As the Cleveland Indians gather in Goodyear for the start of Spring Training, national publications are starting to come out with their preseason rankings.
This week, Sports Illustrated ranked their top 100 MLB players for 2018. 6 members of the two-time defending American League Central champion Cleveland Indians made the list. Let's count them down!
81. ANDREW MILLER
From SI's Jon Tayler: The year after Miller broke the bullpen (or at least the postseason), the lanky lefty was slightly more human, as a knee injury cost him a few weeks, and his control took a slight dip. However, we’re still talking about a guy who throws 94 mph with a slider that cuts like a scythe, and who struck out 95 batters in 62 2/3 innings, and who recorded four or more outs in a third of his regular-season appearances. He’s not the talk of baseball any more (or not as much), but he’s still plenty valuable gobbling up high-leverage outs for Terry Francona’s crew.
76. EDWIN ENCARNACION
From SI's Jon Tayler: It felt a little off last year to watch Encarnacion walk the parrot around the bases at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, with no Jose Bautista either to precede him or to greet him after his trot. Splitting up Canada’s version of the Bash Brothers (les Bash Freres?) was a sad reality, though while Bautista withered and died in the Great White North, Encarnacion didn’t miss a beat in his new home, virtually equaling his 2016 totals in homers and OPS+ and helping the Indians win 102 games. He’s still got plenty of value with the bat; the question with Encarnacion is, at 35 and with a glove made of stone, how useful he can be as time goes on. If nothing else, hopefully he’ll be someone’s clobbering DH until he can’t carry the parrot any longer.
31. CARLOS CARRASCO
From SI's Jon Tayler: Are you ready to accept that Carlos Carrasco is one of the best pitchers in baseball? The Venezuelan righty was simply dazzling in 2017, posting career bests as a starter in innings (200), strikeouts (226), ERA (3.29), ERA+ (139) and WAR (5.4). Then again, none of those were terribly far off from what he did the year previous. Long one of the most slept-on starters in the game, now is the time to recognize that, were it not for the presence of two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carrasco would be the Indians’ deserving ace. As is, he’s arguably the best No. 2 starter in baseball. If you somehow still don’t know his name, learn it now; he’s a superstar waiting to happen.
26. JOSE RAMIREZ
From SI's Jon Tayler: It’s tempting to say that Jose Ramirez came out of nowhere to become an All-Star and finish third in the MVP voting, and in some sense, that is true. The chubby Dominican infielder was never a prospect of any note, struggling to hit at every level of the minors, and he was used, in his infrequent stays in Cleveland, primarily as a utility infielder of little renown. That began to change in 2016, though, when he became the team’s regular third baseman in the second half, displacing declining veteran Juan Uribe, and posted a 114 OPS+ as an integral part of a pennant winner. Then came last year’s shocking results: a .318/.374/.583 line with 29 homers, 17 steals, a 145 OPS+ and 6.9 WAR—ninth best among all major leaguers. Ramirez hits the ball hard and puts it in the air—a winning formula for this era of the game—and makes tons of contact inside and outside the strike zone. How he turned into an MVP contender, that’s a little harder to discern, but there’s no doubting what he is now.
15. FRANCISCO LINDOR
From SI's Jon Tayler: Why do we love baseball? Because it’s fun. To watch these grown men do borderline impossible things and express their boundless, incredible talent is a gift. To watch Francisco Lindor is to realize just how insanely, giddily, plain old fun this game can really be. He is the human incarnation of joy, who plays defense like he has the cheat codes and who is already one of the best hitters in baseball at the age of 24. But more than that, it’s the attitude he brings to the field, where every play is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. At the risk of sounding like a People profile, Lindor has a smile that could light up a room painted in Vantablack. His style was one of the things that made the World Baseball Classic such a treat: There’s Lindor, bat-flipping with abandon for Team Puerto Rico as he launched balls into the stratosphere and laughed his way around the bases. How could you hate him? By stats alone, Lindor is a top-20 player; by personality and swagger, he’s in a class all by himself.
11. COREY KLUBER
From SI's Gabriel Baumgaertner: Corey Kluber entered his June 1st start with an ERA of 5.06. This is how, despite an ugly beginning to his season, he won the 2017 AL Cy Young Award.
— He struck out 224 hitters and walked 23 in the 166.1 innings over those 23 starts.
— His opponents' extra-base hit rate was 5.9% (21 doubles, 14 home runs)
— He threw 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings in September and struck out 44 hitters in that span.
— He had 15 double-digit strikeout games and five complete games (three of which were shutouts).
Kluber always seems to fade in the background because of his refusal to showcase any kind of emotion (which inspired the "Klubot" nickname), but he's one of the most intimidating and dominant pitchers in baseball. He struggled in the postseason last year, but he's otherwise one of the game's best and most consistent hurlers.
If you're scoring at home, the top player of 2018 is Mike Trout of the Angels. Check out the rest of the list here.