2014 AL Central Preview And Predictions

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Mar 16, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (24) celebrates scoring a run San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians: 82-80

1- Why will this team exceed expectations?

Brian Heise from Wahoo’s On First: Another year, another chance for the young guys to further establish themselves. Our everyday lineup should look very similar to last season’s. Kipnis, Brantley, Santana, etc are all entering into their primes.

In addition, we have Yan Gomes catching from day one and Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn should all be able to have bounce back years. There’s a lot to like about your lineup and they have serious potential to improve substantially.

If the Indians win more games in 2014, it’ll be thanks largely to that, at least in my opinion.

2- Why will this team fall short of expectations?

First is the pitching. I’m a bit skeptical of our rotation. Justin Masterson is close to a sure thing every fifth day but after that I’m not sure. This will be Danny Salazar‘s first full season so who knows what we will actually get out of him (I like to think he’ll be a stud, but you never know).

Corey Kluber came out of nowhere last season after struggling in the majors previously. Can he duplicate that success? Will Zach McAllister stay healthy for an entire season? And then there’s the fifth spot. Any number of guys could win is, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Harang etc., but none of them give me much confidence.

Second is our third base situation. The experiment to play Carlos Santana at the hot corner could be a disaster. How it effects the confidence of Lonnie Chisenhall also remains to be seen. And then of course, there’s the potential for injuries, but all teams deal with those.

3- Look for the team to make (this trade)

I think if things go south early we could begin to see a transition of sorts. Justin Masterson would be the first on the block. A long term deal to keep him in Cleveland seems unlikely at this point.

At this point I’m not sure the Indians will be willing to pay him the amount of money it would likely take to keep him beyond the 2014 season. If they’re out of contention by mid June, we may begin to hear rumors. After that, I’d say Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Bourn would be the next most likely candidates to go.

Cabrera will also be a free agent at season’s end and Francisco Lindor is lurking in the shadows. If things don’t go according to plan, he may be moved in order to bring up Lindor and give fans a reason to come to games.

As for Bourn, his age and sub-par 2013 season are a concern. With Tyler Naquin looking a lot better of late in the minors, Bourn could be moved in order to begin utilizing a young and much cheaper option in center.

4- Watch out for the emergence of (prospect)

Here’s the thing. While I proposed scenarios where we could see either Lindor or Naquin in 2014, it seems very unlikely. Starting a prospect’s service clock too soon is a serious concern for a team like the Indians.

Even if they made the traded of Cabrera or Bourn, they’d probably play out the season with a veteran stop gap like Mike Availed or Nyjer Morgan. But, for the sake of providing an answer, I’d say watch out for Francisco Lindor.

Weird things happen throughout the season. For that reason, there’s always a chance we see him in 2014. If we do, pay close attention. The kid is special, especially with his glove, and will be an exciting player for years to come.