Friday, March 16, 2012

Cleveland Indians Preview/Prediction

Now that we got the division predictions done it is time to dig a little bit deeper.  Between now and the opener in Japan each team will get their own prediction/preview.  I am going to go in alphabetical order.

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday.  You can blame the Ides of March or the beginning of March Madness, but because nothing was posted yesterday/   Sorry about that but we are getting back on track today with Cleveland.  Tomorrow will be Colorado and we will be back on track.

Infield:  Carlos Santana at catcher, Casey Kotchman at first base, Jason Kipnis at second base, Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base.

Carlos Santana has the talent to be the best catcher in the American League.  He needs to put it all together however, and hit with the authority that saw him become one of the best prospects in all of baseball earlier.  Casey Kotchman was an all glove no hit first baseman until last year, when the magic of the Rays team somehow got him to hit 40 points higher than his career average.  I think he comes back down to earth htis year.  Kipnis will be in his first full year at the major league level, and he will struggle but show signs and I hope the Indians are patient with him.  Same thing with Chisenhall, as both of these guys have the chops to hit at the big league level, they just have no experience.  Asdrubal Cabrera should start at shortstop for the American League in the all-star game this year, and he will continue to get better.   

Who will have the best season of these guys? Cabrera will hit over .300, have 25 home runs and steal 20 bases.  Both Chisenhall and Kipnis have good years, but they are still a year away from breaking out so I think for 2012, it will belong to Cabrera.

Outfield:  Shelley Duncan in left field, Michael Brantley/Grady Sizemore in center field, and Shin-Soo Choo in right field.  

Shelley Duncan is 32 years old, has never played over 90 games in a season, and has a career batting average under .240.  I don't think he will be the everyday left fielder for long.  While Sizemore is recovering Brantley will do a decent job in center field.  He will steal some bases, score some runs, and play a good defense out there.  Choo will have a bounce back year after his first bad season since 2007.  He will get back closer to his career average of .291, and will provide power in that line up.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Choo will have the best season.  Like I said he won't hit .260 this year, and he will continue to show the power that put him in the heart of that order to begin with.  He makes the all-start team as well as Cabrera, making the Mariners lament getting rid of those two even more.

Starting Pitching:  Ubaldo Jiminez, Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe, Kevin Slowey, and Josh Tomlin.

Ubaldo Jiminez came over last year from the Rockies, and I thought that the Indians gave up too much for him then.  Now, I think the trade is even worse for Cleveland.  Pomeranz looks like a stud for Colorado and is much younger and left handed.  Jiminez had one great year in 2010 and he has always had a lot of strike outs because he throws heat, but I just don't trust his accuracy or his secondary stuff as much as most people.  Justin Masterson actually had a better season last year in comparison to Jiminez, and I don't think the Indians would have given up Pomeranz for him.  He gets a lot of ground balls, like every other starter on this team, and he relies very heavy on the defense behind him.  Derek Lowe came over from Atlanta, where he led the National League in losses last year.  He is going to give the Indians 200+ innings this year, but if they are good innings is the lingering question. He is now 38 and clearly on the last legs of a surprisingly good career.  Kevin Slowey is the one guy who you can call a fly ball pitcher on this team.  He went winless in 2011 (0-8), but something tells me he gets at least 1 win this year.  Tomlin is a pitcher who absolutely pounds the zone, and he also relies heavily on his defense behind him.  He only had 89 strike outs and 21 walks in 26 starts last year, so he pitches to contact and needs guys behind him to step up.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Materson will continue to swing upwards and Jiminez will continue to fall.  I think Masterson wins 15 games for this team this year, leading the team in the process.

Bullpen: Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, and Vinny Pestano.

Chris Perez is currently on the disabled list, but he should be back by opening day.  He closed 36 games last year for the Indians, although he doesn't strike out a lot of hitters and also pitches to contact.  Rafael Perez is a relief pitcher who had an ERA of 3 exactly last year.  His strike out numbers have fallen the last few years, but even so he continues to get outs, plus he is the main lefty in the bullpen.  Tony Sipp appeared in over 65 games for the Indians and I don't remember one.  That could be a blessing or a curse for a reliever, and another lefty.  You can't have too many lefties in your bullpen, and the Indians will take that to heart.  If Chris Perez has to start the season on the disabled list, Pestano is next in line to close.  He struck out 84 batters in 62 innings last year, so he obviously has the stuff if Perez can't get the job done.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Perez will be the closer on opening day but he will not finish the season as such.  Pestano will prove to be too dominating not to use as the closer, so Perez will either be demoted or traded.  Pestano will have the best season of all the relievers, and he will end up closing 20 games this year, even if he only closes have the season.

Record Prediction: 84-78, 2nd in the American League Central

Next up:  Colorado Rockies

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