Baseball is back! We think. Each day, SportsIntel’s Matt DeSaro will take a look at two of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball as we head toward MLB Opening Day in late July and we continue today in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians.

The owners and players agreed in late June to stage a 60-game season, beginning July 24. There are still many hurdles to overcome in this COVID-19 landscape, but for now, the teams are gathering for “Summer Camp,” a Spring Training reboot crammed into three weeks.

MLB Opening Day – Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians | O/U 32.5 Wins | +2500 to win World Series

The Cleveland Indians failed to make the postseason last year but it was not due to shoddy play.  The Indians won 93 games in fact, outsourcing opponents by 112 runs and making short work of most teams.

Twas not to be for Cleveland however as the American League was stacked last year, with three teams eclipsing 100 wins and the two wild card teams winning 96 and 97 game.  This incredible showing by the rest of the division crushed the Indian’s hopes of a postseason run in 2019.

Despite that heartbreak, the Indians enter the 2020 season poised to make a run at it all.

The American League Central is a rather mediocre division for the Indians heading into 2020 opening day but with just 60 games on the schedule, anything can happen.  Teams who were considered in the middle of a rebuild such as the Tigers or Royals could surprise in a season that is more spring than a marathon. The Indians will also be pressured by the Twins and White Sox and will have to keep up if they hope to avoid another missed trip to the playoffs.

Cleveland is laser-focused on winning this season as their window is closing to make a legit run.

Offseason Acquisitions:

C Sandy Leon, 2B Cesar Hernandez, OF Domingo Santana, OF Delino DeShields Jr. RP Emmanuel Chase.

* DeShields Jr tested positive for COVID and his opening day status is up in the air

* Emmanuel Chase tested positive for PEDs and will miss the entire season

Offseason Losses:

2B Jason Kipnis, OF Yasiel Puig, SP Corey Kluber

What Do The Indians Do Well?

An area in which the Cleveland Indians should continue to succeed in their starting rotation.  The two biggest names on the roster right now are Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco who should keep opposing hitters guessing all year.  They might not be Cy Young contenders, but they are plenty good enough to keep the Indians in the win column.

While Clevinger and Carrasco have their spots locked in and we know what to expect from them.  The name to keep an eye on might be the 24-year righty, Shane Bieber.  The youngster made a big splash last season and could even be the best arm of this whole bunch.  He’s made a Belieber out of me and I see a Cy Young run in this kid’s future.  In 34 starts last year, he finished with a 3.28 ERA with a K/9 rate of 10.88.  Wow.

The Indians have another young gun who could break out this season in Zach Plesac.  The nephew of former MLB pitcher Dan Plesac, he made his debut last May and in 21 starts posted a 3.81 ERA with 88 strikeouts.

What this tells me is that if the Indians can put runs on the board, this pitching staff will keep them in the win column more often than not.

Where Can They Improve?

This team does not have a lot of weak spots heading into the opening day of the MLB season.  The only thing I see that they are lacking is in their outfield.

This, however, might be a big problem for this team.

Their current outfielders ranked among some of the worst in baseball last year and things aren’t exactly trending up.

Assuming that DeShields misses time due to contracting COVID, the starting outfield would be Tyler Naquin, Franmil Reyes and Domingo Santana.  While this trio is not totally lacking ability in the field, their abilities at the plate are questionable.  There wasn’t a single above-average hitter in the Indian’s outfield last year and 2020 is looking to be no different.

Opening Day Indians Season Prediction

This team is in phenomenal shape to make the most of their win-now roster in 2020.  Despite their weak outfield, the Indians have what it takes to remain in the mix down the home stretch.  Even considering the competition they have within the division.

At the end of the day, the Indians have enough talent on both sides of the ball that winning the AL Central standings crown is not outside the realm of possibility.  The Indians are legit contenders once again ahead of opening day and I really like their chances at going over 32.5 wins in 2020.

Projected Starters:

C – Roberto Perez

1B – Carlos Santana

2B – Cesar Hernandez

3B – Jose Ramirez

SS – Francisco Lindor

LF – Tyler Naquin

CF – Franmil Reyes

RF – Domingo Santana

Projected Rotation:

Mike Clevinger

Shane Beiber

Carlos Carrasco

Aaron Civale

Zach Plesac

Closer:

Brad Hand