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First, outfielder Michael Brantley wasn't ready to go on Opening Day and would appear in just 11 games all season. Catcher Yan Gomes was lost for the year in mid-July. Starter Carlos Carrasco was in the midst of a fantastic season when he broke his right hand in September, shelving him for the remainder of the year. Fellow starter Danny Salazar was an All-Star, but a forearm injury landed him on the DL as well in early September. If someone had said the Indians would deal with all of this misfortune to key players and still win the AL Central crown, few would have believed it.
But here they are, in the World Series for the first time since 1997 after capturing their first division crown since 2007. They've done it by putting together a roster in a number of different ways, finding just enough depth and making just the right moves to keep things headed in the right direction.
"If you look at our roster and look at the different avenues at how players came into the organization, it's pretty balanced," president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "Domestic amateur talent, international amateur talent, trades. All of our scouting groups -- pro, amateur and international -- as well as our player development staff have impacted our team and have been a part of our success."
Here's a look at how each player on the Indians' projected World Series roster was initially acquired during his current stint with the club:
Player, how acquired, year
Josh Tomlin, Draft, 2006 (19th round)
Lonnie Chisenhall, Draft, 2008 (1st round)
Roberto Perez, Draft, 2008 (33rd round)
Jason Kipnis, Draft, 2009 (2nd round)
Jose Ramirez, Int'l sign, 2009
Francisco Lindor, Draft, 2011 (1st round)
Cody Anderson, Draft, 2011 (14th round)
Cody Allen, Draft, 2011 (23rd round)
Tyler Naquin, Draft, 2012 (1st round)
Francisco Lindor is just 22 years old, yet it would be hard for anyone to question that he lies at the heart of this playoff-bound team. The runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2015, Lindor suffered nothing close to a sophomore slump, excelling on both sides of the ball, making his first All-Star team and bringing his infectious energy and passion for the game to the ballpark every single day. Combine the 2011 first-round pick with Jason Kipnis, the 2009 second-rounder, and the Indians have one of the best homegrown double-play combinations in baseball.
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As crucial to the team's success as that duo has been, it might have been another Cleveland draftee who really filled a void. Tyler Naquin, the club's first selection in 2012, made the Opening Day roster on the heels of a huge Spring Training.
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Little did anyone know his presence would take on a greater importance with the loss of Brantley. Naquin has stepped up as the club's top center fielder, accruing over 300 at-bats with solid numbers across the board. He was just one of several Indians players who stepped up to make up for injuries.
"The way they've overcome adversity, to be undaunted by whatever challenges we've faced, it's been really impressive to see," Antonetti said.
Player, year, acquired from
Carlos Santana, 2008 Dodgers
Corey Kluber, 2010, Padres
Zach McAllister, 2010, Yankees
Yan Gomes, 2012, Blue Jays
Trevor Bauer, 2012, D-backs
Bryan Shaw, 2012, D-backs
Mike Clevinger, 2014, Angels
Dan Otero, 2015, Phillies*
Brandon Guyer, 2016, Rays
Chris Gimenez, 2016, Rangers*
Andrew Miller, 2016, Yankees
Michael Martinez, 2016, Red Sox**
Coco Crisp, 2016, A's
*-Purchased; **-Selected off waivers
Over the years, the Indians pro scouting department has done an excellent job at identifying talent, often getting Minor League players in deals who the player-development staff could then mold into big leaguers. Such efforts have netted the current roster such crucial pieces as Carlos Santana and Corey Kluber.
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Trevor Bauer was the huge prospect acquired in that three-team deal with the D-backs and Reds in December 2012 while Mike Clevinger was a lesser-known prospect the Indians received from the Angels in August 2014. Neither were in the rotation at the start of the season -- Bauer was on the Opening Day roster as a reliever -- but both were called upon to start during the regular season. And Bauer started Game 1 of the ALDS, receiving a no-decison, and then Game 3 of the ALCS, which was cut short due to a cut on his right pinkie. Clevinger, meanwhile, gave up a run over 1 2/3 innings of relief in Game 4 of the ALCS.
"Each offseason as we look to build our team, our pitching staff especially, we don't expect five guys to make it through the season," Antonetti said. "We try to build a rotation that's eight or nine deep, if not more. We've had to rely on that depth and then some."
It's been a while since the Indians were big players at the Trade Deadline, at least in terms of being buyers. But they were all-in on the trade market this last July, or at least they tried to be. They thought they had a deal with the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy, a trade Lucroy ended up vetoing. But they were able to address a need in the bullpen, acquiring lefty Andrew Miller from the Yankees. It did cost them two top prospects in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, but the dividends have been tremendous both on and off the field.
On the mound, Miller has been a lights-out setup man, with a gaudy strikeout-to-walk ratio. But perhaps more importantly, he came in with a "give me the ball whenever you need" attitude, rather than demanding he continue as a closer, a mindset that could have torpedoed the chemistry of the team.
"Prior to the trade, we try to do intensive due diligence about players we might want to acquire," Antonetti said. "We heard great things about Andrew as a teammate and competitor. If it's possible for him to exceed those lofty expectations, he has."
Adding Miller to the relief corps turned out to be more important than Antonetti and company could have imagined when they pulled the trigger on the deal. With injuries decimating the rotation, being able to shorten the game for the starters was huge in the Tribe's efforts to win the division.
"We definitely relied on our bullpen more in the second half than we would've under normal circumstances," Antonetti said. "Andrew gave us another impact arm that could pitch meaningful innings. His mentality and mindset, his team-first approach really was good."
Jeff Manship, 2014
Rajai Davis, 2015
Mike Napoli, 2016
The Indians aren't typically big players on the free agent market. But they knew there were some areas that needed to be addressed in the offseason. Outfield depth and another run-producing bat were both on the wish list. The first was taken care of with the signing of Rajai Davis, who has stolen more than 40 bases at age 35. The second was found in the form of Mike Napoli, who has 30-plus homers and over 100 RBIs.
As important as those numbers are, however, the Indians braintrust was once again very cognizant of finding good fits chemistry-wise. Both players bring a ton of experience -- Napoli is heading to the postseason for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons -- and it's been obvious to anyone watching the impact the pair of veterans has had.
"When we looked at it, we felt we had a good nucleus of players returning from 2015 going into 2016 and we felt that nucleus was going to be together for a period of time even beyond this season," Antonetti said. "We looked for players we thought would complement that group, both on the field and in the clubhouse. We were attentive to the fit."