It is Opening Day! Rejoice! Terry Francona! Nick Swisher! Michael Bourn! Do you believe the Dolan Family Ownership ponied up for free agents? Do you believe not one, but TWO big name free agents signed long term deals here in Cleveland? The offseason was as exciting as any we have seen in the long history of the Tribe. The organization wants to get the fans back and they everything they could to do so. So here we are.
As we get set for another season of Cleveland Indians baseball, I got the WFNY group together and asked them some simple questions regarding the 2013 season. What do we expect for this club? Can they contend? Who will step forward? Who will disappoint? Lets take a look and if you would like, answer along with us in the comments section.
1. What Will The Indians record be and where will they finish in the AL Central?
Jon -83-79. Third in AL Central behind Detroit and Chicago.
Kirk - I’ve been on record since my jWAR column that I’m predicting 86 wins. There just has to be that level of drastic improvement given how historically bad our starting staff was last year and how half of the entire offense was upgraded. They’ll finish second behind the Tigers in the AL Central, but I do think it will be close, and one key injury to Fielder, Cabrera, or Verlander could flip things. They’ll be in the mix for one of the two wild cards until the end, though I’m not willing to say they will grab one of them at this point.
Scott -82-80 — Second in the AL Central. There is essentially no doubt in my mind that the Tigers run away with the division–last season was more of a tease than anything when it comes to the early season struggles. Truthfully, I fear that second place will be a best-case scenario as a lot of fans are discounting the White Sox as if it’s a two-team race. Chris Sale is 24 and is coming off of a 17-win season; Konerko and Dunn scare the shit out of me every time they step to the plate. A lot has to go right, but I’ll err on the optimistic side.
Craig - The Indians will win 85 games and finish second in the AL Central to the Tigers
Andrew - 80-82, 3rd in the AL Central
Jacob - The Indians will finish 82-80 and finish in third place in the Central behind Detroit and Kansas City.
Rick - I’m going with 80-82. They will finish second, barely ahead of the White Sox.
TD - 83-79, second place in the AL Central. While I am completely enamored with the everyday lineup and the vast options Francona can bring with Mike Aviles off the bench, the starting rotation is a serious problem. I just can’t bank of a resurgence from Ubaldo Jimenez and a 15 win season from Brett Myers, which will have to happen for the Tribe to compete for a playoff spot.
2. Who will be the Indians breakout player in 2013?
Kirk -With the increased lineup protection, I think one of the young returning core is due for a breakout season. Given his spot in the order to start, I’m going with Carlos Santana, who is hitting behind Bourn, Cabrera, Kipnis, Swisher, and Brantley. If he can improve his average 20 or so points, hit 25 homers, and drive in 90, while keeping his eye at the plate, that would be a drastic improvement.
Scott - I’m a big believer in Lonnie Chisenhall taking the next step. He’ll start the season batting eighth, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that there will be some point this season where he’s batting third. It may be due to injury; it may be due to Jason Kipnis struggling. Similarly to Kipnis starting the season eighth last season, I think Lonnie Baseball is poised to make the leap to the player fans look forward to seeing step to the plate.
Craig - Carlos Santana will finally break out for real. His move to six in the lineup will give him loads of protection and he’ll finally push his way up the order as opposed to being placed there by default.
Jacob - A tie: Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall. Brantley has been trending up in each of the last three seasons. I don’t think he’s in All-Star contention on this squad, but could be on a worse team. Chisenhall then finally gets his shot at full-time play in ’13, and I think he shows he deserves it with a consistent yet unremarkable line as well.
TD - Everyone is going to go with the obvious choice – Lonnie Chisenhall. I am going to change it up a bit. I think we are going to see a star born in the bullpen in Cody Allen. I think Allen will take over the seventh inning role from Joe Smith (who is a free agent at season’s end) and becomes Pestano-like. Automatic.
Jon - Zach McAllister; I think his ERA catches up to his peripherals and he becomes an above average middle-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Who will be the biggest disappointment in 2013?
Rick - This is a tough one. I feel like saying Masterson because I really believe the Tribe’s chances of competing for the playoffs depend on him. But I’m going to say Nick Swisher. Why Swish? Because I think there are some unrealistic expectations on Swisher.
Jacob - Hate to say it, but there’s no way Nick Swisher can live up to the hype. Yes, he’s in an elite group of players with eight straight seasons of 20+ home runs. But can he keep up his semi-All-Star production as the lone big bat and at age 32? I’m smelling maybe 20 homers still, but batting .250 with 135 strikeouts will disappoint a lot of fans.
TD - I think that the Indians are expecting a lot out of Brett Myers and they won’t get what they want. I think he has disaster written all over him in the middle of the rotation and will start very slow trying to regain his old starter form back. Remember, he pitched out of the pen all of 2012 with Houston and the Chicago White Sox.
Scott - Disappointment is a function of expectations. That said, my vote is for Nick Swisher. I think he will be productive; he’ll inject a sense of live that the Cleveland Indians locker room has never seen. But I feel that he will be (unfairly) given a high bar due to the fan fare that surrounded his signing. Lets not forget that he’s “seasoned,” and will be leaving a lineup–and stadium–that was more conducive to offensive success. I fear that Swisher will be expected to produce at an All-Star level, and I think he’ll merely be solid and dependable. So it goes.
Kirk - Definitely someone on the starting staff. I’ll go with Ubaldo Jimenez. My dislike for Ubaldo is long-documented, and I think the Indians will finally have enough of him come the end of May when he’s doused enough of his starts with walks-laced gasoline. Some people think Jimenez has something left or something to prove. I think he’s got squat.
Jon - Whether you call it a disappointment or not, I think Lonnie Who Loved Baseball Chisenhall will struggle to hit .250.
4. Who will be the first member of the rotation replaced at some point this season?
Andrew -I’d imagine this is a 3 horse race between Myers, McAllister, and Kazmir. If the rotation struggles as much as I think it’s going to, the Trevor Bauer temptation is going to grow too strong to ignore. I think Kazmir will probably be the one to be replaced, and I think it happen somewhat quickly in the season.
Jacob - Brett Myers. Whether through injury, fatigue or Columbus success of either Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer, I think Myers will be out of the rotation at least temporarily by May 15. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if Myers then ends the season in the bullpen as the Tribe looks to find more meaningful innings for those two guys.
Rick - I am really curious to see how short the leash is on Ubaldo this season, but my guess for first pitcher replaced is the Zach attack.
Scott - Brett Myers is the low-hanging fruit due to his rough spring, but I’ll go with Scott Kazmir. I’m as big of a fan as anyone when it comes to his resurgence, but I’m skeptical of the injuries coupled with his penchant for fly balls and lower velocity. I think everyone else will have a longer leash, for better or worse. If the wheels start falling off, it will be the fifth starter who gets bumped.
Jon - Kazmir. Though Ubaldo will deserve it more.
TD – I want to say Myers, but he is a veteran who will get a longer rope. I agree with Rick, I am very curious to see how long they stick with Ubaldo if he struggles. I think ultimately, Kazmir will get hurt and be replaced by Carlos Carrasco.
5. Will the Indians be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
Craig - Buyers
Kirk - Given their philosophy this offseason, it would be pretty disappointing for them to be sellers. I think if anything they’ll be buyers. If things don’t go well with the plan this year, then I think next year is when they could look to part with one of the friendly contracts of Swisher or Bourn.
Scott - If anything, sellers. If they’re in contention, I believe they’ll stand pat if not make a minor move. If they’re out of it, guys like Mark Reynolds and Chris Perez could easily be moved. Ownership has said they’re willing to spend, but if the wins do not follow, nothing has proven to me that they won’t ship off assets as they have in the past.
TD - I think they will be small sellers. Caught in between. I think a guy like Joe Smith will be dealt because of the emergence of Cody Allen. I also think that Brett Myers could be dealt for someone looking for an extra pen arm, since he has the experience and is on a one-year deal.
Jon – I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to move Perez for young SP. is that buying or selling?
Jacob - Sellers, but not to a huge degree. The Indians should hover around .500 most of the year, yet that just won’t be enough to cut it in the wild card or AL Central races. I wouldn’t be shocked if either Chris Perez or Asdrubal Cabrera are shipped off for more prospects and pitchers at the deadline. Or the Indians could just elect to stay put and prepare for 2014.
Andrew - I think they will be sellers. They’re going to be in a tough position, because I could see the Central being within reach come deadline time, so selling would be a tough message to send fans. But I think they will shop Asdrubal Cabrera around at the deadline. I think they will say realistically, they need a little more to catch up to the Tigers. So I think Asdrubal will be shopped.
6. Give me your bold prediction for 2013
TD - Bold prediction…..Lonnie Chisenhall, hitting down in the eighth spot in the order, will hit 25 homers and drive in 80 runs.
Rick - My bold prediction is that Brett Myers ends up in the Indians bullpen by the season’s end.
Jacob - Ubaldo Jimenez is traded or released by June. The Indians cut tie with one of the worst trades in recent franchise history (and that’s saying a lot).
Andrew - Justin Masterson has a comeback season. I think Masterson has tantalizing talent, he just lacks consistency. In 2011, he looked like he was close to putting it together. Then in 2012, it all fell apart for him. I think this year Masterson comes close to putting it back together. I don’t think he’ll be a true ace, but I think he steps up and at least becomes the pseudo-stopper this rotation is going to desperately need.
Craig – The Indians will have someone who has their name in the MVP discussion at some point this season.
Scott - Jason Kipnis, All-Star. Slotted between Cabrera and Swisher, the dirtbag will have the opportunity to drive in plenty of runs–Stubbs and Bourn will be benefactors–and will grow from his early-season work. A 25/25 season is not far-fetched.
Kirk - Bold prediction? Let’s go with Vinnie Pestano taking over the closer’s role and racking up 20 saves this season. I think Chris Perez is great when things are going good, but volatile when they aren’t. He was pretty unstoppable last year, and I don’t see a repeat performance.
Jon - Trevor Bauer doesn’t get called up until September.