After falling short in the World Series in 2024, the Indians looked primed for another run in 2025.
After the Indians failed to win the division in the 2022 season, the Indians were knocked out of the wild card game for the second consecutive season. Entering the offseason, GM Beck was coming to grips with a hard truth: Despite an incredible core of stars, we were not going to beat the White Sox in 2023. Ottawa and Nashville had incredible farm systems that made it clear that the future of the AL Central did not favor Cleveland either. It was time to make a change.
In the 2023 off-season, Cleveland sold everyone over the age of 27 including Jose Ramirez, Matt Olson, Francisco Lindor, Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and many others. “We had to rebuild, but we didn’t want to enter a phase of continuous rebuilding with no end in sight. We made a commitment to be back in the playoff hunt by 2025” said GM Beck. The Indians staff said they were excited to have a blank canvas to bring in their type of players who would revolve around great defense and getting on base.
2023 was predictably bad, and the Indians finished last in the Central. But the key pieces of the future were already making a name for themselves both in Cleveland and in AAA Columbus. In the weeks leading up to the 2024 season, the preseason magazines and radio hosts were already predicting another last place finish. However, the administration was cautiously optimistic in the weeks leading up to opening day of the 2024 season. “We believed we had a team that could compete, but it was in that final week of Spring Training that we saw a light go on in Jordan Walker. We knew this was going to be a special season.”
The Indians went on to win 105 games, the AL Central, and made it to game 7 of the world series. In the process, they led the league in OBP, and had the 4th most walks in history. They also had the top two candidates for AL ROY.
A world series appearance did not lead to a quiet offseason. The Indians fans have several new faces that they will have to get to know in 2025. They had to say goodbye to their Gold Glove winning rookie SS Yordys Valdez and their long-time closer Emmanuel Clase. But they are excited to see what the new guys can do: Including ace pitcher Gerrit Cole, CF Jeremy de la Rosa, SS Dorian Gonzalez, and new closer Vic Barus. The 2025 roster looks as follows:
Catcher Yasmani Grandal (Austin Hedges). The Indians return defensive veteran Yasmani Grandal as the primary catcher, but after Tucker Barnhart chose free agency, the backup catcher spot was open. Kyle Teel was strongly considered for the role, but the Cleveland leadership loved what they saw in free agency, bringing in Austin Hedges as an elite defensive catcher with Captain leadership skills.
On the farm, Luca Tresh and Cole Stilwell will share the AAA role, but newly acquired Will Rogers best fits the mold of a defensive Cleveland catcher. Rogers will begin the season in AA, and will need at least one offensive tool to develop for him to make it to the major league club.
First Base Rhys Hoskins/Luis Toribio. Luis Toribio wandered from team to team and was struggling to find any plate appearances at all until a 2023 trade brought Luis in as a quality depth piece and a flyer in the Indians system. 19 games n AAA is all it took for him to get a callup to the majors, and he performed well. Last season however he exploded onto the scene, finishing 2nd in WAR among all 1B’s in baseball. With Dominic Smith being shipped, the Indians brought in right-handed hitter Rhys Hoskins who fits the Indians preference for power and a good eye. The taller Hoskins will take 1B and Toribio will DH. Drew Mendoza will head back down to AAA with a chance to earn his way back to Cleveland.
Second Base Brandon Lowe (Carlos Correa). After trading away Keithron Moss to Texas, the Indians were confident that AAA star Chase Strumpf was ready to be a star at the majors, however he just could not make it work and Cleveland was forced to trade for Brandon Lowe at the deadline. Lowe has had an impressive spring and will take the lions share of the load. Carlos Correa was brought in to hit lefties and play excellent defense. Diego Castillo will start in AAA and may get a shot if either Lowe or Correa struggle.
Third Base Jordan Walker. Jordan Walker was expected to become the face of the franchise, but it happened much sooner than was expected. He brings excellent defense and has the potential to be among the league leaders in home runs and OBP. The Indians expect him to compete for MVP honors this year. If Walker gets hurt, capable backups include Diego Castillo, Luis Toribio, and Drew Mendoza.
Shortstop Dorian Gonzalez (Luis Guillorme). Cleveland struck gold in 2024 with a home-grown talent in Yordys Valdez. He was always expected to play elite defense, but his bat shined in AAA in 2023, which carried over into his rookie season in the majors. Yordys was among the best SS’s in the league, winning the AL Gold Glove and finishing 2nd in the ROY race. However, Dorian Gonzalez was among the best players in all the minor leagues in 2024 and looked better than Yordys in both the bat and the glove, leading the club to deal Yordys away to fill other needs. Luis Guillorme is a solid backup and had a chance to start while Dorian eased into the role, but management has decided to let Dorian take the job out of the gate.
On the farm, Luis Tejeda will get the first crack at the AAA job, while Junior Sanquintin will take AA. This could be flip flopped at any point in the season, and one of these two will likely supplant Luis Guillorme in the majors in 2026.
Left Field Cesar Ortega (Cal Stevenson). Cleveland began 2024 with Jairo Pomares who was a major part of the original rebuild plan. However, with young talent building in AAA, GM Beck saw an opportunity to sacrifice some depth and go after a true MVP candidate. Cesar Ortega was on his radar, and Beck made it clear he was prepared to pay any price for the budding star. After a slow initial month in Cleveland, Ortega burst out of a slump with a 3-home run game, and never looked back on his way to a 4.4 WAR finish over his 76 games with the club. He was pivotal in the playoffs, taking home the Division Series MVP. Cleveland expects Ortega to compete for MVP honors this year.
Cal Stevenson has been a solid backup in his tenure in Cleveland, and will begin the year as the 4th outfielder on the MLB club, however several guys are expected to challenge him for this role, including Victor Mesa Jr, Eduardo Lopez, and Heston Kjerstad, with Mesa the early favorite. Look for Mesa to learn LF in AAA and be groomed to take the job from Cal by the all-star break. GM Beck has gone on record that he believes Mesa has a chance to be the future at RF in Cleveland.
Center Field Jeremy de la Rosa. Throughout the entire rebuild, a true CF was always the one missing piece. Heston Kjerstad was given a chance to win this job and move Swaggerty to RF, but after a month on the job, Cleveland had seen enough and pulled the plug. Max Kepler was acquired and Travis Swaggerty was moved back to CF. Acquiring a true CF was the highest priority in the offseason, and Jeremy was quickly identified as the leading target. Jeremy will start in CF this year and the Indians are expecting him to be the long term answer at this position. Swaggerty will serve as backup.
Right Field Travis Swaggerty. Travis had a down year in 2023 after coming off a great season in Pittsburgh, but rebounded to have the best season of his career in 2024, posting a 5.6 WAR and living up to his OBP machine mantra. Cleveland always felt he belonged in RF and with the acquisition of a true CF, he finally gets to have his terrific defensive profile shine at the position.
Starting Pitcher After losing Bieber and Clevinger in 2023, Cleveland had a long road to rebuilding the Starting rotation.
Daniel Espino was the home-grown talent that blossomed into a true ace in his last two seasons. His low stamina limits his ceiling, and he may never make him a serious candidate for Cy Young, but he is incredible when he is on the mound and was Cleveland’s best pitcher in 2024.
Emerson Hancock was part of the return for Lindor and has developed into a solid starter. He was expected to eventually lead this rotation as an ace and perennial Cy Young contender. At 25 and about to be 26, he has not lived up to that level of production. All the tools are there, and the Indians are hoping that his age 26 season will be the year that it all comes together to be among the best in the AL.
George Kirby was brought in before the 2024 season and the tools are out of this world. The Indians stayed patient throughout an awfully slow start to the season and was rewarded with a strong finish and a terrific performance in the playoffs. The Indians expect him to compete for Cy Young honors and consider him the co-ace of the staff along with Gerrit Cole.
Gerrit Cole has been among the best of the best in his career and has been on the block in New York for several seasons. The stars happened to align and with a championship window in Cleveland, it made too much sense to bring in the veteran hurler. While the contract will not likely age well, the Indians were confident that they could get at least two good to great seasons out of Cole, and he is expected to be the opening day starter.
Yennsy Diaz was part of the Shane Bieber return and was immediately installed into the rotation after serving a reliever role for most of his career. He has had nothing but success in the role and has been a highly effective back end option for the team. After Corbin Martin went down with a serious injury, he shined in the playoffs and made a strong case to stick in the 2024 rotation. While there are several candidates that could take his spot should he struggle, the Indians are confident that he will continue to be a terrific #5.
Bullpen The Indians were busy during the offseason to keep this staff among the most effective in the AL. With Emmanuel Clase entering his final year of arbitration, they had to decide whether he was going to be a long-term part of this franchise. In the end, they decided to part ways and began looking for the closer of the future.
Vic Barus is someone that the staff loved coming out of the draft and had kept close tabs on his development. The opportunity presented itself and after careful consideration, he will begin the season as the closer.
Should he struggle, free agent acquisition Kevin Gausman is likely the next man in line for the job. The rest of the bullpen will begin the year with RHP’s Lyon Richardson, Johnathan Hernandez, and Jake Woodford. LHP’s include Giants World Series MVP Sam Hentges, Joey Cantillo, and Logan Allen.