2015 Spring Training
Michael Brantley makes it clear, he’s never consumed with individual statistics, he’s only consumed with improving his own game and helping the team win.
If Brantley can improve upon last season, it will be quite a feat. In 2014, Brantley hit .327, with 20 home runs and 97 runs batted in. His .327/.385/.506 was a vast improvement from what had been his best season, 2013.
Two years ago, I remember sitting at a table with the Did The Tribe Win Last Night staff discussing whom we thought would be breakout players that season. We got on the subject of Lou Marson and had a “Lou Lovefest” for a few minutes before moving on the next player. Some of us had high hopes for Marson during that 2013 season.
However, in April, Marson was placed on the DL with a sore shoulder. Suddenly, Yan Gomes was the name coming out of our mouths and it was starting to be said that Marson should probably find an apartment in Columbus for the foreseeable future.
It is not very often that a starting pitcher can have the season Corey Kluber had in 2014 and enter the next year with even a smidgeon of lingering doubt.
Fresh off winning last season’s American League Cy Young award following a breakout campaign, there are those – as few as they are – who question whether Kluber’s monster campaign was merely a one-year mirage or the beginnings of a great career.
The Tribe right-hander led the A.L. in wins with 18 against just nine defeats and had a stellar 2.44 ERA. Both of those were career highs for a guy who entered 2014 as someone thought to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm. Big things were never projected for Kluber. Yet, there he was, leading Cleveland to the doorsteps of a second straight postseason berth.
Is 2015 finally the season where Cleveland gets a healthy Michael Bourn?
During the first half of his four year contract that he signed prior to the 2013 season, Bourn has been nothing short of disappointing. The upside of the former All-Star probably still remains, as Bourn has sporadically shown flashes of his former brilliance. Injuries, however, have led to inconsistent performances which have led to instability at the top of the Indians batting order. In a nutshell: Nothing could be bigger for the Indians’ 2015 chances than a return to form for the Indians’ centerfielder.
Prior to becoming a Cleveland Indian, Bourn was a star centerfielder in both Houston and Atlanta. A speed-demon catalyst of the truest form, Bourn stole more than 40 bases every season from 2008 to 2012 and led the National League in that category each year from 2009 to 2011. He was a Gold Glover in both 2009 and 2010 and an All-Star in both 2010 and 2012. Bourn’s resume coming to Cleveland was certainly impressive, but he has failed to live up to the enormous expectations that were placed on him.
Each year since his arrival, Cody Allen has assumed a larger role for the Cleveland Indians.
While the role may not have much more room to grow, the level of importance could. Now Cleveland’s closer, Allen will be expected to close down games for the Tribe with hopes of progressing to the Indians’ first division crown since 2007.
Let’s take a trip back to June of 2013.
This was a month that second basemen Jason Kipnis will never forget. During this time, Kipnis was arguably the best player the MLB. He practically forced his way on to the All Star team that year. In 27 games, he hit .419/.517/.1.216 with 12 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 9 stolen bases, and 25 RBI. He was absolutely incredible. Even though he didn’t provide this type of performance for the rest of the season, he was still a force to be reckoned with in the top of an Indians lineup that fought its way to the postseason.
Now, let’s take a look at 2014 Kipnis
The defensive woes of the Indians were some of the more frequently noted problems plaguing Cleveland throughout their third place finish last season.
There is an expectation that the team will be improved from a defensive standpoint for 2015, and while it may be difficult to determine where on the field the Indians will be better behind their pitchers, there is one spot on the diamond that the team should be stronger than the year before.
Twenty-two-year-old Jose Ramirez is set to open the season as the Indians’ new Opening Day shortstop. Asdrubal Cabrera had started each of the last five seasons in the six spot on the field and Jhonny Peralta the four years before him and neither were wowing the world with their glove work. Omar Vizquel had locked down the role for eleven years and set the fielding bar high before Peralta replaced him in the lineup.
Unlike his predecessors, Ramirez does not appear to be the solution at the position and is instead just a stopgap, keeping the shortstop spot warm until the heir apparent, Francisco Lindor, is ready to take his seat in the middle of the infield for the foreseeable future.
Utility man Mike Aviles played six different positions for the Indians last year:
– 26 games at third base
– 33 games at second base
– 27 games in left field
– 15 games at shortstop
– 3 games in center field
– 3 games in right field
Aviles also pinch hit 12 times and pinch ran twice.
Well, they went and did it again.
Twenty-eight years after forecasting an “Indian Uprising” that resulted in a 101-loss dumpster fire, Sports Illustrated has once again picked an upstart Tribe team to emerge from the middle of the pack and win it all.
And they packaged this news in essentially the exact same wrapping paper: Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley grinning like mental patients from the cover, not unlike Cory Snyder and Joe Carter back in 1987.
There was hardly a player more talked about during last year’s Spring Training than Lonnie Chisenhall. Would he get the third base job, what would happen between he and Carlos Santana, would Chisenhall end up in the minors, did he have what it took to be a contributing member of the team on more than just the bench, what was going to happen?
Chisenhall managed to fight his way onto the Indians’ roster last year and had, overall, a positive 2014 season, most notably at the plate. Who can forget his game June 9 against the Rangers last season, where Chisenhall knocked went 5-for-5 with three home runs and nine RBI, a performance which resulted in his bat getting sent to Cooperstown?
The time-line for most Major League Baseball players typically involves being a rookie in their early 20s, hitting their stride in their mid 20s, having their peak years in their late 20s and early 30s, declining in their mid 30s and retiring – if lucky enough – in their late 30s.
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Scott Atchison is far from your typical baseball player, at least where age is concerned.
Last summer I stood on the field before the Eastern League All-Star Game and spoke with Francisco Lindor about his life, his development and his future with the Cleveland Indians. When I asked him if he received the call to the big leagues, if he felt he was ready, his answer was like most every thing he does; outstanding and far better than you would expect from a 21-year old.
“If they feel I’m ready, I’m ready,” Lindor said of the Indians organization. “It’s plain and simple. If they think I’m ready, I’m ready. That’s why I leave it up to them because they are the ones that know what is the best time for me.”
Just five weeks ago, we wondered when Lindor would eventually make his debut. Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona, Ross Atkins and anyone else a part of the decision, it’s time for Francisco Lindor in Cleveland. He’s ready.
Close your eyes and try to think of how many players you’d rather see at the plate needing a hit to help the Indians win before Lindor. Chances are, you can’t name nine. Now think of how many players you would want the ball hit to with the game on the line before Lindor. There are only a handful, if that.