The Indians made a serious overhaul this off season trading away one of their best players in Shin-Soo Choo. The return seems like a legitimate win for the tribe. Though Trevor Bauer is still considered a prospect, I fully expect him to become the staff ace in short time. A few bargain signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and this team will be one of the most improved teams of the year.
Feb 19, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) poses for a picture during photo day at the Indians Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The rotation has guys that have shown success in the past. If they are going to win more than 80 games this year, all those guys are going to have to exceed the expectations we have of them, including Bauer. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are going to have to do a better job at finding the strike zone. Brett Meyers will return to starting and should be a serviceable arm. Zach McAllister was the best starter on the team last year, which isn’t saying much. And Bauer should be able to find a spot as the 5th starter. These are better options than what we saw Cleveland trot out there last year, though they aren’t options that carry a team to October baseball.
I still rue the day the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. Honestly, it opened up the door for A.J. Ellis, who was a more valuable overall catcher last year. Santana has a few more years behind the plate before Cleveland decides he is too big and too good of a hitter to keep him there. Eventually he will move to 1B/DH permanently similar to the way Victor Martinez was transitioned off of catcher.
Feb 22, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana (41) follows through on a swing during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Bourn, Santana, and Swisher will lead the offense. One thing is for certain, most of this roster knows how to get on base. They aren’t real deep after the starting 9, but if they can stay healthy this team has a real shot at playing better than .500. Many people feel that the Indians have a legitimate opportunity to be the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs in 2013 similar to the 2012 Orioles and A’s. If you recall, both teams overplayed their respected pythags last year and won way more games (90+) than we all expected. I don’t see that happening for the tribe.
In projecting win totals, I rate a team as a 70, 80, or 90 win team. If you win more than your projection, you had a healthy team that played really well. The opposite is true when your win total is less than your projection. After stating that I rate teams as 70, 80, or 90, the Indians are somewhere between that 70 and 80, maybe close to 75. I really think Tito Francona can make the difference in those 5-10 wins. I’m guessing they take second place in the central with 82 wins. This isn’t a strong division and there aren’t many people who think that the Tigers aren’t going to win the Central.
Feb 19, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians managerTerry Francona
(17) poses for a picture during photo day at the Indians Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports