First, the 25 man roster at the beginning of the season is TRULY a moment in time. These things can change dramatically and in a short period of time. Still, some interesting decisions. Here are some thoughts:
Bauer to the bullpen - When a highly prized young player dedicates himself to getting better...and appears to get better on the things he needed to get better at...it is a little surprising he isn't rewarded by having the confidence of his bosses. Hey, in our lives we have all seen people get screwed in this type of situation: sports, business, personal interactions. Still, it does raise some eyebrows when it is as public as professional sports is. Trevor Bauer might not be happy about this but all he has to do is look across the locker room towards Josh Tomlin's locker to see a player who has been bounced around and, frankly, trampled on by the Indians. Not only in the majors but in the minors, too. All he has done as they have moved him from starting to the bullpen, back to starting on a moment's notice and then back to the bullpen no matter his results as a starter, is PITCH WELL. Bauer needs to take a page out of Tomlin's book and be lights out in the bullpen. If he does that he will be available when they need him. If he doesn't...
While there is rampant speculation that this means Bauer is on his way out of town, I haven't heard a single person put forth a proposed trade, let alone one that makes sense for the Indians. If the Indians hope to build up Bauer's value by this move, they will be disappointed. They will have to trade him now to get anywhere near to full value although I think by holding on to him and getting him meaningful starts this year they can increase his value for a mid-season or off-season trade. However, I hope that what I have read is correct: that the Indians ARE playing the percentages and looking at how they match up with their April opponents and felt, as has been reported, that Anderson and Tomlin were better bets to win April games.
The bullpen - The Indians have chosen to go with a veteran bullpen dotted with non-roster invitees from this year and last to go along with guys who have multiple years in Cleveland. Interestingly the only lefty in the bullpen is a starter (Ross Detweiler) and other lefties who did well in spring training (Kyle Crockett (except for one outing), Joe Thatcher and Tom Gorzelanny) were kicked to the curb. The Otero-instead-of-a-lefty decision is especially interesting. So the Indians will start with a veteran bullpen made up of two starters (Bauer and Detweiler) and three non-roster righthanders (Otero, Chamberlain, Manship) and three holdover righthanders (Shaw, Allen, McAllister). Not a LOOGY in the bunch.
Position players - Part 1 - Just like the bullpen, the Indians shopped in the bargain basement department to bring in Juan Uribe, Marlon Byrd, Rajai Davis and Colin Cowgill. Now no one expects Cowgill to be here any longer than you can say "Michael Brantley is now off the DL". However, it will be interesting to see what happens when Lonnie Chisenhall comes off the DL. Clearly we have too man relief pitchers so one could go.
Position players - Part 2 - Tyler Naquin made the team but it will be interesting to see if he is in the opening day lineup. They obviously are going with a youngster at SS in Lindor but he precocious, whereas Naquin may just be good. Given that they brought in Uribe and sent out Urshela, and given the composition of the bullpen and what they are doing in the bullpen, my money is on Naquin going to the bench once Brantley comes back. If he isn't in the opening day starting lineup, that will signal to me that this is the Indians' plan as they want to start fast and the more rookies you have playing significant roles, the less likely you are to start fast.
The prediction - OK, so conventional wisdom would say that the Indians are too weak in the hitting department and that the pitching will not hold up. If this turns out to be the case they will go 78-84. However, I am going out on a limb and saying that the Indians will make the playoffs. How they do there will depend solely on what moves they are able to make at the trading deadline. They have the types of ML-ready chips to play at that point: Erik Gonzalez, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko and Austin Adams. They will also have some low minor top prospects like Bobby Bradley, Justin Sheffield and Mike Papi. With that being said I think everything will fall into place and the Indians will finish 92-70 and make the playoffs and, if they stay healthy and get the pieces, they will upset the Royals and make it to the World Series. If their starting pitching is as strong as I think it will be (three #1 or #2 starters plus a solid bullpen), I think they win the series in 6 in one of the lowest scoring World Series in recent years. Well, there you have it. It is now on record on the internet. Let's see how it turns out.
Indians 90-72 - Wild card winner, division series winner, league championship winner, world series winner.
MVP - Corey Kluber
Rookie of the year - Bradley Zimmer
Biggest surprises: Bradley Zimmer and Jose Ramirez
Minor league surprise player of the year - Mike Papi
Minor league pitcher and player of the year: Adam Plutko and Mike Papi
Indians minor leaguers to make their ML debuts this year: Bradley Zimmer, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, Tyler Naquin (sorry, I had to ensure I got one right), Jarrett Grube (already has one IP for the Rockies but he will get a few innings for the Indians, as well), Erik Gonzalez, Todd Hankins, Mike Clevinger, Jeff Johnson.
Minor league records:
Lake County: 76-68