It’s been more than six months since the last baseball action at Progressive Field, but that’s about to change. In just four days, the cry of “Play ball!” will echo through the stadium and the Cleveland Indians’ 2012 season will begin.
In our last Weekly Wroundtable before Opening Day we tasked our extra-large panel (11 writers representing five different sites) with the challenge: Make a bold prediction or two about the 2012 Indians. Here are the long-shot best we’re taking for the Tribe this year—and no, these aren’t April Fool’s jokes.
Andrew Zajac (Indians Prospect Insider): The Indians will get off to another quick start before falling to the Tigers around mid-July. Carlos Santana is poised for a huge year.
Nino Colla (The Tribe Daily): Nick Hagadone leads all relievers in strikeouts. Shelley Duncan remains a regular member of the starting lineup all season long.
Ed Carroll (The Cleveland Fan): I expect Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall to take big steps forward, the Bullpen Mafia to again be solid, and for the Tribe to get creative to fix the outfield. I predict Carlos Santana to explode and hit 40+ home runs, and for Grady Sizemore to appear in at least 90 games. If these happen, and Ubaldo Jimenez’s head is on straight, a 13-win swing isn’t crazy for the Indians.
TD (WaitingForNextYear): The Grady Sizemore situation will linger all season and hurt this team. He will come back by June, go back on the DL at some point, and never be close to the player the team needs him to be. Carlos Santana will show he is the best hitting catcher in the American League. Justin Masterson will prove to be ace worthy, and the bullpen will be solid again. But Ubaldo Jimenez will struggle all year with his command and Josh Tomlin will fall back to reality. I think they win 75 games at best and finish third.
Charlie Adams (Indians Prospect Insider): Shelley Duncan will hit 20 home runs.
Andy Cooper: Carlos Santana will be the Indians’ lone All-Star and will receive MVP votes. Ubaldo Jimenez will develop whiplash from quickly turning his neck to watch baseballs fly out of the year.
Lewie Pollis: Carlos Santana gets MVP votes. Shelley Duncan outplays Michael Brantley.
Geordy Boveroux: Chris Perez will struggle to get 30 saves this year because he won’t be able to raise his strikeout percentage. Vinnie Pestano will get 5-10 vulture saves.
Steve Kinsella: Chris Perez will not finish the 2012 season as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Katie Hendershot: I expect the Indians to contend within the division. I also expect to see a strong year from Ubaldo Jimenez, despite his recent struggles.
Brian Heise: Shin-Soo Choo will avoid injury, have a bounce back year, and be in the MVP race until August. Asdrubal Cabrera will regress substantially thanks in part to the lofty expectations from 2011′s success and injuries. The Indians will be in the thick of things for the second wild card.