The Cleveland Indians had a remarkable run in the playoffs last year. If the Chicago Cubs didn’t have Aroldis Chapman, the Indians would have taken home the title. The Cubs didn’t have another reliever that could hold off Cleveland’s hot bats.
The Indians added one of the league’s best power hitters this offseason. Edwin Encarnacion is icing on the cake since Cleveland already had a lethal batting order. This means Kipnis, Lindor and Brantley will see better pitches if Encarnacion is hitting behind them.
The Indians have some of their starters back after they began to fall like flies late last year. Will they run away with the AL Central or will the Tigers keep pace?
Here is the 2017 MLB season preview for the Cleveland Indians.
2016 Win/Loss Record: 94-67
Key Additions: DH Edwin Encarnacion, RP Boone Logan, 1B Chris Colabello, RP Steve Delabar, OF Austin Jackson, C Erik Kratz, SP Chris Narveson, SP Carlos Frias, RP Nick Goody, OF Wily Mo Pena & RP James Russell
Key Losses: 1B Mike Napoli, OF Coco Crisp, OF Rajai Davis, C Chris Gimenez & RP Austin Adams
Interleague Schedule: NL West
Projected Starters: Roberto Perez, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall & Edwin Encarnacion
Projected Starting Rotation: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer & Josh Tomlin
Closer: Cody Allen
Fantasy Sleeper: RP Cody Allen – How can a guy who saved 32 games last season and is currently penciled in as a team’s closer, be a sleeper? Millions of people saw Andrew Miller pitch extended, high pressure innings in the playoffs last season. If the Indians won the World Series, he would have been the reason. Miller is going to get drafted higher than Allen in your fantasy league. I honestly don’t think Miller will take the closer job from Allen. He’s too good at his current role of being the best setup man in the Majors. He can work an inning or two to keep a game tied or preserve the lead in the seventh and/or eighth innings. Allen will save a bunch of games and will be taken a round or two later than he should.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: OF Bradley Zimmer – I picked Zimmer as a prospect to watch last year and he only added to his impressive numbers. He jumped from Double-A to Triple-A and probably needs some more seasoning there. The Indians have some options in the outfield this year and Zimmer could be a late-season call-up. I think he could be a 20/20 guy in the Majors.
Team Analysis: The Indians were as close as you could possibly come to winning the World Series last year, but they fell short in extra innings. If just one ball bounced their way in Game 7, they would have been the team to end their championship drought.
I didn’t have high expectations for the Indians last year, but you can’t count out Terry Francona. The whole was definitely greater than the sum of their parts. They even had some really bad injuries to their starting rotation and they still went as far as they did. Reliever Andrew Miller was worth every prospect they sent to the Yankees. He was the true MVP of their team during their postseason run.
Cleveland didn’t change much from last season. They did add power hitter Edwin Encarnacion, which was a huge get for them. Also, the Royals and White Sox seemed to take a step back this season, so it’s really just a two-team race for the AL Central. Detroit is a tough team, but I have the Indians slightly winning the division.
2017 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 93 (Prediction: UNDER)
2017 Projected Win/Loss Record: 88-74 (1st 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.