It’s a new month and along with it comes a brand new set of power rankings for the Cleveland Indians. A lot has changed in the 28 days or so since our last installment. For starters, the Indians have made several changes and key additions since our February edition that will help play a part in this. Second, the Indians are actually playing games now. Granted, they still don’t count for much of anything, but at least we have actual on field production with which to help mold this list.
So how does this committee of one see the Indians organization as they head into the heart of Spring Training? Let’s dive in and find out.
1. Michael Bourn: As the final piece of the Indians offseason puzzle (at least for now), Michael Bourn helps represent a seismic shift in the way in which the Indians have operated and how we as fans have viewed the team since the Dolans took over at the start of the previous decade. Bourn’s signing came out of nowhere and helped cap off a major overhaul of the team. Now, with this arsenal of weapons led by Bourn at the top of the lineup, the fans have a reason to be both optimistic and hopeful that better days may be closer than we thought.
- 2. Michael Brantley: After an enormously successful 2012 season, Brantley’s stock has never been higher for the Indians. He took his game to another level and with it established himself as a key piece of this team moving forward. So far this Spring all Brantley has done is tear the cover off the ball. While the sample size is small, a hot start that included going 5-for-6 with four doubles is more than encouraging. Unfortunately, he now finds himself out for at least 10 days after receiving 15 stitches in his forearm from being spiked by A’s third basemen Josh Donaldson. Let’s just hope the time off doesn’t cool him off.
- 3. Ubaldo Jimenez: A lot is riding on the right arm of Ubaldo Jimenez heading into the 2013 season. After giving up a sizable investment in order to acquire him (something we here at Wahoo’s on First have argued about constantly), it’s time for him to finally deliver. So far this spring the results have been mixed. Jimenez has allowed five runs on nine hits in just four innings of work to go along with an 11.25 ERA, though in his defense he was spectacular in his first outing against Oakland. It was his most recent outing against the Padres where his numbers ballooned. He still has plenty of time to figure things out, but the sooner he does the better.
- 4. Scotsuke Kazmuzaka: Ok, so this isn’t an actual person. Rather, it’s an amalgamation of Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Both men a waging a war against one another for the coveted fifth and final spot in the Tribe’s rotation. There are other candidates such as Carlos Carrasco, David Huff, or even Trevor Bauer, but as of today it appears Kazmir and Dice-K have the inside track—and oddly similar redemption stories. Kazmir was once a highly regarded All-Star caliber ace for the Rays; Matsuzaka was a much-ballyhooed Japanese import thought to be the next great Boston pitcher. Both suffered career-crippling injuries and looking to rebound with the Tribe. Which ever one rebounds the fastest could find himself anchoring the Tribe’s rotation come Opening Day.
- 5. Nick Swisher: Anyone who was worried about how Swisher would transition from the big market Yankees to the smallish market Indians can breathe a sigh of relief. So far this spring Swisher has been his typical self. In his first few games this Spring he’s looked more than comfortable at the plate and has helped create a positive clubhouse environment, even in the face of his own personal adversity. As of now it’s looking more and more like Swisher was a Grade A investment.
6. Terry Francona: All Francona has done so far this sspring is turn the Indians into a burgeoning Cactus League juggernaut. Let’s just hope he can bring the same magical touch to this team once the games start to count for real. The biggest difference from years past is obviously the weight of Francona’s résumé. When he speaks, this team is going to listen and he’s put everyone on notice that they are going to play hard each and every day.
- 7. Carlos Santana: The Tribe’s backstop is off to a great start this spring. He’s hitting the ball well, driving in runs, and drawing walks. This is extremely encouraging considering how poorly Santana has started each of the previous two seasons. If he can keep this going heading into the regular season and parlays it into a hot start, the Indians become that much more dangerous of a team. Santana has the talent to be an elite player and one of the best-hitting catchers in the game today.
- 8. Chris Perez: Another Spring Training, another injury for Perez. The Indians’ All-Star closer is on the shelf and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be back anytime soon. Last year, Perez missed time with an oblique strain. This time around the issue is more serious. Perez sustained a muscle strain in his throwing shoulder that will keep him out at least a month. He hopes to be back by Opening Day, but one has to wonder how this affects Perez’s preparation for the season, and more importantly, how it affects his potential trade value moving forward.
- 9. Lonnie Chisenhall: With the assurance that the third base position belongs to him and no one else, Lonnie Chisenhall has been able to relax this Spring and simply play his game. He’s done a tremendous job so far defensively at third successfully completing all 11 chances. Offensively he’s also better than in previous springs, delivering a home run and five RBI while hitting .357 with an OPS of .929. He still has yet to draw a walk, leading many to question his ever-devolving plate discipline. The spring is still young, though. Chisenhall has plenty of time to improve his plate discipline.
- 10. Ryan Raburn: Back in February I discussed the battle between Raburn and Ben Francisco for the extra outfield spot on the roster. Well, two weeks into the spring Raburn has put the spot in a choke hold. All he’s done is hit four home runs and drive in nine runs in 15 plate appearances. Francisco has also played well, but it’s hard to ignore what Raburn is doing right now. Could he turn into the lightning in a bottle catch of the offseason that the Indians have been missing the past few seasons? It’s possible, but still way too early to tell. Stay tuned with this one.