This is the ninth in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.
The Indians thought they acquired their first baseman of the future when they made Matt LaPorta the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade in July 2008.
It’s been over a year and a half later, and the Tribe still isn’t quite sure what they have in LaPorta. At first glance, and without knowing the story, LaPorta’s 2010 numbers are quite underwhelming: .306 OBP (.668 OPS) with just 12 home runs. 10 of those home runs came versus right handed pitchers. However, LaPorta came into camp still hobbled from toe and hip injuries the year before. Add to that he wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the lineup, due to the Indians’ off-season signing of Russell Branyan, and the fact that he made the in-season improvements he did make after an atrocious April was fairly impressive.
This is not to say, however, that LaPorta’s production is acceptable. The Indians need to get better production out of LaPorta if they want to label the Sabathia trade a success. And so, LaPorta will enter the 2011 season as the Indians’ starting first baseman, no ifs, ands or buts this year. He will be given a long rope to hang himself with, as with the former first round pick (by the Brewers) being almost 26 and with absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors (small sample size warning: 81 at bats, .457 OBP, 1.094 OPS, 5 home runs in 2010 during a mid-season demotion) and must take his lumps at the major league level now.
The Indians have a lot riding on LaPorta’s success (besides the need for a return on the Sabathia trade, there’s a dearth of right-handed hitters in the Indians’ system) but if he doesn’t start to capitalize on his chances, he may find himself out of favor with the Indians. This is a pivotal year for LaPorta, and he must improve and start showing some of that potential he’s teased in the minors.