Cleveland Indians preview: Can Tribe sneak into a wild card?

Cleveland Indians star Nick Swisher smiles during drills in Spring Training.
Nick Swisher will bring experience and levity to the Cleveland Indians locker room.

The Cleveland Indians have not seen this much of a turnaround since Lou Brown took over the club in the movie Major League. The big difference is, in the movie, the Indians brought in no-name free agents. This offseason, Cleveland was surprisingly one of the most active teams, and it all started with the hiring of the Tribe’s new manager, Terry Francona. Francona is a well-known “players’ manager” who, if anything, will put a spark into the roster.

In addition to Francona, the Cleveland Indians brought in speedster Michael Bourn, slugger Mark Reynolds and the all-around excitement of Nick Swisher.  Swisher is considered a greta locker-room guy and is expected to bring a youthful excitement to a team that has been pretty bland since the days of Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton.

For the first time in a long time, the Tribe may have a shot at one of the w ild cards.

If anything, at least they made moves to not only help them this season but also in the future. Things could always play out like they did in the movie … I am sure the fans of Cleveland wouldn’t mind.

Cleveland Indians position players

As stated above, a lot has changed for the Cleveland Indians, and their roster will look entirely different this year. The big change will be seen in the outfield. Removing Shin-Soo Choo from the outfield and inserting Drew Stubbs and Bourn should pay its dividends in the long run. Having Bourn’s speed at the top will help kickstart the new offense.

Swisher will most likely play first base and 24-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall should be the starter at third base on opening day. Mark Reynolds will most likely play a lot of designated hitter, since he primarily fills an offensive need, but his defense is historically below par.

The middle infield is still a strength for the club, with three-hole hitter Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis being the teams double play tandem.

The team is still led by Carlos Santana. He will be expected to be the big RBI producer, and with the addition of table-setters like Bourn, his production should increase this year.

Cleveland Indians pitching

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In Trevor Bauer, the Cleveland Indians may have struck the lottery. Just last year, he was considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. But if Francona can get him to listen and he buys in to what being a professional pitcher is all about, Cleveland will have an ace for years to come. However, some time in the minors is expected to adapt Bauer to what they want him to be rather then what he thinks he is. He most likely will start the season in triple-A.

For the time being, the ace on the team is Justin Masterson. The 27-year-old is coming off back-to-back 200-inning seasons and the Cleveland Indians will once again rely heavily on him.

Brett Myers returns to a starting role after a few years in Houston. He will be reunited with his former manager from his days in Philadelphia and will be expected to bring a veteran presence to the team.

Ubaldo Jiminez has been a major bust since having success in Colorado. Since joing the Tribe, he has a 19-30 record and a 5.03 ERA. He needs to get back to his Colorado form in order for Cleveland to compete for a playoff spot.

The battle for the fifth spot looks to have been won by Scott Kazmir but if history tells us anything a team should never expect success from Scott Kazmir.

The Cleveland Indians pitching staff has a good combination of promising youth and dependable veterans. If everyone does what is expected, Cleveland could be good for years to come. Jiminez is the huge wild card. A successful year from him could bring fall baseball to Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians opening day lineup

  1. Michael Bourn CF
  2. Jason Kipnis  2B
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera SS
  4. Nick Swisher  1B
  5. Michael Brantley LF
  6. Carlos Santana  C
  7. Mark Reynolds  DH
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall  3B
  9. Drew Stubbs  RF

Cleveland Indians prospect watch

With Chisenhall most likely on the big-league club, the team’s primary focus will be molding pitcher Trevor Bauer into a major-league pitcher. The talent is there, but Bauer is said to have a problem with listening, and it’s believed he may be un-coachable. If the Indians can get him to understand the fundamentals of pitching, he could become a star. For now, he’ll be a triple-A pitcher who had a cup of coffee in the big show last season. Hopefully, he can work his way back.


The Cleveland Indians have made as many moves as Indians fans could have wanted, and they are set up nicely for the next decade. With the addition of Francona, they brought in a manager who relates well to players and has World Series experience. They have a great core in Bourn, Kipnis, Cabrera and Santana, and I believe they have an outside shot at a wild card this season.

Realistically, we’re probably looking at another 76 to 79 win team, but if all things go right, they could top out at about 84 to 87, which would be enough to get into the last wild-card spot. Keep in mind, though, we are talking about Cleveland, and nothing comes easy for Cleveland.

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