott 8.2 3.3 1.9 8.2% 20.8% .294 87 115 0.7 Bill Latham
Jean Carlos Mejía 7.2 3.8 1.1 9.6% 18.1% .293 97 103 0.7 Ad Liska
Jefry Rodriguez 7.4 4.9 1.3 11.9% 18.1% .294 88 113 0.6 Don Stanhouse
Eli Morgan 7.7 2.9 1.8 7.4% 19.5% .301 85 118 0.6 Mike Thompson
Triston McKenzie 9.7 3.4 1.8 8.8% 25.0% .291 92 109 0.5 Kent Bottenfield
Nick Wittgren 9.6 2.8 1.4 7.5% 25.3% .293 110 91 0.5 Bill Castro
Oliver Pérez 9.5 2.9 1.1 7.6% 24.8% .289 122 82 0.5 Bobby Shantz
Adam Plutko 6.9 2.6 1.9 6.7% 17.7% .292 84 119 0.4 Arnie Portocarrero
Hunter Wood 9.3 3.5 1.4 9.0% 23.8% .298 107 94 0.4 Ehren Wassermann
David Hernandez 9.4 3.3 1.5 8.5% 24.2% .295 103 97 0.2 Mike Maddux
Dominic Leone 11.3 4.3 1.6 11.0% 29.0% .294 102 98 0.2 Roy Corcoran
Logan Allen 8.2 4.1 1.7 10.1% 20.1% .301 82 121 0.2 Justin Jones
Robert Broom 8.7 4.6 1.2 11.5% 21.9% .290 99 102 0.1 Lloyd Allen
Aaron Pinto 7.4 3.3 1.4 8.4% 18.9% .292 94 107 0.1 Jose Santiago
Nick Sandlin 11.5 4.7 1.7 12.1% 29.3% .290 96 104 0.0 Tim Spooneybarger
Kyle Nelson 10.5 3.1 2.1 8.0% 27.3% .287 93 108 0.0 Joe Crawford
Jared Robinson 8.9 5.3 1.1 13.1% 21.9% .297 95 106 0.0 Paul Giel
Skylar Arias 9.1 6.3 1.1 15.1% 21.9% .295 88 113 -0.1 Philip Barzilla
Henry Martinez 7.3 4.4 1.3 10.8% 18.0% .299 90 111 -0.1 Horacio Pina
Sam Hentges 7.3 5.1 1.7 12.3% 17.5% .299 77 130 -0.1 Wade Blasingame
Cam Hill 10.2 3.9 1.8 9.9% 25.8% .295 86 116 -0.1 Franklyn German
Eli Lingos 7.0 3.4 2.0 8.5% 17.4% .290 80 126 -0.1 Don Hood
Ben Krauth 8.4 6.3 1.2 14.9% 20.0% .304 84 118 -0.3 Brian Adams
Tanner Tully 4.8 2.0 2.1 5.0% 12.1% .306 75 134 -0.4 Bobby Livingston
Zack Weiss 8.6 6.0 1.9 14.2% 20.1% .300 71 140 -0.4 Marty McLeary
Manuel Alvarez 8.5 9.4 1.4 20.6% 18.6% .304 71 141 -0.7 Ken Wright
Anthony Gose 9.3 13.3 2.4 26.4% 18.4% .295 51 196 -1.0 Dick Selma
Anderson Polanco 8.3 10.4 2.1 22.1% 17.6% .298 56 178 -1.2 James Wray

Players are listed with their most recent teams wherever possible. This includes players who are unsigned, players who will miss 2021 due to injury, and players who were released in 2020. So yes, if you see Joe Schmoe, who quit baseball back in August to form a Finnish industrial death metal fourth-wave ska J-pop band, he’s still listed here intentionally.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR, which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in the full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR. ZiPS is assuming that the designated hitter will continue in force in 2021; if it does not, there will be widespread minor adjustments across the board come April.

ZiPS is agnostic about future playing time by design. For more information about ZiPS, please refer to this article, or get angry at Dan on Twitter or something.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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caingolfer
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caingolfer

As a Cleveland fan, this is… appropriately bleak.