The upcoming season is filled with optimism at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. After locking down a third consecutive winning season in 2015, the Indians hope to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
With an experienced manager in Terry Francona, a formidable pitching staff led by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, and a relatively experienced roster, the Tribe has the potential to be playing into October. Of course, it seems like there was just as much optimism about the last two seasons. Remember when the Indians were supposed to win the World Series? Thanks, Sports Illustrated.
Projected Opening Day Lineup:
- CF Rajai Davis
- 2B Jason Kipnis
- SS Francisco Lindor
- 1B Mike Napoli
- DH Carlos Santana
- C Yan Gomes
- RF Marlon Byrd
- 3B Juan Uribe
- CF Collin Cowgill
Projected Pitching Staff:
- Corey Kluber
- Carlos Carrasco
- Danny Salazar
- Cody Anderson
- Josh Tomlin
- Joba Chamberlain
- Trevor Bauer
- Zach McCallister
- Dan Otero
- Ross Detwiler
- Jeff Manship
- Setup Man: Bryan Shaw
- Closer: Cody Allen
Why the Indians Will Make the Playoffs:
If you have read anything about the Indians in the off-season, you have probably been told how great the starting rotation is going to be, and there is good reason for that. Fangraphs’ ZiPS Projection pegs all of the front three starters – Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar – for an ERA below 3.5. Meanwhile, the support behind that trio is not anything to scoff at. Cody Anderson showed promise last year, going 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie. Even Josh Tomlin, who has seen his fair share of ups and downs in his time in Cleveland, impressed last season with a 7-2 record to go along with a 3.02 ERA.
The bullpen, while not quite as prolific as the starting rotation, should do just fine. The ‘pen will once again be anchored by the duo of Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen. Allen was a reliable closer once again last year, posting a 2.99 ERA with 34 saves, while Shaw put up a 2.95 ERA in his 74 appearances.
If the pitching staff can perform to the level it has in the past, the offense will be able to hold its own. The lineup does not possess any top-tier sluggers, but it has depth. Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, Marlon Byrd, and maybe even Francisco Lindor possess 20-home-run potential, so there may not be a need for a single guy that pumps out 35+ dingers per year.
If the offense is able to hold its own, the pitching staff should lead the way to October.
Why the Indians Won’t Make the Playoffs:
The pitching staff underperforms and the offense is unable to carry the load.
As stated above, the offense is projected to be relatively average. While there are some solid hitters sprinkled around the Tribe’s lineup, there are certainly a lot of question marks:
- Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli are both aging, yet are both expected to produce as key members of the offense.
- The outfield is currently being occupied by Davis, Collin Cowgill, Tyler Naquin and Marlon Byrd, none of whom are predictable in what they are going to bring to the table to start the year.
- Sure, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall are both expected to return to the outfield within the month, but starting off the year on a good note is a key for this Indians team, especially after digging themselves in a 10-19 hole early last season.
- Francisco Lindor could likely regress. His 2015 numbers were significantly better than anything he did in the minors.
While things could absolutely change throughout the season, this lineup looks like it will need to lean on the shoulder of a strong rotation for the Indians to go anywhere in the postseason.
Let’s get to the fun part. Below is a compiled chart of what the brilliant experts here at CST have projected for 2016 Indians. Proceed with caution.
By Jay Cannon