AL Central Division: Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians started last year leading the American League Central division through 40 games with a 23-17 record. Through 81 games last year the Cleveland Indians were 42-39, being two ahead of the Detroit Tigers and two behind the Chicago White Sox. They were still in a good spot for the rest of the season and were a surprise team that could potentially win the division. They went on for the rest of the year only winning 26 games and losing 55 to finish in fourth place with a 68-94 record, only two games ahead of the pitiful Minnesota Twins.
They had some spurts were they were good but could not get consistent. Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Chris Perez were some bright spots of the club but they just didn’t have enough to take advantage of a weak AL Central. This year is going to be a different story. They have brought in some very good players that will make them a better team and a legitimate contender for the AL Central Title.
They came out this winter with one of the biggest moves of this offseason by hiring Terry Francona as their Manager. They then acquired Bret Myers, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds through free agency. They made a big trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Indians traded away RF Shin-Soo Choo with IF Jason Donald and acquired CF Drew Stubbs, the 3rd pick in the 2011 draft RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Matt Albers and RHP Bryan Shaw. Most recently, the Indians made a big splash and signed CF Michael Bourn who was a number three rated free agent during this offseason. Bourn and Stubbs give the Indians two more outfielders that can run very well on the base paths. Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley will also give the Indians a group of players that can wreak havoc in the running game.
This is the projected lineup that I believe would suit the Indians best.
1. CF – Michael Bourn – Hit .274 last year with 44 stolen bases. Arguably the best defensive CF in the league.
2. 2nd – Jason Kipnis – Has power and speed, will be able to get a lot of fastballs with Bourn on the base paths.
3. SS – Asdrubal Cabrera – Very good switch hitter that will benefit a lot from Bourn and Kipnis in front of him.
4. DH – Nick Swisher – Another switch hitter that shows some power, good arm in RF and can play 1st.
5. C – Carlos Santana – A below average arm behind the plate but makes up for it with the bat, yet another switch hitter in this lineup.
6. 1st – Mark Reynolds – Has a ton of raw power but won’t get on very much and will strike out a lot, has led the league 4 times in strikeouts.
7. LF – Michael Brantley – played CF last year and has good speed and great range.
8. 3rd – Lonnie Chisenhall – Will finally not have to split time at 3rd, young player with good potential.
9. RF – Drew Stubbs – Good defensive outfielder, struggled last year at the plate but has a lot of speed on the base paths.
This lineup will not have a great batting average but it has good mix and match of speed and power. Their ability to run the bases will get them in position so the big guys can hit them in. I expect them to finish 2nd in the AL Central with the player additions and a great coach. They will have a pretty good defensive team with Cabrera and Kipnis up the middle in the infield. Bourn, Stubbs and Brantley are very good defensive outfielders who usually play CF and then Swisher has a great arm to add to that. They will not have a problem no matter who they put in the outfield. Mike Aviles is another good addition that will be coming off the bench to play 3rd, SS or 2nd base. He can run and plays very good defense, will be a great guy to have for small ball when it is needed. I expect the Indians will be the second best team in the AL Central and will compete for the division title.