30/30 BRKDWN – Cleveland Indians

Scott Hoyt
MLB Analyst

The 2021 MLB season will be here before we know it. Pitchers and catchers reported on time, Spring Training is underway and we might have a full 162 game season with fans — hopefully. Between now and the start of Opening Day, we plan to BRKDWN each team’s offseason reviews and what to look forward to this upcoming season. Next, the Cleveland Indians.



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Key Additions

INF Amed Rosario (Trade)

INF Andres Gimenez (Trade)

OF Eddie Rosario (Free Agent)

OF Billy Hamilton (Free Agent)

LHP Oliver Perez (Free Agent)

Key Losses

SS Francisco Lindor (Trade)

RHP Carlos Carrasco (Trade)

LHP Brad Hand (Free Agency)

1B Carlos Santana (Free Agency)

2020 Look Back

35-25 (.585) W% Finished 2nd in AL Central and got swept by the Yankees in AL Wildcard Series

Runs: Jose Ramirez (45)

Home Runs: Jose Ramirez (17)

Avg. Jose Ramirez (.292)

Slg. Jose Ramirez (.607)

ERA: Shane Bieber (1.63)

K’s: Shane Bieber (122)

WHIP: Brad Hand (.77)

Opp. Avg. James Karinchak (.159)

Projected 2021 Season

Yikes is the first word that comes to mind when looking at what the Cleveland Indians did this offseason. For a team to be perennial postseason contenders, they now look like anything but that going forward. This roster is now solely reliant on former Cy Young Shane Bieber to replicate his insane year, and for Jose Ramirez to hit for the triple crown if they want to be contenders. I get the sense that this organization lacks a person who asks the general manager/owner, “WTF we doing here boys?”. This was a team that was at the top of one of the weakest divisions in baseball and now they find themselves heading for a free fall. Mind you, this is a pitching staff that has now lost Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Brad Hand, and now Carlos Carrasco. The one thing this team has going for them is that they are going to be fast. Almost everybody on their starting roster can fly and they should field a decent defensive team. Outside of that, I think it’s going to be a tough season in Ohio and I don’t know how it gets better for this organization.

They are at +4000 to win the World Series, +2000 to win the A.L. Pennant, +800 to win the AL Central, and O/U 80.5 regular season wins

*odds via Draftkings

Projected Lineup

2B – Cesar Hernandez

OF – Eddie Rosario

3B – Jose Ramirez

DH – Franmil Reyes

OF – Josh Naylor

1B – Jake Bauers

C – Roberto Perez

SS – Andres Gimenez

OF – Bradley Zimmer

Projected Rotation

  1. Shane Bieber
  2. Zach Plesac
  3. Aaron Civale
  4. Triston McKenzie
  5. Cal Quantrill

Offense

Offense: 248 Runs (24th), 59 Home Runs (27th), .228 Team Avg. (28th), .372 SLG (26th)

Even with Francisco Lindor last year, this was not a great offensive team by any stretch of the imagination. After looking at the numbers, Jose Ramirez single handedly carried this team on his back offensively. He was first in all major categories by a long shot. Now take away his running mate in Lindor, and all the focus shifts to stopping him. I expect Jose Ramirez and the rest of this Indians lineup to regress statistically due to lack of talent throughout. There is no doubt this team can run and will have speed on the base paths. But getting runners on, over, and in will be a challenge for this team. I also don’t like the balance and depth with this team. Their lack of quality right handed batters and depth at any position scares me. This could resemble a minor league team by the end of the summer. They finished near the bottom of every category last year, and I think they replicate that, if not worse.

Pitching

Pitching: 3.29 Team ERA (2nd), 621 K’s (1st), 1.11 Team WHIP (2nd), .223 Opp. Avg (4th)

The pitching staff last year was this team’s bright point and carried them to a playoff berth. Having the CY Young winner on your staff helps, but they also had other contributors. With their number two now in New York, and their closer no longer on the roster, this team is going to need some young guys to step up. Triston McKenzie showed flashes of brilliance last year but everyone is holding their breath if he can make it a full 162. James Karinchak is a sleeper candidate to have a breakout year as a closer. I also remember James having full on mental breakdowns on the mound and visibly having conversations with himself. I don’t know if that is necessarily a bad thing or not, as your closer should have a little crazy side to him. If he can’t solidify the back end, this team is in a world of trouble as they let Brad Hand walk. Not to mention this team is going to be heavily reliant upon Zack Pleasac, who was in the dog house most of last year. His stuff definitely plays at the major league level, so it will be something to watch if he can consistently make his starts.

Top 10 Prospects(via Joe DeMayo Yahoo Sports)

  1. Nolan Jones INF ETA 2021
  2. Triston McKenzie RHP 2021
  3. Tyler Freeman SS ETA 2022
  4. Bo Naylor C ETA 2022
  5. George Valera OF ETA 2023
  6. Gabriel Arias INF 2022
  7. Daniel Espino RHP 2022
  8. Brayan Rocchio INF ETA 2023
  9. Aaron Bracho SS ETA 2023
  10. Ethan Hankins RHP ETA 2022

A relatively under the radar farm system has turned out quite a few top notch prospects over the years. We got a taste of what Triston McKenzie can do last year and it’s now time to see what a full glass looks like. Nolan Jones also has a huge chance to make an impact at the major league level with Lindor now out of his way. This organization felt strongly enough with him to trade away the face of their franchise. They don’t make that move if they don’t believe in him. They also got a good haul in young talent back for Lindor so it will be interesting to see how those players develop in Cleveland. There could be a ton of opportunity for this prospect tool to get some major league time as the summer goes on. We know that injuries happen and now that we know the Indians are looking to retool, these guys might get some extra looks.

Moves That Need To Happen During The Year:

1. Trade for a quality right handed bat

There are a lot of holes this team can address but I think this is the first that they need to look at. Jose Ramirez can switch hit and Franmil Reyes is there but that’s about all for decent right handed options for the tribe. That can be an issue in the last three innings, and I don’t think their players will match up well with other teams’ back end of the bullpen.

2. Be patient with the young guys

More specifically, be patient with James Karinchak. Overall, this is a team that is pretty young and going to put a lot of those guys in important roles. Depending on if they can be successful in those situations will be important for their development. This team is more than likely not competing this year for the playoffs. But if a few of these younger players can get established at the major league level, they could be back in the mix for a playoff spot. The important thing for them is to not panic on some guys and pull the trigger too soon. They are going to take their lumps and bruises. But building on the future doesn’t mean giving up on it too quickly.

Final Thoughts

It was a really, really tough offseason for Cleveland Indians fans as they saw the face of their franchise and fan favorite get traded. It also stings knowing they couldn’t get a deal done. But similar to Boston and Mookie Betts, this team aims to rebound quickly. They are in one of the worst divisions in baseball, so I don’t think they will lose 100 games. But I also don’t think this team will be relevant towards the end of the Summer. I think they will end up being sellers at the trade deadline and look to stock up on the future. The evidence is also in their $53 million dollar payroll. They don’t spend much so they are not going to get much out of this roster. They are banking on developing talent from within and using their prospects to climb the ladder. They have proven to be successful in doing this, but it is a whole different thing to do it again in a short timespan. Currently this team is built for speed, and will be fun to watch them fly around the ballpark. I don’t think that translates to success and I believe this is a team that will struggle to close out games. I don’t think they have as bad of a season as some others in their division, but I don’t see this one ending in a pretty way.