The Cleveland Indians were rather pedestrian last year, but decided to stay the course and bank on growth from their younger players to make the leap forward in 2016. The team largely remained unchanged since last season, adding a few low-key veterans to help bolster their lineup. With a growing roster Cleveland has been pegged at 18000 to win the World Series, a number that is better than the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees.
The Indians were hovering around the league average in almost every single batting category last season, which prompted the team to pick up aging Mike Napoli on a one-year contract. Napoli has seen his power start to evaporate, but can still form a solid middle of the lineup with Carlos Santana.
The only batting category Cleveland excelled in last season was doubles, thanks to Michael Brantley leading the majors in that category. Brantley is trying to make a quick recovery from a November shoulder surgery, but the odds of him being in the starting lineup come Sportsbook Day are slim.
The strength of the Indians comes from their starting rotation, which finished with the eighth best ERA while being the sixth youngest in baseball last year. Three of the Indians regular starters finished last season with a sub-3.50 ERA, but only elder statesman Corey Kluber threw more than 185 innings. Kluber could be a serious Cy Young candidate if this team can compete for a playoff spot, as the Alabama-native put up stellar numbers last season, but struggled to garner traction on a middling team.
Making the playoffs out of the American League Central will not be an easy task for the Indians. The division features perennial World Series contendor in the Kansas City Royals, a reloaded Detroit Tigers and a dangerous Chicago White Sox team. The Indians finished last season 81-80, which was good for third in the Central. In the past 20 seasons only 21 teams have gone from third in the division one season to first the next year. Statistically that means that one team accomplishes the feat each season.
Despite a tough road ahead of them, the Indians are listed at +190 to win the AL Central, which is only behind the Royals. If Cleveland were to win the division, it would be the first time they were AL Central champs since 2007, though they did manage to secure a Wild Card in 2013.
Cleveland is certainly getting a lot of respect for their potential growth this season as the team has also been tabbed at +900 to represent the AL in the World Series. Those are similar odds to the Kansas Royals and Houston Astros, who both had a solid postseason last year.
This could be the year that the pieces all come together for the Indians. If they see their young hitters get more comfortable at the plate then they could be one of the best teams in baseball. But, if the remain middling at the plate they are likely stuck in neutral.
|American League Pennant||+900|
|American League Central||+190|
Odds as of March 30 at Sportsbook