Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 3/17/13

Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Indians have quietly put together what could be a pretty formidable lineup.  Carlos Santana is back for his third full season as the Indian’s primary backstop, and he brings a career wRC+ of 124 with him.  For some perspective, the average major league catcher last season posted a wRC+ of only 95.  First base will likely be occupied most often by free agent acquisition Nick Swisher, who signed a four year, $56 million contract this winter.  Swisher, who will also see time in the outfield, hasn’t recorded a wOBA lower than .360 since his lone season with the White Sox in 2008.  The keystone will once again be manned by Jason Kipnis, who combines solid power, decent walk rates, and the ability to steal 30 bases a season.  Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is pretty terrible in the field, but he more than makes up for it at the plate.  His .153 ISO last season ranked second among American League shortstops, trailing only Ben Zobrist who spent only 47 games at the position last year.  Third base is really the only question mark in the Indians lineup heading into the season.  Right now, the duty falls on Lonnie Chisenhall, who has only 374 major league plate appearances.  Mark Reynolds will probably see some time at third as well, but the Indians would do well to keep him out of the field as much as possible. They also have Mike Aviles available to play third, should Chisenhall falter. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya The outfield has the potential to be one of the best defensive groups in the league.  Free agent center fielder Michael Bourn has a great track record with an outstanding career UZR/150 of 11.1.  He might be the best defensive center fielder in baseball, and he holds his own with the bat as well.  Left fielder Michael Brantley is really a center fielder who was pushed to left due to the Bourn signing.  His UZR numbers aren’t great in center field so far in his career, but they aren’t terrible either.  Moving to left field should allow him to add more value on defense, and be around an average major leaguer when all is considered.  Drew Stubbs will play right field, despite playing only center in his time with the Cincinnati Reds.  This means that the Indians will essentially have a center fielder at each outfield position.  Stubbs was an above-average fielder in center (3.9 UZR/150), so a move to right should only improve upon those numbers.  On offense, he has struggled with high strikeout rates, but if he can produce at a similar level to his 2010-2011 form, he should be a valuable player when defense is factored in. Designated hitting duties will probably fall to Mark Reynolds on most days.  However, Swisher, Santana, and whoever else needs a day off in the field will likely rotate through the DH spot.  Reynolds has always had absurd power (.240 career ISO), but his fielding has been borderline embarrassing.  Luckily for Indians fans, they should see him mostly at designated hitter, where he should have been for years. Given that lineup, one might wonder why the Indians aren’t being shown much love in AL Central projections.  One would only have to wonder long enough to look at the Indians starting rotation to realize why they are routinely being picked to finish in the bottom half of the division.  Their “ace”, Justin Masterson, is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.93 ERA.  Ubaldo Jimenez has been disappointing to say the least since coming over from the Rockies in 2011.  His average fastball velocity has dropped from 96.1 mph in 2010 to only 92.5 mph last season.  If there is any good news for Jimenez, it is that as a fly ball pitcher, the improved outfield defense could help him out this season.  Behind Masterson and Jimenez will be Brett Myers, and some combination of Zach McAlister, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Corey Kluber.  This is not an inspiring group of pitchers, although there is some upside with Bauer, and Myers shouldn’t be terrible. So the Indians’ rotation is pretty bad, but their outfield defense should be pretty damn good and there is no shortage of offensive weapons at their disposal.  That being said, no player affects any given game more than the starting pitcher.  If a couple things break right in the rotation, it is not hard to imagine them making a run at a playoff spot.  However, it is also pretty easy to imagine a scenario where the rotation falls apart, and they finish in the cellar.  Currently, the Vegas line on the Indians winning the AL Central is +1,100.  While I would certainly not pick the Indians to win the Central, I do think Vegas may be underestimating them a bit. -Albright

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Soccer player terminates contract after being attacked by stray dogs

Todd Bowles confirms Ryan Fitzpatrick is Jets starting QB: ‘It’s his job’

Carmelo Anthony shocked Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago

Report: David Lee signs with the Spurs

Craig Sager to miss Olympics while undergoing bone marrow transplant

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jarryd Hayne wouldn’t have retired if NFL had minor league system

Draymond Green: ‘Me and LeBron are friends’

Pierre-Paul won't need to wear club on hand this season

Report: Four cities remain in contention to host 2017 NBA ASG

Doc Rivers: Clippers have plan to let Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic

Another young 49er, Kaleb Ramsey, retires from NFL

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Hue Jackson: Browns will give Josh Gordon a fresh start

Diamondbacks nearing Daniel Hudson trade

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

What would George Costanza have traded to get Bonds and Griffey?

Gabby Douglas can make USA Gymnastics history at Olympics

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

Cam Talbot thinks the Oilers are close to making the playoffs

The new era of WWE SmackDown has liftoff

Vlade Divac: Cousins ‘most dominant player in the world’

Wild offer to make Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy' new goal song

Canucks don't dismiss acquiring player with past issues

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker