Cleveland (93-69) finished in 2nd place in the AL Central 8 games back of 1st place Minnesota. The next closest team in the division was 28½ games out of first place in the White Sox. It gets worse from there with KC 42 games back and Detroit a whopping 53½ games behind the Twins. You would think 93 wins would have got Cleveland into the playoffs but it didn’t.
Oakland (97-65) & Tampa Bay (96-66) were awarded the two wildcards in the American League with Cleveland falling three-games short. I am sure they will be motivated to get back this season after falling short with such a good record.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
SS Francisco Lindor (This 26-year-old is already a star and is 6 for 11 this spring already. He is the top-ranked fantasy shortstop and 5th overall ranked player by ESPN in baseball. What else do you need to know? Not too many leadoff hitters drill 32 homers while doing everything else a leadoff guy is supposed to do)
OF Oscar Mercado (Oscar was called up in May and after a hot June when he hit .347 with 3 home runs, 13 rbi’s, scored 15 runs and stole 4 bases in 95 at-bats, it was enough to keep him around the rest of the season and earn him the starting job in 2020. He ended up with 15 homers on the season while batting .269)
1B Carlos Santana (Coming back to Cleveland has worked out well for Carlos. He set career-highs in batting average (.281), rbi’s (93), tied home runs (34), hits (61), runs scored (110) and 2nd in at-bats (573). Maybe it was just leaving Philadelphia!)
3B Jose Ramirez (Jose is still considered close to the top 5 in 3B in baseball and is still a threat to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. There are not too many major leaguers out there with that potential. Jose was ice cold the first half of the season before heating up and he still hit 23 home runs and knocked in 83 runs before breaking his in hand in late August but somehow returned 30 days later to finish out the season in late September. Take away the broken hand and the ice-cold first half of the season which is doubtful will be repeated and he will have his typical productive numbers)
DH Franmil Reyes (He came over from San Diego last season. His batting average and on-base percentage need to improve but his raw power potential is through the roof. According to Baseball Savant, he was in the top two percent in the league in hard percentage last year and top-one percent in average exit velocity. He might be a work in progress and worth keeping an eye on for those fantasy players out there)
2B Cesar Hernandez (I have been a Phillies fan my entire life and I was really sad they let Cesar go. He was one of the most consistent players on a team full of so-called stars. His numbers are not great but solid, and he plays solid defense. Last season he hit .279 which is near his career average, but every now and then he will flirt with .300. You can count on a 100% effort from this guy and is a team player, plus the past two seasons he did not miss any games. I think he was a great addition to the team)
OF Delino DeShields (While he is not a lock to start in the outfield, only Mercado is, his excellent defense and speed give him the upper hand. He is only a career .249 hitter but the should improve with more experience. Keep in mind the most at-bat he has had at this level in 5 seasons is 121. This is his first season with the Tribe after coming over from Texas, so maybe the change of scenery will perk him up)
C Roberto Perez (Finally in his 6th season with Cleveland he has earned the right to be the starting catcher and it has paid off. With just 21 home runs in his first 5 years, he smashed 24 in his first year as a starter. He also set career-highs with 63 rbi’s, 93 hits, 46 runs scored, 45 walks and of course at-bats & games played. Why do I get the feeling he may break some of the highs again this year?)
OF Jordan Luplow/Domingo Santana (One of these two should be named the 3rd outfielder unless some youngster comes out of nowhere and steals the spot. Luplow hit .276 with 15 homers and 38 rbi’s in just 85 games. Santana hit .253 with 21 homers and 69 homers in 121 games. Maybe it will come down to who has the better spring)
Shane Bieber (All he did was go 11-5 with a 4.55 era while striking out one man per inning in his rookie season and follow that up by going 15-8 with a 3.28 era in just his 2nd season striking out 259 in 214.1 innings while allowing just 186 hits. Maybe that is why he is ranked 11th by ESPN in fantasy baseball among starting pitchers in just his 2nd season. What more do you need to know?)
Carlos Carrasco (It is so great to see Carlos return to the game after missing three months last season with myeloid leukemia. He returned to the mound in September in Tampa to a standing ovation. How do you not root for this guy this season? With the health issues, he was 6-7 last year. You have to go back to 2013 the last time he had a losing record. We all wish him well this year and a return to his former winning ways)
Mike Clevinger (Mike had surgery this spring and more than likely will not be ready for opening day, but make no doubt about it he is a main cog in this rotation. All he did was go 12-4 with a 2.71 era striking out 169 batters in 126 innings allowing only 96 hits and just 10 home runs while walking just 37 guys. Wow!! He has really become a dominant pitcher.
Zach Plesac (With so many injuries to the starting staff last season, the Indians needed a young guy to step forward. There was a guy who just blitzed his way through double & triple-A ball and his name was Zach Plesac, nephew on 18-year vet Dan Plesac. He must have made a good impression because not only did he stay with the club last year but he will be in the starting rotation this season. He was 8-6 with a 3.81 era in 21 starts. He stats are not overwhelming but he kept his team in games and came out with a winning record so as a first-year kid in the bigs he did alright. He has potential and should get a little better with more experience)
Aaron Civale (Another pitcher with just one year under his belt placed into the starting rotation. Aaron was just 3-4 but had a nice era of 2.34 in 10 starts. His worst start was his last of the season when he gave up 4 earned runs in a 8-0 loss to the White Sox. Other than that the most he gave up were just 2 earned runs in his 10 starts and 5 times allowed just 1 earned run. It is easy to see why they are giving this youngster the chance this season. Talk about Mr. Potential)
CLOSER – Brad Hand (I really struggle trying to figure out relievers. There are very few that are dominant year in and year out. Brad Hand appears to be on the upswing but I have seen this before. I am rooting for him. I like this Cleveland staff and I would hate to see him blow games for the starters.
I like when teams come into a season with some extra motivation. Cleveland had their postseason streak snapped last year despite having a very nice 93-69 record. Much of that was based on a very solid pitching staff. Yes, they did lose Kluber, but I still like what they have remaining.
I am fascinated by the young kid Aaron Civale. He might be the surprise of the league when it comes to pitchers. The offense still has a lot of power and I don’t think they will have a problem scoring runs. Plus when you look at the division, it is Minnesota & Cleveland.
Chicago should be improved but for the most part, the Twins & Indians should get their share of wins vs the rest of the division. I really think this total is set too low. I feel like it should be closer to 90, therefore I have no choice to go over the total.