Did anyone see the Cleveland Indians making the playoffs last season? If you did, you were either on drugs or had too many Great Lakes Christmas Ales. We all knew the Detroit Tigers would win the division and Minnesota would be in the basement. The Indians, Royals and White Sox were all interchangeable. No team was expected to beat out any AL West or AL East team for a Wild-Card spot.
New manager Terry Francona had a chip on his shoulder for the way things ended in Boston. He turned things around in a hurry, but did things happen too fast?
Front offices get playoff drunk and make poor decisions. Once a team makes the playoffs after a drought, they assume they’ll be playing in October every year. If they fail to make the playoffs this season, would Francona be on the hot seat?
Can a starting rotation with Justin Masterson as their #1 starter, be taken seriously? Will John Axford last the entire season as their closer?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Cleveland Indians.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 92-70
Key Additions: OF David Murphy, 2B David Adams, RP, John Axford, RP Josh Outman, OF Jeff Francoeur, RP Matt Capps, 1B Bryan LaHair, SP Shaun Marcum & RP David Aardsma
Key Losses: SP Ubaldo Jimenez, RP Chris Perez, RP Joe Smith, RP Rich Hill, SP Scott Kazmir, OF Drew Stubbs & OF Jason Kubel
Interleague Schedule: NL West + Cincinnati Reds
Projected Starters: Yan Gomes, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, David Murphy & Carlos Santana
Projected Starting Rotation: Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber & Shaun Marcum
Closer: John Axford
Fantasy Sleeper: C Yan Gomes – In only 293 at-bats last season, Gomes had a slash line of 11/38/.294. Carlos Santana is now the everyday 1B/DH option, so that leaves Gomes as the everyday catcher. If he gets 550+ at-bats, I expect him to have a line near 19/70/.270. You can’t ignore those numbers. He would be a great #2 fantasy catcher option. He could even end up playing his way up to a starting catcher option in deep leagues. He has that kind of upside. The only risk is that he has never had more than 305 at-bats in a season in the minors. Fatigue could be an issue, but there’s no risk if you get him late.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SP Trevor Bauer – I’m getting tired of listing Trevor Bauer as a prospect. Cleveland doesn’t have any impact prospects ready for a call-up. I’ve had my eye on Bauer since he was drafted by Arizona. He looked like a potential ace, but has struggled in limited appearances in the Majors. Those struggles leaked into Triple-A last year. In 22 games started, he was 6-7 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.58 WHIP…yikes! He struggled with his control. He walked 73 batters in 121 innings. He has an amazing curveball and a fastball with great velocity. I still think he puts it all together soon. The Indians starting rotation isn’t great and if Bauer starts off the year hot, Cleveland will gladly give him a shot.
Team Analysis: No one saw Cleveland making the playoffs last season. I thought they were still a few years away, but Terry Francona worked his magic. Ubaldo Jimenez looked like his old self in the second-half and Scott Kazmir rejuvenated his career. They both bolted for bigger contracts and left the Indians with two glaring holes in their rotation. Cleveland didn’t sign any elite pitchers this offseason, so they are crossing their fingers that Corey Kluber and Shaun Marcum will fill in admirably. They also lost a few key bullpen pieces. Joe Smith and Chris Perez left via free agency and new closer John Axford hasn’t been good in two seasons. I don’t see the Indians repeating their 2013 success. The surprise players who overachieved to make Cleveland a playoff team are all gone. I love Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, but I’m not in love with the rest of the roster. Yan Gomes and possibly Michael Brantley could make a leap, but that’s it. You kind of know what the other guys will do. Cleveland is this year’s lead candidate to regress.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 80.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 75-87 (4th in AL Central)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.