30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Posted: March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

indians new logoIt’s been a long, strange last couple of years for Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona. The 2004 & 2007 World Series champion went from skipper of the league’s preseason favorite in 2011, to a member of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting booth in 2012, and finally to the dugout of Progressive Field in Cleveland in 2013. What a successful inaugural campaign it was for the former Phillies and Red Sox manager, as he led the Indians to a 92-70 record and their first postseason berth since he and the Red Sox dashed Cleveland’s pennant dreams in 2007.

A 24-game rebound from 2012 was enough to earn Francona AL Manager of the Year honors. A feat especially impressive when considering that Francona’s bullpen was taxed wildly over the course of the season behind an impressive yet raw rotation headlined by Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45). The righthander was followed up by Ubaldo Jimenez (13-9, 3.30), Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04), Corey Kluber (11-5, 3.85), and Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.75). With both Jimenez and Kazmir gone via free agency, the Indians will rely on talented youngsters Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12) and Carlos Carrasco (1-4, 6.75) to round out their rotation. Offseason signings Aaron Harang and Shaun Marcum, as well as young phenom Trevor Bauer will compete for spots in what should be one of the youngest rotations in the American League.

In the bullpen, Cleveland moved on from inconsistent closer Chris Perez. The righthander had some legal troubles arise during the 2013 season, and the team felt as though they were better off moving on without him. Replacing the former All Star is John Axford, who comes over from St. Louis after a couple of solid seasons closing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Offensively, the Indians are stronger than they have been since 2007. Catalysts like Michael Bourn (.263-6-50) and Michael Brantley (.284-10-73) return to the top of Cleveland’s lineup. Meanwhile, the heart of the order, including emerging infielder Jason Kipnis (.284-17-83), first baseman Nick Swisher (.246-22-63), and designated hitter Carlos Santana (.268-20-74) returns for more. The latter’s move from catcher to DH is critical, as he has been one of the worst defensive backstops in baseball since his emergence on the big club. He’ll be replaced behind the dish by Yan Gomes (.294-11-38), who, along with free agent singing David Murphy (.220-13-45) will be counted on to bring impact at bats to the bottom of the order.

Cleveland’s offense is good enough to compete with anyone in baseball, let alone a weak AL Central. With the only legitimate competition likely to come from Detroit and Kansas City, the Indians have to feel good about where they are, especially considering where they were just two seasons ago.

Key Acquisitions

OF David Murphy (Rangers)
OF Jeff Francoeur (Giants)
RHP Shaun Marcum (Mets)
RHP Aaron Harang (Mets)
RHP John Axford (Cardinals)
LHP Josh Outman (Rockies)

Key Departures

INF Mark Reynolds (Brewers)
OF Jason Kubel (Twins)
OF Drew Stubbs (Rockies)
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles)
LHP Scott Kazmir (Athletics)
RHP Chris Perez (Dodgers)
RHP Joe Smith (Angels)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

OF Michael Bourn – .264-6-47
1B Nick Swisher – .252-21-71
2B Jason Kipnis – .266-16-75
DH Carlos Santana – .252-20-79
OF Michael Brantley – .274-8-60
SS Asdrubal Cabrera – .261-15-68
OF David Murphy – .263-11-47
C Yan Gomes – .253-12-46
3B Lonnie Chisenhall – .258-13-47

RHP Justin Masterson – 11-11, 3.66
RHP Zach McAllister – 9-10, 4.13
RHP Corey Kluber – 10-9, 3.88
RHP Danny Salazar – 10-8, 3.56
RHP Carlos Carrasco – 5-6, 4.50

RHP John Axford – 3-3, 3.63, 24 sv.

Outlook

indiansCleveland’s success this season will be determined by their young and talented rotation. One should have confidence in their lineup to get at least equal production to their 2013 campaign if not better. Asdrubal Cabrera could reasonably expect a bounce back after his worst offensive season in years. Young corner-infielder Lonnie Chisenhall, meanwhile, has all the potential in the world but has yet to put it all together. But, the chances that the Indians return to the postseason hinge on the depth of a rotation that was surprisingly consistent despite not pitching late into games in 2013.

Kluber, Salazar, and McAllister were relatively unproven prior to 2013. They’ll need to show that their first successful campaign was not a fluke. If they can do that, and Francona can continue to get the most out of the Cleveland bullpen, then the Indians should be right in the AL Central race throughout the summer. Still, it doesn’t look like they’ll have enough in their rotation to overcome a very deep Detroit roster. Kansas City, with their youth and rotation depth, should also give the Indians a mighty fine fight for second place. Regardless, the Indians and skipper Terry Francona will once again be battling for a wild card spot. I foresee Cleveland winning between 83-89 games. They’ll be good enough to contend for the postseason. But, they’re still a little wet behind the ears on the mound for me to have confidence in their success in 2014.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s