Senior No Name Guy
Looking over the 2010 Cleveland Indians team before spring training, it does not look good for Tribe fans. They have alot of question marks all over this ball club. First year manager Manny Acta has his hands full.
Starting pitching looks to be the biggest problem. Jake Westbrook, who is fit to be a number 3 starter on most teams, is responsible for being the clubs ace. Not only has he been recovering from Tommy John surgery, he has won the ace spot by defualt. Westbrook is going to be 33 this year and it is hard pressed for someone that is 23 to come back from this type of injury to previous form. I would not look for Westbrook to be the "inning eater" he once was before being injured. Let alone finishing a full season. Other then Westbrook, who is the teams only proven starting pitcher, Fausto Carmona should be another lock to make the team. He also will win a starting roll by defualt. Out of all the pitchers the Tribe have invited to spring training he has the 2nd most major league experience. It is hard to say how his season will be. Could go either way. He has excellent "stuff" with good location at times. His biggest problem is that he losses focus after a couple of mistakes agianst batters. After that it seems to spiral out of control. One bad pitch turns into one bad at bat, which turns into one bad game, which turns into one bad season. It sounds crazy but anyone who watches him and knows how he plays would tend to agree. As far as the rest of the starters, look to see a mess of young talent. The only lefties worth noting that the Tribe have are Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey and David Huff. Laffey and Sowers have experience but Huff has better numbers. Abviously one of them has to make the rotation due to the fact the Indians have no other left handers ready. I believe two will. Huff and Laffey look like the best choices with Sowers getting spot starts and maybe some long relief throughout the season. Sowers could end up a starter if one of three young arms do not prevail in the 5th spot. Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon are very young with little to no major league experience. I still would look for one of them to fill the 5th spot of the rotation or see some significant playing time at the major league level this season.
Year in and year out every team has question marks about their bullpen. One year a team can have a dominant bullpen and the next have a terrible bullpen. With the same exact players none the less. The Tribe is no different. On paper it does not look to bad, but it does not look like it did in 07, either. Kerry Wood, in my opinion, is still living off his 20 strikeout game back in 1998. He has yet to be tested in a big game or in the American League as a closer. Chris Perez has a great arm and is the future closer but has control issues. Jensen Lewis has proven that he can give up alot of home runs without pitching alot of innings. I feel this is due to being over worked. The best thing the Indians have going for their bullpen is the fact they have 2 solid lefthanded relievers. Most teams would love to have one of these guys. The Indians have two. Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez. Last year Sipp had an ERA of 2.93 and an excellent .208 versus lefties and Perez was the number one lefty reliever in 07. I feel his numbers slipped the last two seasons because of being over worked, too. I look for them to have a difficult season if the starting pitching breaks down early in games. Which from the looks of it is a high probability.
This team is filled with speed and no power. Were we not all complaining that the Indians did not have speed when we had power? Now we are going to complain that we do not have power now that we have speed, right? I can not really say we have no power. Travis Hafner has alot of power when healthy. He is getting up there in age but if healthy, is a good solid bat in a young lineup. Matt LaPorta is projected to have pop to his bat in the future. As a righthander in this lineup it can not come fast enough. I believe he will win the firstbaseman job and we should see improvement in his offensive categories when he becomes an everyday player. Especially home runs. Grady Sizemore is this teams best offensive threat. He is the best overall outfielder and leadoff player in the game. There is no evidence to support that he will have an injury filled season like he did last year. But this is baseball and Cleveland so you never know. Shin-Soo Choo, like LaPorta, should see an improvement in his offensive stats. He is a great player to have. Choo is a five tool player. With some of everything a baseball player wants. Speed, contact, power, arm strenth and defense. Granted none of his numbers jump of the page but he was above the league average in Avg, HRs, RBIs, Hits, and SBs last year. I would look for Sizemore and Choo to have an above average amount of HRs and steals this year if healthy. Joining them in the steals category will be Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley. Cabrera is a good contact hitter with moderate speed. Brantley is a average hitter with excellent speed. Both are very young and have showed signs of being able to play at a major league level. Not to mention Cabrera has an excellent glove at short stop. His counter part at second base Luis Valbuena is stricly there for defensive purposes. The Tribe is spread thin at the middle infield position. Do not look for him to do much with his bat or legs. The same goes for the catchers Wyatt Toregas and Lou Marson. I strongly feel these players are filling a void until Carlos Santana is ready. As far as thirdbase goes, Jhonny Peralta has one of the nicest swings I have ever seen. Unfortunatly for him it has not transfered into the offensive categories. Wes Hodges is next in line for the third base gig. I will expect to see him in the near future. I do not think Andy Marte will become anything more than a bench player. But the Indians, understandably, will probably keep him. Getting burned in the Brandon Phillips trade probably still gives Mark Shapiro nightmares. Of course it would be nice not to see Marte in an Indians uniform.
A number of things have to go the Indians way in order for them to compete in the Central Division. Will Hafner and Westbrook's health hold up? Will Carmona of 2007 show up in 2010? Will one of the young starting pitchers emerge? Can Jordan Brown and Trevor Crowe show that they not only play well in the minors? To me there are to many 50-50 chances. I am not saying it is impossible for Indians. The division looks to be weak. The White Sox are old. The Royals are the Royals. The two teams I am concerned about is the Tigers and the Twins. Niether one of these teams have a lineup that competes with New York or Anahiem. The Twins have a questionable starting rotation with pretty good bats. The Tiger on the other hand have a solid rotation with a solid lineup. The problem with the Tiger is they have yet to win the Central division. They have had 3 good looks at the Central title in September and have crumbled in the last month. Once on the last day of the season. I pick the Tribe to finish 3rd in the Central with 79 wins, with Minnesta winning their 6th Central Division Title.