Brantley among Indians looking to bounce back

Tribe hoping for better health, more production in 2016

Brantley among Indians looking to bounce back

CLEVELAND -- The Indians fell short of expectations last year, finishing third in the American League Central, well short of the preseason prognostications that pegged the club as a World Series contender.

As Cleveland looks to make a team-wide comeback in 2016, there will be a number of individuals also aiming for a reversal of fortunes.

In the days leading up to the start of the Indians' Spring Training, which will be underway when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 17, will examine various aspects of each roster. In the first installment of this multipart series, players who are looking to rebound will be in the spotlight.

For the Indians, the list of setbacks encountered include in-season injuries (catcher Yan Gomes), an offseason surgery (outfielder Michael Brantley) and diminished production (first basemen Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, among others). Each player impacted in the past year stands to make a big impact one way or another this season, as Cleveland attempts to get back to the postseason.

Here is the list of Indians players aiming for strong bounce-back campaigns in 2016:

LF Brantley: Brantley turned in a strong showing last year, but a right shoulder injury brought a sour end to his season. The left fielder required surgery on the arm in November, and his chances of being ready in time for Opening Day are bleak. Brantley is working to return as soon as possible (Cleveland hopes that will be within the first two months of the season), and he will be critical to the team's offense when he does.

LHP Kyle Crockett: Following a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 24-year-old Crockett wasn't as sharp in '15. The young lefty was sent down to Triple-A, where he struggled to the tune of a 5.97 ERA in 29 appearances. With some uncertainty surrounding Crockett heading into this year, the Tribe added a trio of veteran lefties (Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher) as non-roster invitees for Spring Training.

Gomes' solo homer

C Gomes: A right knee injury in April sent Gomes to the disabled list last season, and the catcher never quite looked like himself at the plate after his return. Gomes, who took home a Silver Slugger Award for his offense in 2014, hit .231 with a .659 OPS in '15. In need of more offense, the Indians will be counting on a solid comeback for Gomes this season.

LHP TJ House: House emerged as a productive starter for the Indians in 2014, spinning a 3.35 ERA in 19 appearances. Last year, the lefty encountered shoulder issues and posted a 13.15 ERA in four Major League outings. A candidate for the fifth spot in Cleveland's starting rotation heading into Spring Training, the team is hoping a healthy season from House will increase its pitching depth.

1B Napoli: Napoli's batting average, slugging percentage and OPS have dropped in each of the past two years. Last season, the first baseman hit .224 (.734 OPS) overall, but the Indians saw promise in his .295 (.908) showing after he was traded from Boston to Texas in early August. Cleveland signed Napoli to a one-year contract and will offer him everyday at-bats at first base and designated hitter.

Bastian on Napoli's impact

1B Santana: Santana's 2015 season was not all bad (19 home runs, 85 RBIs and 108 walks), but the switch-hitter still fell short of expectations. The Indians are hoping to see more power and run production from Santana, who has topped 25 homers twice in his career (2011 and '14). Cleveland is also hoping Santana is accepting of more time at DH with Napoli in the fold at first base.

3B Giovanny Urshela: The Indians were pleased with Urshela's defense at third base, but an assortment of injuries plagued his production at the plate. Urshela hit .225 with a .608 OPS in 81 games as a rookie last season, making it difficult for Cleveland to get a great read on his potential. Urshela currently projects to be the Tribe's third baseman in 2016, but the team might still be considering alternatives.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.