2018 Cleveland Indians Expert Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
It has been a great two-year run for the Indians. They lost Game 7 of the World Series in 2016 and then won 102 games last year - 22 of those wins coming consecutively - before a tough Game 5 loss to the Yankees in the ALDS. And they should be poised for another big season. It feels like this season has some extra urgency, though, because it could be the beginning of the end of an era. Both big pieces of the bullpen will be free agents following the season, and they will face several other key decisions next year.
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This year they are back with a remarkably-similar roster to the one that led the league in many ways last year. So, can they replicate the regular season and improve the postseason? Or have they already missed their chance?
Indians 2018 Projected Lineup
To get a sense of what the Indians will look like this year, just go back and watch a few games from last year. It's actually amazing how little change the team has gone through. The only change to the starting lineup out of the gate will be at first base since Carlos Santana has taken his talents to Philadelphia and has been replaced by Yonder Alonso. There are definitely guys I like more than Alonso, but he can do a passable Santana impersonation at a fair price, and it's not like Santana was the engine that drove this offense anyway. They will be fine with the change.
Beyond that it's the status quo. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, perhaps batting first and third to start, are intriguing because despite how good they have been they are still young - 24 and 25, respectively - so there is still likely upside as they enter their prime. It's a good contrast to guys like Michael Brantley, Alonso and especially Edwin Encarnacion, who are nearing the wrong side of the age curve.
One area where we could see some change, depending on how things play out, is behind the plate. Jan Gomes again starts as the top dog, but the club's top prospect, Francisco Mejia, is very close to ready and could earn a spot in the lineup by the summer. It would be a positive development if he does - Gomes isn't much more than a placeholder at this point in his career.
Bradley Zimmer in centerfield will be interesting to watch. He played in 101 games last year as a rookie but enters this season as the unquestioned starter in the important position. His numbers were a work in progress last year, so it remains to be seen if he can take a sophomore leap. They need him to, and there is reason to believe he can't - he's 25, so he's plenty seasoned in the pro ranks despite his major league inexperience. He's not a wide-eyed teenager.
Indians 2018 Projected Rotation and Closer
Not much you can say here other than this is one heck of a pitching staff. Corey Kluber is coming off his second Cy Young and his fifth straight year as a 200-plus inning workhorse. He's spectacular. Behind him will likely fall Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin. There are very few teams in the majors right now that would hesitate before trading their rotation for that one. They didn't make any changes simply because they didn't have to.
As if having a stellar rotation isn't enough, the team still has Andrew Miller setting up closer Cody Allen. Things can change quickly on this front, but entering the season this is the top duo in the league, and it's not very close. Behind those two they have made a fair number of changes, but it feels more like lateral moves than anything, and things should be fine in the pen. When this rotation is setting it up for those two in the last two innings then the bullpen has a lot of latitude - they don't have to be the best part of the team.
Indians Futures Odds
Cleveland is at +800 to win the World Series at BetOnline , which has them tied with the Nationals and Cubs as the fourth choice behind the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. It's a crowded field up top this year. They are the third choice to win the AL at +400, again behind the favored Yankees and the Astros. They are very overwhelming favorites to win the Central at -550, with the Twins a distant second at +650, so the oddsmakers would suggest that the playoff spot is secure. The season win total is aggressive at 94.5 wins. The season win total for Corey Kluber is set at 16.5 wins and at 14.5 wins for Carlos Carrasco. Edwin Encarnacion is their team favorite to win the home run title, but at +3300 he's a long way from an elite contender.
Indians 2018 Predictions
I don't think that this team is getting enough credit. They have been good for two years, there is upside, and they have a lot of comfort and chemistry. Houston is in the tough position of trying to defend their title - and they are young to boot. And the Yankees are good but also so heavily-hyped it's silly. I still think Houston is the best team in the AL - and all of baseball, for that matter - but the gap isn't big to Cleveland. They will have the AL Central basically clinched in May, so it comes down to the team doing what they have to do to get ready for a deep run. I'll be very disappointed if they don't at least play in the ALCS. I am bullish about this team.
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