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Can the Indians get even better production from shortstop in 2015?

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The tour of the infield continues with shortstop, where the position was spilt amongst a veteran who was on his last run with Cleveland, and a rookie (but not the one everyone thought it would be).

Jose Ramirez using his glove at short
Jose Ramirez using his glove at short
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries in the series:

Heading into 2014, there was about a 0.0001% that Asdrubal Cabrera's would return for 2015. The real question was whether the front office would trade a player who still was decent offensively in the middle of playoff chase. As it turns out, yes, the Chris Antonetti did not have any reservations of making that deal midseason.

Cabrera made almost every start until he was dealt, finishing with 92 starts on the season. And Jose Ramirez made almost every start at short after the trade, finishing with 54. Justin Sellers did make four starts at the end of May, but Mike Aviles was the true backup shortstop, making 12 starts when Cabrera or Ramirez needed a day off. And again, Terry Francona was extremely judicious in relieving the shortstop, with just seven relief appearances.

But was Asdrubal that good offensively? Or was that why the front office decided to go with Ramirez? Let's review the traditional stats for 2014.

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Cabrera

406

253

313

397

710

103

Ramirez

235

282

324

379

703

102

Aviles

54

163

192

224

417

14

Sellers

18

231

375

231

606

91

A 710 OPS at the shortstop position is pretty good. So Cabrera was up to task at the plate. It is intriguing that Ramirez performed so well though once he took over. He really struggled earlier in the season when he subbed in for Kipnis, but appeared to figure it out in Columbus. Aviles, was another story. He looked pretty decent during his short stints at third, but at his true main position, short, he was worse than league replacement. That 417 OPS is absolutely dreadful. Sellers did admirably in his short stint.

Here is the rest of the AL Central:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

White Sox

267

297

401

698

93

Royals

282

313

373

686

92

Indians

255

309

374

683

96

Twins

253

299

374

674

89

Tigers

223

286

293

579

64

The White Sox "lead" here, mainly on the home runs generated by Alexei Ramirez. Basically, the AL Central is all bunched up, with the Indians actually tops at 96 wRC+. The exception is the Tigers, who were tied for dead last with the Yankees in OPS and just barely ahead of them in wRC+. Incidentally, only the Angels reached 100 wRC+ at this position.

The days of when shortstop were an offensively juggernaut, appear to be confined to that one era with Ripken, Jeter, Nomar, etc. Last season, as a whole, the AL dropped down to a 667 OPS. And Jeter was particularly putrid, 619 OPS. This position has not completely reverted to the days of yore either. Only the Royals and Blue Jays surpassed 30 SB, and the Rnagers and White Sox were the only teams to best 20 SB.

And now onto Fangraphs ...

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Cabrera

1.4

0.9

-6.9

2.3

-2.6

1.4

Ramirez

0.5

1.9

7.0

2.4

9.5

2.1

Aviles

-5.1

0.4

1.5

-4.7

2.1

-0.1

Sellers

-0.2

-0.4

-1.1

-0.6

-0.9

-0.1

Again, nothing too shocking here. Droobs was decent offensively, but pretty poor defensively.  Ramirez however shines in his short trial as the starter. He was not as proficient offensively, but he also had half of the accrual time as Droobs. But the difference at defensive is staggering. In half the playing time, he provided 50% more value. I can just imagine how much more Francisco Lindor will contribute was he gets here.

And again here is the rest of the AL Central:

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Royals

-5.5

6.2

2.2

0.8

9.7

3.4

Indians

-3.4

2.8

0.4

-0.6

8.0

3.3

Twins

-7.8

2.9

6.6

-4.9

13.7

3.2

White Sox

-5.6

4.4

-0.1

-1.3

7.3

3.1

Tigers

-24.1

2.2

-2.1

-22.0

5.3

0.3

As above, the division is very tightly contested. The Indians grade out as the best offensively and right in the middle defensively with just two months of Jose Ramirez out there. The Tigers were definitely the odd team out here, but that won't likely be an issue in 2015 as Suarez was dealt and Jose Iglesius should be recovered from his injury.

League wide, only the Angels netted a positive batting component (0.1). But adding in the baserunning component got both speed demon Blue Jays and Royals to the positive side of the ledger with the Angels. And from the defensive total only the Astros, Rangers, Tigers and Yankees finished negative. For the full WAR total, the Angels led the league at 4.3, with the Royals, Indians, Twins and White Sox at third, fourth and eighth. The Tigers finished fourteenth. The Yankees on the Jeter farewell tour were the only team to finish negative, at -1.2.

This position is pretty even across the board, with the top eight teams separated by just 1.2 WAR. The Indians should slide down offensively a bit, especially if Ramirez has a sophomore slump and/or Lindor struggles out of the gate. But the defensive upgrade by both Ramirez and Lindor both should more than make up the difference and even push towards the top of the league.

As we all know, it is not an if, but a when as far as Lindor goes. He will definitely start at Columbus. His promotion to Cleveland will depend on two things. One, his continued ability to hit pitching in AAA (he still had fewer than 200 plate appearances there) and how Jose Ramirez performs as an Indian. If Ramirez hits decently, Lindor may not be up until fairly late in the season. But if he comes back down to earth from his 2014 second half, Lindor could be up by June.

Of course, this position is far from bereft in the system. Erik Gonzalez posted a 780 OPS in AA/AAA last year. Yhoxian Medina had a 712 OPS in Carolina (although he is 24 already) and Yu-Cheng Chang had a 986 OPS in Arizona last year.