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8. Carlos Carrasco

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Talk about a weird season.  Banished to the bullpen after posting a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts, Carrasco rose from the dead on August 10.  In 10 starts to end the season, Carrasco posted a 1.30 ERA in 69.0 innings, to go along with 78 strikeouts.  So why does he only rank 8th on this list?  Prior to his magical 2014 season, Carrasco, in his first four MLB seasons, posted a record of 11-19, with a 5.29 ERA and a WAR of -0.4.  Did he finally turn his electric high 90s fastball into starter material or was this just a blip in the radar?  Helping his case is the fact that Carrasco still has three years of team control left, albeit 3 arbitration years, and is still in his prime years, at the age of 28.

7. Danny Salazar

Salazar-Split

“Oh, we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher”.  Salazar has electric stuff, high 90s fastball, knee-buckling curve, windmill inducing splitter (shown above).  His stuff is so good, Terry Francona trusted him enough to give him the start in the 2013 AL Wild Card Game.  Danny’s problem is location.  Sure, he can strike you out on three straight pitches, or he will leave you a high one and you can practice your jog around the bases.  However, there is not a single team that wouldn’t want the potential of Salazar in their rotation.  Under team control until 2019 and still at the young age of 25, a strong season in 2015 would put Salazar at the top of this list.

6. Francisco Lindor

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The Indians have finally found the heir apparent to Omar Vizquel, 10 years later!  Lindor will most likely start the year at Triple-A to gain more experience, and to hold him off on his arbitration years.  If the Indians were to ever pull a trade for a Giancarlo Stanton or a Yasiel Puig, Lindor would be the first player to go.

5. Carlos Santana

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What Carlos Santana lacks on the baseball diamond, he makes up for on Twitter, seriously, if you don’t follow him, you’re really missing out.  Santana was in danger of falling off this list back in May, when he trudged out to a .159 batting average through the first two months of the season.  Luckily for Santana, this list, and the Indians, from June 6th on, Santana batted .266 with 21 home runs and 66 RBIs.  Santana batted just .231 for the season, but made up for it with a MLB-leading 113 walks.  With his above-average power and excellent walk rate, Santana is an extremely valuable commodity in an age where offense is down.  Still in his prime at 29 years old, Santana has two years and $14.3 million left on his contract, not to mention a team option for 2017 at $12 million.

4. Jason Kipnis

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Coming off an All-Star 2013 season, Kipnis signed a 6-year, $52.5 million contract with a team option for 2020.  Needless to say, Kipnis will be in an Indians uniform for a long time.  However, things didn’t go according to plan in 2014.  A slow start to the season was made worse by an oblique injury that forced Kipnis on the DL for a month.  Kipnis never got things going once he returned, as he batted just .240 on the season.  His on-base percentage dropped from .366 in 2013 to .310 in 2014.  Same for his power, after hitting a career high 17 home runs in 2013, Kipnis managed just 6 long balls in 2014.  Even with a (very) disappointing 2014 season, Kipnis remains one of the top second basemen in the AL.  Kipnis is still in his prime at 28, and has a very friendly contract.  If the Indians ever shopped him, they would get a hefty return.

3. Yan Gomes

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Mark it down now, Yan Gomes will be an All-Star in 2015.  Gomes plays the most premium position in the league, and plays it about as well as anyone in the league.  Gomes’ WAR of 4.4 has him as the highest rated catcher in the AL and the 4th rated catcher in the MLB.  Gomes is one of the few all-around catchers, able to gun down a would be base runner in the blink of an eye, and able to hit towering home runs with a single swing.  Oh, and did I mention that the Indians signed Gomes to a six year, $23 million contract during Spring Training in 2014?  He also has two team options that could keep him with the Tribe until 2021.  Gomes has arguably the highest trade value of any catcher in the MLB, and it would take an embarrassment of riches to pry him from the Tribe.

2. Michael Brantley

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The Indians perhaps had the best signing of the 2014 off season, when they signed Michael Brantley to a four year, $25 million contract extension with a team option for 2018.  A career .277 hitter, Brantley tried a different training method over the summer, which he said gave him more power.  It obviously worked, as Brantley hit a career high 20 home runs.  It wasn’t just his power that improved. Brantley had a career year in nearly every offensive category. He ranked in the top 10 in the following: WAR, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, Runs, Hits, Total bases, and doubles.  Indians fans just witnessed one of the greatest seasons by a player in the team’s storied history.  If the Indians were to trade Brantley, there are about two players that they probably wouldn’t get for him, Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw.  Considering Brantley has just entered his prime, and is on one of the most team friendly contracts in the league, he definitely earned his #2 ranking, and would have been #1 if not for…

1. Corey Kluber

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“In the Year of Darkness, 2029, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the Future by changing the Past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created ‘THE KLUBOT’.”  CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Bartolo Colon all bow down to Corey Kluber.  With a WAR of 7.4, only Clayton Kershaw rated higher in 2014.  Though not official as of 10/30, I’m going to assume that Kluber is your 2014 CY Young winner.  Kluber’s stats are amazing: 18-9, 2.44 ERA, 235.2 innings, 269 strikeouts.  All that, and Kluber hasn’t even reached his arbitration years yet, meaning he is under team control until 2019.  Controllable Ace pitchers don’t grow on trees, which is why Corey Kluber takes the #1 spot.

–Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)

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