Cleveland Indians State Of The Union For 2014

The Indians hosted the Wild Card Play in Game for the right to play Boston in the ALDS, but were ultimately ousted by the Tampa Bay Rays.  Now minus several pieces from last years team, they turn to their franchise depth in hopes of another playoff berth in 2014.  The club ended the year on a 10 game winning streak and extended it by 1 in the Season Opener at Oakland.  The Indians are pretty much hanging with 'status quo' among their franchise this winter.  They have also lost Scott Kazmir, and potentially Ubaldo Jimenez to Free Agency as well,  Of course Joe Smith signed with the Angels and they released Chris Perez, so other than Terry Francona winning the Manager of The Year in the AL, it hasn't been a banner offseason in Cleveland thus far.

The Indians hosted the Wild Card Play in Game for the right to play Boston in the ALDS in 2013, but were ultimately ousted by the Tampa Bay Rays. Now minus several pieces from last years team, they turn to their franchise depth in hopes of another playoff berth in 2014. The club ended the year on a 10 game winning streak – and extended it by 1 in the Season Opener at Oakland. The Indians are pretty much going with ‘status quo’ into this year. They lost key Starters Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez to Free Agency.  Of course they saw Joe Smith sign with the Angels and they released Chris Perez, so other than Terry Francona winning the Manager of The Year in the AL, it wasn’t a banner offseason.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer): 

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The Indians had one hell of a rollercoaster ride in the 2013 year.  It ended with the club making their 1st playoff game since the 2007 ALCS.

To make it to the #1 Wild Card Slot, Cleveland reeled of 10 straight victories, and hosted the one game battle against the Rays.

Albeit the team could not beat the Rays, and were left to settle with one home date in the postseason.

With 92 Wins, with no lineup player having an exceptional year except for maybe Jason Kipnis, there was no doubt Terry Francona peeled off one of the great managerial jobs ever.

Almost instantly after the year, the club lost Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Chris Perez, Joe Smith and Drew Stubbs (trade).

Justin Masterson was 14 - 10, with a 3.45 ERA last year.  He has also authored an AL leading 3 Shutouts - and anchored a much improved Starting Staff.  With losing veterans Kazmir and Jimenez from the 2013 team,   All 5 Pitchers are now under the age of 30.  Masterson and teammates extended their regular season win streak to 11 games dating back to last year, with a 2 - 0 win in Oakland last night.

Justin Masterson was 14 – 10, with a 3.45 ERA last year. He has also authored an AL leading 3 Shutouts – and anchored a much improved Starting Staff. With losing veterans Kazmir and Jimenez from the 2013 team, All 5 Pitchers are now under the age of 30. .  During the spring, he offered to sign an extension to the club, for a fair price, but the team rejected hit.  The best thing he can do is pitch well again this campaign and force the brass’s hand to deal him, or he will hit the Free Agent Market with great numbers.

All they really have brought in to replace those departed players are:  Josh Outman, David Murphy, Scott Atchison, John Axford and Nyjer Morgan.

Guaranteed if you trade making that trade in a simulation, your offer would be rejected by the non-Indians side.

The Tribe will also see 43 Year Old DH Jason Giambi and key last year Free Agent signing Michael Bourn start the year on the DL with a rib fracture and strained hamstring respectively.

This franchise will seek huge internal improvements to stay in contention this year.

Projected Lineup – Offense: 

Keep in mind Bourn is hurt and will reclaim his Leadoff spot upon returning.

1.  Nyjer Morgan – LF:

After a year of playing in Japan. T-Plush comes back to the MLB.

While his numbers won’t persuade anyone to think he is exceptional, Morgan played a key role in the 2011 season for the Brewers.

He has the innate ability to come up with clutch hits at opportune times.  He will play the CF position until Michael Bourn comes back, and then be a nice piece off of the bench after that.

2.  Nick Swisher – 1B:

Nick Swisher is trying to have his 10th straight season with 20+HRs in 2014.

He was extremely instrumental during the last month of the year, belting 7 HRs and driving in 17 RBI in the last 28 Games Played.

Swisher has played on winning teams since entering the Majors.  He has an infectious attitude, and is a crowd favorite.

While he won’t dazzle you with his offensive output, I would project a .255/.355/.445 year – with 24 HRs and 75 RBI in 2014.

At Age 33, he has something left in the tank.  Particularly comforting is that he helps produce runs with Walks.

Swisher hasn’t scored fewer than 71 Runs in the last 9 years, and averaged 91 times across the dish per campaign.

3.  Jason Kipnis – 2B:

This guy can do just about a little of everything.  17 HRs, 36 Doubles and 84 RBI sounds good coupled with 86 Runs Scored and 30 SB in 2014.

2014 could really be this guys coming out party.  He should elevate to a 20/20 season, near 90 Runs – with a high watermark of nearly 100 Runs.

What a tool to have hitting #3 in your lineup.  The franchise may look to extend him more preferably than Masterson as he is a position player.

4.  Carlos Santana – 3B:

The converted Catcher will have a tough time defensively with a new position, but this guy can still flat out rake.

He has 3 straight campaigns of 90+ Walks, with 70+ RBI and Runs Scored.  I only think playing in the Infield for the majority of the time should increase production.

I could see a .265/.370/.470 year, with 24 HRs and 85 RBI from the hot corner this year.

Santana is locked up until 2017, so it was a good move they are taking some pressure of his body, by not having him be the everyday catcher.

He turns 28 next week, and is just entering his prime.

5.  Asdrubal Cabrera – SS:

This is the last of the year contract for the  2 time Indians ALL – Star.  Last year he hit well below his career averages of .273/.335/.418 – with an OPS of .700.

Cleveland can’t afford for him to repeat a poor season in 2014.  Whether he makes to the end of the year with the club will depend on if they are in contention or not.

With Francisco Lindor coming soon, the franchise can afford to trade Cabrera for assets.

Just like Masterson, unless they are hovering around the playoff bar, it doesn’t make sense to not do so

Having said all of this, I think Cabrera will have a rebound season, hit 20 HRs, drive in 80 RBI – and near his lifetime OPS of .753 this season.

6.  Michael Brantley – CF:

The club just signed the 27 Year Old through the 2017 season for $25 MIL and a Team Option in 2018.

He is the last significant piece that was part of the CC Sabathia trade to Milwaukee from 2008.

Brantley has hit for decent Batting Averages thus far in the big leagues, although he doesn’t have much HR Power (26 HRs in 1975 AB).

The LF does everything fairly well including his defense.  He can also swipe you 15 – 20 bases per year.

Brantley is not the top dog in the yard, but he can hang.

7.  David Murphy – RF:

One of the key offseason pickups was the former Rangers OF.

Murphy fared very well in his lifespan with the Texas club.  85 HRs and 362 RBI over 2666 AB, is basically a 21 HRs and 90 RBI guy per/year in 4 full seasons worth of AB.

Last year was a struggle for the LHB, where he only sported a .656 OPS – as opposed to career clip of .777.

The 2013 season may be more of an anomaly than the normal.

Murphy has one of the weirdest career splits for his BA, from Apr – September it goes, .228, .264, .272, .275, .298, ,302.  This is a nice sign.

If the OF happens to struggle, just let him be.

Cleveland is also a fair park to hit in for Progressive Field.

I expect a .270/.330/.420 season – with 18 HRs and 75 RBI, totals I am sure the Indians would love

8.  Yan Gomes – C:

All of a sudden that trade for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes – with Esmil Rogers going to the Blue Jays in return is looking great.

The team just signed this backstopper to a 6 YR deal worth $23 MIL.

Gomes can hit.  31 Extra Base Hits (11 HRs and 19 – 2B) for his 2013 – 293 AB certainly says just that.

The 26 Year Old from Brazil just needed an opportunity to flourish.

With a full year of Plate Appearances, there will be a slight regression, although I am thinking .260/.330/.425 – with 50 XBH and 70 RBI should be achievable.

As Catchers go, this would mean above average offensive output.

9.  Lonnie Chisenhall – DH

This man is probably going to be the odd man out when everyone is healthy.  He does have nice power though.

The bench is strong with Ryan Raburn (16 HRs and 55 RBI in 243 2013 AB).  This player may warrant some playing time at the 1st show of struggle from anyone.

Last year, he held an OPS of 1.020 during LHP.

Mike Aviles is a quality offensive threat from the bench too. He can play SS/3B and 2B and is a Career .273 hitter, although he has problems drawing a walk – with a .303 OBP.

When Jason Giambi returns, look for Francona to use him as a DH against LHP, and also as a PH.

While the BA is low, he can still draw walks, and 9 HRs and 31 RBI is great production for just 186 AB.

Bench:  Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles and Elliot Johnson.

The team is carrying 13 pitchers, including 8 relievers right now.  Although they may need to clear a roster space for incoming C George Kottaras shortly.

Danny Salazar, who is about to turned 24 on Jan.11, 2014, was called up for the stretch run and posted some impressive numbers to help aid the squad.  He was just 2 - 3 in his 10 Game Starts, however he only yielded a 3.12 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 52.0 IP.  With the likes of JImenez and Kazmir not coming back for 2014, it will put the youngster up the ladder of the peking order in Cleveland with Corey Kluber.  Let's see if he can handle the pressure in the upcoming season.

Danny Salazar, who is about to turned 24 on Jan.11, 2014, was called up for the stretch run and posted some impressive numbers to help aid the squad. He was just 2 – 3 in his 10 Game Starts, however he only yielded a 3.12 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 52.0 IP. With the likes of JImenez and Kazmir not coming back for 2014, it will put the youngster up the ladder of the peking order in Cleveland with Corey Kluber. Let’s see if he can handle the pressure in the upcoming season.

Starting Pitching

Danny Salazar is around for a full year, upstart starters Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber are another year older – and Justin Masterson (the clubs #1 guy) is in the last year of his contract before hitting Free Agency.

This team lost 25 wins and 350 IP from the tandem of Kazmir and Jimenez.

Masterson was great in his work too, at 14 – 10, with a 3.45 ERA in 193 IP spanning 29 Game Starts and 4 Relief Appearances.

I like the strides the 29 Year Old has made here, but we are still talking about a career 4.03 ERA.

I believe he will have a nice 2014 campaign too.  I am not sure he will finish his year with Cleveland so it would be tough to quantify wins.

I will project a mid 3 ERA – with a 1.25 WHIP in 2014 for no matter who and where he pitches.

Danny Salazar must be treated like a young pitching, potentially meaning a Innings cap of 160 – 170 frames.  I expect a mid 3 ERA and double digit wins.

Corey Kluber should be in the 12 win range, and muster an ERA near the 4 zone.

Zach McAllister held a pretty high WHIP of 1.362 in 2013, and was lucky to have carried a 3.75 ERA.

If the numbers equate to what they should, he may possess an ERA north of 4.

Carlos Carrasco is listed as the #5 starter in the rotation right now.  I think this may end badly.

The 27 Year Old has struggled since recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

We are talking about a thrower with a 5.29 career anyways in over 225 Innings worth of work thus far.

John Axford helped lead a Brewers Bullpen Core - to the 2011 NLCS versus the Cardinals.  The 30 Year Old Canadian has struggled ever since and had been replaced as the Milwaukee Closer. The Cardinals told him he was tipping pitching and he was effective from that moment forwards, and now will have a chance to anchor the Indians Bullpen as the Closer,

John Axford helped lead a Brewers Bullpen Core – to the 2011 NLCS versus the Cardinals. The 30 Year Old Canadian had struggled ever since and was eventually replaced as the Milwaukee Closer. The Cardinals acquired him 2013 mid yeartold him he was tipping pitching and he was effective from that moment forward,- including a nice postseason run, and now will have a chance to anchor the Indians Bullpen as the Closer, in 2014.

Bullpen

I like the makeup of the 6 main guys that will be used the most.

John Axford realized he was tipping pitches after St. Louis picked him up for their World Series run.

The 31 Year Old Canadian threw well down the stretch run, and this year Cleveland is hoping he can pitch like he did for the Brewers earlier in his carer.

In 2011, the man led the NL in Saves with 46, and had a top 10 Cy Young Voting Finish.  He was the Closer on a team that went to the NLCS.

Axford is a veteran of 106 Saves, and has pitched in many bright spots.  I would think he will be effective in 2014.

Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Vinnie Pestano, Mark Rzepcynski and Josh Outman are capable of bringing in high appearances and good results.

This is definitely one of their stronger assets for this year’s club, and it is good, because the Relief Core will be called upon.

Before we get going into this thing.  A lot of people are giving the Indians brass a tough time about not extending Masterson on his 4 YRs/$72 MIL idea.

These are the Cleveland Indians folks.  They are using the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays playbook.

It is highly doubtful the team will offer that net amount for a Starting Pitcher ever.

The idea is to groom your own Starting Pitching, and when they are going to become Free Agents, you trade them for more youth pitching, and another player or 2.

The Indians can’t commit that kind of money when they are rolling out an $85 MIL payroll.  It would represent over 25% of the teams salary.

My guess is that they will trade Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera at the summer time mark, and keep building for the future.

With Francisco Lindor on his way. and Salazar assuming to be the clubs future ace, this club can still be competitive for many future years.

I think Cleveland will start off alright to begin the season, and after they trade their best assets, and give some of the younger starters innings caps, the last 6 weeks of the year could be painful.

Official prediction is that they will win 74 – 77 games in 2014.

 Asdrubal Cabrera could fetch the Indians a nice lot of youngsters near the 2014 Trade Deadline. The Indians will not let the man walk in 2014 without receiving compensation for him. Cabrera also makes $10 MIL this year. He did not have a banner 2013 campaign, hitting for a 3 Slash Line of .244/.299./400 with 14 HRs and 64 RBI, although he added 35 Doubles to his totals.  The 28 Year Old SS has hit .273/.335/.413 and added 2 ALL - Star Appearances and a Silver Slugger Award during his tenure with Cleveland so far.  If the Indians do decide to trade him this year, they have several replacements to take over, albeit not as talented.

Asdrubal Cabrera could fetch the Indians a nice lot of youngsters near the 2014 Trade Deadline. The Indians will not let the man walkwithout receiving compensation for him. Cabrera also makes $10 MIL this year. He did not have a banner 2013 campaign, hitting for a 3 Slash Line of .244/.299./400 with 14 HRs and 64 RBI, although he added 35 Doubles to his totals. The 28 Year Old SS has hit .273/.335/.413 and added 2 ALL – Star Appearances and a Silver Slugger Award during his tenure with Cleveland so far. If the Indians do decide to trade him this year, they have several replacements to take over, including one Francisco Lindor going forward.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

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Posted on April 2, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Cleveland Indians State Of The Union For 2014.

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