Home Ballpark: Progressive Field
2014 Finish: 85 – 77 · 3rd AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 81 · Over
What We Love:
- Power Arms and Rotation Depth: With as strong, and deep, of a starting rotation like Cleveland has, it’s no wonder they’ve been receiving so much preseason love and hype to make some BIG noise in the AL Central this season. Heading into 2014, it was the young flame throwing, Danny Salazar, who was garnering all of the preseason hype. By the season’s end, it would be another hard throwing righty that would be getting all of the press (and awards); Corey Kluber. Kluber, who came out of (seemingly) nowhere, went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 batters over 235 innings, on his way to edging out King Felix (Hernandez) and capturing the 2014 Cy Young Award. This season, Kluber will be (heavily) relied upon to anchor a starting rotation that has tremendous upside, but is also unproven. Even after optioning the highly talented Salazar to AAA, the Tribe (still) have a duo of hard throwing righties (Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer) that could be poised to take a big “next step” in 2015. Both Carrasco and Bauer, whom were (former) top pitching prospects for other teams before being acquired by the Tribe, set career highs in appearances, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, in 2014. Behind that trio of righties, the Indians rotation will be rounded out by the combo of LHP T.J House and RHP Zach McAllister. Meanwhile in AAA, the Indians have the aforementioned Danny Salazar, along with RHP Josh Tomlin, waiting in the wings.
- The emergence of Yan Gomes: As a Blue Jays fan, this is a very sore topic to discuss. Let me take you back to the days (2012) when the Blue Jays had too many young catching prospects (like that’s ever a bad thing!) in their farm system and ended up including the versatile Gomes, as a THROW IN nonetheless, in a trade for a pitcher (Esmil Rogers). In the two seasons since that trade, the Blue Jays have seen the likes of JP Arencibia, Josh Thole, Dioner Navarro, Henry Blanco, Mike Nickeas (who?) and now Russell Martin, play at least one game behind the dish for them. Meanwhile, the acquisition and emergence of Gomes as an everyday catcher in Cleveland, has allowed the Tribe to move the versatile Carlos Santana to other positions of offensive need (1B/3B/DH). Besides being an above average game caller and defender, Gomes has also proven that he is no slouch at the plate. In his two seasons in Cleveland, Gomes has hit for a .284 average with 32 HR and 112 RBI in 778 AB. Bat and glove aside, the most underrated aspect about Gomes is that he may be one of the best bargains in baseball, as he is locked up through 2020 on a 6yr/$23 million dollar deal. On behalf of Indians fans around the World… THANK YOU TORONTO!
- Potential of a Francisco Lindor sighting before seasons end.
- The likelihood of a BIG bounce back campaign by 2B Jason Kipnis.
- A full season of SS Jose Ramirez’s glove and wheels.
- Fading out Chief Wahoo for the more culturally sensitive “C” logo.
What We Hate:
- The (remaining) Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher Contracts: In the 2012 offseason, the notoriously tight pocketed Indians opened up their chequebooks and signed a pair of big name free agents to four year contracts. CF Michael Bourn was the recipient of a 4 yr/$48 million dollar deal, while 1B/OF Nick Swisher was brought in on a 4 year deal worth $56 million dollars. Now two seasons into those deals and it looks like the Indians wish they had the ability to get a mulligan on those two signings. Both players have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, and both are still owed a small fortune for the remaining two years of their contracts. Swisher, who has batted .231/30/105 in 909 AB in two seasons, is owed $30 million over the next two seasons ($15 mil per year). While Bourn, who is owed a remaining $27.5 million over the next two seasons, has hit .260/9/78 in 969 AB and has seen his stolen base numbers drastically decline (33 steals in two seasons) thanks to hamstring injuries. Besides getting a poor return on investment, the biggest issue with these two contracts is that it prevents a mid-market team like the Indians from making in-season moves to add depth to a position of need or replace an injured player. Not to mention that it prevents them from going out and splurging on the bigger free agents available. Imagine if the Tribe had the money this offseason to go out and sign one of the big name starting pitchers?
- Besides Cody Allen, bullpen could be trick or treat.
- Potential for some historically bad defensive numbers.
- Sandy Alomar Jr’s inability to find a role as a big league manager.
- Replacing Wesley Snipes with Omar Epps… like we wouldn’t notice.
Player to Watch: SP Trevor Bauer. It seems like it has been a lifetime since Bauer was drafted 3rd overall in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bauer, who was viewed as an extremely polished starter coming out of UCLA, cruised through the minors and wound up making four starts for the Diamondbacks in 2012. What seemed like a very bright future in the desert soon grew into a bitter relationship over Bauer’s unwillingness to alter his workout regime (long toss and stretching over weightlifting). The Diamondbacks viewed Bauer as “uncoachable,” quickly soured on him and flipped him for a 70% return rate (Didi Gregorious). Bauer, who is listed as 6’1, 190, modelled his delivery and mechanics off another lean and wiry starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong in this argument, what matters is that the Indians absolutely pilfered Bauer from the Diamondbacks. Last season marked Bauer’s first full season in the majors and he enjoyed a bit of an up and down season. Bauer made 26 starts for the Indians, went 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA and struck out 143 batters over 153 innings. Even with his win/loss record and ERA, there was more good than bad for Bauer in 2014 and there is no reason not to expect Bauer to take another big step forward in 2015.
Top Pitching Prospect: Justus Sheffield · LHP · MLB ETA: 2018
Top Positional Prospect: Francisco Lindor · SS · MLB ETA: 2015
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cle
Final Prediction: 1st AL Central