15. Browns G Joel Bitonio
Joel Bitonio is on a stellar course for his career. An interior lineman with quick hips and good strength will find himself being used to perfection in the new system Kevin Stefanski intends on implementing in Cleveland. The two-time Pro Bowler and one of the five best guards in all of the NFL will have no problem showing the league the depth of his true talents.
Besides Joe Thomas and possibly Alex Mack, Bitonio has been the Browns best linemen since returning to the league in 1999 and has become a staple and standout on a line that was, at best, maligned by inconsistent play in the 2019 season. He still helped Nick Chubb blow past defenses with a rushing average of 5.0 yards a carry.
14. Indians SP Shane Bieber
Sharing a surname, but not having any relation (that we know of) with troubled pop-star Justin Bieber can’t be easy. A little-heralded Indians prospect, Bieber made his debut with the club’s major league affiliate in 2018 and posted respectable rookie stats, winning 11 games and having a 4.55 ERA.
His follow up season saw even more winning and even better control of his pitches. He won another 15 games, while also dropping his ERA to 3.28, having three complete games and more than doubled his strikeouts from season to season (118 to 259). His 2019 All-Star selection and arrival as the heir-apparent ace of the staff made it easier (but not easy) to move on from the injured franchise icon, Corey Kluber.
13. Browns CB Denzel Ward
While Denzel Ward didn’t repeat his Pro Bowl success in his sophomore season, the Browns cornerback is one of the most vaunted young players on the team’s roster currently. Ward’s somewhat down 2019 doesn’t detour his rising star on the NFL’s national stage.
Ward is one of the few cornerstone pieces of the Browns and is an absolute necessity to the team’s continuing resurgence from the laughing-stock of the NFL to a viable playoff team on a consistent basis. His skill set isn’t just steeped in natural athleticism either, as Ward has shown to be a brilliant player with great technique who outworks his opposition in the film room, as well as on the field.
12. Indians 1B/DH Carlos Santana
Despite leaving once already, Carlos Santana has remained a beloved Cleveland Indians player to the city and its fanbase. Santana continues to be impressive at the plate, having a career year in 2019 at the age of 33.
He hit his best average for a full season (.281), tied for his most home runs (34) in a season, and posted a career-high 93 RBI’s for the year. He also went to his first All-Star game doing so rightfully as a member of the Cleveland Indians. His one year stint in Philadelphia should go down as a unique trivia question as Santana integrates back into the town for the remainder of his current contract and possibly the rest of his career.
11. Indians 3B Jose Ramirez
Former MVP candidate Jose Ramirez would have been higher on this list had he not followed up his stellar 2018 campaign with a maligned and disappointing first-half of his 2019 season. Ramirez couldn’t hit the broad side of a canyon wall, let alone a baseball for nearly three months in 2019 but he eventually battled back and finished with respectable numbers.
Despite a down year, the two-time All-Star is one of the most beloved players in an Indians uniform, and has shown not only consistent growth with the club but has also become someone the team values and intends to build around as one of its key blocks. That is if he actually plays the entire 2020 season and not just half of it.