New Coach, new players, but same old Indians?
Not so fast.
Cleveland pulled a fast one by hiring former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, after he spent the 2012 as an ESPN analyst.
He was let go after the collapse with the Red Sox in 2011, but could end up being the prize of the offseason.
The Indians have had issues being consistent contenders in the AL Central, primarily because of their constant rebuilding mindset.
Grady Sizemore seemed to be the only veteran on the team for the longest time, but he could never be healthy enough to stay on the field.
That era has since moved on with the end to Sizemore’s career and the new faces that Cleveland brought in this offseason.
They went out and spend some money to bring in some top free agents in outfielders Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher.
Those two players, alone, offer instant upgrades for the Tribe’s mediocre outfield.
Cleveland was also a key piece in one of the biggest offseason trades, involving the Diamondbacks and Reds.
They had to trade away one of their most marketable players in Shin Soo Choo, but did get a potential future ace in Arizona’s top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer.
The Tribe would fill out the rest of their roster with spare free agent pickups that are familiar with Francona, including Utility Mike Aviles and first baseman Mark Reynolds.
They enter this season with five new starters in their lineup, hoping for a boost in production.
The major issue that could depict the Indians’ run this season is with their closer position.
Chris Perez is coming up on a contract year and suffered a shoulder injury this spring.
Cleveland would like to trade him around the deadline, but they’re not going to hold back one of the best closers in the league if he’s healthy.
They could invest more in Vinnie Pestano, their current setup man, but won’t increase until they do something about Perez further into the season.
Francona knows how to build a winner, but he’s looking to make some noise this season in the AL Central.
Let’s see if the new-look Indians have what it takes to contend for the divisional title…
INDIANS PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Michael Bourn CF Has the ability to steal between 40-60 bases, 2.80 hitter, generates around 90 runs and 70 rbi’s, doesn’t hit double digit home runs. He’s a solid no.3 OF option because of the lack of power.
2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS His numbers took a slight decline from his breakout year in 2011. He’s a .270 hitter that can contribute in every category. Expect around 15+ home runs/stolen bases, and a fair number of runs/rbi’s.
3. Jason Kipnis 2B He’s on a contract year, so he’ll have plenty of incentive to take his game to the next level. He can contribute in every category, needs to get his home run numbers up, but is a solid no.2 2nd option.
4. Nick Swisher RF He’s not an elite name, but he puts up elite numbers. You’re getting a .270+ average, 20+ home runs, and 80+ runs/rbi’s. Take advantage of his low draft position when you’re looking for your third OF options.
5. Carlos Santana C Statistically had a better season than his breakout year in 2011, but had a horrible start to 2012. He is a solid option that is ranked in a lower draft position this season, so believe that he can bounce back.
6. Mark Reynolds 1B He’s nothing more than a swing for the fences DH type of player. He’s not someone that you can count on, so leave him to waivers until you get desperate for power later in the season.
7. Michael Brantley LF He’s an average hitter, can’t get double digit home runs or stolen bases, and 60+ runs/rbi’s. Look elsewhere.
8. Lonnie Chisenhall 3B He’s one of their top prospects, but hasn’t proven that he can hit for a very high average at the major league level. He’s going to be put through some growing pains, so don’t invest in him just yet.
9. Mike Aviles DH He’s only good enough to be a rotating DH in this lineup, he has fantasy value if he had an everyday job, but until that happens, he’s nothing worst investing in.
1. Justin Masterson High ERA, lower strikeout totals than you’d want in an ace, and he can barely get over a .500 record. He’s nothing more than one of the last options in your rotation on draft day, hoping he has a breakout.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez High risk, high reward type of player. He hasn’t been very rewarding since joining the Indians two seasons ago, but he still racks up good strikeout totals. His wild approach makes him a risky pickup, but owners continue to look at him from his 2010 form.
3. Brett Myers Comes back out of the bullpen as a full time starter for the first time in two seasons. He can be a productive starter, keeps an ERA around 3+, and can generate a decent amount of strikeouts, just don’t invest in him until late or in post draft pickups.
4. Zach McAllister He’s never done anything to make you want to own him on your fantasy team. He’ll be the first one gone as soon as Trevor Bauer returns from his minor league stint.
5. Scott Kazmir Trying to rejuvenate his major league career, typically sports a 3+ ERA, can be a high strikeout guy, but needs to prove that he can be productive and stay healthy before you invest in him.
RP-Chris Perez He’s one of the top closers to have in fantasy. He did suffer a shoulder injury in the spring, the Indians are looking to move him before the trade deadline, and Vinnie Pestano is waiting in the wing. That doesn’t mean that he’ll be a setup man on another team if he does get traded, so continue to invest in him on draft day.
Trevor Bauer was one of Arizona’s top pitching prospects, before he was traded in that three team trade earlier in the offseason. The Indians invested in Bauer as their ace of the future, but it will be until at least June before he arrives from the minors. He had a brief stint in the majors last year, but suffered a season-ending injury. He showcased flashes of brilliance, and comparisons to a young Tim Lincecum, but became more of a liability. He’s got the ability to be one of the next great pitchers in fantasy, so keep him on your post draft watchlist, as he could arrive in early June. He can generate a lot of strikeouts, be very durable, and maintains a low ERA. Let’s be honest, his competition is Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir…enough said.
Vinnie Pestano is an unknown name to most fantasy owners. He’s was the primary setup man for Chris Perez the past couple of seasons and could unseat him this year. Depending if Perez is healthy enough to be the Opening Day closer, Pestano’s fantasy value could skyrocket. He was one of the top setup men in the league last season in stops, he can generate a lot of strikeouts, and come with a variety of ways to attack batters. Keep an eye on the health of Chris Perez, because Pestano might keep the closer job if he steps in.