To lead you into the MLB season Stoop Sports’ MLB staff is embarking on a 30 day journey, where we will give you pre-season profiles of all thirty teams. Each writer was given the artistic liberty to format their previews to their liking. Enjoy, and happy spring training!
After another disappointing season, the Cleveland Indians took initiative and made many changes this offseason. From hiring former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, to making trades and key signings, the Indians are taking steps toward becoming a winning franchise. However, they are just steps and are not there yet.
Cleveland has made all of the right moves this off-season, specifically strengthening their outfield. The additions of OF Michael Bourn, OF Nick Swisher, and OF Drew Stubs bring not just talent to Cleveland, but guys who are leaders in the clubhouse. Swisher and Bourn will be asked to immediately step in as veterans and mentor the young kids on this team. Swisher has always been full of energy and can bring a diverse and fun presence to this team, along with around a .265 BA and around 25 HR. Bourn can hit for a good average and brings speed to this Indians squad on the bases. Stubbs, who was sent over from the Cincinnati Reds in the deal for OF Shin Soo Choo, presents more upside on the base paths than at the plate. He had 30 stolen bases last year, and at only 28 years old he is only going to become a smarter player on the base path and at the plate. The one downside to him is his ability to hit for average, only hitting a measly .213 BA in 2012.
In the infield, a divorce between Cleveland and 1B Travis Hafner was long overdue, as he has not been healthy for the past five seasons. The opening at first base will now be filled by infielder Mark Reynolds and maybe Nick Swisher on occasion. Reynolds’ biggest contributions will be his durability and power, averaging over 142 games and 30 home runs in his six year career. Also they picked up Jason Giambi who could be an important veteran piece if they happen to surprise people and compete in the Central.
Even more important than all of these great acquisitions was the firing of Manny Acta. Acta, who previously had a rough tenure with the Nationals, was just as bad in Cleveland.. He led the team to a miserable 68-94 record last year, and a shake up in the clubhouse was needed. Enter Terry Francona, who won two World Series and created a winning culture during his tenure in Boston. He has always been loved and respected by his players, and his attitude is perfect for this Cleveland unit.
In terms of pitching, the Indians made a key move in bringing in P Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks. Bauer, at age 22, is a talented young arm who if allowed to mature can be a key contributor in the starting rotation in the coming years. Also, the addition of veteran Brett Myers from the Chicago White Sox is a nice boost to this staff as well. Bauer can potentially become a strong number two guy in the rotation, and Myers will likely be a consistent number three starter with a 3.31 ERA in 2012. If he happens to falter in the rotation he is also an experienced reliever.
Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are two talented starters who must improve, ASAP. Last season, no Cleveland starter posted above a .500 record for the entire year. Jimenez was a Cy Young candidate just a couple years ago in the NL and Masterson has the stuff to be a quality pitcher. Starting pitching is the problem, but the bullpen is not much better. As a whole, Cleveland definitely made some improvements to their pitching staff, but not enough to compete with the arms of Detroit.
With spring training already under way, I think Cleveland will fall just under .500 this upcoming season. They have made significant progress in the off-season, that’s for sure. However, they still need a lot of help on the pitching front.
Record: 77-85, 3rd in AL Central