The Hurt Bopper: 7 Long-Term Subs for Cleveland Indians' Grady Sizemore
This time last year, Grady Sizemore was considered Cleveland's Iron Horse.
The speedy center fielder missed just seven games from 2005-08. He played every day in 2006 and 2007; a sprained ankle in April 2008 snapped his consecutive games-played streak at 382.
That all changed in 2009 when a groin injury, elbow problems, and a hernia limited Sizemore to just 106 games. In what was supposed to be his prime, age-27 season, he set career lows in just about every category.
While some have expressed doubts that Sizemore will be able to pull off a complete rebound in 2010, we Tribe fans have coddled ourselves with the notion that he will at the very least be healthy this year.
But like every shred of hope Cleveland sports teams give us, our illusions were dashed; Sizemore was scratched from the lineup with a stiff back on Sunday.
Now, I'm not panicking or trying to sound the alarm—this very well could be an isolated incident, and at this point we have no reason to believe that he can't still play 161 games.
But it should serve as a wake-up call to the Indians: we need a contingency plan in case Sizemore's injury woes continue.
Here's a look at seven players who, in a worst-case scenario, could be asked to fill Sizemore's shoes.
Current role: Indians' starting left fielder, at least while Russell Branyan is on the DL. He'd move to center field if Sizemore were incapacitated, as he did Sunday.
The case for: Brantley, who Baseball America said has the best contact skills in the organization, is the Tribe's likely center fielder of the future. With blazing speed and batting-title potential, the Indians hope he'll be sitting at the top of the order for years to come.
The case against: When healthy, Sizemore is the team's most consistent power hitter; with a .069 career minor league ISO, we couldn't expect Brantley to fill that hole.
In addition, Brantley has at least a couple weeks now to claim a permanent spot in Cleveland's lineup. So if he's being discussed as a replacement later in the year, it will mean he lost his job when Branyan came back and that he might not be ready for the Big Show.
Current role: Indians' fourth outfielder.
The case for: A former top prospect, Kearns is by far the most experienced candidate, and is the only one with a real record of success in the majors.
The case against: It's been three years since Kearns was even an adequate player, let alone a good one. A return to his old greatness is possible, I suppose, but of all the choices he probably has the lowest ceiling.
Current role: Columbus Clippers' (AAA) right fielder.
The case for: There's a reason he was picked 14th overall in the 2005 draft.
The case against: After watching him post a .611 OPS in 68 games with Cleveland last year, I don't know what that reason was.
Current role: Clippers' left fielder.
The case for: Brown won the International League batting title last year (.336 average) while posting a .913 OPS. He clearly has nothing left to prove in the minors.
The case against: For some reason, the Indians seem determined to pretend Brown doesn't exist; he has never seen MLB action, or even been publicly considered for a call-up.
Current role: Clippers' first baseman.
The case for: He smoked five homers in his first 24 MLB at-bats in 2007, and was named the International League MVP last year.
The case against: He has a .581 OPS in 135 big-league plate appearances since.
Current role: Akron Aeros' (AA) left fielder.
The case for: When Baseball America named him the organization's best power prospect, it was just a confirmation of what we already knew.
The case against: He's never played a game above Double-A; most players don't make that transition as seamlessly as Jason Heyward.
Current role: Indians' backup infielder.
The case for: No one thinks of Marté as a top prospect anymore, but he consistently shows just enough flash (.968 OPS the last two weeks of August in 2009) to keep us from writing him off completely. If all else fails, the Indians could give him one last shot at regular playing time.
The case against: Besides the fact that handing him a starting job would cause some fans to have heart palpitations, Marté has never posted an OPS over .707 in a season, so there's a much better chance that he would flop than break out.
Then, of course, there's the little problem of him having exactly zero professional experience in the outfield.