MADISON, March 11, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 13, the Cleveland Indians.
2013 Record: 92-70 with a +83 run differential.
Key Additions: OF David Murphy, RHP John Axford, RHP Shawn Marcum, LHP Josh Outman and RHP Aaron Harang
Key Losses: RHP Chris Perez, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP Scott Kazmir, OF Jason Kubel and OF Drew Stubbs
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Michael Bourn
1B Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
DH Carlos Santana
OF Michael Brantley
SS Asdrubel Cabrera
OF David Murphy
C Yan Gomes
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Shawn Marcum/Aaron Harang/Trevor Bauer
Best Case: Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar both take a step forward while Shawn Marcum and Trevor Bauer combine to provide the same production that Ubaldo Jimenez offered last year. Michael Bourn bounces back from an off year producing a season far closer to his 2012 campaign offering a solid leadoff threat and excellent defense. Jason Kipnis continues to stake his claim as one of the best second baseman in baseball. While it is not a full time solution Carlos Santana shows that he can handle third base, while continuing to rake at the plate, in small doses offering the Indians more roster flexibility. The departure of former closer Chris Perez proves to be addition by subtraction, as John Axford proves far more reliable. The Indians not only challenge the Tigers for the division, but overtake them in the end and win the AL Central.
Worst Case: The three names listed as the fifth starter all show their warts as Marcum and Harang spend most of the year on the DL and Bauer continues to struggle with his command. The loss of Ubaldo Jimenez’s production leaves a glaring hole in the rotation as Danny Salazar fails to take the leap that many are expecting. Michael Bourn’s slide continues as he struggles even more than last year’s .263/.316/.360 slash line slips even further in year two of his contract. Yan Gomes fails to come close to his 2013 campaign posting something between his two years in the majors with a .250/.300/.400 line. The Indians show that last year was not a complete fluke, but slide to third in the AL Central and miss the AL Wildcard by ten games.
Prospect Watch: While there seems to be a lot of shortstops on the way to the big leagues, one of the most anticipated is the Indians Francisco Lindor. Lindor split the season between A and AA last year posting a .303/.380/.407 slash line and most anticipate he will provide the Indians with above average defense as well. Thus far Trevor Bauer has not made up for the Indians trading Shin Soo Choo to obtain him. Bauer struggled with his command last year posting a 4.15 ERA with 106 K’s and 73 BB’s in 121.1 innings. The Indians used the fifth pick in the first round of last year’s draft on OF Clint Frazier. Frazier had some of the top power potential in last year’s draft but is likely a few years away.