CLEVELAND – This will be the last year Cleveland will use the nickname “Indians,” which dates back to 1915.
More importantly, it will be the first time since 2014 that four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor won’t be on the roster. Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco were dealt to the Mets in a payroll-saving move.
Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber returns and the pitching staff will be counted on heavily to guide the team back to the playoffs.
The Indians led the league with a 3.29 ERA.
However, the key will be the offense that batted .228, which ranked 12th in the league.
The Indians went 35-25 last year and reached the wild-card round of the playoffs, where they lost 2-0 to the Yankees.
Carlos Santana is gone, signing as a free agent with the Royals.
Jake Bauers won the job over the Indians No. 20-ranked prospect Bobby Bradley, who came to camp 35 pounds lighter than a year ago.
Bauers spent last year reworking his swing at the alternate site. In 2019, he hit .226 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI.
Bauers is also out of options.
Cesar Hernandez, who won the Gold Glove last year, signed a one-year, $5 million dollar deal to stay in Cleveland. He helps stabilize the middle infield.
Besides playing excellent defense, he hit .283 with 20 doubles and three home runs. He hit .386 with runners in scoring position.
Hernandez hit .297 against right-handers.
Life goes on without two-time Gold Glove winner Lindor, one of the top all-around players in baseball.
Coming over from the Mets for Lindor were middle infielders Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez. Rosario is now slated for the outfield, which leaves shortstop for Gimenez.
Gimenez is a plus defender, who hit .263 with three home runs in 118 at-bats with the Mets last year. He had three doubles, two triples and eight stolen bases.
Jose Ramirez finished second in the MVP voting to the White Sox’s Jose Abreu last year. In 58 games, Ramirez hit .292 with 17 home runs and 46 RBI. He also had 16 doubles.
He’s a two-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger.
Ramirez bashed fastballs and crushed left-handers to the tune of a .386 average. He also hit .345 with runners in scoring position.
Roberto Perez won his second straight Gold Glove and in 2019 he was named the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year.
His batting average dipped to .165 last year after hitting .239 in 2019. He also had 24 home runs in 2019 and one last year.
He was limited to 32 games last year with a right shoulder injury. Perez hopes to regain his power by returning to good health.
The backup is Austin Hedges, another strong-arm catcher, who hit .145 between San Diego and Cleveland last year.
The Indians have rolled out 30 different outfield combinations over the last five years.
Tyler Naquin and Delino DeShields are now both gone and Center fielder Oscar Mercado was recently shipped back to AAA.
Eddie Rosario will take over in left field.
Center field is a race between Ben Gamel and Jordan Luplow.
Former Mets shortstop Amed Rosario could play center, but is still making the transition to the outfield.
Luplow could also see action in right field with Josh Naylor.
Eddie Rosario signed as a free agent with the Indians from the Twins. He batted .257 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI last year.
In 2019 with the Twins, Eddie Rosario hit .276 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI, so he will be counted on for punch in the middle of the lineup.
Luplow batted .192. Amed Rosario hit .252 with four home runs and 15 RBI with the Mets last year.
Gamel hit .237 with three home runs and eight doubles with the Brewers.
Naylor hit .247 between San Diego and Cleveland.
This is the territory of monster 6-foot-5, 265-pound Franmil Reyes. Reyes hit .275 with nine home runs and 34 RBI.
In 2019, between San Diego and Cleveland, he hit .249 with 37 home runs and 81 RBI. He should be good for 35 to 40 home runs this season.
Carlos Carrasco is gone to the Mets. Mike Clevenger was shipped to San Diego last year.
Even with those moves, the rotation remains a team’s strength. The Indians’ starters led the league with a 3.17 ERA.
Right-hander Shane Bieber was the unanimous Cy Young winner, as he led the league in wins (8-1), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122), in 77 innings. He gave up on 46 hits.
Bieber’s 96 mph. fastball and curveball are both plus pitchers. He also has a cutter and a nasty slider. Right-handers hit .181 against him, while lefties hit .153.
Right-hander Zach Plesac, who is 25 like Bieber, went 4-2 with a 2.28. He struck out 57 in 55 innings. His slider is his best pitch.
Right-hander Aaron Civale went 4-6 with a 4.74. He struck out 69 in 74 innings. With a low 90s fastball, he throws plenty of moving cutters.
Right-hander Triston McKenzie, the team’s No. 2-ranked prospect, was 2-1 with a 3.24 in six starts. He struck out 42 in 33 innings. The 6-5 McKenzie throws 95 with a plus breaking ball.
Lefty Logan Allen had a 3.38 in three relief appearances last year.
There’s also right-hander Cal Quantrill, who was 2-0 with a 2.25 in 18 games, three starts, between San Diego and the Indians.
The Indians were third in bullpen ERA last year with a 3.53 mark.
With Brad Hand now in Washington, flame thrower James Karinchak takes over the closer’s job.
Karinchak throws high 90s and also a plus breaking ball. Right-handers hit .143 against him last year. He compiled a 2.67 with 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. He also walked 16.
The top set-up men are Nick Wittgren (3.42) and Emmanuel Clase.
Clase didn’t pitch in the majors last year, but had a 2.19 in 21 games with Texas in 2019. He came to the Indians in Dec. of 2019 in the Corey Kluber deal.
There’s also Phil Maton (4.57), Oliver Perez (2.00), (4.88), Bryan Shaw and Trevor Stephan.
OVERALL: There is no replacing Francisco Lindor’s two-way abilities. But the pitching staff has enough power arms to guide the Indians back to the playoffs.