The Cleveland Indians have been featured in a few notable ESPN articles as of late. With ESPN being at the forefront of all things sports, and IPL being the Cleveland Indians blog on ESPN’s SweetSpot Network, some of these articles should be analyzed a little deeper for fans interested in the Tribe highlights.
In an article written in December of 2013 by ESPN’s Buster Olney, (link requires ESPN insider subscription), he rates MLB’s top 10 Lineups. The Indians are ranked 7th by Olney. To me, this was a bit of a surprise, but when you delve deeper into the Tribe’s lineup, it starts to make sense. Olney’s argument revolves around this fact: when this lineup is healthy and playing well, it has the potential to crank out some runs. Consider this, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher did not have their usual solid years. In Swisher’s previous 3 years before last season, he averaged at least .260, and drove in at least 82 RBI. If he can get back to that type of consistent production, it would be a boost to the offense. The same can be applied to Bourn. Bourn was riddled with injuries this past year, and when he was playing, the stolen bases were not there. In his previous 3 years before last season, Bourn averaged at least .265, and had at least 42 stolen bases. Bourn partially attributed this drop to switching from the National League to the American. This is somewhat of a valid argument, as IPL’s Ryan Pinheiro dissected in two great articles. But again, if Bourn can get back to that type of production on the base paths, it would be a huge boost to the offense. The same can be said of Asdrubal Cabrera. Like Swisher and Bourn, if the former All-Star can get back to his usual self, it only adds to the potential.
Another player that Olney mentions is Yan Gomes. The Tribe did not get to reap the benefits of Gomes’ production the entire year. When he did get his chance, he was spectacular. Not only at the plate, but also defensively. The only question is if Gomes can be productive for an entire, grueling MLB season. 88 games are certainly quite a bit, but before he was entrenched as the starting catcher, he was not an everyday player. Once again, if the production continues as it did last season for Gomes, he could be a boost.
Last year, even with the previously noted players not playing their best, the Tribe ranked 5th in runs scored with 745. While it is hopeful that these players play to their full potential, it is not unreasonable to assume that they will. Olney could be spot on with his ranking, which would make a lot of Tribe fans happy.
ESPN senior writer Dave Schoenfield also recently came out with his pre-spring training team rankings in ESPN’s SweetSpot blog. Where did the Tribe land? They rolled in at 15th. This may disappoint some fans, especially after reading that Buster Olney ranked the Tribe’s lineup 7th in the majors. What it comes down to, though, and what Schoenfield notes, is that the Tribe’s pitching will be significantly different this season compared to last. As most know, Scott Kazmir signed with another team, and Ubaldo Jimenez will most likely be doing the same. Also, the bullpen lost its most dependable arm in Joe Smith, and Matt Albers is gone too. Schoenfield pegged the Tribe to go 82-80 this year, which has the potential to be accurate, considering how the offseason has gone. However, if Axford can regain his form as a dominant closer, Carlos Santana runs away with the 3B job, and one of Bauer, Carrasco, or Tomlin can hold down the 5th starter spot, Schoenfield’s evaluation of the Tribe could be very wrong.
Lastly, ESPN has unveiled their annual Fantasy Rankings. Even if you don’t partake in fantasy baseball, it’s still fun to check out which Tribe players were ranked and where. For the overall top 300, the Indians had 11 players ranked. Their top player ranked was none other than our All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was 18th overall. That bodes well for Kipnis, who is finally getting some recognition for the ultra-productive 2B. Next up were Carlos Santana (78), Asdrubal Cabrera (148), Salazar (180), Bourn (183), Masterson (194), Axford (202), Swisher (219), Allen (234), Brantley (237), and Gomes (277). The rankings also break down the various positional ranks.