2016 Record: 94-67 (1st AL Central)
Now it’s time for the favorite, Cleveland Indians, where expectations are sky high in 2017. We’ll be joined by Paul Hoynes from Cleveland.com to help us break down the Tribe and see how he sees the 2017 season playing out.
As you can probably recall the Indians made it to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series before their season finally ended at the hands of the Chicago Cubs.
All the Indians have done since then is return a few all stars from injury and add another perennial all star in slugger Edwin Encarnacion; no big deal. I also think they’ve got the non-Mike Trout division 2017 AL MVP on their team as well (more on that later).
So as you can tell there’s a lot to like about Cleveland in 2017. My projections noticed that real quick. When the Indians are at the plate, I’ve got them as the 3rd best club in the American League. I’ve got their projected lineup third in the AL and their bench second in the AL.
When it comes to pitching, I think the Tribe has the best overall pitching squad in the American League. Their rotation grades out as my third best and their bullpen grades out as my American League best. Those two combined were enough to lock them in as the top pitching club in the AL.
Having Tito at the helm certainly helps them out, too. The only main category I don’t have them in my top three in is defense. I think they’re a league average defensive squad as my projections have them 8th in the AL in that category.
Injuries are the only thing that worry me slightly when it comes to the Tribe. I know they suffered a few key injuries last year but they still managed to get to the World Series and almost win it. I’m banking on a big return from Brantley which could be risky, and I’m equating for Salazar and Corrasco returning to form as well. As long as they don’t have catastrophic injury issues, I think they’ll be just fine.
Let’s get to our chat with Paul Hoynes to get his take on the upcoming season:
On paper, the Indians should be the best in the division; how do you see that effecting these guys, if at all?
"I think they should be the best team in the division. The Twins and White Sox are rebuilding. The Royals and Detroit should challenge the Tribe, but the Royals have so many key players approaching FA at the end of the season I believe if they hit a slump in midseason they could start trading people. They also have to be reeling from the death of Yordano Ventura. The Tigers are talented, but older. They keep saying they want to get younger and more streamlined, but it's hard to move the big contracts they have."
"I think the Indians have the right manager, Terry Francona, to help them handle the expectations facing them in 2017. In that regard, however, Napoli will be missed."
What's the latest on Michael Brantley's health? When can we expect to see him on the field?
Big questions about Brantley. Indians say he won't play in exhibitions until at least mid to late March, if then. They're being very careful with his shoulder. They really don't know when he's going to be able to play."
How do you think Francona will use Miller early in the year? Do you see more of a shift to the playoff usage if they're in a tight race down the stretch?
"Tito said he'll continue to use Miller in a troubleshooting role, while Cody Allen closes. But it's clear Francona doesn't believe he can use Miller as aggressively as he used him in the postseason. The problem is Miller is pitching in the WBC, so they can't really prepare him like they'd like to do following a season of heavy duty use."
"They'd like to ease him into the exhibition seasons by having him avoid Cactus League game until early March. But when he joins Team USA, he's going to be going full go."
Who are some of the younger guys we might not know about that you think could make an impact this season?
"If the Indians need some help in the rotation a guy like Ryan Merritt, who started Game 5 of the ALCS, could help. So could Cody Anderson, who pitched through injuries last season. If the Indians need help in the outfield and dip into the farm system, we could get a look at No.1 pick Bradley Zimmer or Greg Allen. Yandy Diaz, who hit like crazy last season at AA, AAA and winter ball, could help out as a bat off the bench. Erik Gonzalez, a talented SS, is being groomed as a super utility man and could make the club out of spring training."
Do you foresee any World Series hangover from this group or will they be motivated by not reaching their ultimate goal?
"I think they're definitely motivated. I'm not sure it's as strong as the Royals were in 2015 after 2014, but all teams are different. I think there is a feeling on the team that they reached Game 7 of the WS and didn't have two starters, their LF (Brantley) or their starting catcher (Yan Gomes). There is just a really good vibe on the team right now. The front office stepped up with the signings of Encarnacion and Boone Logan. If Brantley can come back and be 85 to 90 percent of the player that he was, this is going to be a dangerous lineup."
I tend to agree with Paul that I think the Indians are in for big things in 2017. Vegas currently has their O/U at 93.5, so they can see a finish similar to last year’s 94-67 record.
The three division winners in the American League last year all finished with at least 93 wins. I think the Indians will take home the Central this year so I see that as their floor. They play in a really weak division which they should clean up in so the top AL record is definitely in play here. The Rangers had the top overall record last year at 95-67. Spoiler alert; I think this Indians' team is a lot better than that Rangers' club.
When it’s all said and done, I think the 2017 Cleveland Indians finish comfortably over 93.5 wins. How comfortable you might ask?
This team tops the 100 win mark and finishes with an overall record of 102-60.