In creating our 2020 Cleveland Indians preview, we note that the Tribe has lost some essential players. That signals that this team is about to undergo a major rebuild. Who’s missing from our 2020 Cleveland Indians preview who was in the 2019 edition? The Indians will be without stalwart right-handed starter Corey Kluber and minus power-hitting outfielder Yasiel Puig. They’ve added little in terms of offensive pop. They do bring a solid rotation to the mound. Over the past five seasons, Cleveland has put up winning numbers, averaging 92 wins per year. From 2016 to 2018, they made the AL playoffs, and in both bookend years, Cleveland got to the World Series. It was on that final stage that they faltered. This season, as last when they went 93-69, there’s plenty of competition in the AL Central.
Cleveland Indians Preview – Pitchers
The Indians certainly posted solid numbers last season. Their staff ERA of 3.76 was the third-best in the league as was their .240 opponent batting average. One thing that kept them in the game was their 16 shutouts. That was the most in the AL. Their 42 saves earned them sixth in the league. Their 16 blown saves were the fourth-least in the league and six below the average. The good news is that even without Kluber, this is still a solid group. All five starters are righties.
Mike Clevinger (13 W – 4 L, 2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) posted a strikeout rate of 12.3 Ks/9 IP. His sweeping slider, which has a huge break, is his best pitch. It keeps hitters off-balance. Shane Bieber (15 W – 8 L, 3.28 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) uses a 93-mph fastball and a slider that goes from 12 to 6. Carlos Carrasco (6 W – 7 L, 5.29 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), who missed part of the season with leukemia, is third in the rotation. Last season, when he came back from treatment, his mid-90s slider was still effective.
Fourth to the mound is Aaron Civale (3 W – 4 L, 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP). Civale uses three pitches, which includes a hard-breaking cutter. He mixes it effectively with a solid fastball and slippery slider. Zach Plesac (8 W – 6 L, 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) rounds out the starting five. Last season, his first after coming up from Double-A ball, the 25-year-old posted 21 starts and 115.2 IP. His four-seam 94-mph fastball sets up his slider and change, which he mixes in liberally,
James Karinchak (0 W – 0 L, 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP), who saw limited action with the Tribe last season, is a 24-year-old righty. Karinchak, who uses a 97-mph fastball to set up his 84-mph cutter, can be an effective setup guy. Emmanuel Clase (2 W – 3 L, 2.31 ERA, 1.11 WHIP), also a righty, comes to the Indians through the Kluber deal with the Rangers. He uses his four-seam, 99-mph fastball effectively, as it dips low in the strike zone. Clase’s 91-mph slider lays low as it comes across the plate. Lefty Brad Hand (34 Saves, 6 W – 4 L, 3.30 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) starts his third season with the Indians. Last season, he averaged 13.2 Ks/ 9 IP. Hand’s two-plane slider is tough for batters to connect with. He augments it with a low-90s fastball.
Indians – Everyday Players
Our Cleveland Indians preview notes that the team batted .250 (7th), posted an OBP of .323 (8th), and had a slugging percentage of 432 (6th). Their .756 OPS ranked seventh in the AL. The Indians hit 223 homeruns and drove in 731 runs. Both were good enough for eighth. The Indians ran well, stealing 103 bases (4th) at a 74.64% success rate (4th). They were sound in the field with a .985 fielding percentage (5th). The Tribe made just 79 errors (4th).
Cleveland – Top of the Order
Shortstop Francisco Lindor (.284 BA, 74 RBI, 32 HR) leads off. Each of the last three seasons, he’s stroked 30-plus homers, joining an elite group. Linder steals 20 bases a season, and the two-time Gold Glover is a fine fielder. Oscar Mercado (.269 BA, 54 RBI, 15 HR) is second in the batting order. Mercado, who’s back for his second MLB season, has speed in the field and on the bases. He’s also a threat at the plate.
First baseman Carlos Santana (.281 BA, 93 RBI, 34 HR) is up third while Jose Ramirez (.255 BA, 83 RBI, 23 HR), who plays third, is in the cleanup spot. Santana, a very patient hitter, recorded .460 OBP with runners on base. At the plate, he’s got power to burn. In 2019, Ramirez had a fine second-half hitting .327, powering 18 homers, and driving in 48 runs.
Indians – Middle and Bottom of the Order
DH Franmil Reyes (.249 BA, 81 RBI, 37 HR) bats in the middle of the order. He came to Cleveland partway through the season from San Diego. Reyes has the potential to hit 40-plus homers. Expect second baseman Cesar Hernandez (.279 BA, 71 RBI, 14 HR) to hit sixth and left fielder Jake Bauers (.226 BA, 43 RBI, 12 HR) to bat seventh. Hernandez, who comes to the team as a free agent from the Phillies, is a solid contact hitter. The switch-hitter is not as patient as he used to be. Bauers brings power from the right side.
Finally, catcher Roberto Perez (.239 BA, 63 RBI, 24 HR) comes up eighth and center fielder Delino DeShields (.249 BA, 32 RBI, 4 HR) hits last. As a backstop, Perez has all the attributes needed. He’s a fine game-caller and pitch-framer who ably throws out runners. Perez’s hitting is sound. DeShields is a good fielder with fine speed. At the plate, he has a tough time making hard contact.
Cleveland – Coaching and Management
Terry Francona, who is one of the best skippers in baseball, returns to the Indians where he will make the most of everything he’s got. Francona knows players and the game inside out. GM Mike Chernoff, who’s been with the team for a decade, does a good job working with a relatively small amount of cash. President Chris Antonetti, who’s been with the team for close to 20 years, works well with Chernoff. However, the problem for the Indians this season is the Tigers are spending cash as they rebuild. Detroit has become competitive, and the Twins continue to be so.
Cleveland Indians Preview – Our Prediction
There’s plenty of pitching in the rotation and in relief. However, this team could use more bats. The top to the middle of the order looks good, but the backend is makeshift at best. Our 2020 Cleveland Indians preview finds that this version of the Tribe will need to make the most of every pitch to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.