Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Cleveland Indians

The Indians were one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball last year, leading the AL Central early in the season, only to fade at the end. The Indians finished with an unspectacular 80-82, although they were in the chase until the Tigers caught fire at the end of the year. The Indians bought at the deadline last season, and could contend in 2012, but they will need to catch some breaks in order to make a playoff run.

The Indians resigned Grady Sizemore, in hopes that he could be the franchise cornerstone he once was. However, Sizemore was injured early in Spring Training, and will start the year on the DL. Michael Brantley, who was part of the C.C. Sabathia deal, will slide into center, and the leadoff spot. Brantley had flashes of brilliance in 2011, but ultimately put an underwhelming OBP of .318. Asdurbal Cabrera blossomed into a star in 2012, hitting 25 bombs, and he plays outstanding defense. The team also needs Shin-Soo Choo to bounce back after a 2011 season that featured nagging injuries and a DUI. Carlos Santana is on the verge of becoming a star, and Jason Kipnis is a name to watch out for in 2012. Here is their projected lineup:

CF: Michael Brantley
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
RF: Shin-Soo Choo
C:  Carlos Santana
DH: Travis Hafner
2B: Jason Kipnis
LF: Shelley Duncan
1B: Casey Kotchman
3B: Jack Hannahan

The Indians rotation has the potential to be great. Justin Masterson blossomed into a star, and should be on the hill for the Tribe on Opening Day. The team payed an awful lot to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, and ultimately, I believe the team will regret the deal. Jimenez had an ERA of 5.10 in 11 starts for the Indians in 2011. Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe should give the team decent innings in the middle.

The Tribe will open up the season with closer Chris Perez on the shelf. The team could turn to Vinnie Pestano, who did a nice job in 2011. Joe Smith also had a nice year as a setup guy. Here is what the Indians rotation should look like:

SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Josh Tomlin
SP: Derek Lowe
SP: Kevin Slowey

The Indians have some intriguing players, but they will fall short in 2012. The team could contend, especially if Kipnis and top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall deliver. Grady Sizemore also needs to be healthy for the team to have any shot. The team's staff could get a post if, and when the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona is able to pitch again.

My Prediction: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

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