Thursday, April 2, 2015

On The Mark 4.2.15: Cleveland Indians 2015 Season Preview #Indians

By @MarkW2112

Hello Tribe fans! It's time once again for baseball on the "corner of Carnegie and Ontario" and this year, expectations are high for the Cleveland Indians.  This is the third year Terry "Tito" Francona has been manager and while they made the wildcard one off game in 2013, 2014 was a bit of a disappointment when they weren't able to make the playoffs.  And while there was some highs (Corey Kluber's Cy Young winning year) there were also lows (Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher injuries) the time might be right for the Indians to make a run at the AL Central Division title.

Let's start with the pitching staff.  Corey Kluber leads the starters after a phenomenal season.  Going 18-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 269 strikeouts were definitely Cy Young worthy numbers.  Look for him to continue his streak of excellent pitching this year.  Following him are youngsters' Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.  Both showed flashes of brilliance, especially later in the season.  Carrasco really changed things around after the All Star break when he became the dominant pitcher many thought he could be.  Both pitchers will have their ups and downs this year but I expect both to continue to improve as the year goes on.  Lefty T.J. House and Zach McAllister will round out the 5 man rotation for the Tribe.  

The bullpen will have good contributors in closer Cody Allen, Mark Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw.  The season will depend on this group being solid if the Indians have any chance at the playoffs.

Offensively, Michael Brantley will lead the team after having an MVP worthy 2014.  His .327 average with 20 home runs, 45 doubles and 97 RBI's were career highs.  Expect him to duplicate many of those same numbers if not exceed them in 2015.  The addition of Brandon Moss (who has had a monster training camp) should help the middle of the lineup along with steady contributions from Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, a healthy Jason Kipnis and  Michael Bourn.  The only question mark going into the season is who will be the every day shortstop.  Right now it looks more like a platoon between Jose Ramirez and Mike Aviles.  Both are a stop gap for Francisco Lindor, who I truly believe will finally make his major league debut sometime after July.

Season Prediction:  Screw any Sports Illustrated "jinx".  The Indians have a very good shot at winning the AL Central for the first time since 2007.  With injuries and free agency taking away some of the weapons both the Royals and Tigers had last year, the Indians can sneak in and win the division.  It will all depend on the young but solid starting staff and if the Indians can get more production from Bourn, Kipnis and, eventually, Nick Swisher.  Brandon Moss will bring a power bat and his platoon with Ryan Raburn should be successful for both.  The biggest advantage is Terry "Tito" Francona who may very well be the best manager in all of baseball.  His excellent managerial skills along with the chemistry his team has can get the Tribe to over 90 wins and in to a deep playoff run.

Final Record: 91-71, first place, AL Central Division Champions with the Tribe going far in to the playoffs this year.  Perhaps even a World Series trip.

I look forward to writing and contributing Indians recaps and stories for Triple Threat CLE this spring/summer and in to the fall.

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