Edwin Encarnacion Jersey

Cleveland Indians fans saw Edwin Encarnacion get off to a slow start last year, but he quickly turned things around to finish with some great numbers.

Edwin Encarnacion joined the Cleveland Indians with impossible expectations.

Signing a deal that pays $20 million annually meant that some fans expected the slugger to put up record numbers starting with his first at-bat in an Indians uniform. And while Encarnacion got off to a bit of a slow start, he finished with some amazing numbers.

After the hot takes subsided, Encarnacion finished the year with 38 home runs, 107 RBI, 104 walks and a slash line of .258/.377/.504. His OBP was the highest on the team among qualified hitters, so his 133 strikeouts don’t look nearly as bad.

He finished 20th in the AL MVP voting, marking the fifth time he has finished in the top 20.

Encarnacion was rather absent from the headlines in the postseason after an ankle injury that had some cursing the baseball gods, but it doesn’t take away from the great season he had. And to be fair, most of the team disappeared in the postseason.

Baseball Reference is projecting similar numbers for Encarnacion in 2018, with a slight decrease in home runs (35) and RBI (99). Even these numbers would be great considering he is entering his age-35 season.

I’m hesitant to say that a key to success for Encarnacion is to avoid a slow start, because he had one in 2017 and still bounced back to have a great offensive season.

A .200 batting average with four home runs last April was not what fans had in mind. But if you look at his numbers for the entire season and remember that the Indians led the AL Central after April, those numbers don’t look as bad.

The real key for Encarnacion, as for every player on the roster, is to just stay healthy. He played in 157 games in 2017, which was the second-best mark for his career after playing in 160 games in 2016. The ankle injury in the ALDS was a fluke thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to give Encarnacion some rest throughout the year. This may lead some fans to complain because he is “only” a DH, but that is just a lazy narrative.

I don’t see any reason to expect any regression from Encarnacion in 2018, and he remains part of the core returning this year that will help alleviate the negative effects of Carlos Santana leaving for the louder pastures of Philadelphia.