Starting at catcher, we have Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez at backup. The Brazilian-born Gomes followed up his 2013 breakthrough campaign by shattering season-high totals on virtually every offensive category. Not only is he dangerous at the plate—he is a premier catcher. Those foolish enough to steal second on Gomes’s watch will almost always be caught.
Making his season debut in 2014 was Roberto Perez. I really wasn’t impressed with his offensive stats (only 23 hits on 85 at bats). However, there is a chance for improvement being that this is his first season. Also, he is equal to (if not better than) Yan Gomes when it comes to catching—sniping suckas trying to steal second base. This is probably the most set position on the team. I really have no worries about it.
You know who had an amazing season at first base and DH? Carlos Santana. After a snail-paced start to the year, Carlos erupted like Mt. Vesuvius, matching his career high in homeruns (27) and setting a career high in RBI (85). He also led the entire league with 113 walks. A lot of people criticize him for walking so much, but I am not one of those people. I admire his patience and I’d rather see him take a base than an out. Walks still get you on base, which, last time I checked, still equals one run when you send him home. For Carlos to be successful in 2015, he needs to come out swinging a hot bat and stay consistent from the get-go. This will be a good test for Santana. I believe in him, I am looking forward to 2015.
On to second base (yay!)... Jason Kipnis comes in as the de facto starter at second. I’ve seen what Kip can do during his career and it is wonderful. Unfortunately, he had some trouble showing his skills in 2014. An injury earlier in the season seemed to prevent him from ever gaining his proper form. It was a disappointing season for Jason, but I know he is a feisty competitor. (He once told off a fan for talking bad about the Indians. I salute you.) He will be looking to bounce back in 2015 and we should see the good ole Jason Kipnis that we know and love.
Shortstop is where things get really interesting. We have our best prospect waiting in Columbus to become our next shortstop. However… we have two great shortstops in Zach Walters and Jose Ramirez (and Mike Aviles filling in occasionally). Walters, coming from Washington late in the year for Asdrubal Cabrera, did not play at shortstop for the Indians (in fact, he barely played it for Washington). Despite being a great utility man, that is his natural position. When Walters came to Cleveland, he decided to be a power bat and fire off 7 homers in limited duty. This dude is something else in how he plays, and we got him for Asdrubal, who probably wasn’t going to re-sign with us anyway. What a steal. Say what you will about the Indians management—they always seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat when it comes to making trades.
Jose Ramirez is living proof that you don’t need to be an offensive powerhouse to succeed in the MLB (and even then managed to almost get a hit per game). At just 21 years of age, he is already establishing himself as a guy who plays that tricky shortstop position with ease. He isn’t fooled by balls taking a weird bounce and he manages to get so many guys out at first. I feel safe having him out there on the field; I don’t see any reason why things should be different going forward.
Lonnie Chisenhall emerged as our third baseman after a failed Carlos Santana experiment. He is another Indian who shattered his season-highs in every stat but had a major drawback in leading the team with 18 errors. That’s something that hurt the Tribe this year. However I’m confident he will improve at third base because he is still young and getting errors is something that can be corrected with enough practice. So long as he continues to produce offensively, there will be a spot on this team with Lonnie’s name on it. Quick sidenote, I met Lonnie in person this year and he is a really nice guy. I’m glad he’s with us.
Michael Bourn just can’t seem to stay healthy throughout the entire season. He’s getting paid a lot of money and I know he’s eager to show he’s worth it, but he just literally can’t because of injuries. Still, he played in 106 games and averaged more than a hit per game and seemed pretty steady on defense. His speed is so deadly out there and he often guns down a would be base hit. I like having Bourn out there and if he can stay healthy, he will be just fine. I know a lot of fans are disappointed with his contract (as well as Swisher’s) but we’ve got these guys for better or for worse. There’s still time to prove that it is for the better.
One of the big free agent signings last year was David Murphy. He produced outstanding offensive numbers during the first half of the season before cooling off. He’s a reliable option in the outfield and is a nice compliment to Bourn and Brantley. He drives pitchers crazy because he has that odd swing that manages to get hits when it seems like it ain’t gonna happen. We’ve got Papa Murph for another year and I’m sure we will see him continue proving his worth next season.
Almost done. At the end of the day, the 2014 Cleveland Indians failed to qualify for the playoffs. You can’t blame that solely on one reason but I can promise you that our chances will be so much higher with a high octane offense. We saw a handful of guys have breakthrough campaigns and saw plenty of regression from others. We need to have our offense clicking on all cylinders and I am in favor of pursuing a power bat in the offseason. Nelson Cruz signed with Baltimore for only $8 million dollars last year. That could easily have been us instead and I don’t want to see us miss out on such a powerful bat this time. We have no offensive player entering free agency this year other than Jason Giambi (who will probably retire) and Elliot Johnson (whom we designated for assignment early in the year anyway). It may not be a busy offseason for the Indians but don’t be surprised if they sign a big name or trade for one.