The Cleveland Indians are American League Central champions. Until the moment the playoffs start, hearing that is never going to get old. A team that came into the season with several glaring holes including — but not limited to — the outfield, the bullpen, the back-end of the rotation, third base, and infield depth has made the playoffs and has a real chance at the No. 1 seed. It's incredible.
There was a time when it seemed like their best bet would be Michael Brantley returning at midseason. That was early on in the season when the Kansas City Royals looked like they could repeat, or the Chicago White Sox would shock the world and be less than awful. Neither of those things came true, though. The Royals did not repeat and the White Sox are, indeed, quite awful. Instead it was the Indians, roster holes and all, who stormed ahead in the division.
The strange thing is, the Indians finished with more "holes" than they started with. Brantley was a huge injury last year, but his lack of production was already anticipated. What the Indians could not have seen coming were injuries to Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Yan Gomes. And even before his injury, Gomes was not much of an offensive asset; one of the worst batters in Indians history.
For a time, the Indians had a clear strength. Their pitching staff was absolutely incredible in the month of June with a league-best 5.1 FanGraphs WAR and a 2.42 ERA. Even during that time in June, the offense was carrying its weight with the league's 10th-most runs scored. But with the Carrasco and Salazar injuries, starting pitching cannot carry the Indians in the playoffs, but Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer are good enough to not make it a total weakness. It's hard to pinpoint any exact weakness or one lone strength on this Indians team, and that's what makes them so exciting to watch and so potentially deadly in the playoffs.
Catcher looked like a weakness for a while, but Roberto Perez has finally turned the corner now that he looks fully healed from his early-season thumb injury. Remember when the Indians bullpen was horrible in the first half? Now they have at least four relievers in Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw who I would have total confidence in during a playoff game.
As for the outfield, it has been a whole mess of players filling in, but almost every single player has come up big. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Naquin, Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, and the newest addition, Brandon Guyer all make up the American League's second-best outfield, according to fWAR.
You could call Jose Ramirez the team MVP, you could Francisco Lindor the team MVP, or you could call Corey Kluber the team MVP, you could probably even make a fringe case for Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. The Indians may not win the World Series, they may not even make it out of the ALDS, but no matter what happens this season is already a success. And it's a success because of a phenomenally well-rounded roster.