Previewing the AL Central: Cleveland Indians
Mar 22, 2013; Gooodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Nick Swisher (33) smiles in the dugout before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Opening Day is a week away. I’ve been previewing the American League Central. A few days ago, I looked at the Chicago White Sox. Up next, the Cleveland Indians.
2012 Record: 68-94
Standing: Finished 4th in the AL Central.
Nick Swisher, OF; Michael Bourn, OF; Brett Myers, RHP; Mark Reynolds, IF; Drew Stubbs, OF; Mike Aviles, IF; Scott Kazmir, LHP; Jason Giambi, DH; Matt Capps, RHP; Trevor Bauer, RHP; Matt Albers, RHP; Terry Francona, Manager
Travis Hafner (Yankees), Grady Sizemore (Free Agent), Shin-Soo Choo (Reds), Jack Hannahan (Reds), Jason Donald (Reds), Casey Kotchman (Marlins)
The Indians had the most productive offseason in the division. With many needs to address in their lineup, they did it. Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher bring power to a lineup already headlined by Carlos Santana. Michael Bourn adds speed at the top and elite defense in centerfield. Mike Aviles should provide production as well. New manager Terry Francona has had success before, with two World Series rings in Boston to prove it. Is Cleveland ready to be the “Win-dians?” Not so fast. This team certainly has sleeper potential to play in October, but has some question marks. Similar to the Twins, the Indians feature a lineup with run potential, but a not very deep starting rotation. With the projected starting rotation featuring Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimnenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir, it is vital Cleveland provides plenty of run support. The bullpen should fare better with a healthy Chris Perez and new addition Matt Albers.
Who to watch for:
July 28, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley (23) against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Twins defeated the Indians 12-5. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brantley played to a .288/.348.402 in 2012. He is an extension candidate for the Indians, so he should be looking to prove he deserves a big pay day.
The gifted 22-year old prospect will start his season in AAA, but he should find his way to Cleveland’s starting rotation at some point in 2013. He boasts a career 3.00 ERA through two seasons in the minors, and only projects to get better.
Swisher comes to Cleveland with the opportunity to bat in their middle of the lineup and produce big time results. The Indians gave him a nice contract, will he hold up his end of the deal and produce?
Oct 2, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson (63) delivers in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Masterson is the ace of the staff. After finding success in 2011, he lost a step in 2012 going 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA. With a better lineup for support, can Masterson pitch like an ace?
Myers, a starter-turned reliever returns to starting this year for the Indians, slated as the #3 pitcher in the rotation. The Indians hope Myers can find the success he had with Houston in 2010, where he went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA before dropping off in 2011 going 7-14 4.46 ERA.
He makes the list as a former Twin. On a minor league contract, Capps has already been told this Spring he’ll start the season at AAA.
Can the Twins beat them?
The Indians and the Twins are arguably the two most comparable teams in the American League, maybe even all of baseball when looking at these 3 things:
1. Ugly 2012 season.
2. Promising lineup.
3. Questionable pitching.
I anticipate a near even season series.
2013 Predicted Finish: 4th Place, AL Central