In 2015 the Cleveland Indians had a recipe for what many thought would be a playoff run. The reigning Cy Young winner was at the helm of a good rotation in Corey Kluber, and one of the best managers in the game was running the show in Tito Francona. They had a rising star coming off a break out season in Michael Brantley, and an all around team that should have pushed deep into October. But some how, this team of "should be's" never fully hit their stride. They finished the year just barley above .500 with an 81-80 record (they lost a game to rain that was never made up), and ended up in third place behind the Twins and Royals. The team with tons of promise, turned out to be very ordinary. This year they are looking to add that little extra to go from ordinary to extrodinary!
This team has LOTS of good to talk about. Their pitching staff is tops in the Central, and maybe even the league. They have some big bats to worry about in the lineup, and they are managed by one of the best in the game. So where should we start?
This pitching staff is definitely the strongest part of the team. With the aformentioned Kluber coming off what has to be considered a disappointing season, you have to expect some form of bounce back. Regression works both ways (yes I get the paradox here), and it seems we always talk about a player regressing backwards. With Kluber you have to imagine he will regress "back" into his former self. Does this mean he goes out and adds another 20 win season with 200+ K's and a Cy Young…..maybe. Add in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and you may have the best 3 man rotation in the Central.
But then when you figure in that Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson both threw right around 3 ERA's last season, you get a pretty well rounded rotation. Add in Trevor Bauer to this mix, and you have 6 legit starters to choose from. This team will be loaded, but one down fall I see is that all of these guys are RHP's. As we all know the Royals have some pretty good hitters at the top of the division, and most of them are Lefties. So it will be interesting to see how these two teams stack up!
Hitting is a real sea-saw. It will either be way up, or way down. This team has the tools for a powerful offensive club, but will they be able to come through? Brantley will be the fulcrum that tips this sea-saw either upwards, or cause it to tilt down. Brantley had shoulder surgery this offseason, and is expected to miss some of the regular season as he recovers. Just how much will that be is yet to be determined. If it is a few weeks, then the notoriously slow starting Indians may be able to weather this storm with the likes of Wolf Mandible (also known as Will Venebal outside of my small group of Padres friends).
Venebal is a decent outfielder, and should be just fine as a replacement till Brantley gets back. His only down side is he isn't Brantley. With the addition of Juan Uribe Carlso Santana can also stop trying to play the field and can focus soley on DHing. This could really help both his team (due to a boost on defense) and himself (as he will not have the wear and tear of playing 100 games on the field). Where Uribe is a declining player, he still seems to find something every season that makes him worthy of staying in the line-up. A guy that really doesn't have to worry too much about this is Jason Kipnis, Indians 2nd baseman. He is still a force in the leadoff spot. This guy never seems to get out when he is playing the Central. With someone constantly on the basepaths, this team will surely score plenty of runs, baring the injury bug, or father time catching up to such players as Mike Napoli, Santana, and Uribe.
The Bullpen is decent for sure. They have Cody Allen shutting it down in the back end. And they have a great set-up man in Jeff Manship, but some of the other guys they have will likely force the starters to need to get through 7 if they want to avoid a weak spot on the team (this coming from the team that lead the A.L. in Complete games last year with 11). With Tom Gorzalany and Joba Chamberlin in camp, they are scraping the bottom of the barrel for relievers. It may be a stretch to say this is a bad part of the team (especially coming from a Royals Fan that has an embarrsment of riches in this cateogry) but bullpen depth has been highlighted as a must over the past few seasons, and thus a focal point for improvement on this team.
And boy is it ugly…This team was god aweful at defense in 2015. I think the old Bob Ucker line of "Well at least he didn't spike himself" was used multiple times in regards to plays made by this defense. As with many teams some times defense was overlooked if a player had a good bat. But unlike many of those teams they weren't moving catchers to corner infielders spots. So with additions like Rajai Davis patrolling centerfield, and second year guy Fransico Lindor, you have a solid middle. Even Catcher Jan Gomes is considered one of the best Running Game Defenders behind the dish. But he is very injury prone. So what happens if one of these guys goes down? It is right back to 2015 and underachieving all over again.
1. Jason Kipnis 2nd
2. Fransico Lindor SS
3. Micahel Brantley LF
4. Carlos Santana DH
5. Lonnie Chisenhall LF
6. Juan Uribe 3rd
7. Jan Gomes C
8. Mike Napoli 1st
9. Rajai Davis CF
1. Corey Kluber
2. Carlos Carasco
3. Danny Salazar
4. Josh Tomlin
5. Trevor Bauer/Cody Anderson
Closer: Cody Allen
This will be a better season for the Indians. But I think the team known for slow starts will probably have another one this season. With the pulse of thier offense on the DL for atleast two weeks (and that is the best case scenario) as well as missing an entire Spring Training, I think you see yet another April and May full of sputtering. Then June-September you will see the team that should have been the best in the Central. The problem will be the hole they dug themselves once again. This team is also one veteran injury away from some Tiger like problems. So my best guess for the Indians is 3rd place in the Central with an 84-78 record.
Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, I don't usually write about Spring Training games. Spring is a time of renewal; of pitchers stretching their arms out, and batters learning to see the ball again after a Winter of baseball-less discontent. Baseball games played in March are very easy ... Read more