In the AL Central… No chances at all. I’m just kidding. They have a shot, but then again, so do the Orioles.
Cleveland is certainly head and shoulders above the competition, for second place that is. They are certainly better than Kansas City, for the present at least. They are also better than Minnesota’s current Rochester Red Wings/ injured former stars jumble of a roster. Chicago remains the wild card here. They could certainly be an upstart team under Robin Ventura, or could fail miserably. That being said, the team itself is the definition of inconsistent: Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn all had unyielding seasons last year and could do with a solid season, much less a complete comeback and/or return to form.
Back to Cleveland’s bashing… Again I’m only kidding, but it isn’t looking exceptionally bright for the Indians. Prince Fielder signing with the Tigers wasn’t the only big first baseman news in the AL Central. Casey Kotchman moved into Cleveland’s starting lineup, displacing Matt LaPorta in the process. The latter is currently at AAA and waiting for the call should injuries or need reveal themselves.
If Cleveland wants to have the smallest of shots at the division title, they need their pitching to come through for them. It’s going to be a lot of groundballs if everything goes to seed. If everything doesn’t, then it could be a problem.
Justin Masterson is a solid option in the rotation, so is Ubaldo Jimenez. Derek Lowe can also be a dependable cog on a contender, but has shown the tendency in the past to be rather like some Chicago White Sox players: inconsistent.
Cleveland needs all the stars to align. They need to probably lead the league in ground balls, or come close to it. They need to score many more runs than expected with an offense that looks the part of a poor man’s Tampa Bay Rays minus Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. They also need sheer luck and to catch more than a few breaks.
It’s not ridiculous for them to contend and be successful, just look up the Tigers magical run of 2006. However for Cleveland to win the division, or take a highly coveted wild card spot from the AL East or West, they are going to need a lot of everything.