Well at least the offense looks like it might be good.Â How much more can you say about the 2010 Cleveland Indians?Â No, I'm not going to fill you with false hope or blow a little sunshine your way.Â Fans of the Tribe will need to suck it up and admit this looks like it's going to be a brutal season.
How brutal?Â Very possibly a last place finish and maybe not just in the division, but in the league.Â Maybe even in all of baseball.Â Sure that sounds like a harsh verdict for any team who will be measured against such baseball powerhouses like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals, but as lousy as all those teams promise to be, they at least seem further along in their rebuilding process then the Indians do this year.
Hey maybe I'm wrong.Â Maybe this will be the year that Travis Hafner returns to his 40 home run ways and justifies some of that lousy contract.Â Maybe this will be the year that Jake Westbrook finally shakes off his injuries and becomes a top starter.Â And maybe Fausto Carmona will rediscover his mojo and not rank among the worst starters in baseball like he has the past two seasons.
Shin-Soo Choo spearheads the Indians youth movement.
But I wouldn't count on it.
However there are a few bright spots for this team -- aside from the fact that they'll almost certainly be free of Kerry Wood's contract at the end of the season. If he finishes 55 games, his $11 million option for 2011 kicks in. However, he's expected to miss the next two months due to injury.
- Shin-Soo Choo has become one of the brightest hitting starts in the Majors and is in his potential breakout years.
- Super prospect Matt LaPorta will get a chance to flash his bat in the Majors this year.Â As a 24 year old at AAA Columbus he went .299-17-60 in 393 AB and had an OBP of .388
- Although he hasn't been given the hype that LaPorta has, outfielder Michael Brantley is someone to watch for in 2010.Â It's very likely that he'll be the leadoff hitter of the future due to a very high OBP, great K/BB ratio and blazing speed.Â Sadly his playing time will be limited due to LaPorta, Sizemore and Choo getting most of the outfield ABs.
- Carlos Santana, a switch hitting catcher, billed as being built in the Victor Martinez mold, will make his presence known at some point during 2010.Â He's ranked as the 10th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America and the 3rd best prospect by ESPN.Â He's got .300-20 potential.
- 23 year old Luis Valbuena, who got his first real taste of the Majors last season is a work in progress and should be able to hit for a much better average than he showed last year (.250) as he's never hit less than .300 at AAA or posted an OBP of less than .383.Â He's got some speed and he's fairly slick in the field too.
- Let's see what Chris Perez, the team's closer of the future can do.Â Perez will have the job to start as Kerry Wood will start the season on the DL.Â It's possible that Wood won't get the job back.
- It's time for the Justin Masterson Show!Â Masterson came to the Tribe as part of the Victor Martinez deal and probably is better suited to relief duties than as a starter, sadly the Tribe's pitching is thin enough that Masterson might well be thrust into the starting rotation.Â If so, he'll have a rough season, but he's got enough upside to be a decent number three starter.
- The Tribe does have some promising pitchers down on the farm like Carlos Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Jason Knapp and Hector Rondon, as well highly ranked hitters like SS Lonnie Chisenhall but none of them are likely to really be ready for prime time this season.Â Some of them will of course get their cup of coffee late in the season, and seeing this team unveil its future should be well worthwhile.
The future does look bright, but for now trying not to lose 100 games is a simple enough goal.