Stern Language Cleveland Indians 2012 Outlook: Is the Tribe Ready to Surprise?

Ryan SternContributor IMarch 7, 2012

They say he still has yet to forgive Jonathan Sanchez for breaking his hand on Korean Heritage nIght in SF
They say he still has yet to forgive Jonathan Sanchez for breaking his hand on Korean Heritage nIght in SFRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The Tribe's had a rough run since 2007, when they were oh-so close to beating the BoSox in the ALCS before they choked and lost their 3-1 lead.

The team has been completely and totally remade the last four seasons, and does not remotely resemble the last good Indians squad.

Like the KC Royals, the Tribe is loaded with young kids who can club. They are a bit older and more advanced in their careers, and therefore more likely to leave via free agency sooner or later, too.

The Travis Hafner contract is a big, nasty piece of paper that the club would love to tear up, but other than that money they have very little cash tied up in garbage.

The club is quite young, in fact they do not have a single non-pitcher or DH over age 29. The club has better starting pitching—with more upside—than the KC Royals, and I think the team has a decent chance (8-10 percent) of winning the division.

This will be the first time in many years that the club has had a legit No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 starter for an entire season.

Ubaldo Jimenez, their ace, is in his first full season outside of Coors Field, so he should have less trouble adjusting to the Indians ballyard.

Justin "Nasty Masty" Masterson is coming off his best year yet, and finally becoming what a lot of scouts and BoSox fans thought he could be before he was dealt to the Tribe. FA addition Derek Lowe may not be very good, but he should give them over 30 starts and five-plus innings per start, which is no worse than what any other pitcher on the Royals or Twins will do. The Tribe are building something, with studs at shortstop (Asdrubal Cabrera), right field (Korean sensation Shin-Soo Choo), second base (Jason "Kipper" Kipnis) and especially catcher (Carlos Santana), this team should outscore last year's team by a bunch.





Let's move on to Kings, Crumbums and Codgers, arguably the most popular segment on the internets:


Kings: RF Sunny Choo: The Korean sensation was hurt last year, and when he wasn't hurt he was awful. It is actually kind of funny how his injury happened, come to think of it. Last season I was at AT&T Park for Korean Heritage Night (they gave out free Giants' Korea towels) and none other than Jonathan Sanchez nailed Choo and broke his thumb. His year was bad before that and got even worse after it. Prior to last year, Choo would hit .300 with 20 jacks and 20 steals every single year. I expect him to do it again, if not better.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera: Huge breakout year in 2k11 for Cabrera, who became one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. Prior to last year, Azzy was good for about five jacks a year. Last year, he crushed 25 dongs. He has always had sneaky speed and his 17 swipes were not a fluke. He has stolen before and he will again.  He should be good for a .285 average with 15-plus jacks and 20 steals, again.

2B Jason Kipnis: The Tribe is going to win plenty for the Kipper this year. A stud prospect, Kipper should surpass 20 jacks and 15-to-20 steals right away. A possible ROY candidate to boot, the Tribe is as good up the middle as any team in the AL.


Crumbums: DH Travis Hafner: The further and further we get away from Pronk's three-year run of 28-plus homers (2004-2006), the more it looks like this guy was a juicer. He has had shoulder surgeries, to be fair, but he is now a DH getting paid over $10 million a year to play 100 games and hit 15 homers. What a waste.




Codgers: CF Grady Sizemore: Well it certainly hurts to say this, as Grady has been one of my favorite players for several years now, but the guy is toast. He will never be healthy again, as nobody gets healthy as they age. Maybe Portland Trail Blazer Greg Oden will get healthy as he ages, but he seems to be some kind of Benjamin Button character, who starts off looking 50 and goes backwards. Anyhow, no more NBA from me.

As for Sizemore, who has always been a very popular player with the female fans (Grady's ladies hold signs in the outfield), he looks shot. He can't stay healthy, he can't run like he used to. He has not surpassed .248 since 2008, has not stolen over 10 bags since 2009 and looks to be a carbon copy of Hafner at this point. Basically good for some pop, but can't run or play the field. Makes me sad as I loved the guy. He is already out for 10-to-12 weeks , though he gets paid $8 million to rehab. So that's a nice bonus.



Outlook for 2012: I think this is going to be a huge year for the Tribe. I think anything below .500 is a disappointment with the talent they have. I expect 84-plus wins for the second-place team in the AL Central.