Skip to main content

Cleveland Indians 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Cleveland Indians 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Cleveland Indians 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

The 2021 season will be the last one that the Indians play under the name that they've carried since 1915. It might also end their eight-year streak of winning seasons under manager Terry Francona and their run as a serious postseason contender in the American League. 

Over the last five years, the Indians have made the postseason four times, winning three straight division titles in the AL Central and reaching Game 7 of the World Series in 2016. Since 2018, though, they have undergone a serious talent drain through free agent departures and trades, while their projected payroll for 2021 could settle at less than $50 million — lowest in the league — after soaring to a franchise-record $135 million in 2018.

The pandemic hit the Indians hard, just as it did every other big-league club, but they went to the lifeboats much faster than others, and the result is the loss of some cornerstones. They declined the 2021 options on first baseman Carlos Santana and closer Brad Hand and traded shortstop Francisco Lindor, the face of the franchise, and veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco.

It's hard to see the Indians embarrassing themselves in 2021 because they have great starting pitching led by Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. But the offense, outside of Jose Ramirez, was bad last year, and the promise of anything besides marginal improvement in the coming year is faint.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Indians

"They came close, but they missed their window for a championship — again — and now they traded Francisco Lindor. They might fake their way into the race for a while because Shane Bieber's a real ace, and with Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale, they've got a solid middle of the rotation before Triston McKenzie, who's got an intriguing upside as he grows into his body. They look smart for trading Mike Clevinger just before he got hurt, but a lot of what they got in that trade was bulk. Then again, with the way they develop their pitchers, Cal Quantrill could be a sneaky breakout candidate. We may see Owen Miller this year — he can play all over, and he's always hit — but the shortstop they got, Gabriel Arias, is still a ways away. Jose Ramirez is their best player by far; he's got a great eye at the plate, but he goes up there looking to do damage, and he's probably the best slugging infielder in the American League. I do wonder if they'll trade him because he's an incredible asset with that team-friendly contract."

Cleveland Indians logo

Beyond the Box Score

Name that team In December, the Indians announced they were going to change their name to promote racial equality and social justice. They have been called the Indians since 1915 and will play under that name in 2021 before a change is made for 2022. Here are some of the suggestions for a new name: the Cleveland Snow Belters, Generals, Swarm, Express, Flash, Sluggers, Sliders, Explorers, Engines, Blue Sox, Lakers, Americans, Beebs (after Shane Bieber), Rocks, Drummers, Chrome, Emeralds, Spiders, Bulldogs, Coasters, Coyotes, River Hawks, Aviators, Pack and Clouds. Owner Paul Dolan has said the new name will not be related to Native Americans (that removes Tribe) and will not be the generic Cleveland Baseball Club.

Want more? Our new baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy insight, schedules, and predictions. Click to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

2021 Athlon Sports Baseball Preview

Sandy to the rescue 

When team officials approached first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. about managing the Indians on Aug. 2, he didn't think his tenure would last too long. He was wrong, as manager Terry Francona's health problems lingered for most of the 60-game sprint. The Indians went 28–18 under Alomar, making the postseason as a wild card, their fourth playoff appearance in five years. In the offseason, Francona said he was stunned that Alomar wasn't interviewed for any of the managerial openings that occurred.

High-priced clubbies During a weekend series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, the visiting clubhouse crew was quarantined because of a coronavirus scare. Tony Amato, the Indians clubhouse manager, was on the trip, but he had no help to clean spikes, wash uniforms, pick up towels, and stock the dugouts before games. The Tribe's front office, led by Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, pitched in and got the job done. "When I saw Chris coming in and pick up my uniform I felt bad," Francona said. Let's hope the players remembered to tip their clubbies.

Expensive night out On Aug. 8, Zach Plesac threw six scoreless innings against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in a 7–1 win. That night, Plesac and fellow starter Mike Clevinger ventured into the Windy City to celebrate. Not only did they break team curfew, but also MLB's coronavirus protocols. They both had to spend 72 hours in quarantine and were placed on the restricted list. When the front office held a meeting in Detroit to ask the team if they wanted Plesac and Clevinger back, the answer was no, and they were farmed out to the alternate training site. Clevinger was traded to San Diego, and Plesac didn't pitch again until Sept. 1.

Projected Lineup


2B     Cesar Hernandez (S)

3B     Jose Ramirez (S)

LF     Eddie Rosario (L)

DH     Franmil Reyes (R)

1B     Josh Naylor (L)

C       Roberto Perez (R)

SS     Andres Gimenez (S)

CF     Oscar Mercado (R)

RF     Daniel Johnson (L)


C      Austin Hedges (R)

1B    Bobby Bradley (L)

OF    Jordan Luplow (S)

UTIL  Yu Chang (R)

OF    Bradley Zimmer (L)


RHP    Shane Bieber

RHP    Zach Plesac

RHP    Aaron Civale

RHP    Triston McKenzie

RHP    Cal Quantrill


LHP    James Karinchak (C)

RHP    Nick Wittgren

RHP    Emmanuel Clase

RHP    Phil Maton

LHP    Logan Allen

RHP    Adam Plutko

LHP    Anthony Gose

2021 Prediction: 3rd in AL Central

(Top photo courtesy of @Indians)