MLB: Indians: Projecting the 2013 Batting Order

Evan VogelContributor IIIDecember 18, 2012

MLB: Indians: Projecting the 2013 Batting Order

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    There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered prior to Opening Day in Cleveland. With Nick Swisher visiting with the club on Monday night, the entire makeup of the current roster could truly be changed, resulting in a solid, power-filled lineup.

    Will the club sign Swisher, Cody Ross, Scott Hairston or even Delmon Young? Could the club acquire a top prospect, such as Oscar Taveras of St. Louis, by dealing Asdrubal Cabrera prior to the start of the season?

    Based on where the team stands right now, how can new manager Terry Francona fill out the lineup card when the club takes on the reloaded Toronto Blue Jays on April 2?

    What would the perfect lineup look like right now? Easy...just read on!

Leading Off: Drew Stubbs, CF

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    This spot is really bad for the Tribe. One could argue that Jason Kipnis would be a solid fit, but he only posted a .335 on-base percentage (OBP) in 2012. The club will miss the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided here in 2012, as his .373 OBP was downright sexy for a club that was, at times, awful behind him.

    While Drew Stubbs has a career .320 OBP in 775 at-bats out of the No. 1 spot in the order, the change of scenery and the potential in his legs alone provide a fantastic table-setter to the lineup.

    Stubbs provides a nice power and speed combination, having hit 59 home runs in his career while swiping 110 bases in 486 games (exactly three seasons worth of at-bats). While his career .241/.312/.386 line is the product of his inability to make consistent contact (588 strike outs in 1,791 at-bats, 32.8 percent of at-bats), he can take a walk on occasion, posting a career 8.7 percent walk rate.

    He is worth the gamble, which is why they traded for him in the first place! If Stubbs falters, then the club could move Kipnis there, hoping that he maintains his career on-base skills, as he has struggled to a .281 OBP in 97 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot.

    Stubbs could really cause some troubles on the basepaths, as long as he gets on, while providing some punch when the lineup resets. Despite what the Cleveland Indians' website says, Stubbs will be in center field.

No. 2: Michael Brantley, LF

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    Brantley hit fifth for most of the 2012 season, posting a .308/.366/.430 line over 237 at-bats. There are two things that you have to like about Brantley:

    1) His splits. He hit .299/.359/.426 against right-handers and .265/.327/.354 against left-handers.

    2) He only struck out 56 times in 552 plate appearances.

    While Brantley wasn't "great" against left-handed pitchers, he didn't totally disappear, so he would be a solid addition to the top of the order because he can play every day.

    Brantley only struck out in 9.2 percent of his at-bats. Putting Brantley in the second spot in the order would allow Terry Francona to call a lot of hit and runs (if Drew Stubbs is on base ahead of him).

    Brantley's ability to make contact would not only increase scoring opportunities, even through sacrifice hits, but his ability to take a walk (8.7 percent walk rate in 2012) could create more opportunities for the middle of the order to help create runs.

No. 3: Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

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    As I wrote here about Cabrera, the last two seasons have had some pretty terrible collapses, helping lead to Indians to failure:

    First Half: .290/.353/.479, 42 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs and 93 RBI in 662 at-bats

    Second Half: .247/.307/.394, 25 doubles, zero triples, 16 home runs and 67 RBI in 497 at-bats

    Regardless of the poor second halves, Cabrera is a very good run producer, especially for a middle infielder. If the team holds onto him, his 67 doubles, 41 home runs and 160 RBI over the last two seasons show the quality of bat that he possesses.

    With Cabrera's ability to switch-hit and his great increase in patience in 2012 (a career-high, 8.4 percent walk rate), he is yet another player with solid abilities in the Indians order.

    If Cabrera maintains his first half outbursts over the second half of 2013, not only will he help the Tribe compete in the AL Central, but he could garner some MVP consideration.

No. 4: Carlos Santana, C

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    After Santana hit .221/.339/.336 in the first half of the 2012 season, you could wonder if he was worth the long-term investment (five-years, $21 million, plus a $12 million option in 2017) that the Indians gave him.

    After 18 at-bats in the second half, Santana was back, posting a .278/.500/.444 in that small sample. He went on to post a solid .281/.389/.498 line with 13 home runs and 46 RBI over the entire second half, allowing fans to get excited for the Santana that could become a lot like the former No. 41, Victor Martinez.

    Santana should be in the lineup every day in 2013, splitting time at catcher, first base and designated hitter. If Santana continues hitting the way that he did in the second half with the same type of plate discipline (41:45 K:BB in 314 plate appearances), 2013 could be the year that he approaches 30 home runs and 100 RBI, becoming an All-Star and an offensive force in the middle of the Indians' order. 

No. 5: Mark Reynolds, 1B

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    Reynolds was a fantastic acquisition for a team in transition from a non-factor to a "we-want-to-at-least-look-like-we-are-trying". While everyone knows that Reynolds provides a lot of swings and misses, they can look past that for his power and patience.

    Sure, Reynolds has struck out in 32.6 percent of his at-bats, but he also has 181 home runs in six seasons and a solid 11.9 percent walk rate, including a 13.6 percent rate in 2012 with Baltimore

    One-year, $6 million for a right-handed power hitter in the middle of the order...the same type of bat that the team has been looking for since Manny Ramirez left for Boston. Sounds like a solid deal.

    While Progressive Field is not very friendly to hitters, specifically to right-handed hitters, Reynolds has enough raw power to send a few over the mini-monster.

No. 6: Jason Kipnis, 2B

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    Kipnis was an absolute beast in the first half of the 2012 season, posting a .277/.345/.419 line with 11 home runs, 49 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Then...he and Cabrera faltered and the collapse was inevitable, as Kipnis posted a .233/.322/.328 line with three home runs, 27 RBI and 11 stolen bases in the second half.

    Jason Kipnis is a monster and he could eventually become a solid left fielder down the road to open up the middle infield for the Tribe's gluttony of prospects at second and short; however, for the time being, he will continue to be a very good producer in the Indians' lineup.

    While some could argue that he and Brantley could flip-flop in the No. 2 and No. 6 spots, Kipnis' powerful bat and ability to use his legs is a tremendous asset for a team that will still need to produce runs, despite the addition of Reynolds.

    Kipnis could be in line for a huge uptick in RBI in 2013 if he hits lower in the order, as Cabrera, Santana and Reynolds will probably be on base often enough for the second baseman to get a lot of swings with runners in scoring position.

No. 7: Yan Gomes, DH

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    I so badly wanted the Indians to give Russ Canzler a shot at the DH spot in 2013, as they let the 2011 International League (Triple-A) Player of the Year rot away in Columbus before being designated for assignment on Tuesday. He could very well clear waivers and end up back with the Indians, much like Matt LaPorta.

    But I'm done with LaPorta, who is out of options and will either be on the 25-man opening day roster or be headed to waivers or your local Lowe's store for a new career. The time is now for newly acquired Yan Gomes.

    There isn't much to go off of for the first Brazilian-born player in MLB, but Gomes looks like a masher. In the minor leagues, Gomes has 27 home runs and 119 RBI in 658 at-bats since the start of the 2011 season. While he hit just .204/.264/.367 in 111 plate appearances with the Blue Jays in 2012, he did have four home runs and 13 RBI in between 32 strikeouts.

    The DH spot could very well be a rotation of everyday players to keep the team fresh. With Mike Aviles on the roster, the Indians can afford to put Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cabrera at the DH spot. Lou Marson can also take some time away from Santana at catcher, allowing Santana to rest his knees and just swing the bat for a couple of days per week.

    Gomes, however, has a lot of power potential. Like Reynolds and Drew Stubbs, though, he could provide an opposing breeze to the one coming off of Lake Erie, only this one won't smell as bad.

No. 8: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B

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    Lonnie Chisenhall just turned 24 years old in October, but it seems like he has been trying to force the Indians' hands for several years. The kid just can't seem to stay healthy when he finally gets a shot, though.

    Chisenhall was able to play in just 43 games after breaking his arm on a hit-by-pitch on June 29. Luckily, the Indians were able to split time with the crafty veteran Jack Hannahan, whose left-handed bat was a perfect compliment to the left-handed bat of Chisenhall in 2012...that, of course, is a joke, as is the fact that Hannahan was able to get a multi-year deal from Cincinnati, whose fans should fear what Dusty Baker may do to Todd Frazier with the veteran around...

    But I digress...

    Chisenhall has a lot of raw power and he will walk about as often as a three-week-old baby (never), but he is ready to contribute right now.

    He, too, could keep the crowd cool when July and August roll around, but Chisenhall's 20.3 strikeout rate could greatly improve once he starts making adjustments. He just needs at-bats and to stay healthy to get those at-bats. He could be a huge asset in 2013 and for several years to come.

No. 9: Ezequiel Carrera, RF

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    Without a Nick Swisher, Cody Ross or Scott Hairston, this is really what the Indians have here. While it may not look great on paper, Ezequiel Carrera could be a fantastic option at the bottom of the order.

    Not only does Carrera's speed make him an asset in the outfield, but it allows him to reset the lineup, essentially having two leadoff hitters back-to-back with Stubbs following him. The ability to bunt for a hit and move runners quickly into scoring position makes Carrera a nice option at the bottom of the order.

    While Carrera sports a career .255/.306/.347 line in 349 major league at-bats, he has managed a .291/.367/.380 line in the minors.

    It would be a huge upgrade for the Tribe, and a huge statement from ownership, if they are able to sign Nick Swisher to play right field, adding him to the middle of the order; however, Carrera would be a nice alternative due to the skill set that he provides both offensively and defensively.

Conclusion

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    The Cleveland Indians still have the remainder of the offseason to make significant changes to the roster. Who knows what GM Chris Antonetti may have up his sleeve.

    With the addition of Trevor Bauer, fans can hope that more intelligent decisions are on the way. Ownership seems to be willing to spend, as the club has engaged in discussions with free agent Nick Swisher.

    Could the additions of Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds with the loss of Casey Kotchman, Travis Hafner, Jack Hannahan and Shin-Soo Choo be the moves that propel the team into contention? New blood, new leadership and a new set of 162-games could be all that it takes!

    What do you think of this lineup? Could the Indians do any better with what they have as of December 18?