The future's so bright, the Cleveland Indians should wear eye black. The creator of baseball's ZiPS projection system, Dan Szymborski, has updated his Future Power Rankings and the AL Central-leading Tribe is ranked among the league's best at No. 8 thanks to a cost-controlled pitching staff and one of the best, young shortstops in baseball.
Szymborski's rankings, which are said to gauge how well a team will perform over the next five seasons, weighs current talent, farm talent, financial support of ownership and the know-how of the front office. The Indians grade favorably in all categories save for financial support, and find themselves alongside "Futures" mainstays like St. Louis and the New York Mets.
8. Cleveland Indians (Score: 18.5)
Current Strength: 6
Future Strength: 11
Financial Support: 27
Front Office: 7
Percent of Max Possible: 62%
Best Projected Season: 2017
Most Valuable Asset: Francisco Lindor
Worst Contract: Jason Kipnis
Cleveland's always going to be in a tight financial situation, but the best news for the team is the rotation -- the team's largest strength -- will stay in town for a long time at a team-friendly price. The team holds team-friendly options on Corey Kluber through the 2021 season (his age 35 year), has Carlos Carrasco through 2020 without ever having to pay him $10 million in a season, and Danny Salazar doesn't hit free agency until a minimum of 2020. If you're a believer in Trevor Bauer (I tend to be more than ZiPS), he's around until at least 2020, as well.
There's also that Francisco Lindor guy. You may have heard of him.
Unless the Indians have some very bad fortune, the arms they have and a solidly above-average farm system ought to be enough for them to survive any revenue issues, at least for the next few years. It's not a perfect team, but the Indians are contending right now and their manageable costs give them a great shot at staying in contention.
The rotation is undoubtedly dominant, paving the way for this team to put up a near-flawless month of June en route to what is now 12 consecutive wins. Lindor is a legitimate MVP candidate, and the minor acquisitions this past offseason have more than carried their weight while All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley nurses his wonky shoulder.
For those who are yearning for the Indians' front office to trade the future for the present, pay special attention to the forecast that this team—leading the AL Central by six games—is slated to be better in 2017. While ownership support will always be an issue (one with which fans have a right to be frustrated), the fact that the team's front office has been able to make the most of what it has is the reason why they're ranked No. 7 in all of baseball.