Another season is upon us and after finished the season hot and catching up to go 81-81 after a disastrous June-July, the Indians are re-tooled and back with hopes of raising another AL Central Division Title Banner. Lets take a look at their season preview.
Key Additions: CL Kerry Wood, RHP Joe Smith, RHP Carl Pavano, 3B Mark DeRosa.
Getting Kerry Wood was the biggest addition of the offseason because he solidifies the bullpen and gives the Indians a flame throwing strikeout closer. Smith gives the Indians a solid right-handed option, for right-handed specialist.
Pavano, if he stays healthy, could give the Indians 12-15 wins, as he looked good in spring training. DeRosa is an great offensive threat and is very average defensively but very adequate at third base.
Key Losses: OF Franklyn Gutierrez
The only major player lost was Gutierrez, who was at best a fourth outfielder on this team.
Key Questions: The Indians starting rotation 1-5 is shaky. Lee won 22 games last season and the AL Cy Young, but asking him to duplicate that is asking too much.
However Lee's track record of season of 14, 15, 17, and 22 wins over the last few seasons (mixed in with his horrid 2007), makes it feasible to believe he will win 14-17 games this season. A big component will be Fausto Carmona.
Carmona was hurt last year and never found the strike zone. He seemed to work all that out and looked fabulous in spring training. The Indians definitely need him to be more like the 19 win Camona of 2007. Pavano will be the third starter and has shown that, when he's healthy, he is a productive pitcher.
If he does stay healthy its believable he could get 10-12 wins. Scott Lewis the fourth starter, only because Wedge doesn't want two lefties in a row, had a solid rookie campaign winning all four of his first career starts.
He won the job in spring training, but as soon as he got that news, got shelled in two starts. He needs to calm down and give the Indians some quality starts until June or July, when Jake Westbrook is expected to come back.
Anthony Reyes is a very important part of the rotation, because he was extremely effective at getting outs last season, before a cranky elbow ended his season early.
Reyes throws a heavy sinking fastball and is in the Charles Nagy-Westbrook mode, where he wont strike many out, but knows how to get outs, and on the ground primarily.
Key Players: Westbrook coming back is huge, because if he does come back around June 13, (one year from his surgery), and gets a few good starts in before the All-Star break, he could be the boost the Indians need in the middle of the rotation.
He is a two or three starter, essentially bumping Lewis (hopefully), back to Columbus. The Indians' offense seems to be healthy and in good shape, with or without the man known as Pronk.
If Hafner does come back to be a home run hitter, the Indians' offense could be among the best in all of baseball. If not, they can still be a top-10 offensive club, and shouldn't struggle to score runs this year.
The bullpen, much retooled, seems ok, and even if Wood spends a little time on the DL, Jensen Lewis has shown he can hold the fort down for a bit.
Best Case Senerio: Hafner comes back to something between his 2006-2007 forms and is a very solid middle of the order power hitter. Westbrook comes back right around the All-Star break and wins about nine or 10 games.
Reyes and Pavano stay healthy and both get double digit wins. Lee is closer to the Cy Young form and so is Fausto. Wood never gets hurt and all the new additions in the bullpen work out. The Indians win 95 games and go deep in the playoffs.
Worst Case Senerio: Hafner is more like the 2008 hitter, and Wood lands back on the DL. The offense regresses with players such as Choo and Francisco. The bullpen never gets on track and the additions don't work out. We see the next wave of Indians in August and hope for a better 2010.
Most Likely: Hafner bounces back and hits between 20-25 home runs and Wood only spends two short stints on the DL. Lee wins 17 games, as does Carmona. I think Pavno will stay healthy and give 14 wins, and so will Reyes.
Westbrook will come back in late June and give the Indians a shot in the arm in the second half. The team wins 91 games and has a strong shot at at least and ALCS appearance.
Grady Sizemore: .275, 40 2B, 30 HR, 89 RBI, 35 SB
Mark DeRosa: .280, 31 2B, 22 HR, 78 RBI
Victor Martinez: .310, 25 2B, 24 HR, 96 RBI
Travis Hafner: .280, 23 2B, 23 HR, 86 RBI
Jhonny Peralta: .286, 31 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI
Shin-Soo Choo: .308, 26 2B, 21 HR, 81 RBI
Ryan Garko: .281 21 2B, 17 HR, 75 RBI
Ben Francisco: .275, 24 2B, 18 HR, 60 RBI
Asdrubal Cabrera: 292, 20 2B, 13 HR, 58 RBI, 21 SB
Kelly Shoppach: .255, 25 2B, 25 HR, 70 RBI 150 K's
Josh Barfield: .225 8 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 18 SB
Jamey Carroll: .270, 10 2B, 3 HR, 35 RBI
David Dellucci: 225, 5 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI
Trevor Crowe: 280: 17 2B, 7 3B, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 25 SB
Dellucci gets cut by May and Crowe is the fourth outfielder on this team. This Indians team can hit, providing Sizemore, Peralta, Hafner, Shoppach and Garko don't strikeout a ton and kill their rallies. This team was one of the best teams in terms of getting extra-base hits and on-base percentage last season.
Cliff Lee: 17-5 2.79 ERA
Fausto Carmona: 17-7 2.91 ERA
Carl Pavano: 15-8, 3.45 ERA
Scott Lewis: 11-8 3.78 ERA
Anthony Reyes: 15-6 3.12 ERA
Jake Westbrook: 11-4 2.99 ERA
Jeremy Sowers: 3-6 5.50 ERA
Aaron Laffey: 6-2 3.41 ERA
This rotation reminds me a lot of 1995. There was no 20-game winner, but the rotation had five guys capable of winning at least 15 games, while it may not be enough to win the World Series, but very well could get them deep into the playoffs.
Kerry Wood: 2-2 44 saves, 3.13 ERA
Jensen Lewis: 4-3, 11 saves. 3.29 ERA
Rafael Betancourt: 1-3, 16 holds, 2.41 ERA
Rafael Perez: 4-2, 10 holds, 2.26 ERA
Joe Smith: 2-3 8 holds, 2.98 ERA
Masa Kobayashi: 1-4 4.38 ERA
Zach Jackson: 2-2 3.89 ERA
Masa and Jackson are both jettisoned in mid-May and two more prospects make their way into the system.
(Former Lake County Captain) Hector Rondon: 3-0 2.24 ERA
Former Captain, Tony Sipp: 0-2, 2.29 ERA
The bullpen is rather solid with some additions by subtractions.
LaPorta, and Michael Brantley also see some major time at the big-league level and contribute, as does David Huff)
91-71, win the AL Central, at least an ALCS appearance.