A.L. Central Prediction: Cleveland Indians

Francisco Lindor is gone, so that means the Indians are now losers, right? Maybe not.

Aaron Civale could be the next great Indians pitcher He is your Proto typical pitch-to-contact guy. The awesome thing about him is that even though he doesn’t even come close to putting away a batter per inning via the strikeout, his walks and hits per innings pitched hovers right around 1.10 and that ain’t bad. Giving up only one walk every four innings will keep you around in this league for a while, kid. The exact opposite of pitch-to-contact is Shane Bieber. In essentially two-and-a-half full seasons, he has 500 strikeouts in 400 innings and an ERA that’s right around 3.30. That ain’t bad either. That’s a good one-two punch. But, how are the other punches?

In the bullpen, the Indians welcome Emmanuel Clase who was fantastic (1.43 ERA) with Texas in 2019. Zach Plesac is also solid with the career ERA I’m about 3.50 three and a half. He also looks like the kid in hotel Transylvania. So there’s that. Same goes for Nick Wittgren… the ERA part, not the Hotel Transylvania part. Jury is out on Sam Henthes, Logan Allen was really good in 2020 and terrible the year before. Triston McKenzie Cal Quantrill looks like he could be a sixth starter and/or long reliever. Nick Sandlin (great name for a ballplayer) allowed just 39 hits in 50 minor-league innings. Cleveland will likely see if he’s ready for the show this summer.

On the mound, the team is good enough to be competitive. So how does the loss of an All-Star shortstop in Francisco Lindor help the offense? Answer: it doesn’t.

Andres Gimenez can’t be expected to fill those shoes. He hit .263 last year with eight home runs in 49 games. It is certainly a respectable start to a career, but hardly awe-inspiring. Jose Ramirez can give you 25 home runs from the third-base position which is fine. Franmil Reyes is the DH and is a prototypical .265 35 home run guy.

Usually the centerfielder is the guy who gets on base steals bases and scores runs. Amed Rosario is fine in center. Jordan Luplow is hitting .225 over four partial seasons of work. If he’s that guy, then Cleveland’s management is made up of a bunch of geniuses. Roberto Perez has to be a combination of Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench behind the plate in order to make up for his inability to hit (Spoiler alert: he is not). He is however a better hitter than Austin Hedges, who is the other catcher. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez it’s fine there and has about the same numbers as Eddie Rosario, who is decent in left and hits about .280. Josh Naylor in right scares me less than Jim Naylor, a longtime musician and traffic reporter in Sacramento. First baseman Jake Bauers has 23 home runs in 700 career at bats. I’m not scared of him either. Maybe I will be someday, but not now.

What does it all mean? They can pitch. They can barely hit. This is going to be a struggle. Terry Francona will have to work some magic to get this team over .500. Over .550, he wins manager of the year.

76 WINS.

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