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Ranking the 2014 year-end roster: Part one

A few 2014 disappointments highlight part one of the rankings

Ranking the 2014 year-end roster: Part one
Nick Swisher (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
October 1, 2014
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The 2014 season may have ended with some disappointment with Cleveland missing the playoffs, but finishing with an 85-77 record and being in contention until the last weekend of the season is not all that bad.

Before looking forward to 2015, first IBI is going to look back on 2014. Personally, that starts for me with these roster rankings before transitioning to the IBI Awards next week.

As a reminder, these rankings only represent a player’s performance in 2014 and do not account for bad luck, coming regression, etc. Players with more playing time are given some preference to those since performing decently for a whole season is harder to do than being great in limited time.

The other versions of these rankings in 2014 are listed below:

In-text photos from ESPN

#46 Ryan Raburn, OF (Previous Rank: 16, 24, 25, 43)

Ryan Raburn (Photo: ESPN)Following a .200/.250/.297 line, -1.1 fWAR, and -1.4 rWAR in 74 games, the combination of poor performance and playing time leaves Raburn as the lowest-ranked player who donned a Cleveland uniform in 2014. How much of that poor performance was due to lingering injury issues -- he only played four games in September due to undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery -- remains to be seen, but with a guaranteed contract for 2015, clearly the organization will be hoping for a comeback similar to what Raburn experienced in 2013.

#45 Mark Lowe, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 38, 39)

Though Lowe did not ultimately perform well while in Cleveland, there is always a need for relief depth in an organization. Lowe was not called upon other than the seven innings he spent in the majors, but having him available in Columbus all year was still beneficial.

#44 Bryan Price, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR, NR, NR)

Price made his major league debut down the stretch, tossing 2.2 innings while allowing six runs, three home runs, and hitting two batters. A couple bad innings should not define Price’s career, but looking ahead to 2015, the right-hander will need to take some steps forward in the offseason to make the opening day roster.

#43 J.B. Shuck, OF (Previous Rank: NR, NR, NR, NR)

Shuck only had 26 plate appearances while with the organization, but he managed to be worth -0.5 fWAR and -0.5 rWAR due to posting an .077 on-base percentage and .077 slugging percentage (as in no walks, no extra base hits). However, like Price, 26 plate appearances probably will not overwhelm Shuck’s status as a pre-arbitration player with minor league options.

#42 Elliot Johnson, INF/OF (Previous Rank: 24, 33, 39, 42)

Johnson’s status ended up similar to Lowe’s in that his brief major league time did not go well, but the 30-year-old was still available if needed down the stretch. The utility player finished the season with a roughly average bat in the International League, though it was still not quite good enough to earn him another shot in the majors.

#41 Chris Gimenez, C/1B (Previous Rank: NR, NR, NR, NR)

A desperate need for depth in mid-August led to Cleveland acquiring Gimenez, a role the 31-year-old filled well. He ultimately only appeared in eight games with 10 plate appearances -- in which he went 0-for-9 with one walk -- but Gimenez was still present on the roster just in case for Terry Francona.

#40 Jesus Aguilar, 1B (Previous Rank: NR, 31, 32, 37)

Though Aguilar got called back up to Cleveland in September, he was not trusted much while the team was still in contention. That might have been for the best given Aguilar’s -0.5 fWAR, -0.5 rWAR, and 0 wRC+ in 38 plate appearances, but it does leave the first baseman as a question mark heading into 2015 due to his lack of experience at the major league level.

#39 Jason Giambi, DH (Previous Rank: NR, 32, 37, 41)

Jason Giambi (Photo: ESPN)Giambi spent most of the year on the disabled list, only accumulating 70 plate appearances over the entire season. Without any defensive value and a bat that is continuing to slip with age, that probably worked out for the best. It would seem Giambi’s next role will be as a coach somewhere, though given I would have said that was going to be the case after last season as well, it is entirely possible the 43-year-old will run it back again next year.

#38 Blake Wood, RHP (Previous Rank: 25, 29, 35, 35)

The hard-throwing Wood is still trying to right the ship following Tommy John surgery, as his control has been spotty both with Cleveland and Kansas City. Wood’s fastball is still averaging around 96 miles per hour, however, so the right-hander will continue to get chances.

#37 Austin Adams, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 42, 36)

Adams and Wood’s performances in 2014 are similar, but the future looks a little brighter for Adams. The right-hander’s strikeout prowess did not show in his seven-inning major league debut this season, but the fact that Adams cut down on his walks this year while still throwing in the upper-90s should make him a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

#36 Justin Sellers, INF (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 34, 40)

Just like many other players down here on the bottom of the list, Sellers did not have much major league time but served as a useful utility depth piece. He does not hit very much, but having players with the capability to fill in all around the diamond (and who are able to be sent to the minors) is quite helpful for an organization.

#35 Vinnie Pestano, RHP (Previous Rank: 22, 30, 31, 34)

Pestano was much better for the Angels after he was acquired in an August trade, posting a 0.93 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 9.2 innings. Of course, the right-hander is still the same pitcher who posted a 5.00 ERA with continually declining fastball velocity in 9.0 innings with Cleveland, so time will tell if Pestano turned a corner with the Angels or if this is more of a random hot streak.

#34 Nick Swisher, 1B (Previous Rank: 9, 20, 24, 38)

Nick Swisher (Photo: ESPN)The goal for signing Swisher to a long-term contract before the 2013 season was definitely not to have 33 players ranked ahead of him at the end of the season, but that is what a -1.6 fWAR and -1.0 rWAR will get you. It seems possible Swisher will bounce back in 2015 -- if not likely given his long track record of success -- but the worry would be that entering his age-34 season, the injuries that held him back this year will keep cropping up throughout the six-month major league baseball season.

#33 Zach Walters, OF/DH (Previous Rank: NR, NR, NR, 33)

Where he will play, how much contact he will make, and whether the strikeouts will overwhelm him are all open questions, but one thing for certain regarding Walters is that he will hit the ball hard when he makes contact. With a .261 isolated power and 34.0 percent strikeout rate in 30 games with Cleveland -- a combination that conjures up memories of Ryan HowardRob Deer, and Bo Jackson -- Walters is an exciting go big or go home hitter to watch at the plate.

#32 C.C. Lee, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, 22, 30, 27)

Lee is certainly better than he showed at the major league level in 2014 -- where his 4.50 ERA and 4.28 FIP in 28.0 inning left him as a replacement-level reliever at best. The ability is still there for Lee, though he is still looking to translate it from Triple-A (where he posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.42 FIP in 30.0 Columbus innings this year) to the majors as he enters his age-28 season.

#31 Chris Dickerson, OF (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 29, 31)

Chris Dickerson (Photo: ESPN)Dickerson was another depth player for the organization this season, though the difference with the 32-year-old was he spent quite a bit of time on the field for Cleveland. That time did not prove to be well-invested, however, as Dickerson played at replacement level for those 112 plate appearances, raising the question as to whether giving that time to someone like Tyler Holt might have yielded better short-term and long-term benefits for the organization.

#30 Nyjer Morgan, OF (Previous Rank: 21, 15, 28, 30)

The season started well for Morgan, with the 34-year-old putting up some good value in 15 major-league games, but injuries knocked the man better known as Tony Plush down and ultimately ended his season essentially before it began.

#29 George Kottaras, C (Previous Rank: NR, 27, 27, 29)

Over the course of his career, Kottaras put up about 2.0 WAR per 600 plate appearances -- a perfectly average amount -- but the 31-year-old is still looking for a starting job and a permanent home. Extrapolating his WAR out over a full season looks good, but at some point, the way seven major league franchises have treated him over the last three years tells the story.

#28 Tyler Holt, OF (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 41, 32)

Despite a .307 on-base percentage, 32.9 percent strikeout rate, 3.9 percent walk rate, and .028 isolated power in his 76 plate appearance major league debut, Holt’s defensive value allowed him to yield average value to the team. That defensive value is obviously good, but what would help Holt even more is seeing his plate discipline look more like it did in the minors (16.5 percent strikeout rate, 14.3 percent walk rate in 272 Triple-A plate appearances) which would go a long way toward helping the 25-year-old buck his current label of fourth outfielder.

#27 Josh Outman, LHP (Previous Rank: 20, 21, 26, 28)

Outman did not throw much for the Yankees after being acquired on August 28 -- tossing 3.2 scoreless innings -- and the left-hander saw himself designated for assignment by a second team when New York did so in late September.

#26 John Axford, RHP (Previous Rank: 18, 26, 21, 25)

Unlike Outman, Axford is still pitching for his new team, as he performed well for the Pirates down the stretch. Not allowing a home run in 11.0 Pittsburgh innings helped, though those home runs were not something he was able to control while he was in Cleveland (1.2 HR/9) and really torpedoed his value.

#25 Justin Masterson, RHP (Previous Rank: 4, 7, 14, 24)

The Cardinals were hoping to get a nice bounce back from Masterson after acquiring him at the trade deadline, yet what they ended up with was a pitcher even worse than the one that struggled in Cleveland (5.51 ERA, 4.08 FIP in 98.0 Cleveland innings, 7.04 ERA, 5.84 FIP in 30.2 St. Louis innings). Masterson’s falloff should have sunk Cleveland’s rotation, yet as we all know, breakouts nearly across the board helped the team survive their #1 starter’s struggle and trade.

#24 Josh Tomlin, RHP (Previous Rank: NR, 17, 12, 17)

Josh Tomlin (Photo: ESPN)Tomlin and Masterson ended up with around the same value when weighing ERA and FIP the same, though there is some hope for the right-hander if you have faith in his BABIP to regress toward the mean (which is likely) and his ability to limit his home runs (which seems unlikely given his past issues with it). After posting a career-high 8.1 SO/9 in 2014 (shattering his previous mark of 5.3) to go with a 1.2 BB/9, Tomlin owned a 3.16 xFIP, a mark that regresses his home run rate to the mean. However, home runs have always been Tomlin’s kryptonite, but even with them, expecting the right-hander to post numbers similar to his 4.01 FIP leave him as an adequate fifth starter or long man heading into the future.

#23 David Murphy, OF (Previous Rank: 12, 11, 22, 22)

Michael Brantley’s breakout was huge for Cleveland, but the other two primary outfielders left a lot to be desired in 2014. First up in these rankings is Murphy, who was below replacement level in 462 plate appearances in the first year of his two-year deal. The offense did come back for Murphy, as he posted league-average numbers despite another power drop due to a BABIP bounce back, but his rough defensive performance dragged down his overall line. Murphy is likely not actually this bad defensively, but that still does not change what happened on the field in 2015.

#22 Zach McAllister, RHP (Previous Rank: 10, 5, 19, 26)

McAllister’s strikeouts rose in 2014 compared to 2013 from 6.8 to 7.7 SO/9, his walks dropped from 3.3 to 2.9 BB/9, his home runs fell as well from 0.9 to 0.7 HR/9, and his groundball rose from 37.1 to 42.1 percent. So why did his ERA jump from 3.75 to 5.23? He suddenly stopped stranding runners, with his left on base rate falling from 72.6 to 61.3 percent. Luckily, strand rate tends to be fluky and fluctuates from year to year, giving hope for McAllister’s future. Entering his age-27 season with strong peripherals, it seems like a good bet the right-hander will do well as a back-of-the-rotation starter next year.

#21 Roberto Perez, C (Previous Rank: NR, NR, 40, 23)

Roberto Perez (Photo: ESPN)Much like Holt, Perez is so good on defense he can add value to the major league team before coming out from behind the plate to hit. But in his major league debut, Perez actually hit close to league average, giving him WAR totals approaching All-Star levels. The .379 BABIP will not last and he could use some improvement on his plate discipline, but again, having such value on defense gives Perez some leeway on offense. At worst, Perez is a great backup option behind Yan Gomes. At best, his defense will combine with some decent offense to give Cleveland another starting-quality backstop.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Vic Venom
October 3, 2014 - 10:14 PM EDT
There are guys on this list who couldn't even make a Mayfield or Cleveland Heights softball team.
October 2, 2014 - 7:43 PM EDT
I could definitely see Ty Hold (TY HOLT!) stick around for the future, even as a defensive replacement/speed guy he has value. Same with Perez, who is to me exactly what you want in a backup.

Also, what to make of McAlister's run in the bullpen at the end? He was throwing much harder, no? Not that that in and of itself solves his issues- I thought the loss of his slider from the blisters was the primary problem- but I could be wrong. Still interested to see what he can do in that role, if he flames out of the rotation picture.

Also while Austin Adams had a rough bigleague debut, the drop in walks at AAA has me intrigued. After seeing Zach Putnam finally put it all together and become a bigleague reliever I have to have faith in Adams here.
October 2, 2014 - 2:11 PM EDT
Amazing how bad this "back half" of the team is considering the Tribe finished with 85 wins. I'm sure comparative lists from any of the layoff teams still alive would out this list to shame. I guess it just goes to show how dominant our "core four" of Kluber, Brantley, Gomes, and Santana were this year. (don't mean to scoop you Jim, but everyone reading this knows those four will be at the top of your list later this week). Also give credit to Tito. Although I disagreed with a lot of his moves on a day-to-day basis, he's the best manager I've ever seen in my 25+ years of following the Tribe.
October 1, 2014 - 5:03 PM EDT
there is maybe 6 of the guys referred who will be around in 2015. The one i am hoping finds himself besides swish is zac mac. I would love him to try to duplicate wade davis he may need to work on a breaking ball that is effective pitch but 97 mph could be 99 or 100 if he desnt spend winter preparing to be a starter and makes effort to be one of tito's back end of BP options so he doesnt overuse scabble, shaw, & ash leading to cody in the 9th. and perez and gomes maybe as good of a catcher duo as there is in baseball. Both above avg defensively and offensively.
October 1, 2014 - 2:38 PM EDT
Couldn't agree with you more, Jim.

Great job on this as always.
Jim Piascik
October 1, 2014 - 2:17 PM EDT
I didn't factor money into my ranks, just performance, otherwise I'd probably be right there with you. The fact that this team went 85-77 with its big money players doing poorly is pretty surprising (whether it's a good or bad surprise, I could go either way, lol).
October 1, 2014 - 1:41 PM EDT
I really enjoy this occasional piece, and as always I'm not going to nitpick any rankings, but for me, Swisher is #46 with a bullet. Highest paid player on the team, and accumulated the highest negative WAR of any player. Considering the budget limitations his contract imposes on this team combined with being literally the worst player on the team, I'd be hard pressed to even rank him ahead of Slider or the beer vendors at the stadium.
October 1, 2014 - 12:36 PM EDT
omg Roberto Perez at 21. Nothing to brag about there, son.
C L Who
October 1, 2014 - 12:01 PM EDT
Maybe the club will get smart and unstick a few of them before 2015!
October 1, 2014 - 10:40 AM EDT
What an ugly list. Can't see many of these players sticking with the club much beyond 2015. But, if you looked at every team's 21-45 or so players you could probably say the same thing.

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