With spring training set to officially get underway out in Goodyear, Arizona for the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians, there is reason for a lot of optimism following an epic seven-game World Series defeat at the hands of the champion Chicago Cubs.
Despite losing the Fall Classic, Cleveland may have emerged as the biggest winner in the post-season in landing it’s biggest free agency prize in former Toronto Blue Jays slugger, Edwin Encarnacion who belted 42 home runs and drove in 127 runs will batting .263 to a three-year $60 million deal.
Along with Encarnacion, the Indians also added former Colorado Rockies left-handed closer Boone Logan to pair up with 2016 ALCS MVP in Andrew Miller and get a soon-to-be fully healthy Michael Brantley back from seasoning ending shoulder surgery, that caused him to play 11 games in 2016.
Below are my three things to watch about the Indians this spring.
The Indians New Big Bat In Edwin Encarnacion: As mentioned above, Encarnacion is the big bat that the otherwise small-ball Indians have lacked in the middle of their lineup. Now, unlike before, teams cannot pitch around Carlos Santana to get to the next batter, and instead will affect how opposing pitchers attack a suddenly potent lineup.
The Return Of Michael Brantley: Likely to provide protection behind Encarnacion, the former All-Star outfielder is slowly progressing in making his way back to Cleveland’s lineup. Depending on how fully healed he is, look for Brantley to add a deadly hitter in the five-hole for the Indians.
The Health Of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer: While Kluber is the undisputed ace of the Cleveland pitching staff, if the Indians hope to make it back to the World Series and close the deal, the health of the forementioned Carrasco, Salazar and Bauer. If any or all of these three can come close to equaling their win total from 2016, look for Cleveland to make another deep post-season run deep into October.