One 17-minute rain delay slowed all the momentum the Cleveland Indians had built after erasing a 3 run deficit in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Those 17 minutes changed the entire complexion of the game. So can the Cleveland Indians improve over their impressive postseason run from last year? I think so. Let me explain.
The Cleveland Indians were a few plays away from winning the World Series last season, so it seems difficult to see them improve a lot. The loss of Mike Napoli could be a problem, but with the offseason moves they have made, that seems like a wash to me.
The Indians have had a phenomenal winter, signing DH Edwin Encarnacion to a 3-year $60 million deal, to replace the power lost by losing Napoli. The Indians pretty much stole Encarnacion away from the other teams in the league, and they managed to do it while playing in a “small” market.
Another great move Cleveland made was to sign reliever Boone Logan. Logan is not Aroldis Chapman, but he does what his job is extremely well. He was brought in to get left-handed batters out, and that is his specialty. Getting him for less than what the Mariners paid for Marc Rzepczynski is what makes this move great for the Tribe.
While the lineup doesn’t change a lot, with the exception of Encarnacion, the Indians will improve because of the experience gained during the World Series run. They swept the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, and almost swept the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. Heck, they were up 3 games to 1 in the World Series before the Cubs mounted a furious comeback.
The Indians know how to win after the regular season now. Last season, they didn’t have that experience, so when they found themselves in the World Series, I was pleasantly surprised. The Indians seemed to come alive during the postseason, and it showed.
Cleveland has last season’s experience behind them, and that will propel them to an even better season than last. Francisco Lindor is already cementing himself as the face of the franchise, and that will only become more apparent this season.
After winning a Gold Glove and being voted an All-Star in his first full season with the Tribe, Lindor proved that his leadership skills are that of a 5-year vet. With him leading the way for the Indians in 2017, the Tribe are in good shape.
Along with Lindor, Tyler Naquin looks to move on from his rough postseason, and get back to the way he played during the regular season. He finished 3rd in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and also had a walk-off inside-the-park home run in August.
Jose Ramirez also returns next season, and that is a big boost for the Indians. He led the team with a batting average of .312 during the season, and proved himself to be an everyday starting 3rd baseman.
What can really send the Indians over the top, would be the long-awaited return of Michael Brantley. A lot of people think the Indians’ season hangs on weather or not Brantley can return in 2017, but I don’t think so. The Indians’ are already stacked with talent both in the lineup and the rotation. If Brantley plays, it will be an embarrassment of riches for Cleveland.
If the bullpen plays like they did last year, and Encarnacion stays hot, the Tribe should be a favorite to win the AL, and a solid pick to win the World Series.