Cleveland Indians 2018 Season Preview and Roster Breakdown
Written by Brandon Lewis on March 22, 2018
The Indians started the 2017 MLB season on a mission — right the wrong of blowing a 3-1 lead in the World Series. Their mission started out strong, winning the AL Central title for the second consecutive season and heading to the playoffs as the number one seed in the American League after a 22-game winning streak. Then, their mission blew up in smoke in the divisional round of the playoffs, losing to the Yankees in a five game series after taking a 2-0 lead. Fans became concerned that they will never see a World Series trophy in Cleveland after the Indians last won the title in 1948.
Fans watched this offseason as manager Terry Francona’s father passed away. They saw Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Bryan Shaw, and others leave in free agency. They watched as pitching coach Mickey Callaway left for the head job of the Mets. They saw their ball club make some minor moves, but nothing unexpected. They heard the rumblings that Danny Salazar and Jason Kipnis were on the trade block, and Michael Brantley and Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber may not be healthy after injuries plagued them all last season. On top of it all, this will be their last season with the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms and hats; a logo that has been with the Indians since the birth of the franchise.
With all that is going on with the team, fans are both excited and nervous heading into the season. We are one week away from opening night when the Indians travel to Seattle to take on the Mainers on March 29. With that being said, the Indians have a new mission for the 2018 season; unfinished business.
I truly believe the Indians can go all the way in 2018 and bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Cleveland and have a parade down the corner of Carnegie and Ontario for the first time in 70 years. In order to do it, they must have the perfect balance of pitching, hitting, speed, baseball IQ, and a great clubhouse full of leaders, and guys who want to win. With that being said, there are some tough decisions Francona is going to have to make when it comes to the final 25 man opening day roster. Here is how I think the opening day roster will look and why:
- Corey Kluber
- Carlos Carrasco
- Trevor Bauer
- Mike Clevinger
- Josh Tomlin
Why: The first four on this list are self explanatory, since Francona has already announced them as starters. The decision comes at number five. Do you go with the veteran Josh Tomlin, or the young Ryan Merritt? Normally, I would say youth trumps experience, but not here. The Indians pitching staff, especially their starters, does not have a ton of experience. If you put Merritt in the starting rotation, Kluber is your oldest starter, and every great team needs it least one veteran starter. Tomlin will give up a lot of homers, but he does not walk anyone, and that is a plus. I do not see Tomlin as a good bullpen fit unless it is for an extreme situation, so I think the Indians will have to let go of Merritt sine he is out of options. Considering the fact I believe Tomlin would be competing with Salazar for this spot if he was not injured, I give the nod to Tomlin to get the fifth spot in the rotation.
- Yan Gomes
- Roberto Perez
Why: I think Gomes and Perez will split time this year at catcher, and I just do not think the Indians have plans for minor leaguer Francisco Meja this year. Perez and Gomes’ contracts are both up at the end of the season, so they want to see who they will keep next season between the two.
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Yonder Alonso
Why: The big question here is whether former Indian Mike Napoli can get a spot on the roster, and I just do not see it. After losing Napoli last year, the Indians gave Encarnacion a big contract, and then after losing Carlos Santana this free agency period, they gave Yonder Alonso a big contract. The one negative on Alonso is he struggles against tough lefties, so it would be nice to have three right handed hitting first baseball, but with only 25 roster spots, I just do not see how it is possible unless the Indians only carry four outfielders which is almost impossible.
- Jason Kipnis
Why: The Indians could add Erik Gonzalez as a back up to Kip, but I am not a fan of it. Gonzales is a liability at the plate, and the Indians need help elsewhere. I do not think Gonzales makes the cut this year, leaving Kipnis as the only second baseman on the roster, showing confidence in him. He is the man again after being hurt most of last year.
- Jose Ramirez
- Gio Urshela
Why: With Kipnis back at second, Ramirez will slide over to third where he played at in 2016. I do think Urshela makes the roster since he has similar defense to Gonzales, but a better bat. This way, when Kipnis needs a day off at second, the Tribe could slide Ramirez to second and put Urshela at third.
- Francisco Lindor
Why: Lindor is a stud for the Indians. He is one of the best shortstops in the league and will play everyday. There is no need to carry two shortstops when Lindor is a workhorse.
- Michael Brantley
- Bradley Zimmer
- Lonnie Chisenhall
- Rajai Davis
- Abraham Almonte
Why: With Brandon Guyer expected to begin the season on the disabled list, the Indians outfield is a complicated situation. They have a lot of youth in Tyler Naquin, Yandy Diez, and Gregg Allen all of whom I expect will be in AAA. With the Indians in “win now” mode, they need to have as many “prove it guys” as possible. I do think Michael Brantley will be ready for the season. Bradley Zimmer is a stud center fielder coming back from injury, and he will be a every day center fielder, forcing Tyler Naquin out. However, I do think Tito will be using Chisenhall, Davis, and Almonte in rotations. They will be playing left and right field when Brantley needs a day off, and the Indians have not had a every day right fielder since Shin Sho Choo, but you do not need a every day starting right fielder as long as production is spread out from two or three guys. All three are veterans who can come in at any moment, and Chisenhall can also play third and first base if needed.
- Cody Allen
- Andrew Miller
- Tyler Olson
- Zach McAllister
- Dan Otero
- Nick Goody
- Matt Belisle
Why: The only person on this list who was now on last year’s team is Beliste, and he is the Indians’ Bryan Shaw replacement. Otherwise, a strong bullpen does not change from last year.