MLB Spring Training: Cleveland Indians Full Preview


2015 Cleveland Indians in review

81-80, 3rd in AL Central, 8th in AL

Top three hitters: LF Michael Brantley (.310, 15 HR, 84 RBI), SS Francisco Lindor (.313, 12 HR, 51 RBI), 2B Jason Kipnis (.303, 9 HR, 52 RBI)

Top three pitchers: RHP Danny Salazar (14-10, 3.45 ERA, 18 QS), Corey Kluber (9-16, 3.49 ERA, 222.0 IP), CL Cody Allen (34 SV, 2.99 ERA, 12.85 K/9)

Key offseason transactions

Additions: 1B Mike Napoli (free agent), OF Rajai Davis (free agent), LF Colin Cowgill (via trade), RHP Dan Ortero (via trade), RHP Tommy Hunter (free agent)

Losses: LF Ryan Raburn (elected free agency), RHP Ryan Webb (elected free agency), IF Mike Aviles (elected free agency), 3B Chris Johnson (released by team)


  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Danny Salazar
  4. Trevor Bauer
  5. Josh Tomlin

Cleveland’s rotation is well-built with four quality arms and a fifth starter (Tomlin) coming off the best season of his career. Corey Kluber, despite his 9-16 mark last season, is a dominant ace with the capability of tossing 200-plus innings and getting you 15-plus wins each season. Carlos Carrasco has become a hot name of late as possible trade bait, but for now, will stay put in Cleveland as a very reliable No. 2. Carrasco, 28, is coming off a season in which he ranked in the top 10 in the AL in wins (14), strikeouts (216), WHIP (1.07) and complete games (3).

Danny Salazar sits in the middle of the rotation and will give the Indians tremendous value in the No. 3 slot. Salazar, in just his second full season with the big club, notched 14 wins and had a team-low 3.45 ERA (among starters).

Trevor Bauer will be the wild card for the Indians this season. He’s got all the tools to be a perennial double-digit win pitcher, but has struggled with his command. In 2015, Bauer had the highest pitcher walk rate (10.62 percent) of all eligible starters.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Tomlin rounds out the rotation, coming off the best season of his career. The veteran righty only had 10 starts last year, but tossed two complete games, compiled a 7-2 record and held a WHIP of 0.84. If he can continue that form, the Indians will be tough to beat with good arms on any given day.


  1. LF Rajai Davis
  2. SS Francisco Lindor
  3. 2B Jason Kipnis
  4. DH Carlos Santana
  5. C Yan Gomes
  6. 1B Mike Napoli
  7. RF Lonnie Chisenhall
  8. 3B Giovanny Urshela
  9. CF Abraham Almonte

The Indians’ lineup is hurt by the absence of Michael Brantley, but general manager Mike Chernoff was able to add some production in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, until Brantley is able to return. The 28-year-old outfielder is recovering from a shoulder tear (non-throwing shoulder) and is realistically expected to return sometime in May.

However, despite the absence of Brantley for the early part of the season, the Indians still have some solid pieces in place. Jason Kipnis has proven to be one of the top second basemen in the game of baseball and is showing no signs of slowing down. His power numbers have dipped over the past couple years, but that has been replaced by an uptick in batting average (career-high .303 clip last season).

Additionally, Carlos Santana is still a major power threat in the heart of the order, having belted 18 or more home runs in each of his five full seasons in the big leagues. Yan Gomes, a power-hitting catcher, is also capable of adding 15 home runs in a given year. His career high came in 2014, when he rounded the bases 21 times.

The addition of Napoli will also help an Indians unit that needs a power surge after finished 13th in the AL in home runs last season. Napoli has reached double-digit home run totals in nine of his 10 major league seasons.

Finally, second-year shortstop Francisco Lindor gives Indians fans a lot to be excited about. In his rookie campaign last year, Lindor slashed .313/.353/.482 with 12 HR and 51 RBI over 99 games and finished a close second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.

Jul 22, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland’s 7-9 hitters will be the question mark for this team, and that’s a understatement. Chisenhall is likely to split time in right as part of a platoon including Colin Cowgill, Joey Butler and possibly Davis or Almonte once Brantley returns.

If Cleveland is in competition at the deadline, look for the Tribe to possibly deal one of their assets in the rotation for a third baseman or reliable outfielder.



The Indians have a couple solid guys coming out of the, namely closer Cody Allen (34 saves in 38 opportunities last season) and Brian Shaw (23 H, 2.99 ERA).

However, beyond those two, there’s not a whole lot in place for Cleveland in terms of reliability. The jury is still out on Zach McAllister as a reliever. He was fairly impressive last season in his first full year as a reliever (61 appearances, 3.00 ERA), but is still working through that transition period.

Right-hander Jeff Manship resurrected his career in Cleveland last season, working 39.1 innings with a 0.92 ERA, but has struggled throughout his career (5.24 career ERA), so he cannot be trusted yet.

Of course, the loss of Ryan Webb (40 appearances, 3.20 ERA) doesn’t help the cause.

2016 outlook

While the Indians certainly have a top-flight rotation and some solid franchise players in place (i.e. Kipnis, Lindor), it’s going to be hard for them to make a run at the playoffs this year. Expect a step back for Cleveland after a third place finish in the AL Central last year.

The absence of Brantley in the beginning of the season will hurt and the bullpen will struggle. Outfield depth is an issue, despite the addition of Rajai Davis, and there are just too many holes for Terry Francona’s squad to deal with. It’s going to be hard for the Indians to compete this year.

What do you think about the Indians’ chances in 2016? Let us know in the comment section below.