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Cleveland Indians Outfield: Plan B

In every draft you do, there are players who you target and players who you settle for. As we move through these depth chart discussions, it’s good to look at outfields such as that of the Indians, because, while you have your draft strategy mapped out and have your list of targets, something always goes awry and you need to settle for Plan B. Not to worry, though. Plan B isn’t so bad as you have some potential upside. The ceiling has the potential to be high, the floor isn’t too bad and more often than not, they end up somewhere in the middle. These Indians are your Plan B.

If  you’re looking for stolen bases and you miss out on some of the high end options, lurking somewhere between the 12th and 15th rounds you’ll find yourself Indians center fielder Michael Bourn. There was once a time when Bourn was considered a high-end option as he stole 50-plus bases for three straight seasons, coming in with 61 for two of them. But in the tail-end of that third year, he was dealt to the Braves and his decline almost immediately began. His success rate dropped in the latter part of that year and in his first full season in Atlanta, he swiped just 42 bags, his lowest total in four years. He hit for a bit more power and his spike in strikeouts certainly made it look like he was oddly swinging for the fences more, but his decline in steals came much more from Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’ hesitancy to let his players run wild on the bases. So onward to Cleveland he goes and things get even worse. His adjustment to American League pitching was long, he opened the year with an April DL stint due to a lacerated finger, he struggled to get on-base all year and in the end, swiped just 23 bases.

And that brings us to now where Bourn could be an undervalued asset. It seems doubtful that he will ever return to that 50-steal level again, as the Indians aren’t a strong-running team, but you really can’t rule it out altogether. This will be Bourn’s second full season in the AL, so you have to assume he’s learned something about the pitchers and their tendencies, right? He also just had hamstring surgery in October (he’ll be ready for the start of spring training), so perhaps there was something bothering him all season that has now been corrected. We all know the potential decline for base-stealers after the age of 30, but we’ve also seen exceptions to the rule before. If he stays low-end and swipes 25 bases for you, well, you’re basically getting what you paid for, but with the potential to swipe 40 bases, that mid-round investment makes for one heck of a way to start Plan B.

Over in left field, the Tribe has another great Plan B option, especially for those who are continuously searching for those five-category contributors. While others are looking for specialists, be it power or speed, Michael Brantley can give you a little of each. In his age-26 season last year, Brantley took a step forward and provided his owners with career-highs in each of the standard offensive categories save for batting average, and, as Chad Young mentions in FanGraphs+, While 10 homers and 17 steals aren;t game-changing totals, they do serve as a nice supplement, especially considering your level of investment. Brantley’s 215.84 ADP in the NFBC (238.50 over at Mock Draft Central) shows him as a 17th to 19th-rounder. If he can simply hit those same numbers again, he’s easily worth that pick, and possibly even a little more. If he can take even just a slight step forward, he’ll pay more than just Plan B dividends.

Cleveland’s right field might actually be more of a Plan C than anything else as the Indians are likely to install a straight-up platoon with David Murphy (career .280/.347/.469 with a .190 ISO against right-handers) and Ryan Raburn (career .263/.336/.492 with a .226 ISO against lefties). Neither of them are being drafted in most 12-team leagues and if they are, they’re coming off the board after the 23rd round, but if you are playing in a league with daily roster moves, they just might be worth grabbing with your last two picks. On their own, neither is too enticing, but together, they form a pretty damn good fifth or sixth outfielder. Sure, there might be days where Nick Swisher gets pushed out to right field, but Raburn will also get some work as a right-handed DH at times too.

With the right field platoon in place, Swisher’s presence and both Murphy’s and Raburn’s ability to play either corner outfield spot, there isn’t much room left for another outfielder on the 25-man roster. But the Indians do have one guy who could find himself up in the majors should the injury bug announce his presence with authority. Carlos Moncrief, a pitcher-turned-outfielder has proven to be Brantley-esque at the plate in Double-A and will patrol the outfield in Triple-A this season. He’ll spend most of his spring competing with non-roster invitees Nyjer Morgan and Jeff Francoeur and while they all could find themselves at Triple-A Columbus, it should be Moncrief who shines the brightest of the three.