The curtain goes up tonight on the 2014 season at 10:05 pm, locally, when the Cleveland Indians take the field against the Oakland Athletics from the Bay Area. The Indians have been clear they have Unfinished Business and while no one has said it in so many words, the organization seems dedicated to their second straight playoff appearance for the first time since 1998-99. Anything short of another playoff birth, and this time more than a nine-inning appearance, seems to make this chapter of Indians’ history a disappointment.
With the Detroit Tigers re-tooled and the Kansas City Royals looking to contend, the American League Central Division is as wide open as it has been in the last five seasons. On Opening Day, every team thinks if things break right, they’ll find themselves in contention in September with a chance to chase October.
The Indians are no different, but with a veteran team and new attitude continuing from last season, it could be October or bust. Here are five storylines that will likely be a major determining factor as to whether the Tribe plays past Game 162 or not.
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.
In just a week, Cleveland baseball fans have exploded with excitement, going from a distinct lack of baseball to the reporting of pitchers and catchers this past Tuesday. The promise of the 2014 season is no longer a figment of our imaginations – it is real, it is here, and it is now. We are ready.
Cody Anderson is ready, too. However, it wasn’t always that way for the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher from Quincy, California. Anderson signed with the Tribe in 14th round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft out of Feather River Community College in California, having been drafted twice but declining to sign in 2010 after being drafted in the 17th round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“My first year, I wasn’t ready for pro ball,” Anderson said at the Lake County Captains’ Hot Stove Dinner on January 29. “We talked a lot before I signed [with Cleveland] and I ended up deciding it’s a really good fit and I made the right decision. It’s working out so far.”
The Carolina Mudcats defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 2-1, on Monday to complete the second half eight games behind the Salem Red Sox for a berth in the Carolina League playoffs. The Cats started off the season with an abundance of talent. The accolades received during and after the season for several members of the team reflect well for the player development skills of manager Dave Wallace and the coaching staff.
Francisco Lindor was the focal point for Carolina while he wore the Mudcats uniform and for good reason. The Indians’ first-round draft pick in 2011 First Year Player Draft, the shortstop from Puerto Rico was stellar in Zebulon before earning a promotion to Double-A Akron on July 15. Lindor had a .306 average and belted out 100 hits in only 83 games for the Mudcats. He was named to the Carolina League All-Star team and also appeared in the Future’s Game at Citi Field in Flushing, NY—his second straight appearance in the game for baseball’s top prospects. Despite his call-up barely past the halfway point of the campaign, the top-ranked prospect in the Cleveland Indians Player Development System was still named to the Carolina League honorary end-of-season All-Star team.
The Carolina Mudcats, once over 30 games under .500 for the season and now without its most dynamic player, are continuing to surge up the standings after the promotion of Francisco Lindor to Double-A Akron. The Cats take to the road for a seven games starting Thursday only three games behind first half winners Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League Southern Division.
With the split-season format, Carolina’s wretched first half can be voided out with a strong showing over the season’s final two months. Mudcats manager Dave Wallace, while stressing the bigger picture theme of player development, would also like to see his team reach the Carolina League playoffs by winning the second half title. Wallace accomplished that same feat last season when he guided Lake County in 2012 and the Cleveland organization has made it known that winning baseball starts from within.
As the Carolina League enters its All-Star break, it is time to break down the Carolina Mudcats performance in the first half of the season.
Entering the season, the Mudcats were the team in Cleveland’s minor league system receiving the most attention. Based on the amount of top-level prospects in Zebulon, it was easy to see why. With the previous two first-round draft picks in Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin slated to begin the campaign in Carolina, the excitement at Five County Stadium was palpable.
It has been a season to forget on the field for the Carolina Mudcats. Entering Wednesday’s game with a dismal 21-43 record, the ‘Cats have floundered spectacularly to the shock of most observers. Carolina’s record belies not only the talent in Zebulon but also the individual performances from some of Cleveland’s top prospects.
The announcement of the Carolina League All-Star team only accentuates that surprise. Carolina has four players who will be making the trip to San Jose, CA to face the California League All-Stars on June 18, including both of the first round picks. Only the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas) have more All-Stars than the Mudcats.