Monday evening, news broke that the Cleveland Indians signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year deal. Cleveland, to the surprise of many, has been extremely busy this offseason. This December alone, the club signed free agents Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher while also acquiring outfielder Drew Stubbs and pitcher Trevor Bauer via trade. With the new year came the signing of veteran pitcher Brett Myers and, most recently, the speedy Bourn. It’s been a busy offseason for Cleveland, to say the least.
Since the dust has settled, for now, the new-look Indians can be dissected. The lineup should look something like this:CF Michael Bourn 2B Jason Kipnis SS Asdrubal Cabrera RF Nick Swisher C Carlos Santana 1B Mark Reynolds LF Drew Stubbs/Michael Brantley 3B Lonnie Chisenhall DH McGuiness/Giambi/Reynolds
One interesting aspect of the Indians’ new lineup is that it projects to have at least three lefthanders as well as at least three switch hitters, depending on how it’s constructed. The lineup possesses great speed (Bourn, Kipnis, Stubbs) and also great power (Cabrera, Swisher, Santana, Reynolds). The defense will likely be a weak point, with the exception of Bourn in center, but the offensive potential the lineup possesses should more than compensate for the sub-par defending. The projected lineup for the Indians is not quite on par with that of the Tigers, but it is likely second best in the division.
The stable of pitchers for the 2013 Cleveland Indians will look like this:RHP Justin Masterson RHP Ubaldo Jimenez RHP Brett Myers RHP Zach McAllister RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka/RHP Trevor Bauer
At the top of the roatation, Masterson and Jimenez pitched to 4.93 and 5.40 ERAs last year, respectively. Brett Myers fared better, posting a 3.31 ERA. He did so, however, as a reliever, while also posting his second lowest strikeout rate since 2002. Thus, there is reason to question whether he can match last year’s moderate levels of success.
In contrast to the front of the rotation, the back-end could provide something for Cleveland fans to look forward to. Though he ended up finishing with fairly pedestrian numbers, young right-hander Zach McAllister posted 8.72 strikeouts per nine innings while walking only 2.13 batters per nine during the first half of the 2012 season. Though his 4.10 k/bb ratio from the first half would eventually settle at 2.89, there is still great reason to believe that the 25 year old could have a very solid 2013.
In addition to McAllister, the back-end of the Indians’ pitching rotation could potentially feature 22 year old right-hander Trevor Bauer. Bauer, ranked as baseball’s 25th best prospect by Keith Law, saw some time in the majors for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year after tearing through the club’s minor league ranks. His performance once he reached the big leagues was disappointing, but it is worth noting that his struggles came while hampered by a groin injury suffered in his first start with the team. If Bauer is healthy, he could bring a much needed strikeout-heavy presence to the Indians’ rotation.
Though pitching could potentially be a sore spot for Cleveland this year, there is still reason for optimism. Primarily, it’s that the offense is fantastic. The Indians’ lineup is extremely potent 1-5, and there’s also some decent upside in the back with Stubbs and Reynolds. Cleveland will have the offense necessary to contend this year, whether or not the pitching and defense can hold up their end of the bargain, however, will be the real question.