Rounding out the top of the rotation is Corey Kluber (a 2014 Cy Young Award winner) and Carlos Carrasco. It does not get much more consistent than these two. Both are strike-throwing machines, minimize the longball, and keep the Indians in every single game they play. I’m really not concerned with these two guys; we just need to give them the proper run support and we’ll win most of the games they start. The third starter is Danny Salazar. Last season was a huge step in the right direction for the Dominican fireballer. His stuff is absolutely devastating to opposing batters. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable and racks up the K’s. I think this season he cements himself as a legitimate starter and solidifies his control and consistency.
At number five is Josh Tomlin, who has been our on-again off-again fifth starter since 2010. To me, it seemed like Tomlin played the best baseball of his major league career last season. We thought he plateaued as a reliable fifth starter, but perhaps there’s more to him than that. He averaged less than 4.00 earned runs last season, the first time he’s ever done so. In his ten starts, he totaled seven wins, two losses, and one no-decision. And it’s not like he’s old, either. At 31, he’s right around the “prime” for a pitcher.
Overall, the starting pitching seems to be exceptional on paper. With Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar giving opponents nightmares and solid production from Anderson and Tomlin, the Indians should not have a ton of runs scored on them. The key here is for us to score, these guys will handle the rest.
This season, there are some new faces in the pen, most notably Trevor Bauer, who was a starting pitcher last season. Bauer has struggled to live up to his expectations since being acquired in a blockbuster trade in 2012. He just hasn’t seemed to find his footing in the majors; perhaps a stint in the bullpen as a long reliever could help him out. He can go through stretches of solid baseball, but he is often victimized by opposing batters. The Indians are nowhere near done with Trevor Bauer—it’s just time to see if his assets are better suited elsewhere.
The other notable new guy is Joba Chamberlain. Forever known as the guy assaulted by bugs at Progressive Field, Joba is trying to regain the dominance he had with the New York Yankees. He’s a reclamation project, but should still at least provide quality pitching depth in the bullpen. Ross Detwiler is another reclamation project looking to regain the form he had with the Washington Nationals. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway has a knack for finding the best in pitchers, so I’m hopeful that Joba and Ross can at least contribute if they don’t regain their forms.
Now, let’s shift to our batters. Last season, we lost a ton of low-scoring games. We struggled mightily in getting runs, played undisciplined baseball, and could not bail out our starting pitchers from acquiring losses. Then, something occurred that sort of jump-started the offensive life in the Indians. We traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and the team seemed to react positively to it. Runs were being scored! Strikeouts were avoided! It seemed like that was the boost the Indians needed; however at that point, it was too late to make a run for the playoffs.
Two other things hindered the Indians early on. First off, it was a horrible start to the season as the Indians went 7-14 in April (only two wins at home). One month doesn’t define a season, but you don’t want to be playing catch up that early. Secondly, the Indians waited too long to call up Francisco Lindor. Jose Ramirez was struggling trying to hold down the shortstop position and Lindor was more than able to play in the majors when he was called up. Had we brought him up earlier, perhaps we could have won some more of those early games.
The outfield is in an interesting state. Tyler Naquin made the 25 man roster, the first time a rookie made the team from Spring Training in I don’t know how long. Naquin scorched pitchers in Spring Training and was rewarded with a chance to make it in the big leagues at center field. He’s the ace up our sleeve here. I keep stressing how much we need a fast start in April and Naquin could be the push we need to get over the bump. I know that’s asking a lot for a rookie, but if Naquin plays as advertised, we’ll be in great shape.
I’m not sure exactly how long Michael Brantley is going to be out. Probably not too long, but it’s best to play it safe with him. We need Michael back at full strength. He’s the face of our offense and is a tremendous outfielder. We just need to hold it down until he returns. I’m also curious to see if Lonnie Chisenhall can build upon his success as an outfielder. After struggling at third base, Lonnie was fielding balls like a gold glover in the outfield. We also have Collin Cowgill. I’ll admit I don’t know a ton about him. I know he’s versatile in all outfield positions. He definitely seems more of a defensive rather than offensive player, and that’s ok. We’ll see where can fit in with us.
It’s a fresh start now. We’re starting the season off with a slightly retooled roster. This team is not an offensive powerhouse by any means; however we have good offensive-minded players. It seems like this squad should be more offensive than last season. As I’ve mentioned before, the key here is for everyone to be on the same page. Some nights we’ll see guys like Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli struggle, so we’re going to need strong contributions from the other guys. If we get off to a hot start in April, play smart baseball, and win the close games, I don’t see why we can’t be in the playoffs in 2016. Kansas City is favored to take our division again, and it’s a tall order to take it from them. But as a wildcard? I think we can do it. Our pitching will carry us, and we just need our offense to come through. I’m excited to see how this season unfolds.