With a new month comes new signing, new hopes, and ultimately a new way in which we view the Indians. They haven’t even started spring training yet and already this team is drastically different from the one I wrote about at the beginning of December. So with that in mind, here is the second edition of the Cleveland Indians monthly power rankings.
1. Nick Swisher: The Indians actually landed their big fish this offseason in the form of this former Yankee. With that comes a set of expectations that Swisher hasn’t been expected to meet since probably his early days in Oakland when he was a primary cog for a young and up-and-coming team. Now in Cleveland he’s expected to be the man in the heart of the order. Can he meet these expectations? How will he respond not having the cushion of a stellar Yankee lineup around him to fall back on? Only time will tell.
- 2. Trevor Bauer: By trading Shin-Soo Choo, the Indians were able to get their hands on Bauer, a highly touted former first-round pick with an insane amount of talent and an even more insane training regimen. He won’t face the same level of pressure as Matt LaPorta when he was acquired for CC Sabathia, but his performance will play a key role in determining the legacy of Chris Antonetti. Look for him to start the year in Triple A or maybe even on the big league roster.
- 3. Mark Reynolds: Looking to add power from the right side of the plate, the Indians went all-in on Reynolds. It’s a low-risk, high reward type of deal. The money was right for both parties and if Reynolds can find the power stroke that made him such a force in Arizona the Tribe will be handsomely rewarded. The only question is how long of a leash will the fans give him before all of his strikeouts become an issue?
- 4. Terry Fancona: When Francona took this job there were still a number of question marks on the roster. Little more than a month later, most of those questions have already been answered. How Francona handles this new roster and cornucopia of personalities is going to be interesting to witness. It also going to be interesting to see how he handles Trevor Bauer, a task that Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson wasn’t cut out for.
- 5. Drew Stubbs: Stubbs may have a lot of pressure placed on him from day one and through no fault of his own. Unless of course you want to blame him for being fast. Many people believe he’s going to be the Indians Opening Day leadoff hitter without taking into account his OBP and strikeout issues. If Francona puts him at the top of the order, and we don’t know yet if he will, how he responds may very well dictate the potential success of the Indians first few months.
6. Chris Antonetti: While the signings of Reynolds and Swisher and the trade for Bauer and Stubbs looks like something Antonetti will be able to hang his hat on, there is still work left to be done with the roster. Signing Brett Myers was a start but there is still a glaring hole at DH and a team can never have too much pitching. Some of the pressure is off of Antonetti for now, but a GM’s work is never truly done.
- 7. Lonnie Chisenhall: If the offseason moves of the Indians have told us anything, it is this: Third base is Chisenhall’s job. They haven’t made any moves that would seem to indicate anything but that. Sure, Mike Aviles can play third and Reynolds can be penciled in from time to time, but Chisenhall is the only legit third baseman the Indians have. This is his time. The Indians have placed a great deal of faith in his talents and potential and now it’s time for him to prove them right.
- 8. Brett Myers: The Myers signing is an intriguing one. While he didn’t start a single game in 2012, the Indians are planning on placing him in the rotation…for now. Given his experience closing out games for the Phillies in 2007 and last year in Houston, could he be in line to be the next closer if they are able to find a suitable trade package for Chris Perez? It’s an interesting question, one that we may know the answer to as early as April or as late as July. If this is a route they choose to take it would also help keep other members of the bullpen, most notably Vinnie Pestano, in their predefined roles.
- 9. Ubaldo Jimenez: With Myers slated for the rotation, could Ubaldo’s days as a starter be numbered? There has been talk about the possibility of Jimenez going to the bullpen at some point this season if things don’t go well, but could we find him there come Opening Day? A lot will probably depend on how he responds to a new coaching staff as well as how well he performs in spring training. Quite frankly, it’s time for him to put up or shut up.
- 10. Travis Hafner: The Indians need a DH. Hafner needs a job. It’s not an ideal signing considering the injury history and the Tribe’s need for an every day DH, but when combined with Reynolds, Santana, and Marson there has to be a way to utilize him three to four times a week and keep him healthy at the same time. Plus, he is still a power threat and can get on base better than most of the available bats on the market. Don’t be surprised if this happens the closer we get to spring training.