As I highlighted a few infielder predictions in my first article in this series, I began to think about other possible Josh Barfield-Asdrubal Cabrera situations.
Last year, the Indians started the year with David Dellucci in left with Jason Michaels sharing duties against left handed pitching, and Trot Nixon in right.
They finished the year with Kenny Lofton and Franklin Gutierrez.
The infield started with a confusing platoon at first base with Ryan Garko against lefties and Casey Blake against righties. Blake also shared duties in right field against left-handers.
Andy Marte was the starting third baseman, and Josh Barfield started at second.
The only starting infielder that was there from beginning to end in the same position full time was Jhonny Peralta.
Oh how the season changes.
This year, with the Tribe set on what worked in the second half of the year, there won’t be those types of changes again.
Still, with the team attempting the “Dellichaels” combo two years in a row, you can’t help but wonder what will happen.
Here is the outfielder and designated hitter portion of bold predictions for the 2008 Cleveland Indians...
1. Travis Hafner will hit over .300 and make the All-Star Game for first time.
Last time I lead off with a statistical prediction, and I’m going to try and do more of them.
This is one I feel very confident in, because not only is Hafner my favorite player, I pay extra close attention to him.
Travis was really beat on last year for his underperformance.
Not that 24 home runs and 100 RBIs is a bad season, but according to most, for Hafner it was below expectations.
Hafner had contract talks over his head for the entire first part of the season, and many blamed that for his struggles. While he did start to turn it on in the second half, he struggled in the postseason and still never really looked like the Travis of old.
With last year behind him, a new contract signed, and an offseason of hard work put in, Travis is ready to go.
He’s only knocked one ball out of the park this spring, but the three doubles he has hit has demonstrated his power is there and his swing is coming back to him.
The reason I didn’t make the boldest of bold statements and say he would hit 40 home runs is because I want to prove a point. I think Travis is going to change his approach and start taking what the other team gives him.
If they put on a mega shift with five outfielders, he pokes the ball to the left side of the infield.
If they pitch him outside, he takes the ball the other way for a double. But don’t you make the mistake of pitching him inside, because he will send into the stands.
Perhaps he won’t be blowing up baseballs like Javier Bardem’s character blowing up things in No Country for Old Men did. Most, including Hafner, think the two look eerily alike.
But he definitely will be making pitchers pay in 2008.
2. Ben Francisco will have an Asdrubal Cabrera-like impact on the Indians.
If you watch this kid hit and study the way he swings a bat, you cannot come away without being impressed.
At every level now he has demonstrated he can hit the baseball. His average is always hovering around or beyond .300 and he is the reigning international league batting champ.
He isn’t going to steal a massive amount of bases or hit a lot of homers. He won’t even knock in a ton of batters.
But he can downright hit and he can play defense.
He doesn’t do one thing greatly besides hitting, but he does everything well. He can steal 20 bases in a season, hit over .300, and hit about 15 or 20 homeruns.
His on-base percentages in the other levels of baseball are all fantastic. He doesn’t draw a ton of walks, but he doesn’t strike out a lot either.
The kid is as ready as you are going to get as a Triple A player, but because of the veteran contracts ahead of him, his road is blocked.
However as they proved last year, the Tribe isn’t afraid to make a move to a youngster if the incumbent isn’t getting the job done.
Ben Francisco could be the first option in the outfield is such a situation arises. Despite having Shin-Soo Choo ahead of him because of no minor league options left, Francisco’s spring training performance might be too good to not be rewarded.
And as we saw last year, he will make the most of any opportunity given to him. Francisco hit a walk off homerun in his first start as an Indian.
And that is someone who knows how to make an impact.