Will The Cleveland Indians Contend For the AL Central?


Being a baseball fan, but not a die-hard Tribe fan (Forgive me Wahoo’s), my perspective is different on the Indians than others here. That being said, this team has the pieces in place to snatch the Central away from Detroit. 

The American League Central was hands down the most exciting division race last season. The Detroit Tigers were able to capture their fourth consecutive title, but it was the Kansas City Royals who earned all the press with their run through the 2014 Postseason. As Spring Training is quickly approaching, the question is asked; Can the Cleveland Indians win the AL Central?

Yes, yes they can.* (Uh oh, the dreaded asterisk)

The Indians put together an 85-77 season under Terry Francona, and had a few more balls dropped in their favor, it very well could have been them playing for the Wild Card. Let’s be honest, the Royals put themselves on the front pages, but it’s not like they were the best team in the league all season. A lot of things fell in line perfectly for them.

The Indians will need a little bit of luck similar to that, not to say the talent isn’t there to get the job done. Several key players are coming off injuries or surgery, and are anticipated to produce at the levels they had prior to them. Jason Kipnis, a 2013 All-Star may be in the forefront of that group. But after recovering from the torn oblique that slowed him last year, and having the pin removed from his finger after breaking it following the season, expectation is that he will return to form for the Tribe this year.

One of the more questionable is Nick Swisher. A player who by all signs is on the decline of his career, comes off of dual arthroscopic knee surgeries. The plus for Swisher is that he’s already in the AL, and can benefit from the DH should the knees give him any issues. But if he is healthy, he gives them depth at first and in the outfield, as well as realistic 25 HR, 75 RBI type of guy.

In their favor, the Tribe have the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Corey Kluber; and Michael Brantley has become a focal point of this team, finishing third in MVP voting last season. New addition Brandon Moss will help to create extra depth in the corner outfield spots as well as first base, but Carlos Santana will get his opportunity to seize first base for himself. Big things may be on tap for the slugger this year.

Yan Gomes had a breakout 2014 season, and his desire to improve behind the plate speaks volumes about his character. Kluber even took him with when he received his Cy Young Award. That alone tells you what you need to know.

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The Chicago White Sox were one of the most active teams in the free agent market this season. But after finishing 12 games behind the Tribe, they had a lot of ground to make up. The Sox brought in Jeff Samardzija via trade, while also adding slugger Melky Cabrera, first baseman Adam LaRoche, closer David Robertson and left reliever Zach Duke. No guarantees throwing this many new guys in will mean success, but they’ve made the division stronger with them for sure.

The Detroit Tigers already find themselves with bad news, and Victor Martinez finds himself injured before camp even starts. Again. He really just needs to stay in the house in the few weeks leading up to Spring Training. Max Scherzer has departed, and Justin Verlander is nothing of his former self. David Price now finds himself the “leader” of the staff, and that’s not a bad thing. But this rotation won’t intimidate like it used to. But still, counting out the Tigers is a bad move. In the end they’ll be right there.

So what about those Royals? The “darlings” of the playoffs last year? Are they poised to make another run, or was it a flash in the pan for them? They’ve lost James Shields, and bought out Billy Butler‘s deal. They added Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, then signed Edinson Volquez and added Kris Medlen. Medlen is coming off his second Tommy John. He’ll either flop or have the strongest arm in the league. I kid of course.

But the one thing the Royals do have is depth. Something the Indians have strived to build recently as well. And you can’t fault the Tribe there. They saw it working and tried to mimic it. The White Sox opted to go for the bigger names, but have had to sacrifice depth. The Tigers are the Tigers, and the Minnesota Twins are improving, but I don’t think they take that step this year.

It’s too soon to make “bold” predictions on division winners, but I do know that why there are questions entering camp, the Indians have to feel pretty good coming off last season’s success. The pieces are there, said pieces just need to stay healthy and produce.

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