A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE INDIANS
They're going to contend for the division because they're well-managed, they play hard and their pitching is good. It could be real good.... Some people are still going to say, "Who the hell is Michael Brantley?" but it was no surprise to us in the scouting profession that he almost won the MVP last year. He might hit more hard line drives than anyone in baseball.... Jason Kipnis will bounce back. I think the oblique he strained early in the season bothered him all year. He'll get back to hitting maybe 15 homers and stealing 25.... Brandon Moss is dangerous, especially because the wind blows out to right center in Cleveland. If I was a betting man, I'd bet he will hit 30.... Yan Gomes has become a good defensive catcher. I think he's an All-Star this year. Somebody should be arrested for the trade that brought him and Mike Aviles over from Toronto for Esmil Rogers.... I like Nick Swisher's energy and all that. But his bat has slowed down. I don't know if he's going to like sitting on the bench, but I think he'll be there a lot.... Corey Kluber's curveball sizzles when it comes to the plate. Cutter, slider, fastball, moves it up and down, in and out. Last year was no fluke.... I saw Trevor Bauer throw. It was more strikes, less the strange things. Better command, and he's not trying to throw 10 different types of pitches anymore. Probably down to about six. He wanted to do it his way, but he's smart enough to know that his way wasn't quite working.
Buying outfielders has worked poorly for the Indians in recent seasons, as $116 million in commitments to Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and David Murphy produced less than six Wins Above Replacement and a single postseason game in two years. While all three are still in Cleveland, their decline (none had a WAR above 1.1 last year) and age (all are at least 32) make them replaceable. One solution is to move James Ramsey to the majors. Ramsey, acquired for Justin Masterson last year, is a largely unheralded prospect who could be ready for the majors right now. The Cards' first-round pick in 2012 has hit .272/.368/.464 in 189 games above A ball and projects as a good defensive corner outfielder. He might already be better than Murphy or Swisher, good enough to help the Indians squeeze out an extra win or two in a division in which a win or two could make all the difference.
LEAGUE RANK 3
MANAGER TERRY FRANCONA 3RD SEASON WITH INDIANS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
MITCHELL LAYTON/GETTY IMAGES (BRANTLEY)
JASON MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (KLUBER)