Cleveland Indians: 5 most important players in 2017

Apr 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) is congratulated by shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) after scoring during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) is congratulated by shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) after scoring during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 19, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Giovanny Urshela (right) congratulates third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) after Encarnacion scored during the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Giovanny Urshela (right) congratulates third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) after Encarnacion scored during the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Indians fans were happy with the 2016 season, but it was clear the team could use another piece to help bring home that elusive title. Edwin Encarnacion could be that piece.

Encarnacion’s signing was an early Christmas present for fans, as the team added an elite bat at the end of the 2016 calendar year.

He effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who was still a solid player for the Indians in his only year with the team. However, Encarnacion is a clear upgrade over Napoli.

The former Blue Jay is coming off a career year in which he hit 42 home runs, drove in 127 runs and played in 160 games. He is entering the year as the team’s primary designated hitter, which will hopefully keep him fresh throughout the season, and able to focus on his offense.

The key will be keeping his strikeouts down, as he had 138 in 2016, but that did come in nearly a full season’s worth of games. And if he can keep up the power numbers, and keep his average around the .270 mark, fans won’t get bogged down in talk of strikeouts.

As with Miller, Encarnacion is here for more than just a single season. He is at the tail end of his career, but he is still an elite player who has a few more great seasons left. Adding him not only makes the team a title contender in 2017, but it sets the Indians up to be one of the most dominant teams in all of baseball for years to come.