With the players starting to report to camp on Feb. 17, the 2021 Cleveland Indians look to redeem themselves after a short playoff run in 2020. In order to overcome recent departures during the off-season, they will have to discover new ways to compete in the AL Central. Here are three keys to success for the Cleveland Indians in 2021.
2021 Cleveland Indians: Lefties Needed
If we look at recent history of the Indians, we find that past teams had a dominant lefty arm in the rotation or the bullpen. From 2001-2007, the Indians had C.C. Sabathia, who was a three-time all-star and a Cy Young winner in his last season in Cleveland. The year after, Cliff Lee dominated the league with a 22-3 record to bring home another Cy Young award in consecutive years. More recently, we saw Andrew Miller become the anchor in the bullpen during the 2016 World Series run.
Since Andrew Miller left, the Indians have lacked lefties in their pitching staff. Currently, the staff’s firepower comes from right-handed pitching, like Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and “Wild Thing” himself, James Karinchak.
Luckily, there are still big-name lefties in the free-agent market. Top talent James Paxton could return the Indians back to an elite pitching core. Paxton, a 32-year-old veteran coming off his worst season, could fit perfectly into the rotation. A one-two punch of Bieber and the Big Maple could help the Indians generate wins in a weak AL Central.
2021 Cleveland Indians: Who’s on First?
The Indians have yet to fill the void at first base since the veteran Carlos Santana left for the division-rival Kansas City Royals.
Many fans believe rising star Josh Naylor will take over the duties at first base, however, he will most likely stay in the outfield with Oscar Mercado and newly-acquired Eddie Rosario. Also, adding another first baseman allows for Franconia to utilizes the platoon rotation, which has been a major component of the Indians’ success in previous seasons.
One name floating around in trade rumors after the season was long time Giants veteran Brandon Belt, however, with the uncertainty of Belt’s return from heel surgery, trading for the former All-Star could be a major risk for the Indians.
But if Cleveland’s front office is not willing to make another trade after the Fransisco Lindor trade, they could sign free agent Mitch Moreland. At 35 years old, Moreland proved last season that he can remain in the league and produce on offense.
Another option Cleveland can pursue is Danny Santana. Even though Santana is younger than Moreland, his absence from the field due to injuries makes him less favorable to Moreland.
2021 Cleveland Indians: Deploy the Platoon
Since becoming the manager for the Cleveland Indians, Francona has a record of 673-519 in eight years of work. One of the ways he’s found success is through a platoon system.
A platoon system is a method of sharing playing time between two different players. The rotation is usually completed between a lefty and a righty, depending on the situation. It can be used in pitching and hitting, and it gives a competitive advantage against opponents.
One benefit that was undervalued from the Francisco Lindor trade was the additional depth and the ability to operate a platoon system in the middle infield. The Indians now have Andrés Giménez, a young lefty bat, and Mike Freeman to face right-handed pitching, while Amed Rosario allows them to compete with left-handed pitching as well. The icing on the cake is the signing of switch-hitter Cesar Hernandez, as his versatile bat provides extra depth to the lineup.
The 2021 Cleveland Indians will have to recover after devastating blows to the team. But with a young core of pure talent, the Indians can still find success in a weak division with a few additional pieces and utilizing the versatility of the Cleveland lineup.
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