Cleveland Indians 2012 Preview

Projected Record 79-83

Player WAR Player WAR
C Carlos Santana 4.3 SP1 Ubaldo Jimenez 4.3
1B Casey Kotchman 1.8 SP2 Justin Masterson 3.6
2B Jason Kipnis 2.1 SP3 Derek Lowe 2.1
SS Asdrubal Cabrera 3.5 SP4 Kevin Slowey 1
3B Lonnie Chisenhall 1.8 SP5 Josh Tomlin .7
LF Michael Brantley 1.6 CP Chris Perez 0.5
CF Grady Sizemore 1.7 RP Rafael Perez 0.6
RF Shin-Soo Choo 4.2 RP Tony Sipp 0.3
DH Travis Hafner 1.7 RP Vinnie Pestano 0.8
Bench Lou Marson 0.6 RP Chris Ray 0
Bench Matt LaPorta 0.6 RP Joe Smith 0.8
Bench Shelley Duncan 0.9 RP Dan Wheeler 0.3
Bench Jack Hannahan 1 Frank Herrmann 0
Bench Jason Donald 0.3 Robinson Tejada 0
Ryan Spilborghs 0 Nick Hagadone 0
Aaron Cunningham 0 Jeremy Accardo 0
Fred Lewis 0 Robinson Tejeda 0
Andy Laroche 0 Fausto Carmona .5
Jose Lopez 0
26.1 15.5

The Indians are somewhat stuck in the middle between rebuilding and going for it, but do have a fair amount of young talent. They’ll benefit from having a full season of Ubaldo Jimenez, but it’s hard to say if they made enough moves to improve on their 80-82 record in 2011. Carlos Santana anchors the offense from behind the plate. He walks enough that if he could improve his batting average by a few points he could be one of the best catchers in baseball. The recently signed Casey Kotchman slots in at first base, and while good luck may have contributed to his performance in 2011, he was also playing in the pitcher friendly Tropicana Field, so the move to Progressive Field should offset some of his regression. Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera man 2nd and SS respectively. Kipnis hit fairly well late in 2011 and projects to be just above average next season, while Cabrera started very strong last year before fading down the stretch. His glove has declined in the last couple years, but he hits well enough to still be above average. The Indians are likely to give Lonnie Chisenhall the third base job out of spring training, who should be able to improve on his poor walk rate from 2011 and provide average offense.

Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo cover the outfield positions, and are filled with question marks. Sizemore and Choo both had down years, although it was the second such year in a row for Sizemore. Choo is probably way more likely to rebound to his previous performance level, although the Indians were confident enough in Sizemore to guarantee him $5 million for 2012. Brantley has failed to live up to potential so far, and I see no reason why he’d be likely to break out in 2012. Travis Hafner hasn’t had more than 462 plate appearances over the last 4 seasons and his power has declined significantly; making him not overly useful as a fulltime DH. The Indians have some alright depth on the bench, with Matt LaPorta, Shelley Duncan, Jack Hannahan and Lou Marson all likely to provide a bit of value. They also have a slough of minor league signings who could provide some upside, such as Ryan Spilborghs, and Jose Lopez.

The Indians have a pretty talented top of the rotation, with Jimenez and Justin Masterson occupying the top two slots. After that it gets a little more interesting, with Derek Lowe and recent signee Jon Garland likely to be the #3 and #4, although Garland’s spot may not be guaranteed. Lowe is still a serviceable innings eater, while Garland’s health is a question. Kevin Slowey, Josh Tomlin, David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, and Zach McAllister should all compete for the 5th starter job, with Slowey having the inside track in my opinion. I’m assuming, by the way, that Fausto Carmona does not rejoin the team. It seems unlikely he’ll get clearance to return by opening day, and the Indians would probably be better off if he doesn’t. Cleveland has a number of quality arms in the bullpen, with Chris and Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith, along with recent signing Dan Wheeler. The other 2 spots will probably filled with whoever doesn’t make the rotation.

EDIT: Well it looks as though Garland’s not on the team anymore, so I’d say the open spot in the rotation is likely to be filled by Josh Tomlin. I didn’t think Garland would be healthy the whole year anyway, so my win projection doesn’t change much. That one WAR I projected for Garland is likely to be put up by Tomlin or Carmona if he returns.

I project the Indians to finish 2nd in the AL Central, 5 games behind the Tigers. If somehow Sizemore and Choo were both able to have huge seasons as they did in the past, the Indians could make a run for the division. It’s probably unlikely, but not out of the question.

Offseason Acquisitions: Casey Kotchman, Ryan Spilborghs, Jose Lopez, Felix Pie, Aaron Cunningham, Fred Lewis, Andy LaRoche, Jon Garland, Derek Lowe, Kevin Slowey, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray, Robinson Tejada, Jeremy Accardo

Offseason Losses: Kosuke Fukodome, Jim Thome, Luis Valbuena, Mitch Talbot, Chad Durbin, Zach Putnam

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