Indians ranked as baseball’s 15th-best team by ESPN and MLB.com

Giambi walk off 2

The Cleveland Indians, winners of 92 games a season ago, were ranked as baseball’s 15th-best team in two separate online articles this week.

Giambi walk off 2

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, formerly a Tribe beat writer, concluded his top-10 series with a look at the best teams in the game. Within the honorable mention section, he wrote this tidbit about the Indians and an AL Central rival:

15. Indians and Royals (tie): As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pick-‘em for second-best team in the AL Central. The Indians have a really good offense that could be even better, and the Royals have several tantalizing players who have not yet reached their potential. Both have rotation questions.

The Detroit Tigers, despite the loss of star slugger Prince Fielder, were ranked as Castrovince’s No. 2 team in MLB.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday over at ESPN’s SweetSpot blog, writer David Schoenfield shared his No. 18-13 teams. He concluded the series with the game’s top six teams on Friday. Within Wednesday’s article, here’s a tidbit of what he said about the Tribe.

I’m just the messenger: The red flag for me in Cleveland’s run to the playoffs was that the bullpen was 19th in the majors in ERA and yet went 33-16. A few of those wins came after blown saves, but that’s still an impressive W-L record for a mediocre relief corps. The Indians also lost Smith and replaced him with the erratic Axford. While Cody Allen appears ready to step in as the closer, they also need Axford to provide quality innings in the setup role.

So yes, early reports are not too optimistic about these Indians. If you recall during WFNY’s 2013 predictions, we all were between 80-86 wins. The range likely will be much larger heading into 2014.

Pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday to Goodyear, Arizona. The team’s first game is on Monday, Feb. 17. SportsTimeOhio announced earlier in the week that it will air eight spring training games on TV.

[Related: Could Ubaldo have a Cleveland Homecoming?]

  • Dennis Reynolds

    Isn’t Axford supposed to replace Perez with Allen and Pestano taking on the Joe Smith role? My biggest concern is that the Yanimal regresses, Bourn remains stagnant, and Lonnie continues as a AAAA player.

  • Kildawg

    I’d say middle of the pack sounds about right to start off, especially with questions in the rotation and 3B production (Who will Santana resemble more defensively there: P. Sandoval or M. Cabrera?) It should serve as season-long motivation though: underestimate the Indians at your own peril.

  • Ed Carroll

    lol, Sandoval and Cabrera are both terrible fielders – Cabrera just makes it all back up with his bat. If those are your two options for Santana to emulate it’s time to re-think the 3B experiment.

    But yeah, I agree with middle of the pack. Also confused as to why all the national writers seem to think Allen will be the 9th inning guy.

  • Max Forstag

    Axford is undoubtedly the biggest concern I have. He doesn’t seem like much, if any of an upgrade over CP. If he falters early, look for Allen or even Carrasco to be tried in the role. CC has got nasty stuff, it just can’t hold up for starters innings, he has to be put in the pen to be effective.

    The fact that we were near the top of the league in blown saves last year and had down years from Swisher, Bourn and Cabrera, and yet still managed 92 wins should point to an improvement in 2014, not a regression. Yes, losing Kazmir and likely Ubaldo will hurt, but if you really look at Kaz’s numbers, he really inflated them with some outstanding starts against bad teams. Against quality clubs, he wasn’t anything to write home about.

    At this point, I’d say it’s 50-50 UJ returns to the Tribe. If not, I’m totally fine with our current guaranteed 4 + Bauer/Marcum/Tomlin, although I really hope it’d be Bauer.

  • Kildawg

    I thought Sandoval was at least decent at 3B. We all know that Miggy is just a 1B/DH that was finally able to move back over there after the Fielder landmass moved to Dallas/Arlington. I’d be content if Santana at least makes the routine plays at 3B.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yes Axford to close with Allen and company setting him up. Interestingly as of today, 2/8/14, I don’t think Pestano has a defined role. I think he’s going to have to work his way back but if he can I would most assuredly think he and Allen would be not only the primary setup men but also de facto closers should Axford not be able to get the job done.

    I’m leary of Axford. He really hasn’t closed games effectively for a few years now. He was brutal for Milwaukee until the replaced him then traded him. He was better for St. Louis but wasn’t a closer. I guess we’ll find out.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Santana isn’t being counted on as a 3b he’s simply playing that position in winter ball after wanting to try it. Terry Francona spoke about this and the way he responded leads be to believe that Santana at 3B will be a “just in case” scenario.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m not so quick to dismiss the regression possibility. Terry Francona had to push a lot of buttons with this team last year working his managerial mojo. Entirely to many buttons if you ask me. On top of Swisher, Bourn and Cabrera having down years you add contract situations for Cabrera as well as Masterson and you have more hurdles for Francona. The platoon in RF and then of course the questions about the pitching, again.

    I think it’s entirely to easy to say Bourn and Swisher will play better. I’m not sold on this for all we know both may have already peaked and are now on a downward trend. I’d like to think this isn’t the case on Bourn that he has a couple years left but he didn’t look like the Bourn I saw in Atlanta the prior year. Of course he did change leagues and had been in the NL for almost if not all his career. Swisher on the other hand I’m not so sure about. Of course I think he was banged up a lot he just didn’t use it as an excuse. That being said his numbers just aren’t the numbers you build a lineup around. Asdrubal Cabrera is uninspiring and frankly I’ve gone from defending the guy to not really caring for his play much. Sure he makes some flashy defensive plays now and then but he also butchers a lot as well. His bat has been horrible. He was one of if not the worst hitters at the plate in crucial spots last season if memory serves and he wasn’t even able to advance base runners when needed. I don’t know perhaps being in the final year of his contract will inspire him but personally I think his time remaining depends on what Francisco Lindor does in Columbus. If Lindor shows anything and Cabrera struggles you might see the end of Cabrera or perhaps a position change. The Indians still need to add another legitimate bat primarily a power hitter if you ask me.

    As far as the rotation goes it’s Masterson-Kluber-McAllister-Salazar and then questions for #5. That’s not bad on it’s face except Masterson is not an ace. I’m not even sure he’s a strong #2. I personally think he’s a perfect #3 guy IF you had a #1 and a #2. Then add in his contract status and who knows. Trevor Bauer can’t be counted on at this point. Hopefully he’s learned some things from last year but we’ll have to wait and see. Certainly if he can show anything and become part of this rotation it’s an absolute plus but for right now he’s iffy at best. Carlos Carrasco is an interesting wild card. I’m going to be interested in seeing how the Indians use him. Personally I’m with you I think Carrasco’s future is out of the bullpen. Not as a closer initially but perhaps a long man working his way to a more pivotal role. If he can harness and build I think he has a chance at being a closer.

  • Max Forstag

    Good points Shamrock. However, citing Masterson and Cabrera’s contract years again should point to an uptick in their performance, not a regression. The guys wanna get paid, and Masterson has to prove he can string together consecutive good seasons if he doesn’t wanna find himself in the position Ubaldo’s in right now. Cabrera’s stock has never been lower, so my money’s on him kicking it in gear to get himself a payday comparable to what Jhonny Peralta got. One could laugh at the idea, but what’s more ridiculous is that ‘inconsistent, indifferent, ‘roid-fueled JP’ got the money he did in the first place from the Cardinals, a team that doesn’t often give out those types of contracts.

  • Kildawg

    Another point to make here is that the Cards had a massive hole at SS throughout their entire system that made them feel PEDralta (more of a 3B/1B/DH if you ask me, not a SS defensively) was worth the bank and to trade away Rzepczynski for lower minor league depth at SS (then again the Indians are LOADED with SS talent in the minors).

  • Kildawg

    Only pondering how Santana would do at 3B due to the inconsistency/mediocrity of Chisenhall. Remember that the Tribe relied on Mark Reynolds?!?!?!? to play some 3B extensively last year despite his huge regression.

  • Max Forstag

    It’s just a shame A-Cab had such a down year last season. Even his 2012 production would have drawn some trade interest from StL. With so many middle infield prospects, I’d say we won the ‘Scrabble’ trade!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well if both play better because they are in the last years if their contract that’s a double edged sword because the better they play the more they will cost. I’m not about to assume the more they cost being good for the Indians.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cardinals didn’t need Rzepczynski in fact he was in their minors because of how badly he had been pitching.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea but at least Reynolds had played 3B before but more important then that I wouldn’t want to risk Santana’s bat which is to valuable for the lineup by having him learn at a position like 3b.