Cleveland Indians: Analyzing the Rest of the AL Central

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May 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23), right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8) and catcher Yan Gomes (10) celebrate after scoring on a double hit by Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (not pictured) during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23), right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8) and catcher Yan Gomes (10) celebrate after scoring on a double hit by Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (not pictured) during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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May 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23), right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8) and catcher Yan Gomes (10) celebrate after scoring on a double hit by Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (not pictured) during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23), right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8) and catcher Yan Gomes (10) celebrate after scoring on a double hit by Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (not pictured) during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Indians continue to improve while the rest of the American League Central is fading fast. Here is a breakdown of every team’s situation.

The Cleveland Indians made a major splash on December 22 with the signing of free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. This is the second blockbuster addition to the team within the past five months, as the Indians acquired reliever Andrew Miller at the trade deadline this past season.

While the Indians continue to build around their controllable, young core of talent, the level of competition in the AL Central is rapidly diminishing.

Whether it be the fire sale the Chicago White Sox had or the rapidly increasing age of the Detroit Tigers, the AL Central is looking like more of a weak division rather than the strong one it has looked like in recent history.

This plays right into the Indians’ game plan, as their rebuilding process shows its fruit. The Indians’ dominant pitching rotation and strong lineup should have little problem tearing through the AL Central en route to its second straight Central crown.

Outside of Encarnacion, the Indians will be seeing the return of starters Carlos Carrasco – who missed the entire playoffs with a broken hand – and Danny Salazar – who was limited throughout the playoffs with an elbow issue. Even more notable, outfielder Michael Brantley should be making his long-awaited return after missing nearly all of 2016 with shoulder issues. Also, catcher Yan Gomes will look to rebound after a dismal 2016 which was riddled with injuries and lingering effects of past injuries.

With these additions, the Indians 2017 Opening Day lineup could look something like this:

  1. Carlos Santana – 1B
  2. Jason Kipnis – 2B
  3. Francisco Lindor – SS
  4. Edwin Encarnacion – DH
  5. Michael Brantley – LF
  6. Jose Ramirez – 3B
  7. Yan Gomes – C
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall – RF
  9. Abraham Almonte – CF

There is no arguing that this lineup will be the strongest in the AL Central.

Many members of the national media are saying that the Indians will be the team to beat in the AL, as only the Boston Red Sox, who added Mitch Moreland and Chris Sale, seem to measure up to them. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees could also be in the conversation.

The Indians could eclipse 100 wins for the first time since 1995 with the weakening of the AL Central. Each team has suffered at least one key loss, and there has been only one big addition.

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