After a heartbreaking loss to the Cubs in the Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cleveland Indians returned with vengeance in '17 as they overcame a mediocre first half to post a .733 winning percentage (55-20) after the All-Star break -- thanks in part to an American League-record
After a heartbreaking loss to the Cubs in the Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cleveland Indians returned with vengeance in '17 as they overcame a mediocre first half to post a .733 winning percentage (55-20) after the All-Star break -- thanks in part to an American League-record 22-game winning streak that spanned parts of two months -- en route to a 102-win season and a second consecutive AL Central title.
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And while the Indians failed to advance beyond the ALDS, losing to the Yankees in six games after taking what appeared to be a commanding 2-0 series lead, it was yet another breakthrough season for a franchise in search of ending a now-70-year World Series draught.
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Much of that success was tied to a historically good Indians starting rotation that arguably was the best in the bigs. Led by AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, Indians starters recorded 81 wins and 1,066 strikeouts to lead the Majors in both categories. Their collective 3.52 ERA, meanwhile, ranked first in the American League and second among all 30 teams.
That dominance on the mound extended to the club's dynamic bullpen, too, as Cleveland relievers paced both circuits in ERA (2.89) and WHIP (1.14), while converting all but 10 save opportunities.
At the plate, the Tribe received enormous contributions from a pair of homegrown phenoms in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Lindor, the Indians' first-round pick in 2011, further established himself as one of the sport's premier players by setting career highs in a host of offensive categories, while Ramirez turned in the top break-out performance across the game to finish third in AL MVP voting.
The Indians also received help from their farm system along way, most notably from Bradley Zimmer. The team's top prospect at this time last year, Zimmer made his Major League debut in May and proceeded to impress in all facets of the game before suffering a season-ending injury. Cleveland also received contributions from versatile prospects Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzalez.
Zimmer and co. were eventually joined in the Majors by No. 11 overall prospect Francisco Mejia and speedy outfielder Greg Allen, both of whom contributed down the stretch after receiving a September callup and are expected to take on larger roles with the club in 2018.
Down on the farm, right-hander Triston McKenzie, MLB Pipeline's No. 24 prospect for 2018, solidified his status as an elite pitching prospect with a dominant campaign that earned him Class A Advance Carolina League Pitcher of the Year honors. Right-hander Shane Bieber, a 2016 fourth-rounder, breezed through three full-season levels including Double-A while issuing just 10 walks in 173 1/3 innings.
Even more Indians prospects appear poised to make strides in 2018, as Will Benson, George Valera, Conner Capel and Aaron Bracho will all be names to follow closely as the season unfolds.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.