2014 MLB Preview: Cleveland Indians
92-70 (2013, 2nd in AL Central)
Offense- Runs(5th) Batting Average (13th) On-Base%(7th) Slugging%(9rd)
Pitching- ERA(15th) Quality Starts(27th) WHIP(21st) Batting Average Against(11th)
Notable Additions: John Axford, Josh Outman, David Murphy, Marc Rzepczynski
They will win if: The team as a whole can stay healthy; The offense produces like it did last year; the bullpen can hold leads; either Aaron Harang or Shaun Marcum make an impact; Justin Masterson becomes an ace; John Axford can regain his form; Yan Gomes can handle being a full time catcher.
More Likely Result: Much like the White Sox, the Indians are also stuck in the middle of a transitional stage. They contended far longer than anyone thought they would last year, but haven’t replaced the talent they lost in the offseason and will be relying more on aging veterans and unproven rookies then they had to last year.
Projected Opening Day Lineup:
Michael Bourn, CF
Michael Brantley, LF
Nick Swisher, 1B
Carlos Santana, DH
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
David Murphy, RF
Yan Gomes, C
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Manager: Terry Francona (14th season, 2nd with Cleveland)
Player to Watch:
My pick is right handed fireballer Danny Salazar. Salazar had a call up last season and showed he has the stuff to stick in the big leagues. His high fastball and off-speed pitches had many experts comparing him to Justin Verlander. If Salazar has a good year, the Indians should feel very comfortable about their rotation going forward.
Yan Gomes showed flashes of the kind of player Cleveland hopes he can be with regular at-bats. This season he gets to prove he can handle it and puts up an impressive campaign for the Indians.
Cy Young Candidate:
Even with the emergence of Danny Salazar, Justin Masterson is still the ace of this staff. Expect another strong season from Masterson, setting himself up for a huge payday after the end of the season.
Bold Prediction: Danny Salazar finishes the season leading the Indians in most pitching categories. He also pitches the entire season at the MLB level and just misses out on 200 innings.
Playoff Odds: Cleveland defied odds last year and ended up making it into the playoffs only to lose to Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round. This year the Indians won’t be as lucky as they will come back down to Earth.
Manager Status: Francona's status with the Indians is secure this year. After exceeding expectations last year the Indians will be under pressure to repeat last years results. But with Francona in only his second year with the team; any setbacks won't impact his status as manager.
Expected Finish: 3rd Place