The Cleveland Indians just missed winning the World Series in 2017, losing to the Chicago Cubs in a deciding game seven of the fall classic. The loss was devastating for the franchise, especially since their streak of futility extends back several decades now. The Indians will take another crack at winning the World Series this season and they certainly look like a playoff-bound team.

Edwin Encarnacion the major sign on

During the off-season Cleveland acquired Edwin Encarnacion, a long-time member of the Toronto Blue Jays. In his mid-30s now, Encarnacion is a proven power hitter that doesn't bring drama to the clubhouse.

However, he did bat around a lot of major hitting talent while playing in Toronto, namely Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson. As a hitter, the players around you in the lineup can help you get good pitches to hit as opposing pitchers can't try to pitch around you. We'll see if Encarnacion's hitting style works in Cleveland this season.

If the Indians do get back to the playoffs, then surely having a clutch hitter in Encarnacion will bode well for their chances of finally winning the World Series. Baseball fans will remember his walk-off home run in last season's one-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles.

Cleveland huge divisional favorites

As opening day nears, the Indians are the short favorites to win the AL Central.

Bet365 sportsbook has Cleveland priced at -500 (1/5) to win the division. Those odds suggest a better than 80% chance of Cleveland repeating as divisional champs. The odds are as much a reflection on Cleveland as they are on the remainder of the division.

The Minnesota Twins did nothing to bolster their chances of contending this upcoming season.

Their hopes rest on younger players developing into stars in 2017. The Chicago White Sox don't have Robin Ventura in charge anymore and that's positive for them. However, Rick Renteria doesn't have a great track record either. It's hard to picture either Minnesota or Chicago playing .500 baseball this season.

Realistically, .400 seasons for each club would not be surprising.

The Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers are only slightly dangerous foes heading into 2017. With Detroit, there's nothing that suggests that they will do any better or worse than they did last season. With KC, perhaps we find Cleveland's main divisional antagonist. The Royals do have players that are capable of putting up some big numbers. If Danny Duffy turns into an ace and Lorenzo Cain gets back to his former form, then KC may prove to be a lot better than .500 in 2017.

However, Cleveland have a ton of depth. Tyler Naquin and Michael Brantley could be huge this season, although the latter does have injury issues. That said, the Indians have Terry Francona as manager, the two-time World Series champion and three-time American League champion.

Francona hasn't had a sub-.500 season since way back in 2000 when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies.

In a weak division, the Indians have an amazing opportunity. Not only do they have a great chance to make the playoffs, but with so many divisional games against teams projected to do poorly Cleveland could be a high seed in playoffs.

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