With spring training less than three weeks away out in Goodyear, Arizona, the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians are ready to take a major step back to the World Series in 2017.
Thanks to landing perhaps the biggest free agent prize in former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion and getting starting outfielder Michael Brantley back from a season-ending shoulder injury, Cleveland is poised to rock once again and possibly make a return trip to the Fall Classic.
In an effort to replicate those great 1990’s free-swinging teams that had speed at the top in Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga and power in the middle in Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Sandy Alomar Jr., Eddie Murray and complimentary hitters in the seven thru nine spots such as Einar Diaz and Tony Fernandez, I feel that the 2017 Indians may try a similar lineup due to the addition of Encarnacion and the return of Brantley.
Below is my 2017 projected started lineup for the Cleveland Indians.
1.) Francisco Lindor, SS: After a near MVP-like performance during the post-season, having one of baseball’s most gifted young shortstops in Lindor, who hit .301 with 15 home runs and 78 RBI’s, lead off a potent offense makes the most sense.
2.) Jason Kipnis, 2B: Another versatile switch-hitter for the Indians at the top of the order, Cleveland’s All-Star second baseman in Kipnis has good hands, patience at the plate as he hit .275 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI’s, is also a quality fielder as well.
3.) Carlos Santana, 1B: The last of of the switch hitters at the top of Terry Francona’s lineup, Santana has power, an ability to draw walks and timely hitting when needed as he hit .259 with 34 home runs and 87 RBI’s last season. Batting third ahead of Encarnacion could prove to be a boon for Santana in seeing quality at-bats.
4.) Edwin Encarnacion, DH: The BIG bat that the Tribe needed, Edwin Encarnacion batting cleanup after Santana and ahead of other big hitters such as Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes ensures that opposing pitchers cannot pitch around him. One of baseball’s deadliest sluggers after belting 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in while hitting .263 in a potent Toronto Blue Jays lineup, look for Encarnacion to make an immediate impact in what will be a dangerous Cleveland lineup.
5.) Michael Brantley, LF: One will not see the full extent of the talented outfielder’s recovery from season-ending shoulder surgery, in which he only played 11 games, but if Brantley can come back close to his 2014 All-Star level where he hit .327 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI’s, then he’d be the dangerous lynchpin in the whole Cleveland lineup.
6.) Yan Gomes, C: After missing part the 2016 season due to a broken right hand, Indians catcher and former 2014 Silver Slugger Award winner in Yan Gomes is ready to rock behind the plate and also at it again in 2016. Despite his meager stat line of nine home runs, 34 RBI’s and a .167 average, look for those to go up thanks to the addition of Encarnacion and the return of Brantley.
7.) Lonnie Chisenhall, RF: While not as dangerous as his fellow Indians, Chisenhall is a quality platoon and clutch hitter when needed, as he batted .286 while belting eight home runs and 57 runs last year. Likely to play based on matchups and defense, Chisenhall is as reliable a hitter an defensive asset as they come.
8.) Jose Ramirez, 3B: Despite his small stature at 5’9, Jose Ramirez turned into a pleasant surprise for the Indians. It was his home run in Game 1 of the World Series that helped fuel Cleveland’s 6-0 win over the eventual world champion Chicago Cubs. Thanks to hitting .312, 11 home runs and 76 RBI’s during the regular season, Ramirez could prove to be a dangerous bottom-of-the-lineup type of hitter.
9.) Abraham Almonte, CF: Back from a 80-game suspension for PED’s, Almonte was en route to a potential breakout season, Almonte has some unfinished business in 2017. In playing only 51 games, Almonte hit .26 with five home runs and 20 RBI’s. At the ninth spot and with Lindor waiting at the top, look for him to see a lot of quality at-bats.