Cleveland Indians: 5 Reasons the Indians Will Win the 2017 World Series

Sep 26, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians celebrate clinching the Central Division title in the clubhouse after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Indians win 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (right) talks with Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana (left) during batting practice before game three of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

While the Cleveland Indians made it to World Series and almost pulled off an amazing upset, they still fell short. Here’s why they will win it all in 2017.

Going into the offseason, the Cleveland Indians had questions about the DH/first base spot, the outfield, and depth in the pitching staff. The addition of Edwin Encarnacion, the continuing news of Michael Brantley’s rehabilitation, and the pitching staff getting healthier by the day has started to silence all concerns.

Aside from being ranked near the top of the American League by most fans and writers, what else will make this team American League champions again and World Series champions for the first time since 1948?

With the Cleveland curse broken by the Cavaliers and the Chicago Cubs breaking their curse, the Indians are the next logical step in the sports world. Getting back to (and winning) the World Series is not an easy accomplishment in a sport where there are 162 regular season games, but everything has begun to turn in the Indians favor.

By now, the Indians have silenced all the fans who say they are cheap or are not trying to win. They are now in a position to win now and not put all their trust in future prospects. The trades and deals have been done, and now the Indians are prepared to make another run.

With so few questions about the roster heading into Spring Training in a few months, and so much baseball left to be played, here are five reasons the Indians can (and will) win the 2017 World Series.

Sep 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) has his hand looked at by trainer James Quinlan after being hit by a batted ball during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Carrasco left the game. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

A Healthy Rotation (…and Outfield…and Catcher)

With a depleted three-man rotation and 13 different outfielders throughout the season, the Cleveland Indians were able to make it to the 10th inning of Game Seven of the World Series. A healthy Carlos Carrasco pitching Game 2 probably pans out much better than Trevor Bauer’s sad showing. Even a fully healthy Danny Salazar makes Game 5 or 6 a lot different.

Going into the 2017 season, the Indians again have one of the best rotations in all of baseball with Corey Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar near the top. Mix in Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Cody Anderson, Ryan Merritt, and Mike Clevinger and the depth is clear. With a full year from Clevinger along with Anderson expected to be back to full strength by the start of the year, the rotation could be lethal.

To go along with a full pitching staff, outfielder Michael Brantley is finally slated to return from his injury. If he is ready for Opening Day (or even ready by June) and can play left field regularly, a lot of questions will subside about the Indians’ outfield. With Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte in center field and Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall in right field, Brantley is the key to making everything fit together.

Catcher Yan Gomes has been forgotten by most of the Cleveland fan base. He has a Silver Slugger Award, but his last few seasons have been abysmal. Injuries and slumps have kept him off the field and off the base paths. With him back on the field at the end of the season, Gomes will have this entire offseason to get completely healthy for Opening Day.

If either Gomes or Roberto Perez is able to hit even .250, it will greatly bolster the bottom of the lineup while continuing their great defense behind the plate.

Without Gomes, Brantley, Carrasco, and Salazar, the Indians blew through the American League. With them, they are going to be very difficult to stop.

Oct 26, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Danny Salazar throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the 6th inning in game two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Pitching Depth

Chris Sale going to the Red Sox seemed to give Boston the best rotation in the American League, yet they were not able to record a win in the 2016 playoffs and Sale has never even been in the postseason. With the expected rotation of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Tomlin, and Bauer for the Indians, it is hard to argue the Red Sox are better.

Kluber posted a 1.83 ERA in the postseason to go along with a 1.049 WHIP. He is an elite pitcher who had another Cy Young Award-worthy season.

Salazar’s first half last season was magnificent. In 17 starts, opposing hitters batted .204 against him. He also dominated one of the teams trying to dethrone the AL Central Champs. The Kansas City Royals, in three games against Salazar, batted .192 and scored a total of three earned runs.

Tomlin carried the Indians to the World Series. After some struggles that saw him lose his rotation spot, he came back and pitched magnificently in all three rounds of the playoffs. Game 6 of the World Series did not go well, but only so much can be asked from a three-man rotation. Tomlin proved he can use the movement on his pitches to confound batters.

(Fan tip: when Tomlin is starting, get a seat in Section 185 as low down and close to the video cameras as possible. It is a great place to really watch his pitches move)

Carrasco had a very good season, but freak injuries limited his playing time. He did compile 11 wins and is an important piece to winning again.

This team has plenty of starting pitching, but the bullpen may be even better. Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Andrew Miller are the backend of the bullpen or as some may call them: Nirvana (both the “state of salvation” and 1980/90’s grunge band consisting of Kurt Cody-bain, Bry-ave Grohl, and Mille-rist Novoselic).

Nothing can stop this bullpen. Enough has been written about their dominance, but with Dan Otero coming off a fantastic year and an assembly of numerous other relievers, as long as the starters can get to the fifth inning, the game will go the Indians’ way.

Oct 4, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) hits a walk off home run to beat the Baltimore Orioles during the eleventh inning in the American League wild card playoff baseball game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Incredible Structure of the Lineup

It would have been very easy and smart to put Edwin Encarnacion as the number one reason the Indians will win the World Series this upcoming season, but that would leave a lot unsaid. In reality, Encarnacion is a fantastic, consistent hitter, but it is the way he fits in the Indians lineup that will make him deadly to pitchers.

In Toronto last season, while Encarnacion batted third and fourth, these four players batted right after him for most of the season (BA/BA with runners on base/BA with RISP for the 2016 season in parenthesis).

Michael Saunders (.253/.255/.204)

Troy Tulowitzki (.254/.248/.264)

Russell Martin (.231/.252/.261)

Jose Bautista (.234/.265/.290)

In the American League Championship Series against the Indians, Bautista and Tulowitzki were the two after Encarnacion. There is some power for these four men, but there is definitely a lack of consistent production.

Encarnacion was only intentionally walked three times last season, but he had a career-high 87 total walks. One had to wonder if teams were more willing to pitch around him knowing who the next batter was.

With the Indians Encarnacion will get pitches to hit because teams will not want to give Cleveland baserunners. Right now it looks like the lineup will resemble something like this:

  1.       Santana
  2.       Kipnis
  3.       Lindor
  4.       Encarnacion
  5.       Ramirez
  6.       Brantley
  7.       Chisenhall/Guyer
  8.       Gomes/Perez
  9.       Naquin/Almonte

With either Ramirez or Brantley batting right after Encarnacion, who do you pitch to? There is not even an answer. From 1-6 in the lineup, the team has ridiculous stats. Ramirez hit .355 with RISP last season. With men-on-base, it was still .346.

Brantley hit .385 with RISP in 2015 and .333 with men on. Even bumping up Encarnacion creates more opportunities as Lindor and Kipnis batted .301 and .296 with men on. Compared to the guys behind Encarnacion in Toronto, these numbers are astounding.

There is no way to pitch around Encarnacion in this lineup. Put men on for the Indians and they are going to score.

Jul 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

A Historically Weak Division

The Indians won 53 of their 94 regular season wins at home last season. This would have been nowhere near enough to gain home field in the World Series (The Cubs won 103), but because of the now-defunct All-Star Game rule, they were granted the honor. Excluding the World Series, the Indians were amazing at home.

If the Indians want to win the World Series, they need to play as many home postseason games as possible. To do this they need to win during the regular season. In the Central Division, this will not prove too difficult.

The Indians will again play 19 games against each of their Central opponents, and none of them jump off the page as contenders.

The Minnesota Twins are still rebuilding and are considered by most as the worst team in the American League. They won 59 games last season and aren’t much of a threat.

The Chicago White Sox were supposed to challenge for the Central crown the last two seasons, but nothing materialized and the offseason deals have taken them completely out of contention.

The Detroit Tigers are confounding. They do not seem to have all the necessary pieces to win a championship, yet they continue to push through with large contracts and little results. Look for some big deals to actual contenders at the trade deadline.

Lastly comes the only “real” competition for the division, the Royals They have a team that knows how to win, but many are in the last year of their contracts, so they have a lot of questions to figure out. With Wade Davis and Kendrys Morales gone, this team is not as well-rounded as before.

Aside from the Royals or Tigers making one last miraculous run, it seems the Indians should coast to another AL Central title. With 10 or more wins against every divisional opponent last season, the Indians just have to be consistent against their foes.

Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians players including Carlos Santana celebrate a two-run home run by center fielder Rajai Davis (not pictured) against the Chicago Cubs in the 8th inning in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Postseason Experience

One intangible thing about the postseason is the experience. There is a famous photo of Brantley with his arm around a visibly angry Kipnis after the 2013 Wild Card Game loss to Tampa Bay. That entire game, no one on the Indians looked like they were having fun…and that was a fun team.

The whole 2013 season had been walk-off wins and chickens and just having fun playing baseball. Then the postseason came and went and no one cracked a smile.

So this postseason, when Kipnis and others emerged for the lineups, there were visible smiles and some joking around. Lindor and Kipnis were being their normal goofy selves. Being in the postseason is much different than a regular season game in front of 15,000 fans, and the team handled themselves magnificently.

The team knows what it feels like to be on the brink of a championship now. They can use that to motivate every part of the season and come back even stronger. The Royals came back after a World Series loss and won it all.

With so many young players getting a taste of the tenth inning of the World Series, getting back is step one. The second and final step will be to complete their mission and win the title.

A depleted squad went up against baseball’s powerhouse and they still almost won. A full offseason to recover and get better while other teams lose valuable pieces is taking place. As long as they remember to be relaxed and have fun playing baseball, the Indians have no reason to not win next season.

This article originally appeared on