The 2013 season has finally started and so far, so good for the Indians. Of course, with the calendar officially flipped to April that means it is time, once again, for another installment of the Cleveland Indians Power Rankings. With the roster officially set and roles clearly defined, this committee of one can now focus its attention on the players we will be seeing day in and day out for the next six months.
So with that in mind, it is time to unveil the first regular season edition of the Cleveland Indians Power Rankings. Cue up the drum roll.
1. Terry Francona: The Indians are paying Francona big bucks to lead this ragtag group of misfits day in and day out. Now it’s time for him to earn that paycheck. It is going to be fun watching how Francona utilizes the different pieces he has been given by Chris Antonetti and even more fun seeing how he manages the ups and downs. Also, he gets bonus points for the absurd amount of Double Bubble he chews over the course of nine innings.
2. Justin Masterson: All I can really say is, “Wow!” After three somewhat shaky innings in his opening start, something finally clicked and Masterson dominated the Jays on his way to a victory. Considering how masterfully he performed this spring, it was encouraging to see the results translate to when the games finally matter. It was proof that when he’s on his game, Masterson is the ace the Tribe needs.
3. Michael Brantley: When the Indians traded away CC Sabathia and acquired hard-hitting slugger Matt LaPorta, how many people thought Brantley would become the stud in the trade? How often do you see a player to be named later turn into not just a key cog, but possibly the best player on his new team? That’s what it’s beginning to look like with Brantley. He came into his own in 2012 and after a red-hot spring, he’s off to one of the best starts not just on the Indians, but in all of baseball. His approach at the plate is so much more mature than his age would suggest. He just hits the ball where it’s pitched and doesn’t try to do too much. It’s time to begin asking ourselves just what exactly is Brantley’s ceiling and how much better can he get considering he’s only 25.
4. Nick Swisher: Swisher’s personality and charisma are infectious. Just watching him in an Indians uniform gets me excited. I hate to break it to Jason Kipnis, but I might have a new man crush. After the first two games it was more than apparent the impact Swisher has had on this team. There’s a whole new vibe, a fun vibe even.
5. Michael Bourn: The Indians’ final addition had a slow spring at the plate, but that doesn’t lessen the impact he has for this team. He’s a constant threat to steal whenever he gets on base and his range in the outfield will help take away more than a few extra base hits. But, as someone who spent his entire career in the NL, will he be able to transition to a new league full of new pitchers and stadiums? We shall see.
6. Joe Smith/Vinnie Pestano/Chris Perez: Wednesday’s blown save aside, the back end of the Indians’ bullpen is as solid as any in the game. Tuesday was a great example. Heading into the seventh and eighth innings with a lead, Francona called on Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano to get holds. Chris Perez followed them with a 1-2-3 ninth. It was picture perfect and what we should come to expect most days. Even on Wednesday, despite Perez’s lone mistake to Jose Bautista, Pestano was lights out and Smith worked a perfect inning of relief to get his first save. When all three are on, the Indians cannot lose.
7. Lonnie Chisenhall: Not many fans knew what to expect from Chisenhall heading into Spring Training. He had never really wowed anyone in his previous two attempts to win the third base job, but this year was different. With assurance that the job was finally his, Chiz went Donkey Kong crazy at the plate. How it translates to the regular season will be interesting and may very well play a huge part in the success or failure of the 2013 Indians.
8. Scott Kazmir: Oh boy. Kazmir looked great this spring and dominated his way to winning the fifth spot in the rotation. I for one was excited by this. It’s not every day you can aquire a former ace who seemingly regained both his velocity and swagger. Now Kazmir is dealing with a sore oblique. That’s the last thing anyone needed. Could this potentially derail what was looking like a promising season for Kazmir? Even worse, if he is forced to miss time, which of his lackluster competitors takes his place? Stay tuned.
9. Carlos Santana: Santana has looked good so far. With less pressure on him thanks to a demotion from fourth to sixth in the lineup, it looks as if Santana may be able to get off to a good start. Combine that with the invaluable experience Santana gained from playing in the World Baseball Classic and this might be a monster season for the Tribe’s backstop.
10. Jason Kipnis: I can’t lie. Jason Kipnis had a horrendous spring and so far his bat seems to be all out of hits. Eventually he will come around—he’s too good not to—but the fact remains that Kipnis is struggling at the moment. It’s a bit disheartening because he showed so much promise last season. Was it all a fluke? Was I too hasty to declare him my new man crush? I don’t know what to think any more and until he starts hitting, the confusion may continue to linger.