The Cleveland Indians are a team that has been a bit of an enigma over the past few years, mostly due to their elite starting pitching. However, they have only been able to make the postseason once (2013), and it was a one game stay as they lost to the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field in the A.L. Wild Card game. Here is my preview of the Indians for 2016:
In my opinion, the Indians have the best starting five in the American League, and the second best rotation in the majors behind the New York Mets. There isn’t a weak spot in the rotation, which is led by ace Corey Kluber. Kluber is a Cy Young caliber pitcher, with elite stuff. Carlos Carrasco is another good arm for the Indians, who won 14 games and had 216 strikeouts in 2015. Danny Salazar may have the best fastball of the bunch, as he can reach triple-digits. Trevor Bauer can be a bit frustrating, but he is another starter that will produce. Cody Anderson came up last season and won seven games, and should improve in 2016.
Cody Allen had a solid 2015 season for the Tribe, as he went 34 for 38 in the save department. The rest of the bullpen will be a lot of “mix and match”, however there are many options for the Indians. Tommy Hunter (new offseason acquisition), Zach McAllister, among several others will play key roles for the Indians bullpen. Keep in mind the fact that Indians manager Terry Francona likes to use a lot of pitchers, with some just facing one hitter.
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This is where the Indians are bit lacking. The teams star player, left fielder Michael Brantley is going to miss significant time with an injury to start the year. Another major issue is that projected starting center fielder Abraham Almonte failed a drug test meaning he will miss the first 80 games of the season. This is going to make the outfield a major weakness in the beginning of the season.
The infield is pretty good, however it doesn’t hit for much power. With Juan Uribe at third, the Indians will get very good defense but not a whole lot of offense. Francisco Lindor is a very talented shortstop, however very young. It should be interesting to see how he plays in 2016. If he plays up to his potential, he should be one of the better shortstops in the game. The right side of the infield is better, with Jason Kipnis holding down second base. Kipnis is among the best second basemen in all of baseball, and he and Lindor could end up becoming an excellent tandem up the middle. At first, both Mike Napoli (new addition) and Carlos Santana should provide a good amount of power. Yan Gomes is one of the best catchers in the game, and should provide stability behind the plate.
The Indians have the capability to win the division, assuming they hit. A lot of baseball is staring pitching, as any team cannot create any momentum without a good starter heading to the mound the following day. It should be interesting to see how they come out of the gate, due to the key players they have missing. If they start strong, it is very possible that they play in the postseason. I want to see if Terry Francona is capable of creating a lineup that can score runs with Brantley out. He is one of the best managers in the game, and he might be able to help the Tribe get a win or two early if he uses his roster correctly. Besides Francona’s managerial ability or how they hit, it will be their starting pitching that carries them. If their starting five pitch up to their capability, expect them to be in the race. If not, expect a long season in Cleveland.