Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Cleveland Indians 2020 Season Preview

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Twitter: @Indians

With the season starting today against the Royals, let’s take a look at what to expect from The Tribe this year.

Rotation

The rotation will turn out to be as expected before spring training, with the delayed start of the season help Mike Clevinger recover from his left knee injury he suffered in March. Shane Bieber will get the opening day nod, followed by Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, who’s coming back from his battle with leukemia, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac. While Bieber and Clevinger had their coming out party last season, Aaron Civale looks to break out this year, as I wrote about in depth in my Indians breakout candidates article. The rotation is looking like one of the top rotations in baseball, and arguably the best in the division.

Bullpen

This will likely be the weakest part of the Indians this season, and suffered a huge blow with Emmanuel Clase out for the year with a PED suspension. The bullpen will start off with Adam Plutko, Phil Maton, Dominic Leone, Cam Hill, Adam Cimber, Oliver Pérez, Nick Wittgren, James Karinchak, and Brad Hand. While there are plenty familiar faces coming back this year, there’s some new faces in that bullpen like Dominic Leone and Cam Hill, who will be making his major league debut this year with the Indians. Leone is looking for a bounceback year in 2020, as his last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals were not great, posting a 5.15 ERA in 69 appearances. The biggest name to look out for in the bullpen this season is James Karinchak. While Karinchak was on the team last year as a September call up, he was limited to only 5.1 innings. Karinchak has shown a lot of promise and will likely become Cleveland’s best reliever.

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Infield

The Indians infield looks to have a breakout year, as new addition César Hernández, José Ramírez, and Francisco Lindor look to bounce back from disappointing seasons at the plate last season and Carlos Santana looks to continue the production from his All-Star season last year. The infield defense seems to be very solid, with the middle infield of Lindor and Hernández both ranking in the upper 80th percentile in Outs Above Average, and gold glove winner Roberto Perez behind the plate. These guys are the backbone of the lineup, expect big years out of them.

Fun fact: the entire infield consists of switch hitters!!

Outfield

Since their 2016 World Series run, the outfield has been the weakest part of the Cleveland Indians roster. While this year might have the best outfield put on the field for Cleveland, it’s still one of the weaker parts of the team. The team will carry 7 outfielders, with the likely starters being Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, and Franmil Reyes/Domingo Santana, with one of those two likely to DH. While Mercado has superb defense in center field, the other three bring below average defense, but Reyes and Santana make up for it by bringing much needed right handed power to the lineup.

Bench

The bench will consist of one catcher (Sandy León), three infielders (Mike Freeman, Christian Arroyo, Yu Chang), and three outfielders (Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, and Bradley Zimmer). While it’s quite unlikely to see León or the infielders get consistent playing time unless there’s an injury, the outfielders will probably get a fair share of playing time with Tyler Naquin being a big question mark in right field. Luplow will likely get all the playing time against lefties, as he posted a 198 wRC+ against lefties in 126 PA in 2019. Bradley Zimmer also looks to rebound after missing a huge portion of the 2019 season after right shoulder surgery.

Overview

Just a couple days ago, the Indians looked to be in the hunt for one of the two American League Wild Card spots, along with the A’s, Rays, and White Sox. However, with the news coming out that there will be a 16 team playoff format, it pretty much automatically locks the Indians into the playoffs, it’s just a matter of where they will be seeded. They will likely be around, 4-6 seed, as the first three seeds will go to the division winners. With a 60 game season, anything can happen. Hopefully it all turns out well for The Tribe.