5 Reasons To Love The Cleveland Indians In 2014 And Beyond
The Cleveland Indians won 92 games in 2013 before losing the Wild Card playoff, their first postseason appearance since 2007. This was quite a turnaround for the Tribe considering they’d won less than 70 games three of the previous four years. While many aren’t expecting the team repeat its success, I wanted to highlight five reasons to be excited about the present and future. They may lack the star quality of their big-market competitors, but the Indians do have reasons for optimism. Don’t let this distract you from their diamonds in the rough.
1. The Cleveland Indians Have Good Young Pitching
Young, productive pitchers are hard to find. The Cleveland Indians have a plethora of quality arms and none are over the age of 28. Justin Masterson’s sinker continues to be effective and he set a new career high in K/9 last season. Corey Kluber is a late-bloomer at 27, but had his coming out party to the tune of 8.3 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9. Danny Salazar’s debut was the stuff of legend. At 24, he throws heat and backs it up with a fine changeup and slider. If the right-hander throws 180 innings this season, look out! Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this year. Neither has lived up to their top-100 rankings, but there’s still time for both to rebound.
In the bullpen, a healthy Vinnie Pestano is returning. He and youngster Cody Allen are waiting in the wings should the recently acquired John Axford struggle. Even more bullpen help is on the way. Kyle Crockett (22) and Shawn Armstrong (23) have enough ability to impact the pen.
2. A Talented Middle Infield
The Indians are strongest up the middle. Asdrubal Cabrera is solid with the bat and glove, while Jason Kipnis is an elite second baseman. With Cabrera a pending free agent, top-10 prospect Francisco Lindor is the heir apparent at shortstop. He defense is gold glove caliber and Lindor will hit for average and speed at the top of the lineup
Beyond Cabrera, Lindor and Kipnis, prospects Dorssys Paulino and Ronny Rodriguez are solid prospects and potential trade chips. The Tribe has a surplus of middle infield talent that can help them now and into the future.
3. Productive Options at Catcher
The Indians have two, power hitting catchers. Carlos Santana is a middle-of-the-order talent and will rotate between catcher, first base and designated hitter. In spring training, he’s even taking reps at third base. Yan Gomes (from Mike Newman’s alma mater, Barry University) was acquired from the Blue Jays and contributed both offensively and defensively to the club in 2013. Between the two, the catching position will produce 25 home runs and 100 runs batted. Both players are on the right side of 30 and assets for years to come. Tucked away on the farm is 18-year-old Francisco Mejia, who could develop into a catcher that hits for both power and average.
4. Terry Francona at the Helm
Terry Francona was the most valuable addition to the Indians last season. His ability to unite a team that hadn’t had a winning season in half a decade was phenomenal. Francona is no stranger to winning and the pressures of playoff baseball thanks to his years with Boston. He is also the type of no-nonsense, straight talking manager that appeals to the Cleveland market. A recent letter to the fans described his faith in the team but also his hunger for more success. He’s managed to get the most out of everyone, from the youngest rookies to the journeyman veterans, and he’s garnered the support of the fans along the way. It’s no easy task, and it reminds me of what Charlie Manuel was able to do in Philadelphia a few years ago.
5. First-Round Draft Pick Clint Frazier
Frazier was selected 5th overall in the 2013 draft. A 44 game sample was enough for Baseball America to deem him a top-50 prospect (#48). The 2013 high school player of the year, Frazier slashed .297/.362/.506 in Rookie ball. At 18 years old, he’ll contend with Lindor for bragging rights as top prospect in the system. Frazier is a few years off, but has the tools to become a franchise player with the Cleveland Indians. The converted third baseman hails from Georgia, home of fellow prospects Austin Meadows and Byron Buxton, baseball’s top prospect. He’ll get his first taste of full-season ball in Lake County this summer.
Follow Mike on Twitter @643ball
7 Mar 2014 / Mike Buttil / 3
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