The Cleveland Indians entered the 2017 season looking to avenge losing the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs after being up three games to one in the series. Unfortunately after taking a 2-0 lead in the 2017 Division Series with the New York Yankees the Indians lost the next three straight and were eliminated in the first round. They enter 2018 with that sour taste in their mouths and a burning desire to get back to the World Series and finish what they started in 2016.
The Indians lost a pair of sluggers from last season in Carlos Santana (Phillies) and Jay Bruce (Mets) this off season in free agency as well as bullpen iron man Bryan Shaw (Rockies). Even with those losses the Indians are still favorites in the American League Central division as they kept the bulk of their pitching staff intact and added veteran slugger Yonder Alonso. Let’s take a look at how the opening day roster will look.
- Starting rotation
(1) Corey Kluber, (2) Carlos Carrasco, (3) Trevor Bauer, (4) Mike Clevinger, (5) Josh Tomlin
The Indians will once again boast one of the best starting rotations in baseball led by 2017 American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25). Kluber should once again be one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the league. Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29) who finished fourth in the Cy Young voting returns as the number two man behind Kluber. Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19) broke out in 2017 and showed the potential the Indians had been patiently waiting to see for four years. Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11) spent the majority of 2017 in the starting rotation and posted a 2.84 ERA in his 21 starts. Josh Tomlin (10-9, 4.98) rounds out the rotation in the fifth spot.
Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Nick Goody, Zach McAllister, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero, Matt Belisle
The Indians return the majority of their bullpen that led the league in ERA (2.89) in 2017. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen will once again form one of the top setup man/closer duo’s in the majors. Nick Goody had a breakout 2017 for the Tribe and will help replace the loss of Bryan Shaw. Tyler Olson pitched in 30 regular season and three post season games in 2017 and did not allow a run. Dan Otero and Zach McAllister were both steady in 2017 and return to their same roles in 2018. The lone newcomer is veteran righty Matt Belisle who was 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 62 games with the Minnesota Twins last season.
Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez
The Indians return their same catching duo from a year ago. They are expected to once again split time at catcher in 2018. Top prospect Francisco Mejia is waiting in the wings at AAA Columbus.
(1B) Yonder Alonso, (2B) Jason Kipnis, (SS) Fransisco Lindor, (3B) Jose Ramirez, (UT) Erik Gonzalez.
The Indians signed Yonder Alonso to a two year deal in the off season to replace the departed Carlos Santana. Jason Kipnis had a torrid spring and is looking to bounce back from an inconsistent and injury plagued 2017 season at second base. Francisco Lindor is one of the top shortstops and overall players in the game and will only continue to get better. Jose Ramirez played a great third base last season and was one of the top hitters in the American League. Erik Gonzalez is a solid young player who has improved his versatility in playing multiple positions to secure the super utility role with the Tribe.
(CF) Bradley Zimmer, (RF) Lonnie Chisenhall, (LF) Rajai Davis, (OF) Brandon Guyer, (OF) Tyler Naquin
Bradley Zimmer is expected to have a stronger second season after breaking into the big leagues in 2017 before suffering a season ending injury. Lonnie Chisenhall enters 2018 in a contract year and will be looking to have a big season in order to secure a nice contract as a free agent. The Indians brought back 2016 World Series hero Rajai Davis to platoon in all three outfield spots. Brandon Guyer will see most of his at bats as a platoon against left handed pitching. Tyler Naquin will be the fifth outfielder.
- Designated Hitter
Encarnacion returns as the designated hitter after signing a big free agent contract with the Indians last off season and hitting 38 homers in 2017.
- Disabled list
(OF) Michael Brantley, (SP) Danny Salazar, (LHP) Ryan Merritt
Michael Brantley played at the end of spring training but will start the season on the disabled list. He is expected to return around mid April. Danny Salazar will also begin the season on the DL. It is not known when he will return although it is not expected to be long term. Ryan Merritt is out of options and the DL stint buys the Indians some more time to figure out a role for him.