Ready for Baseball: Column #1

The Indians have officially left for Goodyear, Arizona.  Well, at least their buses carrying all the equipment have.  The pitchers and catchers have until February 17th till they need to show up.  We’ve gone a long four-ish months without our beloved Tribe, and in that time we’ve seen the Browns become the most disorganized franchise in all of sports, witnessed the fall of Johnny Manziel, and watched the East-leading Cavs fire head coach David Blatt.  We need the stability of Indians baseball back in our lives.

The Indians once again will enter the season with high expectations, but certainly not the expectations of last season (remember when Sports Illustrated picked the Indians to win the World Series?).  This Indians team is poised to finally take back the AL Central crown that they have owned in seven different seasons, including the first five ever handed out.  Built from the rotation out, the Indians have three pitchers capable of earning Cy Young consideration.  You have Corey Kluber, a man who already owns one Cy Young award, coming off a season that saw him lead the AL in losses (mainly because of terrible runs support), yet still saw him finish ninth in the Cy Young voting.  There’s Carlos Carrasco, who has already been labeled the dark horse Cy Young candidate, coming off a season where he struck out 216 batters in just 183.2 innings, and who owns the best pitch in the MLB (his curveball, according to ESPN metrics).  Then you have Danny Salazar, who finally enjoyed his breakout season at the age of 25, and has the most potential out of any Indians pitcher.

But wait you say, what about the offense?  We need a right-handed power bat!  Well, have no fear, because the Indians brought in, wait for it, Mike Napoli?  We might have a problem here.  Wait a minute, did you say that Michael Brantley could be out until mid-May?  And we don’t have an average third basemen or centerfielder?  Thanks a lot, Dolans, I guess I’ll go support the Browns now.

Not so fast my beleaguered Cleveland friends.  The Indians still have Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Yan Gomes, and Carlos Santana.  It really isn’t as bad as you think. Mike Napoli still has some life left in his bat and is a major upgrade over Santana in the field.  Speaking of Carlos Santana, he will be the primary DH, where he can focus just on the hitting portion of his game.  Jason Kipnis, other than his injury plagued 2014 season, has put up consistent career numbers.  Francisco Lindor is a star in the making.  Yan Gomes will have a clean bill of health to start this season, and even Michael Brantley is hopeful he can return sometime in early April.  Yes, third base and centerfield are still holes in the lineup, but the front office has yet to rule out signing another free agent to fill one of those spots.

As for the rest of the AL Central, let’ just say it’s no cake walk.  The Kansas City Royals are the defending World Series Champs, and while they did lose Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist to free agency, they did bring back Alex Gordon and still possess the best defense and a top-3 bullpen.  The Minnesota Twins will get full seasons from both Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, plus they added Korean import, Byung Ho Park to give their lineup even more pop.  The Chicago White Sox still have Chris Sale and Jose Abreu, and now they have the Home Run Derby champ, Todd Frazier manning third base.  Meanwhile, the last-place Detroit Tigers might have the best offense in the AL with the addition of Justin Upton, not to mention the return of a healthy Miguel Cabrera, plus the addition of Jordan Zimmermann which strengthens a once (and still) weak rotation.

That’s all I got for this column, just a quick look at the upcoming baseball season.  You can and should expect me to put out a new column every week looking back on the Indians and baseball in general.  I have a lot planned for the upcoming season, including a full baseball preview, and updated version of my First Round Draft Success article, plus MLB power rankings every week once the season starts.

— Chris Sladoje (@The_Doje)

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