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Can you say rebuilding? It’s hard to imagine the Indians looking like this after all the success they have had over the last several years. But, times are tough even for the once elite and powerful, as their make up will attest. The Tribe should be okay in a few years, but for now they look like the 80s version, which called the Mistake By The Lake their home.
1. CF Milton Bradley
2. SS Omar Vizquel
3. LF Matt Lawton
4. DH Ellis Burks
5. RF Karim Garcia
6. 1B Travis Hafner
7. 3B Bill Selby/Ricky Gutierrez
8. C Josh Bard
9. 2B Brandon Phillips/John McDonald
Bradley is an intriguing prospect. He is a candidate to breakout this year, but the youngster would be better served batting elsewhere in the order. Vizquel would be better suited to the role, but the Indians rarely use him there. If Matt Lawton is ready to go, he could also be put in the leadoff spot. Look for Bradley to have a .260-15-55-15 type season with an upside.
Vizquel had a career best 14 homeruns last year, but make no mistake, this feat will not be repeated this year. It would be nice if Omar stole a few more bases this season and he just might be asked to do so, as this is a team that will need to manufacture runs. Vizquel will be a good bet to hit .270-7-65-25 this year; a few more swipes and a dip in homeruns.
If Matt Lawton is healthy, he will be a welcome addition to the lineup. Lawton is a good-but-not-great player capable of numbers that can help a fantasy team. A .275-15-70-15 wouldn’t be a stretch. The big question is the health of his shoulder, but everything points to Lawton being ready for Opening Day. If Lawton isn’t ready, Shane Spencer will fill in admirably.
The Tribe would have liked to unload Burks and his salary, but he will remain an Indian due to his no-trade clause. Burks must stay healthy by resting those ailing knees from time to time, but he will again hit 30 bombs, near 90 runs batted in while keeping an average of .300. His off-season shoulder surgery shouldn’t be an issue this season…it’s not like he ever takes the field.
Garcia has finally earned his way into a regular gig with a Major League team. If last year is an indication of what Karim can do, then this year could be a good one. Garcia finally figured out that you don’t have to swing for the fences every at bat. I’m still not sold on him, but if the stars align he could hit around .260 with 25 homeruns and close to 90 runs batted in.
Travis Hafner was stolen away from the Rangers in an off-season trade that left me scratching my head. Hafner has the potential to be a solid everyday player, but he is no Jim Thome; he’s more of a John Kruk minus the mullet. He has the power to hit 20-25 homeruns while throwing up a decent batting average. A .275-20-70 season is possible for the youngster, but he will likely have his struggles.
Third base is a toss up at this point. If Gutierrez is healthy (and that is a big if) he will be at three bag. It is likely that Minor League staple, Bill Selby, will break camp with the job until Gutierrez is ready to go. Gutierrez has no power, no speed and due to his neck surgery is still a major gamble. Run away…run away!!! Selby really doesn’t offer much to a fantasy team either.
Josh Bard will begin the season as the starting catcher with Victor Martinez heading back to Triple-A. Bard should do a decent job handling the duties until Martinez is ready to go. Bard’s worth a buck or two, but Martinez will be worth considerably more once he is called up.
Eric Wedge claims that John McDonald is his second baseman. McDonald has a great glove, but couldn’t hit water if he fell out of boat. This should be Brandon Phillips’ job to lose. Phillips’ is a definite player to land if you are in a keep league, but don’t expect fantastic numbers from him this year. A .265-10-55-9 season is within reason, with plenty of upside.
1. C.C. Sabathia
2. Brian Anderson
3. Jason Bere
4. Ricardo Rodriguez
5. Brian Tallet/Billy Traber/Jason Davis
Sabathia has been overworked the last two years and his shoulder should be a concern this year. C.C. had a solid second half but pitched far to many innings for a club clearly should have been thinking about the health of their future ace. If healthy, Sabathia should end up in the 12-15 wins range with an ERA around 4.40.
Anderson returns for his second stint with the Tribe and should contribute. He would be a good fourth or fifth starter on most teams, but with the young arms in Cleveland, Anderson will be the second or third starter most likely. Anderson will not have much value, however. Ten wins would be a bonus.
The oft-injured Bere returns to the AL and will only be a decent $1 pick if he has a solid spring. He’s someone to probably avoid.
Ricardo Rodriguez has a boatload of potential and is someone to consider wasting a couple of bucks on if you are in a keeper league. Rodriguez is all but guaranteed a spot in the rotation this year, but will definitely have his share of rough outings. Still, he has a good live arm and will turn some heads this year.
The fifth spot in the rotation all depends on what right-hander Jason Davis or left-handers Brian Tallet and Billy Traber do this spring. My money would have been on Cliff Lee to win the spot, but an abdominal injury has put him a month behind the rest of the team. Lee will likely head to Triple-A, but will be back in the fold. I would avoid taking any of the three if you want to win your league this year, as they won’t contribute. Lee does, however, have about as much long-term potential as anyone in the system.
The closer job belongs to Danys Baez and he will have a hard time coming by saves this year. The offense is weak and the arms are young, so save opportunities will not be aplenty. The rest of the bullpen is unsettled, featuring Mark Wohlers, Terry Mulholland, David Riske and likely Jake Westbrook. Carl Sadler, Aaron Myette, David Elder and Jerrod Riggan will compete for the final couple spots. This bullpen is horrible.
The Indians have a very deep minor league system and know something about rebuilding an organization. Super prospect C Victor Martinez will likely open the season at Triple-A, but he will not be there for long. This kid can hit. Defensively he is only adequate, mainly because of his arm, but the Indians won’t have a hard time looking the other way because of how good his bat is. OF Grady Sizemore is one of the decent prospects the Indians received from the Expos in the Bartolo Colon trade last year. He is very young and raw, but projects to be an above average defensive OF with the ability to steal some bases while hitting 15-20 homeruns per year. He is still several years away. RHP Jeremy Guthrie was a steal for the Indians in last year’s draft. Many clubs passed on Guthrie because he was deemed a tough sign having agent Scott Boras. The 24-year-old throws hard, anywhere between 92-96 and also has a wicked slider. Guthrie will likely start at Double-A Akron and may make an appearance with the Tribe as early as this year. 3B Matt Whitney should move through the system quickly. He is being compared to Scott Rolen because of his build and his fluid swing that provides plenty of pop. Whitney does need to focus on making contact instead of trying to hit everything out of the park, but that is a common flaw for young power hitters. Remember Jim Thome?