Over the last several weeks, we’ve been previewing the Cleveland Indians’ season by profiling every player on the Tribe’s 2012 Opening Day 25-man roster. With the first pitch at Progressive Field just a few hours away, we’re recapping our player previews with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic predictions for each member of the team.
Here are the best-case scenarios for each 2012 Tribe player.
Carlos Santana: Santana picks up some extra power as he enters his age-26 season while maintaining or even improving upon his already-established plate discipline prowess. The extra power and some better luck push his average closer to the .280 range and his on-base percentage past .400. He makes a run at 40 home runs and the value of his bat is further inflated by playing almost exclusively catcher. An MVP trophy is cast in his honor. (full profile here)
Casey Kotchman: Kotchman’s .335 2011 BABIP wasn’t a fluke—or, at least, the winds of good fortune are still blowing at his back. His plate discipline holds steady and he rediscovers some of the power potential he showed in his youth. No one mistakes him for Prince Fielder, but he’s one of the Tribe’s best hitters while providing the most reliable defense the Indians have seen at first base in years. (full profile here)
Jason Kipnis: Kipnis picks up right where he left off last year. He makes a run at hitting 30 home runs and stealing 20 bases. His walk rate picks up a little as he gets more exposure to major league pitching, and his OPS rises towards .900. His defense is subpar but not abysmal. He is rewarded with a promotion in the batting order and takes his place among the game’s best middle infielders. (full profile here)
Asdrubal Cabrera: Cabrera’s power isn’t just here to stay—as he enters his age-26 season, he adds more. He sees better pitches to hit thanks to greater protection in an improved Indians lineup, and with the experience of another full season under his belt he avoids another late summer collapse. Combine that with his already-fantastic defense and he could win an MVP. (full profile here)
Jack Hannahan: The dream scenario—anticlimactic as it sounds—would really just be one in which Hannahan plays as well as he did in 2011, maybe with a little more plate discipline or power. (full profile here)
Shelley Duncan: Duncan’s power really picked up in September (.602 slugging percentage), and that wasn’t just statistical variation. The 2012 season sees him not just maintaining his new level of production but building on it. He emerges as one of the most powerful hitters in baseball, which helps bring up his walk rate too. Within a few weeks he’s firmly entrenched in the middle of the order and he keeps his starting job even after Grady Sizemore comes back. (full profile here)
Michael Brantley: Brantley shows improvement in each facet of his game—mostly, he hits the ball harder. He ups his power to near-league average levels and (partially as a result) increases his walk rate to the 9-10 percent range. His BABIP rises as he makes better contact and he becomes a worthy top-of-the-order hitter. His range improves with more exposure in center field and even when Grady Sizemore returns he stays in the middle of the big green. He’s no All-Star, but he takes a big step in the right direction and gives himself a strong place to build from as he enters his prime. (full profile here)
Shin-Soo Choo: What 2011? Choo puts last year behind him and picks up where he left off in 2009-10, when (by one measure) he was worth almost 13 wins above replacement. Choo finally earns an All-Star appearance (can you believe he’s never been selected to play in the Midsummer Classic?) and reclaims his place as the most underrated superstar in the game as he posts his third 20/20 season in four years. (full profile here)
Travis Hafner: Hafner hits just as well as he did last year, with the added bonus of bringing his walk rate back up over 10 percent. He stays (relatively) healthy and manages to appear in 120 games. He’s a solid bat in the middle of the order and he comes through with his usual share of late-game heroics. (full profile here)