Article Written By: Julian Beck
2013 Record: 92-70 (2nd place in AL Central)
Key Additions: John Axford, David Murphy, Josh Outman, David Cooper, David Adams
Key Loses: Ubaldo Jimenez (unsigned), Scott Kazmir, Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Drew Stubbs, Rich Hill (unsigned), Jason Kubel
Impact players for 2014: Justin Masterson, John Axford, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, David Murphy, Carlos Santana
The surprise playoff team of 2013, it was an improved starting rotation that helped the Cleveland Indians exceed expectations last season. The team could yet re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez, but for now, it is without him and bounce-back left-hander Scott Kazmir, and will likely need to add at least one starter. Still, the Indians will have their work cut out for them if they hope to return to the postseason.
The signing of David Murphy is one of the best moves this off-season by any team. He will replace Drew Stubbs in right field, and with all due respect to Stubbs, it is an upgrade. Murphy is a very consistent left-handed hitter that has some pop in his bat. He is able make the pitchers work to get him out. He has a great eye at the plate and is able to hit to all gaps. They will lose speed in the line-up with Murphy, but he strikes out a lot less then Stubbs does. Murphy should have a huge impact in Cleveland’s line-up in 2014.
Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, and Carlos Santana are the heart and soul of this roster. Each player has All-Star potential and the ability to produce huge stats in this well balanced line-up. Kipnis had an MVP type season in 2013. Batting .284 with 17 homers while driving in 84 runs. He was able to produce those numbers while batting second. Numbers like those are usually reached by players in the three or four hole in any line-up. Cabrera had a down season at the plate in 2013 but was still able to make gold-glove type plays out at short-stop. He is one of the best all around short-stops in baseball when healthy. Both Swisher and Santana will be needed to hit the ball over the fence. They are the power bats on the roster. Both should be locked in to hit 20 homers a piece and will be driving in plenty of runs.
The pitching rotation is held down by their ace Justin Masterson. Masterson had a career season in 2013, proving all critics that he can be relied upon. He won 14 games with 195 strike-outs. But after Masterson the rotation takes a slight plummet. Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister will be called upon to eat innings this season saving their weak bullpen. Salazar has great potential and should shine with a full workload in 2014, while McAllister is a finesse pitcher that relies on his pitch location and defense.
With Chris Perez now playing with the Dodgers, John Axford shall contend as the closer. Axford had a stellar season in 2011 while playing for the Brewers. Racking up 46 saves and 85 strikeouts. He looks to get back to his All-Star ways, and Terry Francona should be able to help with that. Boosting his confidence and proving he can get it done.