Welcome to Let’s Argue, your weekly opportunity to be #MadOnline. The premise is simple: WFNY’s Mike Hattery and Jeff Nomina will present arguments — maybe just a question or a deep stat dive or a good old fashioned hot take. Then, they will either argue with each other or invite you to come argue with us. This week, Mike and Jeff are starting the argument, but don’t let that stop you for joining in the comment section or coming at us 140 characters at a time on Twitter @SnarkyHatman &@SportsNom.
Mike Hattery: Jeff, time for us to get competitively predictive. Last season we were both all-in on the Jose Ramirez breakout. This year there are a bevy of candidates between Yandy Diaz, Bradley Zimmer, Michael Clevinger, and Shawn Armstrong. Rebound candidates Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley fit the category pretty well too. Put on your fortune teller hat and tell me where the breakout and rebounds are coming from in 2017.
Jeff Nomina: Well, they don’t call me Nomstradamus for nothing. I’m all-in on Yan Gomes this year. The Indians got almost nothing offensively from the catcher position last year, with Chris Giminez somehow posting the best wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) at 60 and the only guy at the position with an OPS over .600. The position as a whole had a wRC+ of 46. FOURTY-SIX. That’s actually worse than what Michael Martinez gave the team last year. The next worst team was the Padres at 61. So, the Indians’ catchers were bad.
But, Yan Gomes could be good! You and I have already discussed this, but his struggles the past two seasons have some weird flukey themes to them. While the output is similar, his 2015 numbers look very different than 2016, and look to be somewhat related to bad luck. In 2015, he hit more line drives than in his big offensive seasons, and had a similar soft contact percentage, yet a massive drop in his BABIP caused a major dip in his batting average.
Now, there certainly were reasons for concern in 2015, with a drop in his ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) and a spike in his strikeout percentage, but I’m willing to squint enough and say that 2015 was more bad luck than bad process. If Gomes can hit for his career average .709 OPS (92 wRC+) that’s a massive upgrade for this team. Even if he’s closer to where ZiPS projects him (.697 OPS, 81 wRC+), that’s a massive, massive upgrade for this team.
What about you? Where do you see a potential breakout?
Mike Hattery: Well I think we all have too much stock in the Yandy Diaz experience but his transition with good barrel control, exquisite contact skills and excellent plate discipline. I think the way we speak of him is perhaps silly as I am really in love with Yandy’s floor, not his ceiling. Since Yandy is the easy choice, I will eschew the obvious. Shawn Armstrong has an awesome fastball and induces a ton of swing and miss. There are command issues but he creates enough swing and miss to hide the walk issues. I am in love with pitchers with high strikeout rates who induce ground balls. Ground ball pitchers are my fascination for two reasons: the Indians infield defense is awesome, and Progressive Field has begun to play as a hitters park with pulled fly balls punishing right handed pitchers.
For these reasons, Shawn Armstrong will break out in 2017.
Which one of these dudes will disappoint?
Jeff Nomina: LONNIE CHISENHALL…sorry. Just habit. I think it’s been pretty well covered, but Tyler Naquin sits in a weird place for expectations. It was impossible not to get swept up in his numbers those first few months, and also impossible not to scream at your TV as he chased another high fastball or misjudged a flyball in the playoffs. So, I guess “disappoint” is relative to which of those extremes we’re using as a baseline. He’ll likely be an average player this year, but whenever specific flaws have been noticed on a player, it gets hard not to notice them with more frequency. So I think the excitement around Naquin will take a hit this year.
Mike Hattery: A good point, I actually think the dropoff with Naquin will be less than expected but that based on expectations and the fatal flaws defense and fastball up, his warts are particularly noticeable. I would not be shocked if Edwin Encarnacion “disappoints”. I expect him to be super productive and provide what the Indians need from him offensively but the ballpark transition will have an impact. Toronto is very home run favorable for right handed hitters and Cleveland is a bit tougher than average. I think Encarnacion will absolutely be the three WAR player they need but may not post the traditional counting statistics that Indians fans want.
Any shocking bold prediction on this, the last Let’s Argue before Opening Day? Gomes 20 HRs? Brantley 120 games? Carrasco Top 5 in AL Cy Young Award voting?
Jeff Nomina: I think Ketchup repeats as Hot Dog Race champion in 2017. A disappointing third place finish in 2015 didn’t stop him from dominating last season, and I don’t see any reason (outside of injuries) that he shouldn’t continue that this year.
In all seriousness, though, I’ll say that one of Lonnie Chisenhall or Bryan Shaw isn’t on the roster by the end of the year. Shaw is expensive and in the last year of his deal. Chisenhall is getting more expensive and Naquin and prospect Bradley Zimmer both seem to be knocking on the door to play a corner spot.
What about you? Drop your hottest take.
Mike Hattery: Yeah, picking against Mustard is like Lavar Ball saying he could take Jordan one-on-one, absurd. I love your bold prediction. Mine has to do with newly-extended Jose Ramirez. I think Ramirez posts a 15 home run, 25 stolen base season. Further, Francisco Lindor places in the Top 4 of the AL MVP voting.
Will Yan Gomes rebound big time? Will Shawn Armstrong break out? Tell us here and on twitter what you think.
Who is your 2017 breakout pick? #letsargue
— Mike Hattery (@snarkyhatman) March 28, 2017