Before the 2015 season began, the Cleveland Indians found themselves on the cover of Sports Illustrated. As Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber were shown laughing, the title on the cover read “Why Cleveland? Why Not Cleveland? Why the Tribe will win its first series since 1948”.
Well as we all know that did not happen, as Kansas City hoisted up their first World Series Trophy since 1985, we here in Cleveland are still hoping for that one day we can have that celebration on the corner of Carnegie & Ontario. Now with opening day right around the corner, we breakdown the top Five Indians that need to have a strong 2016 campaign in order for the Tribe to be a contender.
#5 – Francisco Lindor: Coming off his first major league season in which he hit .313 with 12 home runs 51 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in just 99 games played, Lindor added a much needed spark to the Tribe in the second half of 2015 and proved why he was such a hot prospect in the Minors.
Looking ahead to 2016, it’s without question that he will be the every day starter at shortstop. Not only does his defensive skills keep you excited, Lindor’s pop in the bat was also an upside last season. I am sure Manager Terry Francona hopes that Lindor can continue to produce in the top of that Indians lineup hitting alongside Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis.
Coming in fourth on the team in RBI’s & HR’s even though only playing in 99 games with 51 and 12 respectively. It is going to be exciting to see what Lindor could do for the ballclub in a season where he could play 150 games barring any injury.
#4 – Yan Gomes: We already know what Yan Gomes is capable of doing on the defensive side, this leans more towards his offensive attributes.
After an injury plagued season for the Brazilian backstop suffering an MCL sprain that initially was intended to keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks, Gomes returned to the Indians lineup within 5 weeks.
Although he returned sooner than expected, it was not a very productive year for him hitting .231 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI in 95 games.
The Tribe is really hoping that Gomes can have a year like he did back in 2014, in which he batted .313 from the plate along with 21 home runs and 74 RBI. It’s vital since he hits in the lower part of that lineup where it is KEY for the Indians to get some much needed runs driven in. It’s just a matter if Gomes can stay healthy this year and if so he could be a key factor in the Tribe’s success this year.
#3 – Corey Kluber: Plain and simple, CY-Kluber must return in 2016. It was very disappointing campaign last season to say the least for the ace of our rotation posting a record of 9-16 with an ERA of 3.49.
The starting rotation is a bright spot for the organization. Along with Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar finished second in all of the Majors with 1,407 strikeouts and ranked eighth in ERA with a 3.67.
Bauer will be in the bullpen to start the season, but don't be surprised to see him making starts throughout the season.
We now know that the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation will feature Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson and it will be important for Kluber to set the pace for this rotation. If Kluber can put up another Cy Young candidate kind of year, it could really help out this ballclub be in playoff contention and playing into October.
#2 – Jason Kipnis: Kipnis had a good year in 2015, finishing the season with a .303 batting average and driving in 52 runs even though hitting only 9 home runs. Two years in a row has Kip not made it into the double digit figures in home runs. We all know he battled injury back in 2014, but bounced back to make the AL All-Star team last season.
If Kipnis is able to bring down his 107 strikeouts and drive in more runs that could help immensely. Even if he is able to match that 2013 season where he had 17 home runs with 84 RBI’s I’m sure nobody in Cleveland would be complaining.
His defensive ability is completely solid. Only 7 errors last year with a fielding percentage of .987, it’s strictly the production at the plate that must be turned around this season for Kipnis for the Indians to have a productive year.
#1 – Carlos Santana: It is almost like beating a dead horse. Everybody is waiting for Carlos Santana to be that hitter we have been expecting for years now. This year with the signing of Mike Napoli, it’s still uncertain where you will see Santana. He will most likely split time between first base and DH. In my eyes I would love to see Terry Francona put him specifically at designated hitter, this way he can focus primarily on hitting rather than his fielding ability.
Bouncing between that fourth and fifth spot in the lineup, the Indians really need more productivity from him this season. Matching his last season RBI’s with 85 but hitting 8 less home runs then he did, it’s crucial for Carlos to be the guy to have the biggest 2016 to give Cleveland any hope at making the playoffs.
30 home runs and 100 RBI’s, is that too much to ask for? Maybe it is, but I’m sure there are a lot of fans out there who are just dying to see the Tribe make a more promising push into the post season than that wild card defeat to Tampa back in 2013 (thanks Asdrubal).
If the Cleveland Indians are going to have any success this season and make their way into October than Carlos Santana has to be the guy that everyone looks at this year. You don’t get to hit clean up in Major League Baseball for no reason.