The Cleveland Indians seek to succeed as one of the “under-the-radar” teams for the 2021 season.
The Cleveland Indians had a good 2020 season under skipper Terry Francona. The Indians posted a 35-25 record and returned to the postseason. They were swept by the New York Yankees in the Wild-Card round, and eill enter 2021 with a new look. Familiar faces are gone, but ace Shane Bieber will look to build on his Cy Young-winning season.
After finishing 2020 in a position to compete, the Indians took a step back.Two of the club’s biggest free agents, Carlos Santana and Brad Hand, were allowed to walk without much effort to re-sign them. Star shortstop Francisco Lindor was finally traded as well. However, as far as free-agent pickups go, it could be argued this was a more significant offseason than usual (which certainly reflects more on the general inactivity of the organization than it does on the acquisitions they made this winter).The team re-signed Cesar Hernandez to a one-year deal after a solid first season in Cleveland.
Although the starting rotation was affected by the trade, it will still be the pulse of this club. Multiple offensive weapons were lost, and no guarantees were added. With the uncertainties of the offense and lack of run production, the Tribe will need to lean on the pitching staff to stay afloat.
The rotation is headed by reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. He led the league in both ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122). Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale will be the Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers, respectively.Plesac finished with an impressive 2.21 ERA. Youngsters Triston McKenzie and Cal Tranquill round out the rotation and move up within it as the season progresses. In limited action, both pitchers showed they had good stuff, and they’re ready to contribute this season.
Cleveland is led by the infield tandem of Jose Ramirez and Cesar Hernandez. Ramirez was able to return to MVP form last season. The Indians have a solid outfield that includes Josh Naylor, Eddie Rosario, and Jordan Luplow. Naylor led Cleveland on his back in their series against the Yankees. He still needs to develop his glove more, and his .230 BA with the team last year is alarming, but he should be the everyday starter in right field. Signing Eddie Rosario over from Minnesota was a sneaky good deal. Rosario has 11 home runs in Progressive Field, and he’ll be looking to add more during his first full-year stay. Designated hitter Franmil Reyes brings power to the plate, and he’s hit 19 home runs since coming over from the Padres.
Three Key Pieces
The Indians will look a lot different this season. Gone are Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Carlos Carrasco, and in with the future. The three biggest pieces for the Indians are Bieber, Jose Ramirez, and Cesar Hamilton. Bieber will look to build on his breakout season, and he will be the key to their success this season. Ramirez and Hamilton will have to carry a bigger load offensively this season, but they’re up for the task. Ramirez hit 17 home runs last season, and he had more than 100 homers from 2017-19. Hernandez came over from Philadelphia last season, and he’ll look to build on a solid first season in Cleveland.
Cleveland will feel the effects from parting ways with Lindor and Carrasco. Cleveland will look different heading into the 2021 season, and may struggle to reach the 90-win plateau. It is hard to predict how this team will finish. On the one hand, losing Lindor, Santana, and multiple key pieces was brutal. On the other, they are playing with a lot of youth. The one-two duo of Bieber and Plesac has the potential to be the best in baseball. Cleveland won’t regress too far, and will fight for that Wild-Card game.