A look at the 2013 Cleveland Indians


courtesy waitingfornextyear.com

Indians catcher Carlos Santana will be one of the core members of the Indians line up. Santana batted .252 last year with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs.

Shinichi Inoue, Asst. Sports Editor

Even if the weather doesn’t make it seem like spring is approaching, we are only days away from the start of the Major League Baseball season. The Cleveland Indians will look to rebound from their 68 win season. With the addition of two-time World Series champion manager in Terry Francona, the Tribes added major bats in Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Mark Reynolds along with new arms for the rotations in veteran Bretty Myers, Scott Kazmir, and youngster Trevor Bauer.

Starting Lineup
The Indians overhauled majority of their starting lineup during the offseason. First baseman Matt LaPorta, centerfielder Grady Sizemore, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, and designated hitter Travis Hafner have all departed from Cleveland. The new additions to the Indians include three free agents: center fielder Michael Bourn, Swisher, and Reynolds along with traded right fielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati. The Indians starting lineup will sport a dramatic new look.

Bourn will provide the Tribe a legitimate threat at the top of the lineup and, combined with Michael Brantly and Drew Stubbs, the Indians have one of the quickest outfield trio. With Bourn and Brantly holding the first two positions in the lineup, the Tribe will keep pressure on the opposing pitcher. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and second baseman Jason Kipnis will provide even more speed on the base path. Speed has vastly improved which allows manager Francona diverse freedom when it comes to strategies – small ball, hit-and-run, or sacrifice.

The potential for power is certainly there—catcher Carlos Santana, Swisher, Reynolds, and Stubbs are all capable of 20-plus homerun this season. Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall will continue their progress into superstars. The acquisition of Mike Aviles also gives Francona a solid option off the bench.

All in all, it should be a vastly-improved offense. The combination of speed and power brought in by the newcomers alone gives the Tribe a well-balanced attack. However, a possible downfall is that Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs are both high strikeout batters. If the two struggle early on, the Tribe’s offense could potentially hit a black hole.

Starting Rotation
With a 5.25 ERA, the Indians starting rotation was the second worst in the American League last season. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez contributed mightily to the cause with their subpar performances. Jimenez, in particular, has been a major disappointment ever since the trade that brought him over from the Colorado Rockies in July 2011 for two top pitching prospects. Jimenez is a shell of his 2010 self when he posted a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA. Since then, he has gone 23-37 with a 4.78 ERA. The Indians exercised the 2013 option on Jimenez’s contract for $5.75 million, hoping that it was simply a case of bad mechanics that caused the issues.

Right-hander Justin Masterson will look to carry an Indians starting rotation that was second worst in the American League last year with an ERA of 5.25.
Right-hander Justin Masterson will look to carry an Indians starting rotation that was second worst in the American League last year with an ERA of 5.25.

The 28-year old Masterson saw rough times last season. After a promising 2011 season that saw him post a 12-10 record and 3.21 ERA in 33 starts, Masterson underwent offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. According to new manager Terry Francona, that surgery could have prevented Masterson from repeating his normal delivery. Masterson and Jimenez are again at the top of the rotation despite last year’s struggles. For the Indians to compete in the American League Central, it’s incumbent that both need to show vast improvement this season.

The third starter will be 10-year veteran Brett Myers who will be transitioning back to the rotation after closing for the Houston Astros and working as a late-inning reliever for the Chicago White Sox in 2012. Myers has shown to be more than capable as a starter during his career. While he’s no longer a strikeout-first pitcher, Myers is an effective innings-eater and should provide veteran leadership to the young Indians rotation.

The youngster of the rotation will be Zach McAllister. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of consistency in his first full year last season. The Indians hope that McAllister can gain better command of his secondary pitches and work deeper into games for the 2013 season.

The last rotation spot goes to lefty Scott Kazmir. The former Tampa Bay Rays starter pitched in the Puerto Rican winter league under former Miami Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez who gave Cleveland a glowing report of Kazmir’s returned arm strength. Kazmir hasn’t pitched in the majors since April 2011.

If there’s trouble, make it double. The Indians bullpen matched the rotation in posting the second-worst ERA (3.99) in the American League last year. Much of issues were attributed to being overworked and overused — the bullpen posted the fourth-highest total of innings pitched as well. As the starting rotation wasn’t able to hold down the fort, the bullpen was often called upon to clean up the messes left by the woeful rotation early in games.

“No part of a team ever acts independently from the other parts,” general manager, Chris Antonetti said. “They all depend on each other. We’re hoping for more innings from the starters this year so the relievers can stay in their roles.”

The talent is clearly there—closer Chris Perez has posted 98 saves in the past three seasons while setup man Vinnie Pestano has stepped up to bridge the gap in the eighth inning. Chris Antonetti brought in right-handers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Arizona Diamondbacks, adding two solid, veteran arms to the mix. Shaw was terrific against right-handed hitters last year for the Diamondbacks, holding them to just a .211 average.

Smith joins Perez and Pestano to form a solid back-end trio. Much more often than not they will hold a late lead. A young new addition will be lefty Nick Hagadone who will replace Tony Sipp as the left-handed specialist.

Prediction: 85-77, second in AL Central

With $104 million invested in Swisher and Bourn, owner Larry Dolan sent a message that he is indeed interested in building a winning team. Payroll will be significantly higher in 2013, but it allowed general manger Antonetti to make deals that benefit the team both short and long term. However, even with a newly overhauled starting lineup, the pitching will continue to be a main concern. The addition of Myers and Kazmir will definitely provide some veteran leadership, but if Masterson and Jimenez failed to rebound, the Indians will be looking at quite a long summer. Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister, and Mitch Brown are a few years away from establishing their own in the Majors. If the top of the rotation crumbles, look for these three (most likely Bauer will come up from AAA) to take on more serious roles.