The Indians come into the season with a new manager in Manny Acta and little else in the way of notable changes.¬† This team is in a full rebuilding mode and doesn't have a prayer of competing for a division title.¬† The two goals for the franchise in 2010? ¬†Finishing ahead of the Royals and managing not to lose 95 or 100 games.
2009 Regular Season Record: 65-97
Rank: Tied for last in AL Central 21.5 Games Back
Home Park: Progressive Field
On the Warpath:
Travis Hafner rounds second.
C - Mike Redmond (Free Agent from Twins)
1B - Russell Branyan (Free Agent from Mariners)
1B - Shelly Duncan (Trade from Yankees)
IF - Luis Rodriguez (Free Agent from Padres)
IF - Mark Grudzielanek (Free Agent from Twins)
IF - Brian Bixler* (Trade with Pirates)
OF - Austin Kearns (Trade with Nationals)
RHP - Jamey Wright (Free Agent from Royals)
RHP - Saul Rivera (Free Agent from Nationals)
RHP - Hector Ambriz (Rule V draft from D'Backs)
RHP - Jason Grilli (Free Agent from Rangers)
RHP - Mitch Talbot (Trade with Rays)
Off the Reservation:
C - Kelly Shoppach (Traded to Rays)
IF - Jamey Carroll (Free Agent signed with Dodgers)
RHP - Tomo Ohka (Free Agent, Unsigned)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:¬† A decent offense, right handed situation in the bullpen.
The Indians offense won't be blowing anyone away, but it should at least be somewhat dynamic.¬† The one and three hitter in the lineup Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo are both .300+ hitters with high on base percentages.¬† While the number two hitter, Grady Sizemore has power and still has a lot of upside, while Travis Hafner could be primed for a bounce back season.¬† That would help the team score a fair number of runs.¬† The addition of Russell Branyan should provide some needed power too.
The right handed trio in the bullpen consisting of Kerry Wood, Chris Perez and Joe Smith should be fairly solid although a switch in the closer role, with Perez taking over for Woods would probably make the bullpen even stronger than it will be going into the season. Perez may have the opportunity for early-season saves now that Wood may be out for the next two months.
Weaknesses: Starting Pitching, Largely Left Handed Lineup, Lack of Power
Got a pulse?¬† You might be able to compete for a job as an Indians starter this season.¬† Ok, really it's not that bad, but it is awfully close.¬† Of the nine or so pitchers competing for five spots probably only Jake Westbrook (returning from Tommy John surgery) and Fausto Carmona (who's been dreadful since 2007) are locks going into the season -- and both of them will be on short leashes themselves due to the factors mentioned above.¬† The rotation will be a who's who of non notable pitchers.¬† Competing for jobs will be Hector Rondon, Mitch Talbot, Jeremy Sowers, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Justin Masterson and maybe a dark horse or two from the non-roster invitees or minor leaguers.¬†¬† Of the bunch Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon will probably be given first shot as they are among the best pitchers currently pitching above AA in the Indians system.
Another thing that should bother the team will be a vulnerability in the lineup, especially against lefties.¬† As projected the team looks to have five or six regulars who are left handed including all of their power hitters.¬† The righties?¬† Asdrubal Cabrera, Johnny Peralta, Lou Marson and Matt LaPorta, who might not even start the season as the regular left fielder.
Even if they didn't look like they were going to be vulnerable against lefties, the lack of power that this squad shows would be a real concern.¬† That's why the team brought in Russell Branyan.¬† Unless Travis Hafner returns to form, he's the only guy on the team likely to surpass 20 home runs.¬† Branyan, however, is battling some difficulties with his back.
SS - Asdrubal Cabrera
CF - Grady Sizemore
RF - Shin-Soo Choo
DH - Travis Hafner
3B - Jhonny Peralta
1B - Russell Branyan
2B - Luis Valbuena
C - Lou Marson
LF - Matt LaPorta
One question that need answering:
Can the Indians avoid losing 95 or more games or finish ahead of the Royals?¬† Those are the battles that the Tribe will be fighting this season.¬† They'll need a fair improvement over 2009 from Sizemore and Hafner, as well as a bit of luck to do either.
Losing 100 games seems likely here in Cleveland as does a last place finish.¬† The Royals might well challenge them on that, but with the team rebuilding effort in full swing the Indians have sacrificed a lot of their key veterans in order to get young talent for the future.¬† In a competitive division the Indians won't enjoy 2010 a lot, but 2012-2013 is beginning to look quite promising.