Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana (41) hits a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in the American League wild card playoff game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians February Power Rankings

Justin Masterson’s Contract Dispute Looms Large

Another month, another set of power rankings. Yes, this is a bit later in the month than what we are all accustomed to, but the committee of one has been a bit busy keeping the empire otherwise known as Wahoo’s on First running smoothly. The committee also figured that waiting until spring training opened up and seeing which story lines develop would be in everyone’s best interests. If you don’t like it, oh well. The committee has made its decision and is sticking to it. So, without wasting anyone else’s time, let’s get into this totally arbitrary practice of ranking the Cleveland Indians otherwise known as the Power Rankings.

February Power Rankings

1. Justin Masterson: He’s the ace of the staff and currently embroiled in a never-ending contract dispute, the status of which is beginning to hold both the team and the fan base hostage. Will he sign long-term? Will he only sign a one-year deal? Is this actually going to arbitration? What are the Indians going to do. There are too many questions and nowhere near enough answers. Stay tuned.

2A. Carlos Santana: Can Carlos Santana play third base? Yes, Masterson’s contract issue is a big deal, but it’s that question that is drawing the most attention this spring. If Santana can play third and establish a set position it will have a devastating effect on the long-term future of the team. If the Indians decide he can’t, will he be happy as a super utility/full-time DH?

Power Rankings

August 19, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

2B. Lonnie Chisenhall: The other part of the Carlos Santana third base saga. The Indians decision regarding third will have a lasting impact on Chisenhall and his future with the team. What does it mean for the once heralded top prospect? Are we looking at a position change? Could he be a trade piece to land some more pitching? Does he go back to the minors again? Or hey, how about this one. WHat if Chiz plays so well during spring training that the Indians have no choice but to give him the starting third base job?

3. Jason Kipnis: Hey, why not bring up more contract nonsense? Kipnis is due for a huge pay increase. With arbitration lurking around the corner, it is probably in the best interest of the Indians to lock up their all-star second baseman sooner rather than later. Otherwise, they might not be able to afford to keep him around for the long haul. There has been talk of an extension, but nothing has come of it yet.

4. The Fifth Spot in the Rotation: This is another one of the big battles for the Indians this spring. Whoever wins this spot will be relied on heavily to help ease some of the burden from losing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. Whether it’s Trevor Bauer, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Harang, Josh Tomlin, or Carlos Carrasco, the success of the Indians 2014 season could very much hang on how well they perform.

5. Michael Bourn/Nick Swisher: This is another combo spot. Both Bourn and Swisher struggled throughout the 2013 season. Both have sworn that they will be better in 2014. If they can bounce back in a big way, it would provide a serious boost to the Indians offense. If not, it could be a very long season, especially for Michael Bourn.

6. John Axford: Do the Indians have a closer? Maybe. John Axford, the one-time closer of the Brewers, was brought into the mix in the hopes that he can re-establish his mojo as a closer. If he can, the Indians bullpen could come together quite nicely. If not, can someone else step up and assume the responsibilities of the ninth inning?

7. Yan Gomes: Another factor in the Carlos Santana/third base saga is the performance of Yan Gomes. Can he perform at a consistent enough level that he holds on to the starting catcher spot all season long? Defensively, he should be solid. It’s the offense that could come into question. It’s unlikely he repeats his .294/.345/.481 slash line, but the bar for offensive performance for a catcher is so low that Gomes could have a rather drastic drop off and still be above average.

Power Rankings

Sep 25, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar (31) delivers in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

8. Danny Salazar: The gloves will be completely off of Salazar this year. Can he build on the spectacular results he posted during the 2013 season? There is a lot of excitement surrounding the young flame throwing right-hander, but there are also a lot of expectations. The Indians are expecting him to eat up a large chunk of the innings accumulated by Jimenez and Kazmir. That’s a lot of pressure for someone making his first opening day roster.

9. Asdrubal Cabrera: Cabrera needs a huge bounce back season. This is his contract year and how well he performs will have a lasting impact on how much money he is able to make in the future. As for the Indians, they really need one more solid season from the former all-star. Francisco Lindor isn’t quite ready yet and the Indians need one more season from Cabrera before the transition takes place.

10. Francisco Lindor: Speaking of Lindor, can he steal the job as the starting shortstop? It seems unlikely since he has yet to play higher than the Double-A level, but stranger things have happened. While the Indians would hate to start his service clock this soon, if he proves to be the better option, how do they not go with him? If nothing else, it will be fun to see what he does during the spring and if his presence makes Cabrera better.

Power Rankings Honorble Mentions: Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Terry Francona, Mickey Callaway, Zach McAllister

Tags: Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians Justin Masterson Power Rankings

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