2015 Finish: (81-80)
Fangraphs Projection: 86-76 1st place
The Indians are all about young pitching. In many ways, the Indians are the Mets of the American League: a rotation loaded with, and carried by, young pitching. In 2014, the Indians had one of the worst team defenses in the league. All of that changed when shortstop Francisco Lindor joined the team in mid-season in 2015.
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Was the defensive improvement just a short sample artifact? Or has Cleveland legitimately improved at picking the ball? If they have, the Indians figure to be a formidable pitching and defense team. Adding Mike Napoli could be a big help here. While the 34-year-old former Red Sox catcher, who now plays first base, is a slightly below-average first sacker, he allows Indians manager Terry Francona to move the horrible Carlos Santana to DH.
The Indians suffered a serious blow to their goal of getting off to a strong start when the were forced to put OF Micheal Brantley, the team’s best player, on the the 15-day disabled list to open the season. While Brantley is expected to recover from his shoulder injury and play most of the season, a nagging injury to Cleveland’s best bat doesn’t help an offense that needs to score more runs than last season.
Veteran OF Will Venable will fill in in Brantley’s absence.
Closer: Cody Allen
- SS Francisco Lindor
- DH Carlos Santana
- 2B Jason Kipnis
- 1B Mike Napoli
- RF Lonnie Chisenhall
- C Yan Gomes
- LF Will Venable
- 3B Juan Uribe
- CF Rajai Davis
The Cleveland Indians season is likely to come down to how well the lineup can support their swing and miss starters. Veterans Uribe, Davis, and Napoli need to stabilize an offense that didn’t score enough runs last season.
The Indians are dangerous. Both PECOTA and Fangraphs project them to win the AL Central. If they put it all together, they could very well run down the defending champion Kansas City Royals.
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