MLB Cleveland Indians

Predicting the Cleveland Indians’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup

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Projecting Cleveland Indians' Starting Lineup for 2014

Cleveland Indians 2014
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians shocked the baseball world last year with their immediate winning progress. They acquired the services of championship manager Terry Francona. He previously won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox and brought that winning pedigree with him to the team. In 2012, The Indians were 68-94 in the AL Central. They finished last in the division and the future looked bleak. Former manager Manny Acta was fired mid-season and Sandy Alomar Jr. took the reins.

However, with Francona, the Indians improved by 24 wins and finished second in the division next to the Detroit Tigers. The additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Raburn and veteran power hitter Jason Giambi also helped put the team over the top. Swisher brought his winning attitude, jovial personality and clutch hitting to the team. Bourn and Stubbs both brought their speed and stealing abilities to the team. Raburn, who was a pleasant surprise, brought his clutch hitting and surprising power to the Indians when they needed it most down the stretch. Aviles brought his defense and versatility to the team while Giambi brought his veteran leadership and clutch bat. Yes, he still has it.

He is also the captain of the “Goon Squad,” which is the name of the bench players on the Indians. The resurgence of Scott Kazmir and emergence of Danny Salazar were also a big reason this team improved. At times they did not play as a unit and looked like the worst team in baseball. However, at other times they kept it together, played up to their talent and beat the teams that they were supposed to. The Indians finished with a 92-70 record. It earned them a trip into the Wild Card against the white hot Tampa Bay Rays.

They ended up losing 4-0 due to a gem of a game by Alex Cobb. It was a tough loss for the Tribe, but the experience of the postseason and the crowd of 44,000 will help better them for this year and the future. It will make them hungry to be even better and possibly overtake a depleted Tigers team. Coming into this season, the Indians will be ready. The key to winning is always based on the pitching, but a team must have a good lineup to produce runs and get the needed clutch at bats. The Indians had a strong lineup last season, and here is how it could look in 2014.

Jamyson Frierson is a Cleveland Browns, MLB and NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @nflplaya77 ”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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1. Michael Bourn CF

Michael Bourn #24-CF
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Bourn is due for a huge breakout year. His season last year was a bit of a disappointment as he was adjusting to the American League and their pitchers. He had his third career low of only 23 stolen bases after leading the National League in that category with the Houston Astros with 61 in 2011. He had his third worst OBP with only .316, which isn’t bad for most players, but for a leadoff hitter isn’t the best.

Look for his numbers to go up significantly along with a better defensive output.

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2. Nick Swisher 1B/RF

Nick Swisher #33 1B/RF
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Swisher was one of the fan favorites signed by the Cleveland Indians, last year. However, he had a tough year offensively and defensively. He had a career low in RBIs with 63. He had a .246 batting average with 22 home runs. Unfortunately he added 138 strikeouts to go with it, which was third worst on the team.

He came through on a few clutch home runs and walk-offs, but now that he knows his role on the team, the pressure shouldn’t be on as much and his numbers should improve.

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3. Jason Kipnis 2B

Jason Kipnis #22-2B
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Kipnis was the second most consistent player on the team last year. The All-Star was moved around in the order several times as Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley were. He finally found a spot as the cleanup hitter. Kipnis isn’t your typical three hole hitter, but he did produce in the clutch and defensively when he had to. He only had 17 home runs and 84 RBIs. He also led the team in strikeouts with 143.

As the season went on, he learned that just because he was the cleanup hitter he didn’t have to swing for the fences every time and eventually his production went up. Kipnis has the potential to be one of the best second basemen in the AL and should have another big year.

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4. Carlos Santana C/1B/3B

Carlos Santana #41-C/1B/3B
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Santana had a disappointing 2013 season. Coming into last season, he was featured as a player to have a breakout year. After his monster 2011 with 27 home runs and 79 RBIs, he only managed 18 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2012 and only 20 home runs and 74 RBIs last season. Santana is known to swing for the fences and has a long swing.

However, he worked on shortening his stroke and getting timely hits, and he looked a lot better. Santana was second in the AL in walks with 93. He now will possibly be playing third base for the first time in his career, along with catching and playing first base. This change could help his offensive production this season.

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5. Michael Brantley LF/CF

Michael Brantley #23-LF/CF
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Brantley was by far the most consistent player on the team. Every time a clutch hit was needed, “Dr. Smooth” came through. He also improved defensively and now has a lethal throwing arm coming out of left field. He had a batting average of .284 with 10 home runs and 73 RBIs. Those were all career-highs for him. His fielding percentage was an astounding 1.000. It already being said that he looks great in spring training and is only going to improve. Brantley signed a new four-year, $25 million deal last week.

It is well earned, and hopefully his production and approach to the game gets even better.

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6. Jeff Francoeur RF

Jeff Francoeur #11-RF
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Francoeur is hoping to have a bounce back career as he will get a new start with the Cleveland Indians. Last year he played for the Kansas City Royals where he had a batting average of .208 with only three home runs and 13 RBIs in 59 games. With the emergence of Lorenzo Cain and David Lough in their outfield, Francoeur was eventually released and he signed with the San Francisco Giants.

He only played in 22 games and amassed only four RBIs and no home runs with a .194 batting average. He has been very injury-prone but is quoted as saying this is the best he feels since being with the Atlanta Braves. With one of the best throwing arms in right field and a big bat, this could be a huge bounce back year for Francoeur.

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7. Ryan Raburn RF

Ryan Raburn #9-RF
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Raburn was the most clutch player on the team last year. He only played in 87 games due to injuries, but in every one he played in he seemed to always get the clutch hit or the big home run. He had a .272 batting average with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. His OBP was the second best in his career with .357. Raburn is best used when he is not starting in every game even though he is capable of doing so.

When he was used in back-to-back games, his production went down, but when he was used in spurts, he was a game changer. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Indians back in August, and hopefully the magic continues in the games that Raburn plays in. He would be batting a spot below due to the projected bat of Francoeur.

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8. Yan Gomes C

Yan Gomes #10-C
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Like Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes was a surprise find for the Indians. They traded bullpen righty Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for him during the offseason. Gomes only played in only 43 games prior and only had four home runs with 13 RBIs and a .204 batting average. He was sparingly used throughout the season, but his production and phenomenal defense at catcher made it impossible for Terry Francona to keep him out of the daily lineup.

He hit .294 which led all hitters, and had 11 home runs and 38 RBIs to go with it. He was the most patient hitter on the team along with Carlos Santana. Gomes only struck out 67 times, which tied both Michael Brantley and Raburn. Now that Gomes knows he is the everyday starter, he should be in for a career year.

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9. Asdrubal Cabrera SS

Asdrubal Cabrera #13-SS
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Asdrubal Cabrera had one of the worst years of his career last season. After having 25 home runs and 92 RBIs in 2011, his production went down the next two years. In 2012 he only had 16 home runs and 68 RBIs, and last season he had 14 home runs with 64 RBIs with a batting average of .242. His defense left a lot to be desired as well. He only committed nine errors, but they were very costly.

He always seems to go for the home run during his at bats. It cost the Indians big time during the Wild Card game. All Cabrera had to do was hit the ball up the middle, but he failed to do so by grounding out. He is in a contract year, and most players’ production increases. Hopefully he figures it out and produces in a less pressurized position. He was atrocious as a cleanup hitter.