Complete Cleveland Indians 2013 Season Preview

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Complete Cleveland Indians 2013 Season Preview
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Can new manager Terry Francona deliver a playoff berth in his first year with the Cleveland Indians?

The Cleveland Indians have not won a World Series title since 1948. Judging from the changes made this offseason, they're looking to put an end to that streak.

After finishing with a 68-94 record in 2012, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti went to work revamping his roster.

Via trades and free-agent signings, Antonetti was active, and the end result is a product that promises to be more far more competitive in 2013.

Whether or not the changes made are enough to compete with the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central division remains to be seen.

Here is a comprehensive look at the Indians entering the 2013 season.

 

2012 Record: 68-94

Key Arrivals (Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com): C/IF Yan Gomes - Trade (TOR); 1B Mike McDade - Waivers (TOR); 1B Chris McGuiness - Rule 5 (TEX); 1B Mark Reynolds - Free Agent (BAL); IF Mike Aviles - Trade (TOR); OF Michael Bourn - Free Agent (ATL); OF Quincy Latimore - Trade (PIT); OF Drew Stubbs - Trade (CIN); OF Nick Swisher - Free Agent (NYY); RHP Matt Albers - Trade (ARI); RHP Trevor Bauer - Trade (ARI); RHP Brett Myers - Free Agent (CWS); RHP Bryan Shaw - Trade (ARI)
RHP Blake Wood - Waivers (KC)

Key Departures: DH Travis Hafner - Free Agent (NYY); 1B/OF Lars Anderson - Trade (ARI); 1B Casey Kotchman - Free Agent (MIA); 3B/1B Jack Hannahan - Free Agent (CIN); IF Jason Donald - Trade (CIN); IF/OF Russ Canzler - Waivers (TOR) / (NYY); OF Shin-Soo Choo - Trade (CIN); RHP Jeanmar Gomez - Trade (PIT); RHP Roberto Hernandez - Free Agent (TB); RHP Esmil Rogers - Trade (TOR); RHP Hector Rondon - Rule 5 (CHC); LHP Scott Maine - Waivers (TOR); LHP T.J. McFarland - Rule 5 (BAL); LHP Tony Sipp - Trade (ARI)

 

Projected Rotation (per official site)

1. Justin Masterson (11-15, 4.93 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
2. Ubaldo Jimenez (9-17, 5.40, 1.61)
3. Brett Myers (3-8, 3.31, 1.22)*
4. Zach McAllister (6-8, 4.24, 1.36)
5. Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.62, 1.36 in 2011)

 

Projected Starters

Rich Pilling/Getty Images
New center fielder Michael Bourn brings tremendous speed to the leadoff position for the Cleveland Indians.

C: Carlos Santana (.252/.365/.420, 18 HR, 76 RBI)
1B: Nick Swisher (.272/.364/.837, 24, 93)
2B: Jason Kipnis (.257/.335/.379, 14, 76)
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (.268/.311/.430, 5, 16)
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (.270/.338/.423, 16, 68)
LF: Michael Brantley (.288/.348/.402, 6, 60)
CF: Michael Bourn (.274/.348/.391, 9, 57, 42 SB)
RF: Drew Stubbs (.213/.277/.333, 14, 40, 30 SB)
DH: Mark Reynolds (.221/.335/.429, 23, 69)

 

Projected Bullpen

Closer: Chris Perez (R) (0-4, 39 SV, 0 HLD, 4 BLSV, 3.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Vinnie Pestano (R) (3-3, 2 SV, 36 HLD, 3 BLSV, 2.57, 1.10)
Joe Smith (R) (7-4, 0 SV, 21 HLD, 3 BLSV, 2.96, 1.16)
Matt Albers (R) (3-3, 0 SV, 9 HLD, 6 BLSV, 2.39, 1.13)
Nick Hagadone (L) (1-0, 1 SV, 1 HLD, 2 BLSV, 6.39, 1.62) 
Matt Capps (R) (1-4, 14 SV, 0 HLD, 1 BLSV, 3.68, 1.09)
David Huff (L) (3-1, 0 SV, 0 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.38, 1.31)

 

Scouting the Starting Pitching

With a 5.25 ERA, the Indians starting rotation was the second worst in the American League last year. Masterson and Jimenez contributed mightily to the cause with their subpar performances. Jimenez in particular has been a major disappointment ever since the trade that brought him over from the Colorado Rockies in July 2011.

Jimenez rocketed to fame with a fabulous first half in 2010, posting a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA. However, since that time Jimenez is 23-37 with a 4.78 ERA.

The Indians exercised the 2013 option on Jimenez's contract for $5.75 million, hoping that it was simply a case of bad mechanics that caused the issues.

Jimenez admitted as much, telling Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he had no idea what to do with the baseball last year.

"I'd have the ball in my hand and didn't know what to do with it," Jimenez said.

David Maxwell/Getty Images
Ubaldo Jimenez hopes that improved mechanics will spell success in 2013.

New Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway visited Jimenez twice in the Dominican Republic during the offseason. Jimenez spent much of the winter viewing videos of his early days in Colorado. He vowed to get back to basics and have his mechanics cleaned up by the end of spring training.

Masterson saw rough times last season as well. After a promising 2011 season that saw him post a 12-10 record and 3.21 ERA in 33 starts, Masterson underwent offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. According to new manager Terry Francona, that surgery could have prevented Masterson from repeating his normal delivery.

Masterson and Jimenez are again at the top of the rotation despite last year's struggles. It's incumbent upon both to show vast improvement this season for the Indians to have a chance of competing.

Myers will transition back to the rotation after closing for the Houston Astros and working as a late-inning reliever for the Chicago White Sox last year.

Myers has shown to be more than capable as a starter during his career. While not a big strikeout guy, Myers is an effective innings-eater with the ability to work into later innings and keep his team within striking distance.

McAllister showed flashes of consistency in his first full year last season. The Indians hope that McAllister can gain better command of his secondary pitches and work deeper into games for the 2013 season.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Carlos Carrasco hopes to return strong from Tommy John surgery after missing the entire 2012 season.

The No. 5 role will likely come down to a battle between Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Huff and Scott Kazmir. Carrasco is now almost 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery after showing some promise in 2010 and 2011.

Kazmir pitched in the Puerto Rican winter league this winter under former Miami Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez gave Cleveland a glowing report, saying that Kazmir had built up his arm strength and was throwing in the low-90s. Kazmir hasn't pitched in the majors since April 2011.

While not believed to be a strength right now, Antonetti believes the unit could be viewed as an asset in the not-so-distant future.

“We’ve got a lot of potential in the rotation,’’ Antonetti told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. “We just need to get consistent performance. I can very easily see a scenario in a couple of months where we’re talking about our starting rotation as a strength."

For the Indians to be successful in 2013, Antonetti's belief had better become fact.

 

Scouting the Bullpen

The Indians bullpen matched the rotation in posting the second-worst ERA (3.99) in the American League last season. Much of that can be attributed to being overworked—they posted the fourth-highest total of innings worked as well.

Way too often last year, the bullpen was called upon to clean up messes left by the woeful starting rotation early in games. General manager Antonetti referenced that fact as well.

"No part of a team ever acts independently from the other parts," Antonetti said. "They all depend on each other. We're hoping for more innings from the starters this year so the relievers can stay in their roles."

The talent is clearly there—Perez has posted 98 saves in the past three seasons and Pestano has stepped up as a solid setup man. Antonetti brought in right-handers Albers and Shaw from the Arizona Diamondbacks, adding two solid, veteran arms to the mix.

Smith joins Perez and Pestano to form a solid back-end trio. Much more often than not they will hold a late lead.

It's hoped that Hagadone can replace Tony Sipp as the left-handed specialist. Scott Barnes could be a possible candidate for that role as well.

Shaw was terrific against right-handed hitters last year for the Diamondbacks, holding them to just a .211 average. Look for Francona to rely heavily on righty-lefty matchups this year.

Barnes ended last year with a flourish, retiring the last 14 batters he faced and not allowing a run over his last nine appearances. He could be added to the roster with an impressive spring.

With a strong core and good supporting cast, the bullpen for the Tribe should be a strength. It will become even more of an asset if the starting rotation vastly improves as well.

 

Scouting the Hitting

With the additions of Bourn, Stubbs, Swisher and Reynolds, the Indians starting lineup will sport a dramatic new look.

Bourn gives the Tribe a legitimate threat at the top of the lineup, and one who can run like a deer. Bourn's speed will be a huge asset in the outfield as well. In fact, Francona will have have three center fielders patrolling his outfield.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Bourn brings great defense, speed and solid on-base capabilities.

That's a lot of speed and should be a major bonus defensively as well.

Before the addition of Bourn, it was thought that Swisher would be patrolling right field. Now, Swisher will see most of his action at first base with Reynolds moving to a full-time role as DH.

The potential for power is certainly there—Santana, Swisher, Reynolds and Stubbs are all capable of 25-plus HR seasons, while Cabrera and Chisenhall will chip in with their fair share as well.

Speed is vastly improved with the additions of Bourn and Stubbs as well. Francona could absolutely get very creative with hit-and-run possibilities.

The acquisition of Mike Aviles also gives Francona a solid option off the bench.

All in all, it should be a vastly-improved offense. The combination of speed and power brought in by the newcomers alone gives the Tribe a well-balanced attack.

 

Pitching Stud

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Ubaldo Jimenez had absolutely no idea where the ball was going last year, as mentioned earlier. For the Indians to be successful and competitive this season, he'll need to come up with an idea.

There's no question Jimenez's stuff is electric—in early 2010, he was an absolute treat to watch.

The Indians gave up top prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White because they believed in Jimenez. They believed he could be the ace of the staff for years to come.

They obviously still believe in Jimenez—they wouldn't have picked up his 2013 option otherwise. At 29 years of age, he's nowhere near being washed up.

After studying videos all winter and vowing to get back to basics, Jimenez is hopeful that he can once again regain the form the Indians counted on when they traded for him.

After watching Jimenez throw batting practice, Indians manager Francona is happy with what he sees.

"Right now, with everybody, it's basically building arm strength," Francona said. "But with Ubaldo, it's trying to be as clean through his delivery, so he can throw the ball downhill where he wants to. I thought today he did a really good job of having a little more rhythm in his delivery."

That was the key to Jimenez's early success—throwing downhill and keeping the ball down in the zone. If he can find that repeatable delivery that allows him to consistently pound the zone low, he can once again strike fear in the hearts of opposing hitters.

 

Hitting Stud

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Indians acquired Aviles and Reynolds—both of whom have experience at third base—the Indians have made it clear that Lonnie Chisenhall is their main man at the hot corner.

The Tribe is anxious to see what Chisenhall can do over the course of a full season. A fractured right forearm—courtesy of an errant pitch by Baltimore Orioles reliever Troy Patton in late June—also fractured Chisenhall's 2012 season. He spent over two months on the disabled list before finding his way back into the starting lineup on Sept. 9.

The Indians believe that Chisenhall is capable of being a significant contributor—he hit .282 with an .808 OPS at the Triple-A level.

For his part, Chisenhall will have to improve his chances against left-handed pitching (just .227 thus far in two seasons) and improve his plate command—he's drawn just 16 walks in 374 career plate appearances.

Francona has faith that Chisenhall can deliver. In an online chat with fans last month, Francona said that he expected Chisenhall to take the bull by the horns.

"We want Lonnie Chisenhall to get the majority of ABs at third," Francona said. "He's young and talented, and injuries derailed him last year, but we want him to lay claim to that position. Mike Aviles can help at a number of different positions, but we want Lonnie to take charge there."

While Chisenhall isn't a difference maker in the mold of Mike Trout, his success at the plate could help enhance the Indians offense even more.

 

X-Factor

Rich Pilling/Getty Images

Second baseman Jason Kipnis nearly became an All-Star in his first full season last year, putting together an excellent first half with a .277 average, 11 HR and 49 RBI. However, he cooled significantly after the All-Star break, hitting just .233 with three homers and 27 RBI.

If Kipnis can be consistent throughout the season, the 14 home runs and 76 RBI he delivered last season would pale in comparison.

Kipnis is another who brings speed to the table—his 31 stolen bases were tops on the team last season. Along with Bourn and Stubbs, the Tribe now have three legitimate threats on the basepaths.

No question the Indians have bolstered their lineup with new acquisitions. But Kipnis could easily be the X-factor if he can put together two equal halves.

 

Prospect to Watch

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There's no question that Trevor Bauer fits this description.

General manager Antonetti made it clear that the Indians believed in Bauer's abilities, despite the talk in Arizona that he was immature and difficult to deal with.

Bauer is cocky, no question about that. He released a rap song, allegedly in response to comments made by former teammate and catcher Miguel Montero. Bauer said the lyrics were intended for Twitter haters, not for Montero.

With those days now behind him, Bauer could well be a difference maker in Cleveland. The question is when.

Indians manager Francona made it clear that no young pitcher, no matter how good they are, is deserving of a roster spot.

"What we're trying to do with all our young pitchers is to have them try to succeed and earn their spot," Francona said in an online chat with fans. "We want them to knock the door down and claim it by the way they pitch, as opposed to just giving it to them."

Bauer will work to earn that spot over the next six weeks.

 

What the Indians Will Do Well

While exhibition games haven't even started yet, the Indians offense will likely be the team's biggest strength. And not just strength in terms of power.

It's the blend of speed and power that will serve the Indians well in 2013. Bourn, Stubbs and Kipnis supply the speed, Santana, Swisher and Reynolds the power.

Asdrubal Cabrera could become the No. 2 hitter in manager Terry Francona's lineup. Cabrera has the on-base capabilities along with the ability to hit the gaps. He could be very productive hitting behind Bourn. Santana, Swisher and Reynolds in the middle of the lineup should have more than enough run-scoring opportunities.

Cleveland's offense ranked second-to-last in runs scored last season. With its new additions, that should change in in 2013.

 

What the Indians Won't Do Well

For the Indians to have any hope of a postseason berth in 2013, their starting rotation absolutely has to deliver. While changes were made in bringing aboard Myers, Bauer and a host of non-roster invitees, the onus is still on Masterson and Jimenez to dramatically improve over last year's performance.

Antonetti and Francona can have all the optimism in the world about the chances for their rotation—it's results that matter. Based on last year's performance, and the performance of pitchers signed to minor-league deals, it's fair to say that the rotation is without question still the biggest question mark.

 

Final Thoughts

How Will the Indians Finish in the AL Central in 2013?

Submit Vote vote to see results

It was no doubt refreshing for Indians fans to see Indians owner Larry Dolan investing in the team's future this offseason. Attendance at Progressive Field hasn't topped two million since 2008, and for good reason.

With $104 million invested in Swisher and Bourn, Dolan sent a message to fans that he is indeed interested in building a winner. Payroll will be significantly higher in 2013, and Dolan allowed general manger Antonetti to make deals that benefit the team both short and long term.

However, while the offense on paper promises to be significantly better, the questions concerning the starting rotation are valid. The Indians are expecting major increases in performance from Masterson, Jimenez and McAllister. They're also expecting that Myers can easily transition back to the starting rotation. The chances of all experiencing vast improvement at the same time is slim.

The Indians will in fact be better in 2013. But they might not have done quite enough to keep up with the Tigers, or even the new-look Kansas City Royals.

 

Projected Record: 80-82, third in AL Central

 

Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

Load More Stories

Follow Cleveland Indians from B/R on Facebook

Follow Cleveland Indians from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

Cleveland Indians

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.