There is little argument that the Cleveland Indians have been the biggest surprise of the year so far on a team level. Whether one thinks this is real doesn't matter in many ways, as having the best record in baseball in early May already changes the team's 2011 outlook significantly.
Given only a 3.8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs on Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds still sees Cleveland as a sub-.500 team from here on out, but the hot start has increased their postseason chances nearly tenfold, to 37.8 percent heading into Wednesday's action. For you horse racing buffs, they've gone from a 26-1 long shot to better than 3-1 odds of needing to call the printer about playoff tickets.
As for Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, he's cautiously optimistic. "Going into spring training, we felt like we had a talented roster but one that was very young," he explained to me. "With youth, you are never sure about how fast it will develop. We've had some of these young players take that next step and help us win games, while we've mixed in veterans to not only help us win but provide leadership the young players can learn from."
No matter how you measure the current talent in Cleveland, there is every reason to believe the Indians are going to be an even more talented team on paper in future years. Evaluating the team's minor league collection of talent is a difficult balance. Although the Indians lack those obvious star-level studs, they make up for it with incredible depth, as one could easily argue that no other organization has as many future big leaguers, some of whom could play a role on the team this year.