Indians 2010 Season Preview

It’s long overdue, but I wanted to wait until the rosters were finalized before I did my season preview. Without further ado, let’s take a look at your 2010 Cleveland Indians.

Key Additions: RHP Mitch Talbot earned a spot in the starting rotation with an excellent spring … RHP Jamey Wright is the last pitcher in the bullpen … C Mike Redmond was added to provide leadership and depth at the catching position … Mark Grudzielanek surprised everyone to win a roster spot as the utility infielder and will push Luis Valbuena at second … Austin Kearns was brought in as outfield insurance and will be the fourth outfielder … Still not sure why 1B Russell Branyan was signed.

But the biggest add was: Manager Manny Acta was brought in after former manager Eric Wedge was fired and appears to have won over the players (and even some of the media). Whether this translates to the regular season remains to be seen, but there’s reason for optimism thanks to Acta.

Key Losses: C Kelly Shoppach was traded to the Rays for the Immortal Mitch T … IF Jamey Carroll signed with the Dodgers … LHP Jeremy Sowers, IF Chris Gimenez and C Wyatt Toregas failed to make the club.

On the Mend: Closer Kerry Wood will miss at least a month with a strained latissimus muscle … Branyan is on the DL with a herniated disc in his back … Rule 5 draftee Hector Ambriz will open the season on the DL with a sore elbow, delaying the Indians decision on whether to keep him or not.

Everyday Lineup:

  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

Rotation:

  • Westbrook
  • Fausto Carmona
  • Justin Masterson
  • David Huff
  • Talbot

After a quiet offseason, the Indians hope to improve on last year’s 65-97 performance using mostly players they already had in the organization. Stalwarts Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore appear to be fully recovered from injuries, and the Indians are hoping for a comeback season from Fausto Carmona. Brantley wowed the Indians enough this spring to make them forget about his arbitration clock and give him the everyday LF job. The Tribe has high hopes for Matt LaPorta, the other key piece from the CC Sabathia deal, but he will be used carefully in the early going due to offseason surgeries. Valbuena has the starting job at second for now, but he needs to prove to the Tribe that he’s more than a utility player. Marson appears to be keeping home plate warm for superprospect Carlos “Smooth” Santana.

What they should be good at: Despite all the youth, this team shouldn’t have too much trouble scoring runs. Hafner appears to be totally back from injuries that left him a shell of the player he once was. Sizemore looks to be regaining his all-star form. Shin-Soo Choo is a budding all-star himself, and Cabrera might become one someday. LaPorta is capable of hitting 25-30 home runs when healthy, and Brantley is an exciting, athletic prospect.

What they will probably suck at: Um, have you looked at the rotation? There isn’t a sure thing in the bunch. Westbrook hasn’t really pitched in two years. Carmona, despite his excellent spring, still hasn’t proven he can be the pitcher he was in 2007. Masterson has great stuff, but it might be better suited for the bullpen. Huff lead the Indians in wins last year (whatever that means) but he did so with an atrocious ERA and had an up and down spring. Talbot was terrific in the spring, but has barely pitched in the majors. Five pitchers, five question marks.

The Acta Effect: Manny Acta’s first major decision as Tribe manager was to drop Sizemore to second in the lineup to give him more RBI opportunities, much to the delight of fantasy baseball players everywhere. Also, look for Acta to give the green light to the teams better baserunners more often (Sizemore, Cabrera, Choo, Brantley). There easily could be 4 players with 20 or more stolen bases on the Tribe this year.

The Forgotten Man: That would be Jhonny Peralta, who easily had one of his worst years of his career last year, with a .316 OBP and only 11 home runs. Seeing as the Indians must decide whether or not to pick up Peralta’s option at the end of the year, this could be the last we see of Jhonny P. If he’s having a good season, he may be traded, and if not, the option will probably be declined.

What About That Bullpen: Actually, it doesn’t look that terrible this year. Kenny Powers … I mean Chris Perez, will get the first chance to close with Kerry Wood on the DL. Rafael Perez has looked ok in spring training, and Joe Smith seems to have recovered fully from injuries that limited his innings last season. Tony Sipp had a brutal spring, but the Indians still have hopes he can be an important late inning reliever. Jensen Lewis needs to prove 2007 was not a fluke, and Aaron Laffey will try to pitch his way to a rotation spot.

Down on the Farm: I know you’re sick of hearing about him, but you absolutely MUST get to know C Carlos “Smooth” Santana. He’s been compared to Victor Martinez except he can actually catch. He was Keith Law’s #3 prospect in all of baseball, and we stole him for Casey F-in Blake. RHP Carlos Carrasco had a terrific spring to put himself into consideration for the rotation until a poor final outing did him in. Expect to see him up sometime this season. One guy you won’t see until September (if at all) is 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians first-round pick in 2008. He’s the third baseman of the future, so keep an eye on him.

Outlook: Despite a solid spring and some undeniably exciting talent, it’s hard to really see this team making much noise, even in a weak AL Central. Too much would have to go right in order for that to happen. There are simply too many questions, namely with the starting rotation, but also with the bullpen. 2010 appears to be a year of learning for the Tribe, as they want to see what players they have are keepers.

My Prediction: Not that there was really much room to get worse, but I do think this will be a better year for the Tribe. I’m thinking the Indians can avoid 90 losses, with a record somewhere around 76-86, which would probably be good for fourth in the division. To anyone who cares, here’s how I think the divison will shake out:

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tiggers
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Kansas City Royals

Tomorrow is Opening Day in Chicago. Good luck to Jake the Snake, and here’s hoping the Tribe proves me wrong.

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