After winning 80 games and finishing second in the AL Central in 2011, the Cleveland Indians fell to 68-94 and fourth place in the division in 2012. It marked the third time in four seasons that they won fewer than 70 games.
Cleveland is hoping that having a proven winner on the bench will make it a contender soon. Terry Francona won the World Series twice and posted a 744-552 record in eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox. While I don’t doubt his ability, it is clear that he had a lot more talent in Bean Town. The Indians have a low payroll and a farm system that isn’t producing. Getting the Tribe back up to snuff won’t be easy and won’t happen over night.
Carlos Santana (catcher) – Santana led the Indiana in home runs (18), walks (91) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (76) last season.
Nick Swisher (first base) – Swisher adds some much-needed power to a lineup that finished 25th in the majors in home runs (136) a year ago. He batted .272 with 24 round-trippers and 93 RBIs for the Yankees last season.
Jason Kipnis (second base) – Kipnis trailed off big time after the All-Star break but all in all showed well in his first full season. He batted .257 and tied for the team lead in RBIs.
Lonnie Chisenhall (third base) – The converted shortstop will finally get a chance to be the everyday third baseman now that Jack Hannahan is with the Cincinnati Reds.
Asdrubal Cabrera (shortstop) – Cabrera led AL shortstops in OPS (.765), slugging (.425) and finished second in home runs (16) despite another second-half slump.
Michael Brantley (left field) – Brantley batted .288 with 60 RBIs a season ago. He showed flashes of brilliance at the plate during 22-game and 13-game hitting streaks.
Michael Bourn (center field) – Bourn gives the Indians a two-time Gold Glove center fielder as well as a speedy top-of-the-order guy with 50-steal potential.
Drew Stubbs (right field) – Stubbs, who as elite defender in center field, will be a big upgrade defensively in right. He has some power-potential but strikes out way too much. He has been K’d at least 166 times each of the past three seasons.
Mark Reynolds (designated hitter) – Like Stubbs, Reynolds also strikes out way too much. However, Cleveland will be able to live with his K’s if he can hit 30 round-trippers and drive in 80-plus.
Justin Masterson (RHP) – Masterson must perform more like he did in 2011, when he went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA, for the Tribe to have any shot at contending. He was 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA last year.
Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP) – The Indians knew they weren’t getting the Jimenez that went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 2010 but hoped they were at least getting the Jimenez that went 12-12 with a 3.99 ERA in 2008. He finished 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA last season.
Brett Myers (RHP) – Myers hasn’t started since 2011 but has been a starter most of his career. He has reached double-digit wins six times in his career – the Indians would love to see him do it a seventh time in 2013.
Zach McAllister (RHP) – There are a number of guys competing for the last two spots in the rotation, but I believe McAllister has a solid chance to land one of them. He showed promise in 2012 by going 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA in 22 starts.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP) – Dice-K is coming off an ugly 2012 which saw him go 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA, but I believe he still has some good innings left in him. Plus, Francona will have more trust in Matsuzaka, who has won for him plenty of times before, than some of these other pitchers he’s not as familiar with.
4th Place AL Central – The additions of Bourn, Swisher and Reynolds should improve an offense that ranked 22nd in runs (667), but the jury is still out on a rotation that ranked 29th in the majors in ERA (4.78). We saw the Minnesota Twins win a division title without an elite pitcher in the rotation in 2010, but they were the exception, and those guys pitched out of their minds. You have to score a lot of runs to make up for lackluster pitching, and I don’t see this year’s Tribe having enough punch at the plate, even with the aforementioned additions.
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