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The IBI Awards: Most Surprising Player

Gomes a runaway pick for biggest surprise

The IBI Awards: Most Surprising Player
October 19, 2013
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The 2013 season proved quite successful for Cleveland as the team completed a 24-win turnaround and made the playoffs with a 92-70 record.

As a part of recapping the year that was, IBI is once again giving out some year-end awards. Unlike last year, we will be focusing only on Cleveland-centric awards. Today we unveil IBI's Most Surprising Player:

Rank

Name

Points

1

Yan Gomes

49.5

2

Corey Kluber

29.5

T-3

Scott Kazmir

28

T-3

Ubaldo Jimenez

28

5

Ryan Raburn

20

6

Danny Salazar

14

7

Jason Giambi

7

8

Jose Ramirez

5

T-9

Trevor Bauer

1

T-9

Vinnie Pestano

1

T-9

Justin Masterson

1

 

I doubt that many people looked at Cleveland's roster before the season and thought "this is a 92-win team." In order to reach that mark and make the playoffs it took multiple players exceeding expectations.

Personally, I voted for Gomes in the top spot. Gomes just edged Kazmir (who finished second for me) because we really had no idea that Gomes was going to be this good. The throw-in on the Esmil Rogers trade took over the catching job (possibly for good), finished second on the team in fWAR (3.7), and posted a .294/.345/.481 line.

I easily could have voted for Kazmir, Kluber, Jimenez, or Raburn (the rest of my top-five) as every one of them is a worthy selection. Really, there are no wrong choices.

Here's what the rest of IBI thinks:

Tony Lastoria:

1. Ubaldo Jimenez

2. Scott Kazmir

3. Danny Salazar

4. Yan Gomes

5. Ryan Raburn 

When the Indians signed Scott Kazmir last December, several people mocked the signing as yet another pickup off the scrap heap and more bargain bin shopping by the Indians (see here for yourself), but he went on to have an exceptional year and in line with some of his best seasons with the Rays. Danny Salazar came on in the in the minors this season and did more than anyone dreamed of there and in his major league debut this season with the Indians. Yan Gomes has the potential to go down as one of the all-time heists in a trade and went from a questionable major league option at the start of the season to a no-doubt major league starter and potential All-Star at the catcher position. Ryan Raburn bounced back from a horrific campaign with the Tigers in 2012 to have a much needed productive year with the Indians. 

But the biggest surprise of the year was Ubaldo Jimenez. If I would have told anyone going into the season that he would have the kind of year he had and finish the way he did I would have been admitted to a mental hospital. What he did is indeed that crazy and almost unbelievable, but he did it and we all got to witness it and ride him out to the playoffs. Whether or not his transformation is for real or just temporary so he gets his big contract and then morphs back into the player I loathed in 2012 remains to be seen. But he no doubt was the biggest surprise of the year. Wow. What a year and what a comeback.

Jim Pete:

1. Corey Kluber/Yan Gomes

3. Scott Kazmir

4. Ubaldo Jimenez

5. Ryan Raburn

Let's just get this out of the way. Danny Salazar isn't a surprise. With that said, Corey Kluber was the clear choice here, based on some very simple standards. First off, he wasn't a factor or a major league consideration prior to the year. As a matter of fact, most folks felt that the season would be gone if he were in the rotation. Instead, he grabbed hold of a spot in May, and was dominant. Only an injury kept him down. Combine that with the simple fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir were part of the rotation to start the year, in my opinion, makes Kluber the biggest surprise of the three. I'd actually put Gomes right up there with him, to be honest, because he was so good offensively, but even better behind the plate. If Gomes offense diminishes next year, he'll still be valuable as a defensive backstop.

Steve Orbanek:

1. Corey Kluber

2. Jason Giambi

3. Yan Gomes

4. Ryan Raburn

5. Ubaldo Jimenez

For me, this is a no-brainer. Many will point to guys like Yan Gomes or Ryan Raburn, but the reality is that a guy like Raburn had a track record of success and Gomes at least had a track record of minor league success. Corey Kluber entered this season with a career minor BB/9 rate of 3.6 and a career minor league ERA of 4.42. He had good stuff, but it appeared as if he was always unable to command it. For many, the general consensus was that Kluber was a sixth or seventh starter in the major leagues at best. However, the right-hander dispelled that notion this season after he posted a 3.85 ERA in 147.1 innings of work while striking out 8.3 batters per nine innings. At worst, Kluber now appears to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter with a chance of being something more.

Michael Hattery:

1. Yan Gomes

2. Corey Kluber

3. Ubaldo Jimenez

4. Ryan Raburn

5. Danny Salazar

When the Cleveland Indians acquired Yan Gomes for a middle reliever, I doubt they would tell you that they foresaw a 3.7 WAR player. Gomes was absolutely outstanding, even though his spring training was impressive, we had no idea what his ceiling could be. Little did we know that Gomes would supplant Santana as the everyday catcher by September. Leaving the bat for a moment, his defense, especially his ability to throw out runners, is shocking considering many thought he was an unfinished product behind the plate when we acquired him. Others stepped forward but Gomes was the most exciting.

Stephanie Metzger:

1. Danny Salazar

2. Yan Gomes

3. Ryan Raburn

4. Jason Giambi

5. Vinnie Pestano (Not in a good way)

The only reason Gomes isn’t ranked first here is because I selected him first for Best New Addition – and because I probably overvalue Danny Salazar more than anyone. I’d assumed Salazar might get a taste of Cleveland at some point this season, but I didn’t expect him to perform as well as he did. His major league debut left me speechless and wondering who this kid was – despite the fact I’d seen him pitch numerous times in Akron. The future is looking pretty darn good with this kid on the roster.

Jeff Ellis:

1. Ryan Raburn

2. Scott Kazmir

3. Yan Gomes

4. Danny Salazar

5. Jason Giambi

Jason Giambi was a guy that when he signed was joked about, but had one of the biggest hits of the year. Salazar started the year in Double-A and by the end of the year looked like the future #1 starter for the Indians. Yan Gomes was ticketed to Triple-A and instead made the team and looks like the future at catcher. Kazmir had not pitched in the majors in nearly two years and did so well he should get a two-year contract this offseason. None of this topped Raburn, who came off the scrap heap to have the highest wRC+ on the Indians. He came up with big hit after big hit for the Indians. He was a guy who was cut by the Tigers a year ago and had to come to camp with no guarantee.  He didn’t have the minors or majors success of the other guys on this list and he out performed them all.

Jake Dungan:

1. Yan Gomes

2. Corey Kluber

3. Scott Kazmir

4. Ubaldo Jimenez

5. Ryan Raburn

This was the toughest category to choose a winner. With the comeback of Scott Kazmir to the majors, the return of Ubaldo Jimenez back to ace status and the emergence of Corey Kluber as a dominant big league starter, it was a difficult decision. However, the honors have to go to Brazil’s first MLB representative, Yan Gomes. In addition to holding his own at the plate, Gomes has received praise for his handling of the pitching staff and threw out 41% of would-be base-stealers. Despite not making the team out of spring training, Gomes has made a case to take the starting catcher job next season.

Nathan Kemp:

1. Yan Gomes

2. Ubaldo Jimenez

3. Corey Kluber

4. Scott Kazmir

5. Trevor Bauer

Yan Gomes gets this one without question. While the starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise for the Indians, a lot of credit has to go to Gomes. He's been better than advertised behind the plate and a change in his swing has made him a two-way threat at what is normally an offensively-starved position. The Indians are lucky to have two well above-average hitting catchers.

Arthur Kinney:

1. Jose Ramirez

2. Ubaldo Jimenez

3. Danny Salazar

4. Yan Gomes

5. Corey Kluber

Jimenez may seem like an obvious choice for the top honor, but J-Ram's September was an absolute revelation. We knew the guy was good, but this good, this soon?  He may manage to skip Triple-A entirely. Salazar is obviously a candidate here too as he was good in enough in his rookie season (which he spent about half of in Triple-A) to get the start in a one-game, winner-take-all playoff contest.  While he may not exactly be Gene Bearden, he does seem to have a pretty bright future ahead of him in the Indians organization.  If Gomes can stabilize the post-Santana catching position like it looks he will, the Esmil Rogers trade will be Highway Robbery II (for those too young to remember, the original Highway Robbery trade was Willie Blair and Ed Taubensee to the Houston Astros for Dave Rohde and some guy named Kenny Lofton).  Kluber's unexpected positive effect on the Indians' rotation was chronicled earlier in the "Most Valuable Pitcher" section of my ballot.

Charlie Adams:

1. Yan Gomes

2. Ryan Raburn

3. Scott Kazmir

4. Ubaldo Jimenez

5. Corey Kluber

Yan Gomes, in about 45% of possible innings at catcher, has amassed more than three wins on the strength of an across-the-board game. He fields incredibly well, holds the run game down, and is no slouch with the bat or on the bases. He has fully displaced Carlos Santana as the starter and for good reason.

Michael Goodman:

1. Scott Kazmir

2. Corey Kluber

3. Ubaldo Jimenez

4. Yan Gomes

5. Justin Masterson 

What’s not a surprise is that this list is mostly made of pitchers. Kazmir’s comeback from baseball purgatory is the easy choice. Nobody expected 160 quality innings from him, much less the best K/BB ratio of his career. I’m giving Kluber the nod over Jimenez because we always knew how talented Jimenez was. His resurgence was less surprising than the emergence of Corey Kluber. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. It’s not a fluke either. Kluber has exceptional stuff and he’s a guy they’re going to be able to insert into the top of the rotation for years to come. Yan Gomes’ defense in particular was entirely surprising. While most didn’t think he’d be a great offensive player immediately, we knew he had power and could become a decent offensive catcher. We now know he’s much more than that. Masterson’s 2012 season is such a distant memory it almost makes you wonder why he’s on this list at all. 

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@kent.edu

User Comments

Hermie13
October 22, 2013 - 12:04 PM EDT
1. Corey Kluber
2. Scott Kazmir
3. Yan Gomes
4. Asdribal Cabrera
5. Vinnie Pestano


Only person I recall really talking up Kluber before this season was OhioBaseball. Was a big fan of him from what I remember...though not sure even he predicted this. Personally thought he was destined to eventually end up in the pen (stuff was legit, command wasn't). Boy was I (gladly) wrong. Scott Kazmir is second for me as while there was talk in spring of how good he looked, you had to be somewhat skeptical...plus didn't get off to the best start. And somehow his fastball velocity only increased as the season went on. Pretty amazing for a guy that hadn't pitched in nearly two years.

Yan Gomes comes in at 3....weren't there people in the Tribe orgnanization that said he was starting in AAA to work on his skills behind the plate? Man...if all it took was those couple weeks before Marson went down from him to go from a guy that needed more work to borderline All-Star then....wow.

I went Asdrubal Cabrera at 4. Seems everyone took "surprising" to mean a good kind of surprise. Personally was equally surprised with just how bad Cabrera looked. I know a lot of his numbers weren't that far off from 2012, but the spike in his strikeout rate and drop in walk rate really took me by surprise. Never been the biggest Asdrubal fan as most know, but I never thought he'd have a season this bad. Reports this winter were he came into camp in better shape too.

I went Pestano at 5. I know injuries played a part, but never thought he'd fall this far and be relegated to AAA.


If I was doing just the 5 positive surprises...Ubaldo would be #4 and Salazar would be 5.
Jake D.
October 19, 2013 - 2:21 PM EDT
I went with Gomes just because his impact and his outlook for the future came almost completely out of nowhere. However, Corey Kluber was still a close second for me. Even as his biggest supporter, I was stunned at his evolution this season into a dominant MLB starter.

The four starts that I think best emulate Kluber's season were:

1) April 28th when he made his first start of 2013 against KC and pitched seven innings of 2-run ball

2) June 11th against Texas when he pitched a shutout into the 8th inning in Texas to snap an 8-game losing streak

3) June 16 against Washington where he pitched eight shutout innings and had runners in scoring position four different times and didn't allow them to score.

4) August 5th against Detroit where he shut out the Tigers through 7.1 innings, but had his efforts spoiled by arguably Chris Perez's biggest blown save of the year.

The last one still intrigues me the most. We have no way of knowing how the season would've played out something had happened differently, but I still wonder how things would've gone for the Tribe if Perez hadn't blown that save.
Daingean
October 19, 2013 - 12:45 PM EDT
I am going to go with Gomes. He really upgraded the catching position and pitching staff. Now it will free the Indians to put Santana in a position where he can really excel (my opinion that would be RF).

Second I go Ubaldo because I didn't expect much. I think the combo of Calloway and Gomes were instrumental in Jiminez making the U turn.

Third I go with Raburn.
Walter
October 19, 2013 - 11:54 AM EDT
I meant surprising and valuable.
Walter
October 19, 2013 - 11:47 AM EDT
My most valuable is a tie between Kazmir and Jimenez. My reason remember back last off season everyone was wondering why the Indians were wasting there time by signing a player to minor league contract on player trying to resurrect his career. Tony stated at that time Kazmir was low risk and Indians just adding pitching depth. Well Kazmir turned out to be more than just pitching depth. A low risk turned into high reward in 13.

Remember many on this site wanted Jimenez gone from the rotation just as much getting rid of Perez as closer. At the beginning Jimenez was proving the critics right when he was horrible on home opener against the Yankees. Having high pitch counts and only last 5 innings per game...everyone wanting the Indians to DFA him.

Give credit to Francona and Calloway to stick with Ubaldo and the reward was Jimenez pitches a gem to get the Indians into the wildcard playoff game.
Roger
October 19, 2013 - 9:55 AM EDT
Tony I hope we get another surprise or two this coming season however 2013 performances should if not flashes in the pan prevent us from all these players and not the players listed but other surprises from being surprises in 2014. Hopefully most of these pics continue to perform well next year so the surprise years are substantually smaller in sheer numbers do to more established major leaguers on the team from the start.
Hiram
October 19, 2013 - 9:13 AM EDT
I can see where everyone is coming from but I would have to go with Kluber , Gomes and no one else. I say no one else because all the other players mentioned have produced at one point in time or another.

I would give Kluber a slight edge because he was nothing more than a spot starter that we were hoping he could fill in. Turned out that he became a #3 starter an could be our #2 starter next year. Clearly, the Indians don't make to the playoffs without his clutch pitching throughout the season. The key Start vs the Tigers where he dominated them(Pestano coughed it back up) and IMO, the most important start of the season when the Indians had lost like 8 in a row and it was Kluber that threw that game vs TX to win one game and then Indians took the 2nd game in May. Going forward Kluber looks like a guy who will win 15-17 games, pitch 220 innings and have an ERA of about 3.6.


This by no means is a slap in the face to Yan Gomes because without his Clutch hitting and throwing out baserunners, the Indians would be hardpressed to make playoffs(still not happy with his ability to block balls in dirt) . The difference is that it has been said the Indians had a feeling he was good player. It wasn't a coincidence they wanted him from Jays. Whereas, Kluber just came outta nowhere.


Safe to say that without either player the Indians don't make the playoffs
Jim
October 19, 2013 - 9:12 AM EDT
Yeah, it really depends on how you look at it. I never suspected Ubaldo would pitch this way again, and he did...big surprise. Still shaking my head.

I just look at Kluber and Gomes as guys that nobody in their right mind thought would have significant at bats or appearances (myself included), so the fact that Kluber was a significant starter, and Gomes was a starter at catcher (ahead of arguably our best offensive player) is why I ranked them ahead of guys like Kaz and Ubaldo.
Tony
October 19, 2013 - 9:01 AM EDT
Another interesting vote. I love this! Note, I did not see how everyone else voted until JP posted this. Just a wide range of opinions, and again, it is subjective as to what a "surprise" is. Hard to argue with any of these as Gomes, Kazmir, Jimenez, Raburn, Kluber and others were all surprises in their own right.

The way I looked at it is going from the year Jimenez had in 2012 to the year he had in 2013 was a pretty significant change and hence a big surprise which no one expected. I don't think any one player had a bounce back season (or season in general) to such a magnitude that affected the team more. Boy, did the Indians have several "surprise" seasons from guys....I don't know if that is a good thing or bad thing going forward.

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