The AL Central produced two playoff teams in 2014. The Tigers won the division, but it was the Royals that made the most noise. They lost to the Giants in the World Series. The Indians were only three games out of the final Wild Card spot.
The Indians were quiet this offseason. Their only marquee acquisition was trading for Brandon Moss. They come into 2015 with nearly the same squad that went 85-77.
Can Cleveland starting rotation overachieve or will they be in trouble?
Here is the 2015 MLB season preview for the Cleveland Indians.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 85-77
Key Additions: 1B Brandon Moss, SP Gavin Floyd, SP Bruce Chen & RP Scott Downs
Key Losses: DH Jason Giambi
Interleague Schedule: NL Central
Projected Starters: Yan Gomes, Carlos Santna, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Brandon Moss & Nick Swisher
Projected Starting Rotation: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd & Danny Salazar
Closer: Cody Allen
Fantasy Sleeper: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall – He’s currently ranked as the #23 fantasy third baseman on ESPN. Third base is quite deep in fantasy this year, but Chisenhall was one of the best fantasy third baseman in the first half of the season. He struggled in the second half, but it’s not a huge red flag. He had 478 at-bats in 2014, nearly 200 more plate appearances he’s ever had in a season in the Majors. Chisenhall was once a highly-touted third base prospect. I believe he puts together a full season of production. He should end the year as a top-fifteen fantasy third baseman.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SS Francisco Lindor – Lindor is one of the top prospects in baseball. He finished last season in Triple-A and matched his Double-A production. He will probably only last a few months in Triple-A this season before being called-up. Jose Ramirez and Mike Aviles will both man shortstop for the Indians while Lindor gets a little more seasoning in the minors. He has low double-digit power and elite base-stealing ability.
Team Analysis: Terry Francona has worked his magic in Cleveland. In two seasons, he has lead the Indians to a 177-147 record. Neither team was touted as a playoff contender. They are getting attention now, but were very quiet this offseason. They basically have the same roster as last season except for the addition of Brandon Moss.
Michael Brantley was a nice surprise for the Indians last season. He came up in 2009 as a player with a high ceiling, but it took awhile for him to reach it. He has steadily improved each season. Can he improve on his 20/97/.327 season? It’s possible, but I think he maxed out. He’s only 27 years old, so he’s just now hitting his prime.
Cleveland should be able to score runs with ease this season, but their pitching staff needs to step up to win games. Corey Kluber is a legit ace, but the rest of the rotation is suspect at best. Carlos Carrasco is their #2 starter, but hasn’t had much success when starting an entire season. The remainder of the rotation, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd and Danny Salazer, all have issues either with control or staying healthy.
The AL Central is a difficult division to predict. We believe Detroit will win the division, but as far the rest, it’s a bit cluttered. Kansas City, Chicago and Cleveland are fighting for second place. Cleveland might not be able to hang with the improvements made by Chicago. Also, the playoff experience Kansas City earned last year could help them as the season progresses. The Indians will fall short of last year’s record, but will hang on in the race until late in the year. Their rotation won’t be able to keep up.
2015 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 85 (Prediction: UNDER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 79-83 (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.