Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Cleveland Indians Preview

Is it that time already? No, I don't mean Baseball season, I mean rebuilding season! Ah, "rebuilding," a word that Tribe fans know only too well. We rebuild more than we win! Hey-oh!

So let's get down to it, shall we? Here's your 2010 Cleveland Indians, broken down by category.

The Good

The Tribe has two good things going for it this year, it's line-up and it's line-up. By that I mean that we've got some quality guys on the team, both talent-wise and personality-wise. This is a very easy team to like. I don't know what it's like to support a team with a guy like Josh Beckett or Milton Bradley on it (okay, shut up, I do know -- and we even had Albert Belle!), but most of the guys wearing Indians jerseys this year seem like guys you want to support. And you know, when most of the team are just old enough to drink, you take what you can get.

1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
2. Grady Sizemore, CF
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
4. Travis Hafner, DH
5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
8. Lou Marson, C
9. Michael Brantley, LF

While spring training doesn't really mean a lot, it seems like this is a line-up that's going to drive in some runs. We've got a nice combination of speed and power, a balance we've rarely had, although the fact that we're so left handed heavy could be a problem.

This line-up should only improve come mid-season, if Michael Brantley is able to make the move to lead-off, which moves everyone down in the order. Add to that hitting machine Carlos Santana and suddenly even the bottom third will be pretty loaded.

As for this team in the field? Well, at the very least we should have one of the best outfields in baseball. Sizemore and Brantley are insanely fast, and Choo's not too shabby himself. And what Choo lacks in speed, he makes up for with a canon of an arm.

The infield should be interesting. Cabrera and Valbuena have the potential to be defensive stars, but potential isn't fact. Lord knows they're going to get lots of practice, given our rotation.

The Bad

I use the term "the bad" loosely. Our rotation isn't necessarily bad, per se; it's just not that impressive:

1. Jake Westbrook
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Justin Masterson
4. David Huff
5. Mitch Talbot

When your "ace" is a guy who has always and will always be more of a #3 guy, you know you have problems. He also happens to be a guy who hasn't pitched in the majors in nearly two years.

And what new twist will we see in the saga of Fausto Carmona? We expected him to be great last season after a stellar spring, but we got quite the opposite. He's been even better this spring, so what does that mean for this year? Of all the guys in this rotation, he's the only one with ace type stuff. A Fausto Carmona that can come close to 2007 levels would change the entire complexion of this rotation.

Justin Masterson was our 7th best starter coming out of spring, yet was handed the job going in. The front office seems determined to make him a starter. If I had to guess, I'd say he has half a season to prove himself or he'll get moved to the bullpen.

David Huff is only our #4 starter because he's the only left hander in the group. He wasn't particularly impressive in spring training or last year, regardless of his win total (which is a reflection of nothing). I would be shocked if he's not back in Columbus by mid-season, given that he has options remaining and there are others in AAA who could easily earn a chance.

Mitch Talbot had one bad outing in spring training, but was otherwise unbelievable. It's hard to believe that he's really this good, given that we got him for Kelly Shoppach. But the Rays had a couple of really great pitchers ahead of him in their farm system. He hasn't had much success the few times he's gotten called up, but maybe this had changed.

I would guess a few of these guys won't be around come mid-season, be it because of performance or trades (Westbrook specifically in that second group). But we have some nice options in Columbus, all of whom had great springs, like Carrasco, Rondon, and Pino. And evidently Scott Lewis is on the mend in AAA.

The Ugly

The Tribe did an awful lot to try to improve the bullpen, but sadly none of it seems to be working out just yet. Losing Kerry Wood for a few months is obviously a problem, but the upside is that this means he won't reach his vesting option, which means other teams will have interest in him come mid-season, assuming he's back and healthy.

The loss of Wood has pushed Chris Perez into the closer role, which is what he was bound for eventually, anyway. I'm just not sure he's ready for it yet, but we're going to get a lot of that this year.

While Rafael Perez has looked good and actually made a few starts in winter ball, I would imagine he'll be the lefty set up man to go with Joe Smith as our righty set up man. Smith has had a rough spring, mostly when trying to get him to go beyond just a few right handed hitters. Still, he'll be fine as a right handed expert, which is at least something.

Jamey Wright also had a good spring, but I don't know how much that really means. His career ERA is over 5. Yes, he's a veteran, which is good to have, but he's not exactly the kind of pitcher you get excited about in your bullpen, particularly given that he's currently one of the better guys we have, in comparison.

Tony Sipp has had an awful spring. He doesn't have much experience and can be kind of erratic, so his pre-season performance isn't encouraging.

Jensen Lewis is Jensen Lewis. He is what he is.

Finally, there's Aaron Laffey, who had a good spring as a starter and got moved to the bullpen yet again. Laffey should do well here and will definitely help, it's just sad that it's come to this for the second year in a row. It will be interesting to see how long he's in the bullpen, especially considering how many guys in the rotation might be gone by mid-season.

Predictions

Jake Westbrook, Kerry Wood, Jhonny Peralta, and Lou Marson will all get dealt at mid-season. Andy Marte will be the every day 3B while Lonnie Chisenhall gets moved up to AAA. David Huff will get sent down, leaving two openings in the rotation which will be filled by Carlos Carrasco and Aaron Laffey. Carlos Santana will get the call to catch.

It might be optimistic, but I'm going to say we'll finish 81-81 and 3rd in the Central, ahead of Kansas City and Chicago, and behind the Twins and the Tigers.