Kansas City Has Big Shoes to Fill

     As the World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals have obviously set the 2016 standards. Out of the 29 other teams, there are four teams needing to pay closer attention than all the others. They are the Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox, and the Detroit Tigers. All of the teams in the Central Division will be on each other’s feet throughout most of the season.

     The odds of winning a World Series may possibly be more dynamic than winning the lottery jackpot. The statistical best team may not win the title because so many things can happen during each at bat. Errors, fatigue, injury, esteem, chance, etc. That’s what makes baseball so exciting. That’s what’s going to make this year’s Central Division so intense.

I’m not counting Detroit out, either. Every team has made changes, and they’re good ones, too. Detroit has been a factory of powerhouse players for decades. There’s a reason why they spend the money they spend. This may be the year it pays off for the better.

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A Few Honorable Mentions

     I recently wrote about the possibility of Cleveland needing another outfielder in my first post. The organization has been keeping an eye on Zach Walters, although he has been an infielder during most of his career. As of now, they are training him solely as an outfielder, allowing him a chance to compete for one of the available outfielder positions. Throughout his brief two years and eight game career, his numbers have significantly dropped from one year to the next. It is possible he was playing with a problem waiting to happen, and it finally did when he tore the labrum in his shoulder diving into home plate on October 2, 2015. This is only a guess on my behalf, of course. There must be something about him, because they certainly haven’t given up on him. We’ll have to see when the time comes.

     Manager, Terry Francona has also been keeping an eye on newbie center fielder, Tyler Naquin, who has been swinging the bat very well in Akron’s minor AA Rubberducks. In 76 games, he pulled in a .313 average with 30 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

     As far as the fifth spot in the pitching rotation, it appears as though Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson are the two main competitors. They will be the first two pitchers to start the Cactus League games, Tomlin will start on March 1st and Anderson will start on the 2nd.

Brantley Is A Workhorse

     Without a doubt, Michael Brantley is an individual who is determined to earn every penny of his payroll. During his right shoulder surgery rehabilitation, he has been giving the Indians Organization his all. Although the possibility of Brantley being available for Opening Day is pretty slim, he has continued to make it his goal.

     His progression is far better than expected, as he is already batting balls off of a tee, a step normally taken weeks later. Brantley, on the other hand, feels the opposite. “I feel like it’s going very slow,” he mentioned. “It’s a long process… but… I’m excited where I’m at right now.”

     “I love the fact that he’s pushing,” said Indians manager, Terry Francona. “I think he’s getting better quick, which is good.” Brantley had already pushed himself too hard in the past, and has assured Francona that he will be honest about his condition. “There’s a lot of trust there that he’s built up, as should be. He deserves that.”

     Even while playing through various health issues last year, Brantley still batted a healthy .310 with 45 Doubles, 84 RBIs and 15 home runs. His return will be golden.

Possible Ties to Uribe

    It’s a shame third baseman Giovanny Urshela has had health issues. As much as I’d like to see him play, it’s likely that he’ll be taken back down to Triple-A Columbus, that is, if free agent Juan Uribe dons a Cleveland uniform. Indians sources have already confirmed that Uribe and the Indians have reached an agreement on a contract. There has not yet been anything official. Uribe could still take several days to reach the Indians’ training camp while he’s working out visa issues.

    The 37-year-old veteran could possibly prove beneficial, assuming he stays healthy. He has had a couple of slump years, but he’s been positive for the most part, and he does add a little bit of power to the lineup. He averages 13 homers and 53 RBIs per season with a .257 batting average, which is a pretty big step-up from Urshela’s performance at the plate.

    Defensively, they have nearly the same fielding percentages, with Uribe just one point higher than Urshela at .970 (Uribe at 3B position). When you consider Uribe’s fielding range is a bit wider than Urshela’s on top of having an equal percentage, then add the bigger bat, the Indians have made a wise decision.

    Urshela will have a chance to work on his health and produce better numbers in Columbus if Uribe completes the signing. That could potentially be a win-win for the Tribe in the long run.

Time to Start Training

   Most of the league has made their way southbound, in some form or another, preparing for another year of baseball.  Anything is possible from here to opening day.
While it is important to keep their skills sharp, the list of priorities always start with safety. No team can perform at their best if they’re stockpiled with injuries. As I share my opinions on what may come, I want you to keep in mind I am expressing my thoughts injury free.

    “Good pitching always beats good batting,” is a well-known phrase in the baseball community. It’s a very important discussion in every clubhouse. An ace in the hole may bring in a fortune in poker, but one ace is hardly enough to push a team to continue playing into October.
For the most part, I wasn’t too much into baseball last year, as I was busy with other things. It is rare for me to miss out on the entire sport, as I usually get the opportunity to at least check out how the Indians are doing. Alas, I missed most of it. The only thing I knew about the post season was that Kansas City won the World Series. That’s about it.

    I have spent some time checking out what I missed.  Had I made any bets at all last year, I probably would have lost more money than I would have won. Just seeing that the Cardinals didn’t even make it past the first playoff round would have been a substantial loss in money. I don’t picture too many people betting on them winning only one post-season game. After all, not only did they have the best record in MLB (100-62), they also had the best pitching staff. They were the only team with an ERA lower than 3.00 (2.94).
Their stats in the playoffs were also pretty nice. They out-hit the Cubs, had a better batting average, and belted more dingers than any other team in the DS. On paper, there could be no other winner, but on the field, t’was how reality makes it what it is.

    With that out of my hair, my main post isn’t about what could’a, would’a, should’a, It’s about what has arisen since the dawn of the 2016 Spring Training for Cleveland in Goodyear, Arizona. Cleveland has paid great attention to their pitching staff. Following behind Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber is Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer. During these training days, they will be considering who will fall into the fifth slot, and there are some notable candidates. Cody Anderson, Josh Tomlin, and TJ House will have to compete for that position.
As of right now, the pitching staff looks good and ready to go.

    However, offense is a whole other ballgame.

    The good part is the addition of Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli to the lineup. They have both signed onto the organization under one-year contracts, and should both be regulars in the lineup. It may be a bit of a struggle for the organization to find out who will be playing in the outfield along Davis. Michael Brantley is still recovering from shoulder surgery and isn’t expected to play much of, if at all, the beginning of the season.
The outfield depth has quite a few players who will vie for the open spots. These moves will be a key in competing for the types of moves that have been made throughout the AL Central Division. I can sense that every team in this division is going to have quite a battle amongst each other.

Liriks Online

  Thank you for taking time off of your schedule to visit my page.  My name is Michael Luna.  I have been known as Liriks since 1999, when I used to run an online music newsletter. Although that publication is long gone, I have decided to keep the name.

 Unlike its predecessor, this site will be focused mainly around Major League Baseball. I live in Akron, Ohio, very close to Cleveland, so much of my content will contain information and opinions about the Cleveland Indians, but I will write on a broader scope as well.  I am very familiar with the American League, but not so much with the National League. Although I will post about both leagues, the majority will center around the American League.

   Because this is an unofficial site, I do not claim to be an affiliate of MLB, nor the Cleveland Indians. I am not paid by the organizations mentioned.  The thoughts and opinions expressed on this site are mine, and may not agree with those of the organizations mentioned.  They are not responsible for my expressions, nor am I responsible for theirs.