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Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Cleveland Indians team preview

2009 Record: 65-97   .401

Run Differential: -88

Cleveland fans knew it was unlikely CC Sabathia would be an Indian in 2009 and were probably sick to their stomach when he signed a $120 million contract with the Yankees.  Imagine how they felt last October when their top two former starters (Sabathia and Cliff Lee) faced each other in Game 1 of the World Series.  Such is life in Cleveland where payroll constraints now dominate roster construction in a way fans never thought possible.  What makes these two trades more sickening is that it doesn't appear as if any big time prospects were acquired for these Cy Young winners.  Aside from trading Lee, the team traded star catcher Victor Martinez and valuable utility man Mark DeRosa.  Unfortunately, the early takes on these trades are similar to those of Lee and Sabathia.  Manager Eric Wedge was also fired after consistently underperforming and mismanaging the team in critical situations.  Fausto Carmona struggled mightily and the rest of the rotation was just awful.  After just missing the World Series in 2007, Cleveland finished 2009 with the worst record in the American League.

Now Cleveland has turned the page and hopes to have the pieces necessary to begin their next mini-dynasty in the American League Central.

Will Sizemore be the next Indian to be sent packing?

Catcher Lou Marson, acquired in the Cliff Lee deal, is expected to be the starting catcher on Opening Day.  If all goes well he will likely be traded in a couple of seasons as top prospect Carlos Santana begins to assert himself.  Matt LaPorta is in what may be a make or break year as he fights for a starting spot.  Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore are likely two players management would like to hold onto as they work through the rebuilding process, yet there will be rumors.  The real issue in Cleveland--and the one that prevents them from becoming a contender--is the atrocious starting pitching.  Jake Westbrook is anything but a shoe-in as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.  Justin Masterson is an unproven starter who's often struggled against left-handed hitters as a reliever.  Fausto Carmona has been historically bad the last couple of seasons after going 19-8 in 2007.  There doesn't appear to be much help on the horizon either as Jeremy Sowers has flopped in his trial appearances, Anthony Reyes is injured again, and the top pitching prospects are in A-ball.  Cleveland fans will just need to sit tight and have faith in GM Mark Shapiro who is one of the best talent hoarders in baseball.  The team will be good again but this year could be tough.

Likely Opening Day Roster:
Pos.
Name
My Two Cents
C
Lou Marson
Could hit .290/.380/.420 in his peak. Only 27 career minor league HR in 498 games.
C
Mike Redmond
Owns soft tossing lefties.
1b
Matt LaPorta
Now or never? Was acquired with Brantley for CC Sabathia
2b
Luis Valbuena
Decent hitter but never walks. A poor man's Carlos Baerga...very poor.
3b
Jhonny Peralta
Expect 20 homers and a .330 OBP
SS
Asdrubal Cabrera
As offense has improved, defense has regressed
LF
Michael Brantley
Probably not quite ready yet but there aren't a lot of options here
CF
Grady Sizemore
I think last year's drop in BA was a bit of an aberration but his power continues to grow
RF
Shin-Soo Choo
Only a placeholder until real RF is found
IF
Brian Bixler
Slick defensive player has whiffed in 62 of last 166 at-bats
4C
Russell Branyan
Though he may not have a defined position, he will play every day
IF
Mark Grudzielanek
I think he makes the team too.  Pretty decent hitter and defender just can't play SS.
DH
Travis Hafner
This is likely the end. For a three year stretch earlier this decade he was just scary good
SP
Jake Westbrook
Team hopes he's fully recovered from TJ. Has been promised Opening Day start
SP
Fausto Carmona
Looking more and more likely that he won't ever regain form from 2007
SP
Justin Masterson
 Ideal role would be a 100 inning RP. Really struggles vs. left handed hitters
SP
Aaron Laffey
Team's second best starter last year was moved to bullpen to fix holes there.  Strategy fail.
SP
David Huff
Despite 5.61 ERA led team with 11 wins  in '09
Cl
Kerry Wood
ERA jumped a full run by switching leagues
SU
Chris  Perez
Closer stuff but still working on the mental toughness
RP
Joe Smith
ROOGY is key to bullpen. If he's effective then everyone else will have defined role
RP
Rafael Perez
My favorite RP from the Tribe's excellent bullpen in '07. Era has doubled every year since
RP
Jensen Lewis
Lefties owned him last year. Not a good sign for someone who wants to pitch multiple innings
RP
Tony Sipp
Deceptive delivery allows him to find success
RP
Jess Todd
Acquired as the PTBNL for DeRosa, is another RP who has trouble with lefties
DL
Anthony Reyes
Will miss the season after undergoing TJ surgery

Say Hello To: Russell Branyan, Mike Redmond, Austin Kearns, Mark Grudzielanek, Mitch Talbot, Brian Bixler

Wave Goodbye: Jamey Carroll, Kelly Shoppach, Greg Aquino, Jose Veras

Rookies: Michael Brantley, Lou Marson

Potential Breakout:  Chris Perez - I think the guy turns a corner this year. He has the stuff to succeed and Cleveland will stick with him for better or worse

Welcome to Earth:  Justin Masterson - I just don't see him being a successful starter. Expect lots of starts that last only 5 1/3 innings.

Likely to Rebound: Grady Sizemore - being healthy will help

Top 3 players: Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo

Top Prospect: Carlos Santana - Still improving his defensive skills but this guy can hit. Will be a middle of the lineup hitter on a good team.

Prediction: 75-87  4th place AL Central
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