Indians season preview
With new look, Cleveland has something to prove
Michael Brantley is the Indians' projected MVP and mostly likely to break out this season. Photo courtesy cleveland.com
In the offseason, the Cleveland Indians decided to change their approach to running a franchise. The change started with the manager. The Indians fired Manny Acta, who was 214-266 (.446 winning percentage), and hired former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Francona brings respectability to a franchise that desperately needs it. After hiring the first manager in Cleveland Indians history who has won the World Series with a different team, it is clear that the front office is changing the culture.
One stigma about the Cleveland Indians is that they are never able to sign the high-profile free agents. That was also changed this offseason. After spending more than $115 million in free agency, the Indians were able to land former New York Yankee Nick Swisher and former Atlanta Brave Michael Bourn. Before Swisher, the highest profile player the Indians signed in free agency was Roberto Alomar, 14 years ago. Swisher and Bourn both have said that the reason they came to Cleveland was to play for Terry Francona.
Who has something to prove?
Ubaldo Jimenez (starting pitcher):
Since the Indians traded for Jimenez in 2011, he has not lived up to the expectations. The Indians traded their top two pitching prospects in order to make a run at the end of 2011, but fell short to the Detroit Tigers. Last season was a disaster for Jimenez who finished with a 9-17 record and a .540 earned run average (ERA). He was also very wild as he gave up the most wild pitches - 16 - in the American League. This season, Jimenez needs to control his pitches better. Way too many times last season he was at 80 pitches and only in the fourth inning.
Asdrubal Cabrera (shortstop):
Cabera has been an All-Star the last two seasons but still has a lot to prove. After the All-Star break the last two seasons, Cabrera has a combined .247 batting average in that span (123-497). Cabrera needs to prove that he can be consistent through the whole year.
Most likely to break out
Michael Brantley (left fielder):
Brantley has been the lone savior of the C.C. Sabathia trade. Brantley showed last year that he can hit anywhere in the line-up. This year, he will start out the season hitting fifth, giving him an opportunity to drive in more runs. Brantley has seen a consistent rise in his batting average during the past three seasons: .246, .266 and .288. Brantley has all of the tools to be a .300 hitter and is capable of driving in more than 80 runs this season.
Record: 87-75 (second place in AL Central)
Team MVP - Michael Brantley
Projections: .303 batting average, 11 home runs, 84 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases.
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