Cleveland Indians Infield: Depth Chart Discussions

While the Cleveland Indians had a disappointing 2012, at least they’re doing what a 94-loss team should be doing: making changes. While the solid up-the middle starters in the Cleveland infield will be sticking around, the team has shuffled their outfield and a good chunk of their infield in the hopes of improving on their dismal previous season. And while the team’s depth chart is still in flux (and may be throughout the season), there’s a lot of room here for an enterprising fantasy owner to squeeze some value out of this team.


Carlos Santana is an upper-tier catcher capable of filling three stats consistently: homers, runs, and RBI. Despite hitting a rough patch in 2012, Santana still put up solidly above-average offensive numbers (including a 120 wRC+), and again offered plenty of plate appearances for a catcher. His batting average is a little bit of a downer (but he rocks in OBP leagues), and you can’t expect more than a handful of steals, but he’s still one of the best bets at catcher in fantasy. His backup, “Tofu” Lou Marson, is wholly un-rosterable despite getting a decent share of plate appearances backing up Santana … even though he did post a sharp walk rate and OBP in ’12.

First Base

New addition Nick Swisher, who was originally expected to spend lots of time in the outfield, is probably going to be the regular first baseman to make room for the Indians’ new three-center-fielder defensive alignment. The good news about Swish is that he’s a remarkably consistent performer, able to post 20+ homers and solid R and RBI numbers on a regular basis. Like Santana, Swisher gains even more value in OBP leagues, where his middling batting average is mitigated by a great ability to take a walk. Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds, and Jason Giambi(?!) should see some time at first as well, and Swish should spend some time in right field, so he’ll maintain a bit of positional flexibility while still getting 150-ish starts, barring injury.

Second Base

One of my favorite players to draft this season is second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has the potential to be a top fantasy performer at the pivot. Kipnis brings a combination of power and speed to any team, bopping 14 homers last season while swiping 31 bags. While I don’t expect that kind of basepath larceny to continue, the power is legit, and I certainly would not be surprised to see him repeat or better than number this year. He’ll probably also score and drive in a few more runs this season, given Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher’s presence in this lineup, so think of him once the top tier of second-sackers goes off the board. New addition Mike Aviles is the backup here, but don’t expect him to get much burn.


Asdrubal Cabrera is the second sure-thing in the Cleveland middle infield. Sure, he didn’t post the gaudy fantasy line that he racked up in 2011, but Cabrera was fairly consistent for the Tribe and for fantasy squads. The power is still there, as Cabrera’s certainly capable of mashing 15 homers for your fantasy squad, and he’s an all-round contributor capable of logging double-digit steals, a batting average somewhere near his .270, and whatever runs and RBI his offensive teammates can muster up for him. There aren’t very many better fantasy options at shortstop, and very few who should be as reliable. Mike Aviles is the first guy off the bench here as well.

Third Base

Once a highly-touted prospect, Lonnie Chisenhall rose to the majors early. While he’s shown flashes of being a great player, his struggles against left-handed pitching and unspectacular defense are seriously hurting him and his playing time. Nevertheless, going into 2013, it looks like he’s got the keys to the third base position, especially against right-handed pitching. Drafting Chisenhall is almost entirely an upside play: if he sticks, and plays up to his potential, he’ll put up a solid 15-20 homer line with runs, RBI, a decent batting average, and maybe even a few steals. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a waste of a roster spot or worse. He’s the type of player you draft as a reserve at this point, but keep an eye on him in case he can translate a strong spring into a strong season.

Ryan Raburn has torn up the baseball this spring, homering in his first three at-bats. While we know better than to put too much stock into Spring Training performances, Raburn is probably in the catbird seat when it comes to being a platoon caddy for Chisenhall. If Raburn does wind up seeing his share of lefties, then he could be a cheap source of power (and positional flexibility) in deep or AL-only leagues. But after such a dismal 2012, try not to bet the farm on him. Mike Aviles could also be the platoon option here instead, and with regular plate appearances, he could have some value.

Designated Hitter

New addition Mark Reynolds was born to be a designated hitter. You can always rely on Mark Reynolds to provide your team with copious dingers, with 181 jacks in just six major-league seasons. The bad news? Reynolds doesn’t always post gaudy R and RBI numbers, and he’ll absolutely destroy your team’s batting average. Nevertheless, if the Indians keep his awful, awful glove off the field, he’ll have some value to his team, as well as to power-hungry fantasy players. Just know what you’re getting in Reynolds, in exchange for all those homers.

Expect a number of other players to rotate in at DH as well from time to time, including the left-handed hitting Jason Giambi. Giambi reportedly is on the cusp of making the major-league roster and, while his 2012 season was pretty awful, he’s not that far removed from being a productive part-time player. Still, I wouldn’t expect Giambi to get much burn, or produce enough fantasy-wise to be worth a draft. Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher will probably fill in a bit here too.


Honestly, the infield bench inspires very little hope in me for the season. Mike Aviles is a fine backup infielder, but with Cabrera and Kipnis ensconced in the middle, there may not be much room for him to play. If Ryan Raburn caddies for Lonnie Chisenhall (who is having a pretty decent spring), then he could have value in AL-only leagues, but Raburn burned a lot of people over the last few years, and could just totally implode as well. And Jason Giambi is pretty much a crapshoot at this point. Pass on everyone, unless one of Kipnis or Cabrera gets injured … and then pick up Aviles on the waiver wire.

C: Carlos Santana

1B: Nick Swisher

2B: Jason Kipnis

SS: Asdrubal Cabrera

3B: Lonnie Chisenhall / Ryan Raburn or Mike Aviles (platoon)

DH: Mark Reynolds

Bench: Lou Marson, Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Jason Giambi

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Bryan values positional flexibilty and a good 12-6 curveball. He's the Lead Writer at Beyond the Box Score. Catch him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.

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I don’t think Chisenhall will be platooned.

First, saying he struggles against lefties, that’s only based on 88 career at-bats against lefties in the majors. In which is wRC+ is 89 against lefties and 99 against righties. And his iso against lefties is .216 versus .143 against righties. So it’s early to say that he struggles against lefties. Last year was only his age 23 season.

Yes, he hasn’t taken many walks in the majors, or last year at triple A, but that was a small sample. His bb% ws 9.6 in AAA in half a season in 2011 and prior to that 8.8% in AAA, so average, and he didn’t strike out much.

And his defense is unspectacular, but again, in not even a season’s worth of a carer of UZR data, he’s at -7.6 UZR/150. It’ll take 2 more years for the data to really even be useful. Reynolds is at -11.5 for his career and the last 2 years atrocious. So yes, he’ll DH. Aviles is ok at ss but also surprisingly bad at 3b, -17.3 UZR/150. Maybe small sample, but so is Chisenhall.

You posit Raburn as the platoon 3b, but Raburn is abysmal at 3b. -48 UZR/150 for his career. Again, tiny sample, but he’s -21 UZR/150 at 2b, a much larger sample.

Do you want to know who struggles against lefties? Kipnis. His career wRC+ against them is 73, so well south of Chisenhall (although his walk rate and k rate against lefties are decent. But again, these are not large samples. But Kipnis has a larger sample, and is 2 years older than Chisenhall. He also wore down last year. Chisenhall has been touted forever and never really tore up the minors (he was good not great) so people forget how young he still is. Kipnis has certainly proven more thus far in his carer and contributes in other areas besides the bat.

Was Raburn hurt last year? He was awful at the plate against lefties and righties. And that was after hitting 6 homers in the Spring. He is notoriously streaky. Giving him some slack for an off year, he’s at 111 wRC+ against lefties for his career, so useful. But I suspect he’ll be a jack of all trades back-up (Aviles too if they both make it, as ss back-up as well). A little 2b to keep Kipnis fresh when a tough lefty is out there, 3b and outfield. But not a straight platoon for Chisenhall or Kipnis.

Both mlb and rotoworld (hardly infallible) have said word is Chisenhall has the everyday job. he is likewise tearing it up this spring. I wouldn’t want to platoon a 24 year old who you hope might be the future at the position until you absolutely know he can’t hit lefties. Let him try to develop the ability.

And Raburn has played 4 games at 2b, 2 in left and one at 3rd so far this spring. Seems like they are gearing him up to play all over but if anything spell 2b more. My guess is that if Chisenhall is healthy and if he doesn’t struggle too badly he’ll get 145-150 starts at 3b.


Apologies for the awful spelling etc. And i know you can’t write a magnum opus on Chisenhall. A appreciate these depth chart pieces and just thought I’d add some more about that particular player/position.