Cleveland Indians: Projecting the 2012 Opening Day Roster, March Edition

Jim Piascik@@JimPiascikCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2012

Cleveland Indians: Projecting the 2012 Opening Day Roster, March Edition

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    With Opening Day only 22 days away, the picture of who will and won't make the Cleveland Indians' roster is starting to become clearer and clearer. 

    This will be the final time I will be predicting who will be making the Opening Day roster. I've already done it in OctoberNovemberDecemberJanuary and February, but things have still changed in the last month. Grady Sizemore is hurt (no shock there) and the battle for some of the roster spots is heating up. 

    So let's take one last look at the possible 25-man roster the Tribe could have running out against the Blue Jays on April 5 at Progressive Field.

Starting Rotation

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    1. Justin Masterson

    2. Ubaldo Jimenez

    3. Josh Tomlin

    4. Derek Lowe

    5. Kevin Slowey

    Nothing has changed here for me. Sure I like Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Zach McAllister and Scott Barnes, but I still think Slowey gets the first shot. And while this rotation might not look like much, Fangraphs rated it fifth-best for the 2012 season. Not bad at all.

    The man formerly known as Fausto Carmona may eventually make his way back to Cleveland, but even with the charges against him being dropped, it likely won't be before Opening Day. I think these five pitchers—who aren't really all that bad—will be on the club come April 5. 

Bullpen

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    Closer: Vinnie Pestano

    Setup Men: Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez

    Middle Relief: Joe Smith, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler

    Long Relief: Frank Herrmann

    See, this is predicting the Opening Day roster. I don't think Chris Perez will quite be ready for Opening Day, so it changes the composition of the Bullpen Mafia. I do think that Dan Wheeler will get the first crack at making the team since the Tribe seems to like having a veteran rebound candidate in the bullpen (see Chad Durbin). It's not a bad strategy at all and just might work in 2012.

Starting Lineup

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    1. Michael Brantley, CF

    2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

    3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF

    4. Carlos Santana, C

    5. Travis Hafner, DH

    6. Casey Kotchman, 1B

    7. Jason Kipnis, 2B

    8. Shelley Duncan, LF

    9. Jack Hannahan, 3B

    Well, picking the first seven spots in the lineup is like cheating considering Manny Acta has already announced that's what it'll be on Opening Day. As for the other two spots, I've already argued why I think the Tribe should look to Shelley Duncan to fill Grady Sizemore's lineup spot until he's healthy again, and I do believe that the Indians will go with Jack Hannahan's glove over Lonnie Chisenhall. I'm not sure if I agree with them, but that's what I think they'll do.

Bench

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    C Lou Marson

    2B/SS/3B Jason Donald

    OF Aaron Cunningham

    1B/2B/3B Jose Lopez

    Lou Marson and Jason Donald are basically no-brainers for bench spots. I still do believe that Aaron Cunningham will get a shot because the Indians' front office must have seen something they liked if they traded for him.

    Also, I think that it may be a smart play for the Indians to start Duncan when ground-ball pitchers (Masterson, Jimenez, Lowe and Slowey) are on the mound and put in a better defender like Cunningham when a fly-ball pitcher (such as Tomlin or relievers like Sipp) is in the game. They might be the best way to hide Duncan's defensive deficiencies. 

    As for the final bench spot, I think that the Tribe will give Jose Lopez a shot. He's been tearing it up in spring training (not that hitting well in spring training means anything at all) and has been successful fairly recently (25 home runs, 96 RBI in 2009). He doesn't get on base nearly enough for me, but he very well might get a shot out of the gate.

    In the end, I still think that the Indians have some good pieces on this team and will turn some heads. They may not make the playoffs, but they should be much closer to 90 wins than 80. It may not be much, but it is a start.