The Dyansty Guru’s Triple Play: Cleveland Indians!
Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a brand-new series where three very cool dynasty baseball nerds- Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to and through Opening Day!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Cleveland Indians. While we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!
Corey Kluber, Age:31, SP
Analysis by Adam Lawler
This is a love letter.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
I have been following your career since another Kluberian acolyte, Carson Cistulli, whispered little sweet gifs of Notgraphs and indoctrinated me into your namesake’s “society” during the summer 2013. We were a small group of admirers. We collectively gathered to be singularly fascinated with the approach, the repertoire, and the majesty. It was a secret we held close to our hearts. You made us want to be better people. You made us ask, “How might I do spiritually what Corey Kluber does physically?”
We were so young back then. You a facile, free throwing pop-up pitching 27-year-old. Me a novice fantasy baseball player. Looking back on it, I laugh to myself when considering your 92-win team heavily relying on a rotation that consisted of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Justin Masterson. Did they even know the beauty you held within you? I did.
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
Like most summer love stories between young lovers, I knew I would need to let you go. To allow others to love you the way that I loved you. It’s how we grow as people. My God, how you did grow, in both stature and popularity. Between 2014-2017 you averaged 219 innings pitched, an ERA of 2.83, a 2.76 FIP, a strikeout-per-nine rate of 10.3, and 16 wins. You won awards and platitudes in the form of All-Star nods and Cy Youngs.
Look at the smile. You and I both know these hangers-on do not have the same deep and meaningful appreciation as I have for your curveball and your graceful, repeatable delivery- the same on the 7th and the 107th pitches.
My knees buckle like those of a an MLB slugger collapsing in the glory of your breaking balls. Your slider cuts across the strike zone just as your piercing blue eyes cut across my heart. Corey, you are the embodiment of the slider.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
You and I are older now. We have had life experiences that have changed us and the way people perceive us- indeed, the way we perceive ourselves. In recent years, you have grown more accustomed to richer company. They seem to be eyeing your age and seeking younger, more interesting arms. They point to back issues and a trend in innings decline as a source of concern. You have carried teams, both real and fantasy, on your back for years. Now, they want to cut you loose? They want to use the very reason they embraced you as a reason to excoriate you. Fools.
I have been quietly, patiently waiting for you to return to my open arms. Is this the year I can take you back? Is this the year, I can take you back into my warm embrace at a reasonable cost? I see your career high swinging strike rate (15.6%), your career high O-Swing (38.8%) and your consistent ability to keep the ball on the ground when a hitter manages to make contact with you.
I think you may now just be entering your peak. Truthfully, I would still pay a Kershaw’s ransom for you to see your name on my roster. Day after day after day until your jersey is hung in the rafters and troubadours more apt than I can scribe songs of your splendor. Until we meet again, Corey.
Adam’s Artist Selection
There are a number of selections you can make from Cleveland. Nine-Inch-Nails, Electric Eels, Kid Cudi, Marc Cohn! But alas, I must pick one of the five most influential hip hop groups of all time: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I still remember asking a friend, “Your parents let you buy Creepin on ah Come Up?!” To which he replied, “No. They can’t know either.” Sleepovers where we took turns using headphones and listening to Thuggish Ruggish Bone and Foe tha Love of $ are some of the most exciting times of my young life.
*Poem selections were excerpts of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot
Nolan Jones, Age:19, 3B
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Take a look at this swing, courtesy of Prospect Pipeline. It’s a pretty one, and I really enjoy the “elbow clapping” timing mechanism. For some reason it really reminds me of a chicken.
Jones was drafted in the second round of the 2016 Amateur draft, going 55th overall. But for some signing concerns, his tools would have made him a first rounder, but the Indians were happy to scoop him up in the second round. Surprisingly, the 6’4″ 185 lb third baseman had only switched sports a year prior to the draft. Previously his primary sport was hockey, which might explain his rather lackluster defense, and his tendency to hit the ball on the ground. More on that later.
The immediate praise in scouting reports are all about Nolan’s hit tool and potential for above average power.
|Year | Level||PAs||K%||BB%||ISO|
|2016 | Rookie||134||36.6||17.2%||.083|
|2017 | Low-A||265||22.6%||16.2%||.165|
Ah, and now you know, this is exactly my kind of prospect! Vast improvement in his strikeout rate and power, while he maintained an elite walk-rate. He slashed .317/.430/.462, but that average is expected to drop due to his .417 BABIP (although Minor League BABIPs are weird and unreliable).
With two years in the minors now, let’s take a look at how this promising young third baseman’s batted ball profile is progressing.
|Year | Level||Pull%||Center%||Oppo%|
|2016 | Rookie||45.9||39.3||14.8|
|2017 | Low-A||37.7||26.5||35.8|
|Year | Level||Linedrive%||Groundball%||Flyball%|
|2016 | Rookie||23.3||51.7||25.0|
|2017 | Low-A||21.9||53.5||24.5|
A huge improvement in his batted ball profile from 2016-2017. Specifically in 2017, Jones did a fantastic job of driving the ball to all parts of the field. However, that groundball rate is a bit concerning.
Un Memento, Nolan Jones
I’ve been watching a lot of footage of Jones’ swing, and in my opinion the swing is almost too short. There’s a nice uppercut to it, but Jones tends to get the bat head too far out in front. His swing may be contributing to his groundball rate, which has remained above 50% for both years in professional ball.
One more interesting note is that despite a slight decrease in his linedrive and flyball rates, he pretty much doubled his ISO, hitting 18 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 homeruns in his 2017 season. My assumption is that this growing young man is hitting the ball with more authority. Let’s hope he makes some adjustments, and stops hitting the ball on the ground so much.
A Dream, within a Dream, within the Infield
Nolan Jones played shortstop prior to his signing, but his size moved him over to third. He has a plus arm and accurate throws. Unfortunately, he made 22 errors in the 53 games in which he played in 2017. That’s some pretty sloppy defensive play, but remember that he is new to the position, and new to baseball. His value is best if he can stick in the infield, but the arm, bat, and plate approach should ensure that even if he ends up in a corner outfield position his profile will play in fantasy. Due to his arm strength, and a rather uninspiring right field depth chart, I could see Jones ending up there for the Indians.
On our most recent podcast I picked Jones as our third basemen that we have ranked too low. On the pod I stated that I would trade Todd Frazier straight up for Jones. This is assuming I was out of contention, but I’d rather have the player more likely to gain value. This is a bit of a philosophical argument behind the rationale (listen to the pod more info). However the point is I really like Nolan Jones. Does he stick at third? I’m unsure, but as mentioned before, his bat should play anywhere.
The biggest concern is his ground-ball rate: while he has been touted as an average-to-above-average runner, I doubt he’ll maintain a high average if he continues to hit the ball into the ground. I’ll be curious to see if more of his doubles translate into home runs, and his uppercut swing gives the ball more loft, as he ages. My assumption is that Jones will probably make his Major League debut in 2020. I’ve grabbed him in every dynasty league I could, and I’d suggest you do the same.
Patrick’s Artist Selection
I lived with the eventual best man of my wedding for years. He is by far the biggest Nine Inch Nails fan I’ve ever met. Seeing NIN live was an incredible experience, and taught me the positives of stadium rock. In 2009 I was lucky enough to see the LIghts in the Sky tour, which provided the greatest visuals I’ve ever seen at a show. While known for their destructive and industrial influenced sound, my favorite song of that tour was actually a balad. Give it a listen.
WARNING: This video contains graphic images that may be upsetting to some viewers.
Bradley Zimmer, Age: 25, OF
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
What He Was
Drafted 21st overall in the 2014 Draft by the Indians out of the University of San Francisco, his standout tool was his bat and his sweet, smooth, left-handed swing. Complementing his hit tool was his speed, showing 60 speed that plays closer to 70 in-game because of instincts and abilities on the basepaths. Zimmer also showed the potential for an average-or-better hit tool to round out his profile, making him one of the more exciting prospects in the game.
Zimmer took his electric toolset on a showcase in summer before being drafting, leading the US College National team in steals and excelling in the Cape Cod league (earning Playoff MVP). Once he debuted into pro ball, Zimmer put his power/speed combo on display by notching at least 15 homers and 38 steals in 2015 and 2016 between single-A and Triple-A. As he progressed through the minors however, the potential in his hit tool began to dwindle. At each level he consistently posted a walk rate between 10-14%, showing that he wasn’t having trouble recognizing pitches and had a good feel for the strike zone. Nevertheless his average continued drop and his strikeouts continued to rise at a somewhat alarming rate.
It was evident that as Zimmer was facing increasingly difficult competition he wasn’t making the needed adjustments to make more contact.
What He Is
When a slew of injuries hit the Cleveland outfield last season, Zimmer was thrust into action at the major league level where it was basically more of the same. Zimmer ended the season after 101 games at the major league level with a slash of .241/.307/.385 (plus 8 home runs, 24 steals, a walk rate of 9% and strike out rate of 33%). This continuation of his trends in the minors shows one of two things. 1: Zimmer’s hit tool isn’t as strong as we first thought and it was scouted to be. 2: Zimmer just isn’t making the needed adjustments to pitchers who have figured out how to pitch to him. Scouting reports have described Zimmers swing as ‘long’, and due to that its unclear which of those two options is the more dominant force in his strikeout issues.
What He Could Be
If Bradley is able to reign in his strikeout issues and drop his K-rate to a more manageable 25%, he has the makings of an electric top of the order hitter who can contribute 20/20 numbers regularly. The potential for a 20/20 player with a .260 average and a .340 OBP is very usable in pretty much any format, and that doesn’t sound like that unreasonable a floor for Zimmer. If Zimmer doesn’t find a way to cut down his strikeouts though, he most likely ends up as a 4th outfielder platooning vs right-handed-hitting. That’s much less ideal, and also a huge gap in potential outcomes. This year is decision time for Zimmer who will be given all the chances he can to prove he is the first round pick and top prospect the Indians drafted in 2014.
Keaton’s Artist Selection
The Black Keys – more chill tunes from the state of Ohio. Little Black Submarines is my favorite, Gold On The Ceiling is also a great tune, Fever, Howlin’ For You, Tighten Up…. Check them all out.
[Ed. Note- The Black Keys are one of my favorite bands of all time. Their early work- stripped down, raw and booming blues rock- is infectious and awesome, and as their work progresses (including albums produced by Danger Mouse) it gets more complex in its instrumentation and sound while maintaining the atmosphere and vibe that made them great to begin with. Plus, their videos are almost always awesome- from a dancing puppet, Frank the Funkasaurus Rex, to kids lip-syncing the song, to a riff on a western noir film, they are worth a view.- Ian Hudson ]
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