Publish date:

1 INDIANS

Author:

OVERALL RANK 1

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP CLEVELAND

Unless something goes wrong, they're the favorite to win the division and advance far into the playoffs.... After Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber might be the first guy I'd pick if I were putting together a team. The spin on his breaking pitches is unbelievable. He's a cold-hearted killer.... Carlos Carrasco uses his split-finger well, and plays off his fastball and slider.... Trevor Bauer has got all sorts of pitches, but he doesn't throw quite enough strikes.... Danny Salazar throws hard with so much ease. He could be a No. 1 starter at some point.... Cody Allen gets overlooked because of Andrew Miller, but you give him the ball in the ninth and the game is over.... Miller throws near 100 and is as valuable a pitcher as there is.... Edwin Encarnación will hit 40 home runs, and he doesn't strike out. That's a great combination.... Carlos Santana will only get better. His ability to switch-hit with power is really valuable.... Francisco Lindor has a flair for the game, and there's pop in his bat. I expect him to compete for MVP.... I was floored that José Ramírez had the season he did last year, but it was legit. The guys in the clubhouse love him.... Michael Brantley hits both lefties and righties well, and he's got good range. He might get a slow start, though, coming back from the shoulder injury.... On a perfect team Tyler Naquin would be a fourth outfielder, but he can swing the bat.... Bradley Zimmer, an outfielder, is going to be a real good player. I'm not sure he's ready, but he's a 6'5" power guy who can run.

MANAGER TERRY FRANCONA

5TH SEASON WITH CLEVELAND

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

1B CARLOS SANTANA

S-R .259 .366 .498 3.0

2B JASON KIPNIS [INJURY RISK]

L-R .275 .343 .469 4.1

SS FRANCISCO LINDOR [TEAM MVP] [DEFENSIVE STAR] [BARGAIN] [RISING]

S-R .301 .358 .435 5.7

DH EDWIN ENCARNACIÓN [NEW ACQUISITION]

R-R .263 .357 .529 3.7

LF MICHAEL BRANTLEY [INJURY RISK]

L-L .310 .379 .480 3.4 [2015 STATS]

3B JOSÉ RAMÍREZ [BARGAIN] [RISING]

S-R .312 .363 .462 3.9

RF LONNIE CHISENHALL

L-R .286 .328 .439 1.4

C YAN GOMES [INJURY RISK]

R-R .167 .201 .327 -0.8

CF TYLER NAQUIN

L-R .296 .372 .514 0.9

BENCH

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

C ROBERTO PÉREZ [DEFENSIVE STAR]

R-R .183 .285 .294 0.5

OF BRANDON GUYER

R-R .266 .372 .423 1.7

W--L ERA K/9 WAR

RH COREY KLUBER [BARGAIN]

18--9 3.14 9.5 6.4

RH CARLOS CARRASCO [INJURY RISK] [BARGAIN] [RISING]

11--8 3.32 9.2 3.6

RH DANNY SALAZAR [INJURY RISK] [BARGAIN] [RISING]

11--6 3.87 10.6 2.9

RH TREVOR BAUER

12--8 4.26 8.0 3.0

RH JOSH TOMLIN

13--9 4.40 6.1 1.6

SV ERA K/9 WAR

RH CODY ALLEN

32 2.51 11.5 2.1

LH ANDREW MILLER

12 1.45 14.9 3.9

NEW ACQUISITION

2016 STATS

*2015 STATS

(R) ROOKIE

TEAM MVP

DEFENSIVE STAR

INJURY RISK

BARGAIN

RISING

DECLINING

MODEST PROPOSAL

No one expects Terry Francona to export his playoff bullpen management philosophy to the regular season, not least because that would project Andrew Miller to pitch 2082/3 relief innings. But the one principle you'd like to see him retain from the Indians' long October run is this: Saves aren't everything. Who pitches the ninth or the eighth isn't as critical as who they're facing. If Francona can use Cody Allen and Miller against the hitters they match up best with, regardless of inning, he can get the same value from his relievers that he did during the playoffs without putting crazy workloads on their arms.

BOTTOM LINE

You can't get any closer to a championship than this team did last year—and they've improved.