In a season that was highlighted by a 22 game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians finished first in the Al Central, first in the American league and second in the MLB with a record of 102-60. The second place Minnesota Twins made the playoffs, but were 17 games back of the Tribe! The Indians were upset in the ALDS by the New York Yankees. But, with Carlos Santana and others facing free agency, the Indians had to make some moves. Let\’s take a look at what they did this offseason.
Notable additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, 2B Rob Refsnyder, 1B Mike Napoli, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Matt Belisle, OF Melvin Upton Jr., OF Brandon Barnes, C Ryan Hanigan. RHP Carlos Torres, RHP Neil Ramirez, LHP Adam Wilk.
Notable subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, RF Jay Bruce, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan, RHP Joe Smith. LHP Kyle Crockett.
What they did well: They added some okay outfielders in Davis and Upton to minor league deals, plus Belisle, last year\’s Twins closer.
What they did bad: They didn\’t upgrade at first with the loss of Santana. With Eric Hosmer being the only other first baseman better than Santana out there, it was hard to do. Alonso could be their first baseman or backup.
Sneaky Sleeper: With Jose Ramirez officially graduating from sleeper school, it\’s time for another player to go here. That will be Nick Goody, who was pretty good-ee in 2017. Goody had a 2.80 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. Opponents hit just .198 against him. Unless you are an Indians fan, or a Yankees fan like me (Goody was mediocre in 34.2 innings with the Yanks), you might not have heard of Goody. But, he is pretty Goody.
Incoming outbreak: Baseball\’s top catching prospect, Fransisco Mejia was a September call-up, and went two-for-13. He could get the starting catching job, if he can beat out Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. Mejia will get it, I\’m sure of it.
Unsuspected slump: With another year with an ERA over 4.00, Trevor Bauer failed to breakout again. At age 27, I don\’t think he\’ll be anything better than a 4th starter in his career.
Blue-chip Bopper: In my opinion, Mr. Smile, Fransisco Lindor is baseball\’s best shortstop. In 2017, his OBP dropped from .358 in 2016 to .337, but he hit 33 homers after hitting 15 the season before. Thus, his slugging percentage rose 70 points, up to .505. Expect another great year from Lindor.
Astounding ace: the AL Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber was insane in his second Cy Young winning year. He had a 2.25 ERA with 265 strikeouts in 203.2 innings. Opponents hit just .193 against him, And he walked just 36 batters. He also reached 18 wins for the third time in his career.
Here is the Indians projected roster, starting with their lineup.
CF Bradley Zimmer (L)
3B Jose Ramirez (S)
SS Fransisco Lindor (S)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
2B Jason Kipnis (L)
LF Michael Brantley (L)
1B Yonder Alonso (L)
C Fransisco Mejia (S)
RF Lonnie Chisenhall (L)
Here\’s their rotation.
RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Carlos Carrasco
RHP Danny Salazar
RHP Trevor Bauer
RHP Mike Clevinger
Cody Allen (R) is their closer, with Andrew Miller (L), Nick Goody (R), Tyler Olsen (L), Matt Belisle (R), Zach McAllister (R), Josh Tomlin (R) and Dan Otero (R) in the bullpen as well.
1B Mike Napoli (R), C Yan Gomes (R), 3B Giovanny Urshela (R), OF Tyler Naquin (L), and OF Brandon Guyer (R) are on the bench.
Finally, for my prediction, the Indians, a really good team in a really bad division, willl make the playoffs in 2018.