Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tribe Spring Recap and 2016 Predictions, Thoughts, & Player Evaluations

real quick before i start: since i've begun posting excerpts of my blogs on the Baseball Bloggers Alliance website this year, i've noticed that i'm getting views from countries that i've never seen in my viewer audience before. maybe some came here from the BBA site or maybe that was just coincidence, but i am very happy to see my blog getting newfound circulation in Norway, Mexico, Slovakia, China, Hong Kong, Morocco, Ireland, Trinidad & Tobago, Syria, Spain, Australia, Japan, Israel, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Luxembourg. to all those first-timers, hi! i see you all and feel quite honored to have you here! thanks so much for checking out my blog!

hey there, Tribe fans! Happy day before Indians Opening Day! baseball is just about back and that means it's time for me to recap the Tribe's spring and give my thoughts about the roster and the team's chances in 2016. so here we go!

while spring training is an important part of a baseball players' preparation, as tedious as it may be, the outcomes of the games don't always mean a whole lot. this year, in 34 games, including the two exhibition contests in Texas on April 1 and 2, the Tribe's spring record was 18-12-4, 3rd best in the Cactus League. while that looks pretty good, it could have been even better. in the early spring games, there were many times when the Tribe had the lead and then relief pitchers who weren't going to make the team--either spring training invites or minor leaguers--came into the game and then blew it. those are losses you can't be too upset about. and, like always in spring training, there were also several games that
did not consist of the Indians' best starting lineups. Cactus League games are for working out the kinks, and overall, i was truthfully encouraged by what i saw from most of the Tribe's regulars.

a couple of players in particular stood out to me in camp. Mike Napoli got a lot of hits, as did Jose Ramirez. Carlos Santana had a nice spring. Yan Gomes was the team leader in home runs. Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor started a bit slow, but then finished out camp looking like their usual selves over the last two weeks.

this year's spring training star just might have been Tyler Naquin. his performance was absolutely incredible, maybe too incredible for the Indians to ignore, and so he shockingly made the roster. i say it's a shock only because he's a rookie and will be opening with the Indians at the same time that he's getting his first taste of big league ball.

Giovanny Urshela looked really good this spring as well. he's definitely healthy now. unfortunately, he's not going to be starting the year with the Indians though. (more on that later.) whenever he does join the Tribe, i think he'll do much better offensively than he did last season.

maybe the biggest surprise that the Indians got during spring revolved around a different kind of performance--a performance-enhancing drug. Abraham Almonte failed his drug test and ended up being suspended for 80 games. the anabolic steroid Boldenone, typically used in horses and cattle, was found in his system. he took responsibility for it, but had no idea how it got into his system. and so the Indians lost their original Opening Day center fielder. as if their outfield wasn't a big enough question mark before this went down...

when trying to evaluate or make sense of a player's spring statistics, there are some things you should keep in mind. hitters often look good in spring due to the hot temperatures, and the wind blowing out can definitely add to a guy's home run totals. for pitchers, sometimes their pitches can end up not going where they want them to on account of the Arizona humidity as well. once the team gets back to its stomping grounds in cold Cleveland, a batter may struggle, and so a player's great spring training can turn out to be a bit misleading. then again, if a player had a poor spring, that doesn't automatically mean his troubles will carry over into the regular season either. anything can happen once all the stats reset to zero and the fresh season officially begins. all-in-all, i saw a lot of positive things in camp and have many reasons to be excited for the upcoming season.

so what is my prediction for the Tribe's 2016 season? if everyone plays to their maximum abilities and we don't have to endure too many serious or prolonged injuries, i think this team as currently constructed will finish with a win-loss record of 87-75. (and Terry Pluto agrees with me!) i believe the competition in our AL Central Division will continue to be tough, and we could feasibly be beating up on each other every time we all battle it out. based on that, i don't think 87 wins is out of the question to win the division. would that be enough wins for a wild card spot though? maybe, but maybe not.

in Terry Francona's first three years as manager of the Indians, he's got three winning seasons in a row under his belt. while that looks nice on the resume, i think it's time to add some lengthy October appearances to that. and here's why i feel that's now in the realm of possibility.

some things that might make a difference this year that we didn't have last year:

--a stronger starting rotation, with better options in the 5th spot

--more right-handed bats to utilize (Napoli, Rajai Davis, Juan Uribe, and a healthy Gomes)

--Lindor starting the season with the Indians and playing here all year (hopefully)

--Napoli replacing Santana at 1st base (better defense)

--better defense at 3rd base all season (Uribe and/or Urshela later on in the year)

this offseason, the Indians managed not to trade away any of their dominant starting pitchers, which i think was the right move. had any one guy been dealt, no matter what bat came back in return, it would have lessened the strength of our rotation and depth. and you know what they say, great pitching wins championships.

so what did the Indians do to improve the team? they signed FREE AGENTS Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, and Juan Uribe. while i know fans weren't necessarily impressed or thrilled with these FA signings, fans should not complain that we kept our top starters intact. and honestly, between these three combined, i think we might finally have our right-handed power bat lol

the first big offseason news to report was the signing of Napoli on December 16, 2015 to a one-year, $7 million deal with $3 million in incentives. this 34-year old right-handed hitter is going to take over the every day duties at 1st base, mainly because he's a much better defender than Santana was. he's also had a lot of success against left-handed pitchers throughout his career, and that's definitely an area the Indians need help in.

the Indians next signed Davis (later the same day on December 16) to a one-year contract, reportedly worth $5.25 million plus incentives. this deal might have been driven by the initial December assumption that Michael Brantley was not going to be ready Opening Day, and Davis could fill in in left field until he came back, then slide over to center when needed. now it seems like Davis might mostly be a platoon in center field because of Abraham Almonte's 80 day suspension. always a good hitter against the Indians, this 35-year old righty is a speedster on the bases--when he can get on, that is. he's averaged 33 stolen bases in the last three seasons. let's hope he doesn't become a Michael Bourn kind of acquisition who ends up with hamstring issues due to his older age...

the last "big" free agent signing the Indians made came in the form of 37-year old Uribe on February 19 for one-year and $4 million. a true veteran of the game, this right-handed batter has a reputation for being well respected by every player he comes in contact with. how much is left in the tank remains to be seen. the plan for him is to start the year out at 3rd base while Urshela continues to get seasoned for a little bit longer down in Columbus.

i will now discuss each core part of our team, and i'm gonna kick it off with the STARTING ROTATION. for yet another season, Corey Kluber is the clear cut ace of the squad. Carlos Carrasco has truly earned the #2 spot now. Danny Salazar worked his way into the #3 slot. those three were guaranteed. it wasn't until the final week of games that we finally learned Cody Anderson was gonna be #4 and Josh Tomlin would be the 5th starter. Tomlin was making the team no matter what since he'd just signed a contract extension in the offseason, but it took the team a while to designate him as a starter. although, due to the excessive amount of off days in April, he may not be needed to start much and could end up as an extra reliever... #Titosdream lol

how did these guys look in spring?

--Kluber was one of three starters who pitched 24.2 innings this spring, and he maintained an ERA under 1.00 until his last two starts. he struck out 26 and had the best record of everyone, going 4-1. classic Klubes.

--Carrasco gave up more hits than he probably would have liked but he managed to limit a lot of damage. he kept the walks down and stuck out 23 batters, just behind Kluber. he's ready to go.

--Salazar was not dominant in some of his starts. he gave up a lot of runs, along with a team high five home runs and 13 walks, in a team high 26.1 innings pitched. the weird thing about him though is he doesn't usually have good springs. last year his ERA was over 8 and look how his regular season turned out. so i'm not concerned here.

--the Indians felt Anderson did so well last season and put a lot of work in during the offseason that they couldn't justify sending him to Columbus. he's gained some velocity on his pitches since last year and added a third pitch (curveball) to his repertoire. he worked out hard in the offseason to redistribute his body weight and become more athletic, and it showed. he had a few rough spring outings in the beginning but apparently the Tribe trusts him as a starter more than Trevor Bauer now, which i found as a total shock. he'll be opening with the team for the first time, but i have suspicions that he'll end up seeing some time in Columbus later on in the year.

--at first, Tomlin was struggling to find himself and a big part of that came from having to learn how to pitch without worrying about favoring his arm. he's healthy now and throwing harder, so i think he just needed to be more confident in his pitches. in his final spring start, he struck out 10 and finally found his changeup and curve. he's ready.

because we're not going to have a revolving door of starters coming and going in that 5th spot, i think this just might be the best starting 5 we've had in quite a while.

in addition, TJ House and Mike Clevinger will provide extra DEPTH IN COLUMBUS.

--House really had no chance at cracking the Indians rotation. he didn't have a good spring performance until his final start before being optioned to Columbus. last year did nothing to help him in regards to establishing himself in the majors. he opened with the team, pitched poorly due to shoulder problems, and couldn't get off the DL. he needs the time in Triple A to work off the rust before getting back to the big league.

--Clevinger could be like Anderson was last year--a secret weapon with dangerous stuff that blows opponents away. he was really amped up this spring and the Indians had to settle him down some days. but he's now one of the top prospects in the system and his debut in Cleveland isn't that far away.

next, let's break down the crew in our BULLPEN. only four spots were automatically secured before spring training got started, and those belonged to Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, and Jeff Manship. as camp wound down and the rest of the roster began to take shape, Francona decided that we would start the season with only three additional arms in the pen. however, he later changed his mind and added a fourth arm... Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, and Dan Otero were the first three lucky ones who made the cut (and all 3 picks unpleasantly surprised me). Bauer was the last bullpen member to be named. and let me just keep it real--almost everybody's spring performances could have been better.

--last offseason, Francona eased Allen and Shaw into spring games because of the heavy workload they underwent during the 2014 season. that was not the case this time. he let them go, or throw as much as they desired, in spite of his worries. Allen had some shaky appearances and overall this was not his strongest spring outing. for the $4.15 million he's gonna be making this year, he better be lights out when the ballpark lights turn on. Shaw had a typical spring, giving up many hits and runs. oddly enough, i expect that to mean he'll be fine during the regular season.

--McAllister had a tough break. he came down with the flu during camp and didn't get to start pitching in games until they were halfway done. he might have performed best of these four honestly. he looked pretty good on the mound when he did finally pitch. the Indians originally had plans to stretch him out as a starter, just for extra insurance, but by the time he recovered, they weren't able to execute that plan. i think he's still trying to put back on some of the weight he lost while sick...

--Manship didn't exactly wow us in spring at first either. he left some balls up and fell behind in the count. he got stronger towards the end and finished with 15 strikeouts, so hopefully he's worked out all the kinks and can pitch as well as he did last year once again.

the other four:

--i knew from the minute we brought Chamberlain in that Tito was gonna want to keep him around if for no other reason than his veteran presence. while he did have some trouble in his early outings, he pitched much better towards the end. he does have a tendency to get himself into jams, and during the regular season, well, i don't know how much he'll be able to get out of them. could end up being a weak link in our pen. we'll see if he lasts the whole year with us.

--Detwiler had an okay spring but he hasn't been very successful in the big leagues. he's a lefty who can supposedly get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out. he also can start and relieve, but the Indians prefer him to come out of the bullpen. pitching coach Mickey Callaway helped him with a flaw in his mechanics, but i'll need to see some consistently clean innings before i put confidence in this guy. i think it's probable that he'll be another weak link.

--Otero had a mostly positive camp with the Indians. he had a bit of a rough time when they first began stretching him out though. he didn't give up any home runs but he did surrender 20 hits, which i think is a lot for a reliever. Callaway also found a flaw with his delivery and so the Indians think they can help him. i don't know much about him. maybe he can be this year's Manship.

--Bauer finished spring with a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings pitched, including four starts, and only walked five batters. so i'm not real clear on why he was demoted. he worked on his fastball in spring. he said his goal was to throw harder this year and he'd worked on that during the offseason. the Indians were not concerned with that and i don't think Bauer totally saw the results in spring that he was hoping for. he can still be erratic at times and that may have contributed to his move into the bullpen. the Indians say they believe he will help them in a starting role again this season, but at this rate, i would not be surprised if that doesn't happen. it appears as though he and the Indians just can't get on the same page, and there was speculation that he was being shopped. he may not last the entire 2016 season with the Tribe. we'll see.


--Tommy Hunter had offseason surgery for a core muscle injury, and was expected to miss at least one month of the regular season. he's supposed to have a really good fastball, but since he didn't pitch in spring, i really can't comment on it. when he comes off the DL, i'm not sure if he'll come to Cleveland right away or go to Columbus first.

as always, the Indians will have a plethora of RELIEVERS IN COLUMBUS just waiting for that call to hit the I-71 and head to C-Town. so if anyone struggles, we could try out the following in our bullpen:

--Kyle Crockett should be at the point where he's a no-brainer to make the big league team, yet he's not. his spring was not as strong as i think it should have been, but the good thing is he's still young and has time to figure things out.

--Austin Adams had a good spring. i feel like he got much better as the month of March went on cause the beginning did not go well for him. he's never been my favorite reliever simply because he's been inconsistent during his time in the bigs. with some of the other vet relievers we now have in Columbus, i don't know how high he ranks on the totem pole anymore despite all his previous experience.

--lefty Tom Gorzelanny was middle of the road in my opinion. he didn't really do anything to excite me, didn't strike many guys out. we'll see how he pans out in C-bus.

--Giovanni Soto was one of the first optioned to Columbus during spring. he only pitched with the Tribe for a small amount of time in September last year but did exceptional. more time in Triple A won't hurt.
**he was DFA'd on April 3 to make space on the 40-man roster for some newcomers. whether he will clear waivers and be able to return to the Indians organization is currently unknown.

--Shawn Armstrong pitched just 1 inning in two games this spring as he dealt with a sore lat muscle. he took the mound for the Indians in September, threw hard, and struck guys out. he will be called up at some point.

--Craig Stammen had right forearm surgery for a torn tendon last season. that kept him from being able to get any game work in this spring. he had an out clause in his contract but he chose to stay in the organization, so he'll be stashed away in Columbus until needed.

lastly, i think it's very unfortunate that the Indians chose not to put Joe Thatcher on the team. he's a southpaw but he's just a lefty specialist and that really hurt his chances since we could only start with seven guys in the bullpen (well, until they put Bauer in there as #8, that is). so despite the fact that he looked the best in spring out of all the relievers and was my early favorite to open with the team, Francona regretfully could not give him a roster spot. he was granted his release and will probably do very well with another team.

while it's very important for a team to have dominant pitching, you can't win a game if you don't have hitters to back the pitchers with some OFFENSE. so now let me try and give a short summary of how the boys with the bats performed in spring and my expectations for them this season.


--Napoli had a ridiculously hot bat in spring. omg i hope that carries over into the season lol he hit four home runs and had 14 RBI. i am looking forward to watching him play with the Tribe this year.

--Ramirez was a little fireball this spring. i was quite surprised that he was swinging the bat so well and accumulated four home runs and 13 RBI. if he's gonna be our new utility man, then this is an interesting development with his game.

--Santana had one of the better springs out of everyone in camp. he hit three home runs and five doubles. his batting average was over .300 for a while in the beginning until it leveled off at the end. still, it's promising. he's been delegated to the designated hitter role now and while he's not all that happy about it, he brought this on himself. he lost his job as a catcher after he continually took balls to the helmet. he tried playing 3rd base and that did not go well. and his defense at 1st base seemed to deteriorate over time also. it's a sad story for someone who was once so prized in the organization.

--Lindor really started heating up in the last two weeks of camp. he finished with seven doubles, three home runs, and a team high 15 RBI. but he's never opened with the team or in the big leagues in April before. i am concerned that he's going to need time to adapt to playing in cold weather and he may struggle a bit, much like he did after his initial call up last year. once he gets past that, he should provide many fun highlights for fans to watch this season.

--Kipnis needed some time to get himself going as well. he hit three home runs and drove in 12 runners, but he did not have a very good batting average. Kip has never had a very good April in the big leagues, he always starts out slow. maybe this year he can buck that trend.

--you can really tell that Gomes is healthy now. he hit three homers in spring before coming down with the flu, and then finished camp with six total--most on the team. he will be a big right-handed bat in our lineup this season as long as nothing unforeseen happens to him.

--i admit, despite the .397 average and four home runs, i was very surprised the Indians decided to give a spot on the roster to Naquin. he's never opened with the team before and, on top of that, will be making his major league debut. usually a player in that predicament would start out in Triple A no matter how hot a spring he had. i guess this decision was made mostly because of the peculiar circumstances surrounding our situation in center field. he's unmistakably the best CF option for us and he worked hard in the offseason to prove to everyone that he's legit. he spent some time in AZ over the winter at strength camp, which may have partially attributed to the success he had in Cactus League games. it's pretty clear he's feeling good and he's healthy. but i can't help but worry that he will struggle with his bat and be sent down shortly after his debut. being a rookie at the start of the season can be overwhelming and having to play through the harsh weather conditions can be difficult. will his hot stick stay hot in a cold April in Cleveland? i hope he's ready for the Show, but i don't know. don't be startled if he gets his ticket punched to Columbus once Brantley gets off the DL either because it'll be hard to find him playing time then and i doubt the Indians want him to play sporadically as a bench player.


--Davis was unimpressive throughout most of camp, but he did look better towards the end. his one and only home run came in the Indians' final game against Texas. he racked up almost as many strikeouts as hits, however, and that gave me so many Bourn flashbacks... i think he will be more of a factor on the defensive end than he will be with his bat. prove me wrong, bro.

--up until the final week, Collin Cowgill mostly had a poor spring showing besides two home runs and two hits off lefty Clayton Kershaw. so he's certainly not one of our strongest bats. but the Indians seem to think he can be a bench player and play against southpaws, since he has good carer numbers against them. besides that, they love that he can play all three OF positions. he's got a minor league option, so if necessary, he can easily be sent down to Columbus.


--Roberto Perez lost some weight and toned up a bit since we saw him last. this was a good spring performance for him. that said, he is never going to blow anyone away with his bat, but it's his ability behind the plate that makes him a valuable asset to the team. case in point, he threw out seven runners trying to steal. he also had nine RBI in camp, only two less than Gomes.
**today, on April 3, the Indians discovered Perez may have a concussion, and his status as of this blog post is unknown.


--Uribe had some visa problems and spent a little time away from Arizona, but he remained adamant that he had worked out enough in the offseason to keep himself game ready. he did better than some of his younger counterparts in spring, but he didn't play as much as the other regulars and so it's hard to tell how he'll perform once the season starts. he's just a 3rd base placeholder right now until the Indians decide they want to bring Urshela back up to Cleveland.

--Marlon Byrd was our last/very late signing. he was signed to a minor league deal in mid-March. it seemed a little coincidental that all the sudden the Indians brought him in once news of Lonnie Chisenhall's sore arm came to light. sounds like he will mainly be platooning with Chiz in right field as needed. he did well in limited time in camp and has hit 72 home runs in the past three years. but it'd be the Tribe's luck that that power of his vanishes now lol because the Tribe decided he made the cut, he'll be making a base of $1 million. he certainly bumps up the average age of the roster lol


--if you don't already know, Michael Brantley is sadly going to open the season on the 15-day DL. he played a mere two spring games with the Indians in the Cactus League before experiencing some shoulder soreness that kept him out of the rest of the Tribe's spring games. when he is cleared to start playing again, the Indians will have to send him down to the minors in order to get the rest of his practice in. if the opportunity presents itself, the Indians will have the ability to activate Michael off the DL prior to April 19 (15 days into the season) if he's ready before then because they back dated his DL start date to March 25 (the earliest possible day). no rehab game info or potential return date to the team has been announced yet.

i'm actually okay with him missing a little time with the Tribe in April because i know he needs the extra reps to prepare himself for the long season. it would be horrible if Brantley had to go through another year like the last, where his health problems lingered and kept popping up throughout the year. this time, we need to be sure his shoulder is 100% before he plays so that can be avoided.
that said, there are a few things we need to be prepared for. when Brantley does come back, he might need to be eased in, meaning he may not play every game in a series. if he does too much too soon, it could put his entire season in jeopardy, and we certainly don't want that. i'm also assuming he'll need a bit of time before he turns back into the productive hitter we all know and are used to seeing. so, despite the fact that the team needs a fast start this year, if Brantley goes through some struggles, we should cut him a little slack.

i'm currently documenting his rehab game information and when he comes off the DL, i will post a blog about that. for more information on Brantley's offseason recovery and rehab, please refer to the archived Brantley blogs that i have posted between November 2015 and March 2016.

--i already described that Almonte was suspended for 80 games at the beginning of this post.

--as for Chisenhall, boy was he a disappointment. he was dealing with a sore forearm in the middle of camp but i'm not sure that was the cause of his earlier struggles. his defense in right field continued to impress and he lead all the outfielders with five assists in nine games before it was announced that he would be starting the year on the 15-day DL because of a left wrist injury. that issue arose supposedly when he was trying to compensate for his forearm. (facepalm) when he returns, if the Indians keep using him in right as a platoon player, hopefully he'll do well offensively again, too.

right now, here is our STARTING 9 (without Brantley):
Davis CF/LF
Kipnis 2B
Lindor SS
Napoli 1B
Santana DH
Gomes C
Byrd/Cowgill/Chisenhall LF/RF/RF
Uribe/Ramirez 3B
Cowgill/Naquin RF/CF

and our starting 9 with Brantley:
Kipnis 2B
Lindor SS
Brantley LF
Napoli 1B
Santana DH
Gomes C
Uribe/Ramirez 3B
Byrd/Cowgill/Chisenhall RF
Davis/Naquin CF

the lineup this year is better than last year. we brought more right-handed bats into the fold, and they should be in the starting 9 on a more regular basis. that will especially be helpful when we face the barrage of southpaw starters that the Chicago White Sox have, and also when teams bring their lefties out of the bullpen against us late in games.

as for the order arrangement, it's probably going to change a bit until Brantley is ready to come back and take his regular spot in the 3 hole. regardless, Davis, Kip, Lindor, and possibly Ramirez will be up top; guys like Napoli, Santana, and Gomes will be in the middle; and Uribe, Naquin, Cowgill, Chisenhall, and Byrd will be near the bottom. from 1 through 9, we have an undeniably more stretched out lineup. look at those names. there's more than a healthy group of guys who could potentially hit 20 homers this season. don't tell me that's not exciting.

the first 25 who start out with the Indians are never the last, so let me go through some of our stashed-away BATS IN COLUMBUS that could get a call up if someone is injured or slumping.


--Urshela had a phenomenal spring. he was right behind Gomes for the team lead in home runs with five. it's pretty clear that he had a rough debut with the Indians last year because of the injuries he was dealing with and still recovering from. he looks healthy now but they want him to get some more work in down in Columbus. how much work, i'm not sure, but he will be back at the hot corner for the Tribe at some point this year.

--i thought Joey Butler was going to make the Indians roster over Naquin, but i was wrong. though he didn't have nearly as hot a spring as Naquin, i just figured he would start with the Tribe and fill in for Brantley in left until he came back while Davis took over the CF duties. the fact that he had an option made it easier to start him off in C-bus apparently. but if someone in the outfield struggles or gets hurt, he'll probably be making the 2 hour drive to Cleveland.

--Jesus Aguilar. i hesitate to put him on this list just because he's played with the Tribe before and has not done well. not to mention, he mostly sits on the bench whenever he is brought up. so i really don't know about him. he hits well in Triple A, but it never transfers to the MLB. i'm honestly surprised he's still in our organization.

--Michael Martinez played with the Indians for a little bit last year. he had a considerably good camp, but there were just so many hitters ahead of him that he was never in the conversation to start the year with Cleveland. he's a versatile player since he can play the infield or outfield. if someone is injured, he might be high on the call up list.


--Adam Moore is our designated backup to the backup catcher. he had considerably less at bats than others, yet still managed to get several hits so that his BA was over .400. god forbid Gomes or Perez get hurt, but if they do, he's next in line. that'd be the only way he comes to Cleveland before the September roster expansion.
**he might actually start the year with the Indians now because as of this post, the Indians were still checking to see if Perez had a concussion.

--there's nothing that stands out to me about Robbie Grossman. he got a decent amount of playing time, but didn't do anything particularly impressive. i think he's a long shot to get a call up.

--James Ramsey totaled three outfield assists but finished spring batting under .100. 'nuff said. i'm sorry but this guy is not ready to play with the Indians. there are many outfielders ahead of him and rightfully so.

--Zach Walters had surgery for a torn labrum just like Brantley did, but his was done a month earlier, so he was able to have a normal camp. normal in terms of being on the same schedule as everyone else. but he did not hit. he had one hit in 14 at bats. he's had a few stints with the Indians and hasn't done well. he used to play all over the field, but now i read they just want him to focus on playing the outfield. i doubt we see him before September.
**he was DFA'd on April 3 to make space on the 40-man roster for some newcomers. whether he will clear waivers and be able to return to the Indians organization is currently unknown.

i also want to take a second to shout out two other players who are still a few years away but got a little playing time in camp, aka THE FUTURE:

--Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier did not get major league spring invites to camp, BUT they were brought over on a couple of occasions towards the end of spring to play and finish out some games after the starters were pulled. Zimmer got three hits--two of which were doubles--one RBI, and one walk while Frazier had one single, one walk, and one outfield assist. regardless of the numbers, it was good for them to have this little experience. i am really excited to see these two first round draft picks in the future!

ever since Francona took the reins as Indians skipper, the team has looked promising going into every new season. if the starting 5 all rise to their potential, and the bullpen does its job, and the 9 guys in the lineup on any given day play to the maximum of their abilities, we can win the World Series. i say this at the end of every spring lol and it's true, but it's not likely. unpredictable injuries will pop up, they always do. guys will go through slumps; it's unrealistic to expect a player to be on top of his game for 162 games. we just have to hope the boys can weather whatever storm ends up brewing--something the Indians haven't been good at in the past.

April has been the cruelest month for the Tribe in these last few years, and that's something they want to rectify this season. a major focus of the Indians right out the gate is that they must get off to a good start. not necessarily a hot start, but one that's warmer than usual (to keep my little weather theme going here lol). that might have been the decisive factor to begin the year with Anderson in the rotation instead of stashing him in Columbus and calling him up later. the team could win every night with this starting 5. trouble is, they won't be able to without good contribution at the top of their order. and with Brantley out for a small portion of it, combined with his potential struggle as he acclimates back into regular season games, other guys will have to step up. some will need to put together abnormally better April performances. i hope they can.

i am confident that we will acquire our 4th winning season in a row and i believe we can be contenders in 2016. by no means will it be an easy road to October though. as seems to be commonplace, we will suffer through ugly losses and embarrassing blowouts. starters will have off days when they get rocked and relievers will blow games. but, on the other side of the spectrum, there will be rousing games, too. think about how often our starters will look untouchable, strike out the opposition, and maybe throw no-hitters and complete games. relievers will have appearances when they put up nothing but zeroes. offensively, we can expect some late inning heroics this year as well, more than in recent years. i'm talking comeback wins and walk-offs thanks to big hits. the improved defense we have all around the diamond ensures there will be some spectacular defensive plays also. and i can't wait to see it all.

miraculously, i have now managed to arrange my "life" schedule around baseball season for 5 consecutive years. that's right, i have not missed any Indians games over the past 5 years. i continued to deal with unexpected health issues, yet somehow i was still able to keep my perfect record over 5 seasons alive.

can i do it for a 6th straight year? admittedly, it will be a challenge and inevitable obstacles will assuredly arise, but i will try my hardest not to miss any games. i'm certainly not the type of fan to blow off a game because the team is struggling or because i decided to do something else with my time. i have too much passion for baseball and love the Tribe too much. so if i am forced to be unavailable at game time, it's because there was an emergency or a big change in my life. i have to be realistic and i know that some things in life are out of my control, so we'll see what happens.

when the Indians released their promotional schedule for 2016, i went through it and decided on a total of 10 games* to plan on attending this year, health permitting. (*only after deciding to skip out on the Indians Home Opener because i am still getting over a case of the flu and it's just gonna be way too cold this year.) i was disappointed that there were no Michael Brantley promos this year (i know, he can't be featured every season), but that will not deter me from going to the ballpark and getting some of the other goodies the Tribe is giving away.

the offseason was "only" 183 days for Indians fans this time around but because i did SO much writing (browse through my blogs from October 2015 through March 2016 if you like) and was immersed in baseball practically the whole time, it didn't seem that long to me at all. in fact, i feel as though i hardly experienced an offseason lol but i'm not complaining. i live for baseball and am so happy that it's Tribe Time Now! well, in one more day. then i'll be back at it, cheering on and supporting the team for all 162 games--whether they be good, bad, or ugly--because that is what this Ride Or Die fan is known for.

Let's Go Tribe 2016!

before i end this blog, i have to document my picks for the 2016 World Series. be warned, i am very bad at this lol i'm happy to report Sports Illustrated left the Tribe off their 4-team favorites list this year, so that's pretty pleasing. do i think the Kansas City Royals can win it for a second straight year? to be blunt, no. then again, i didn't even have them returning to the WS last season so...i could be wrong. i really don't see anyone from the AL Central Division representing in the Fall Classic.

okay here i go. i think the National League is going to have some stiff competition and will produce some great playoff series' to watch. i really wanted to go with the New York Mets making it to the big stage, but i just can't ignore the strange factor of the San Francisco Giants winning three times in each of the even numbered years since 2010. so yes, i believe they're at least going to go back this year. seems like a weird pick but i have to go with the odds. or rather, the evens.

and what about the American League? i think a lot of national media outlets are aiming towards the Houston Astros this year. not me. because it would be a kick in the face to Tribe fans (due to Mark Shapiro's recent departure), i'm gonna predict the Toronto Blue Jays to emerge as this year's AL victors.

with my Giants-Jays guess made, let me now get into specifics. i think the AL will beat the NL in the All Star Game on July 12 in San Diego at Petco Park. that said, in this case, i don't think Toronto's home field advantage is going to make much of a difference against San Fran. i pick the Giants to beat the Jays in 5 games. and it'll be a long time before we find out just how wrong i am lol

feel free to leave your Indians, AL Central Division, Wild Card, Playoffs, and/or World Series predictions in a comment below if you'd like to have them on record!

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. Been an Indians fan all my life and I stand by my team no matter what. I think the Indians had a nice off season just by keeping their pitching staff together and having depth where they can make changes during the season. They added a few nice bats to the lineup and will get better when Brantley comes back. They have some nice young talent in the minors who will be up this year and next. I see a bright future for the Tribe and having great fans like you writing about them makes me even more excited.