Tribe Talk: The Future of Brantley, Carmona, and 3rd Base's Three-Headed Monster

Samantha BuntenAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2010

Fausto Carmona
Fausto CarmonaGregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we predict what the future holds for Fausto Carmona, Michael Brantley, and "Nimartuena", the three-headed monster that is terrorizing third base, as well as take one last shot at predicting the 2010 division winners and wild cards. 

I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Dan Tylicki for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. In a season filled with disappointing pitching, one bright spot has been the successful resurrection of Fausto Carmona's career. 

Largely left for dead in the Arizona League just last year, Carmona has proven all his doubters wrong by coming back strong this year, most recently by throwing a gem of a two-hit shut out on Saturday night against the first-place Twins. 

Based on what you've seen this season, do you think Fausto has returned to being the pitcher he was once thought to be way back in 2007? 

Where do you see Fausto next season? Will he be even better than he was this season, a little worse, or the same? Do you expect him to be the ace of the staff in 2011?

Samantha Bunten: In a word, yes, I'd say he's returned to 2007 form. Mind you, that's 2007 form as in "pitching nearly as well as he actually did in 2007", rather than "pitching as well as 2007 hype would have you believe he would someday". 

A big part of the problem is just that; the expectations heaped on this guy after just one season were huge, and I don't think all together accurate predictions of what he was capable of. Perhaps that contributed to the mental portion of his struggles. 

That said, I believe Fausto is, and will continue to be as good a pitcher as we can expect, and that's enough for a solid season and to be the ace of the staff in 2011.

And really, I have no real complaints about Carmona at this point at all. He fought his way back from a level of struggle most pitchers never recover from, he's put up decent numbers this season despite poor run support and an even poorer defense behind him, and of course, he once punched Gary Sheffield, which is probably enough all on its own. 

Dale Thomas: Yes, I think Fausto has least enough to give himself the chance to meet the high expectations set for him in 2007. 

Let's not forget his playoff performance that year. Dismal, meaning he wasn't perfect then and some of those question marks remain today. Can he deliver under pressure? Can he continue to throw the excellent change-up he showed against the Twins?

I see Fausto being a better pitcher next season because he seems to have figured out how to get enough variation in his pitch speed to fool batters, and because he seems to be able to control his emotions more, thus allowing him to control his pitch location with the slow stuff. 

I do expect him to be the ace of the staff next year unless we bring in a ringer at a discount price.

Dan Tylicki: Fausto's always had the stuff necessary to be a great pitcher, he has just needed to work on his control. 

His Strikeout-to-walk ratio is moving back up, which is progress. If he can continue to do that, he can be a 15-16 game winner for us most years, though hitting 19 again would be near impossibly with our lineup. 

I expect about the same from him next year; a .500 record with an ERA around four, perhaps a bit lower. I think he has to be the ace of the staff next year, who else would it be?

2. Despite having logged less than a year of major league experience thus far, Michael Brantley's career sure has had some ups and downs. 

Brantley won many admirers by hitting .313 in 28 days when he was called up at the end of 2009, but then had a disastrous start in 2010 which resulted in his being sent back to Triple-A after just nine games and bouncing back and forth between the majors and the minors a few times until he was recalled in early August. 

Since then, Brantley is hitting .299 and looking like every bit the player we thought he was. What do you think of Brantley's future? Are you impressed by his recent play? 

Do you think he still has a lot to prove in terms of consistency, or do you think he just wasn't ready for the majors earlier this season, and has now finally settled in? Do you see Brantley as part of the starting lineup on Opening Day in 2011?

Samantha Bunten: I'm definitely impressed by Brantley's play of late. He clearly worked hard while he was down in the minors and like Matt LaPorta before him, used that time to really focus on improving his game instead of pouting about being demoted as many players in that situation do. 

He was probably promoted too early when he was placed on the major league roster at the beginning of this season, but the confusion was understandable given how convincing a performance he gave in September of 2009. 

He absolutely still has a lot of work to do to prove his consistency at the major league level, but I believe by 2011, he will finally have the experience to go along with his raw talent to be up to the task. 

I also do fully expect him to be starting in left field on Opening Day in 2011, especially considering that the only other option there is Trevor.

Dale Thomas: I think Brantley has a whole lot to prove, but I also believe he will step up and get it done. 

I don't actually see him as 'settled in' just yet, but he has shown us that he can settle in if he settles down. He's become much more patient at the plate, but in doing that he's seen some missed opportunities zip right by him.

I think he can benefit from a lot of film study... both for his plate appearances and his fielding. Learn the pitchers and hitters a bit more and position yourself accordingly. Know when to throw for the out and know when to sacrifice the run without allowing the other base runners to move up without effort. 

At the plate he needs to continue to relax! At the start of the season this guy would either swing himself into a corkscrew or flail away weakly at a pitch that fooled him so badly that he just looked totally confused and lost...not to mention surprised. 

I think some of this may have been the result of bringing him up too soon, and some of it was caused (maybe) by his own inflated sense of self. 

When he sobered up to the realities of big league pitching and gave up on the sandlot approach to the baseball, he truly showed marked improvement. 

This guy has a very bright future, and yes, I do see him trotting out on Opening Day as a starter. The jury is still out on his consistency. He'll have to convince us next year.

Dan Tylicki: I think Brantley has a very bright future. I felt like his bad start at the beginning of the year was a fluke, and we're seeing the real Brantley now. 

He'll get better as he's in the majors and playing more; he wasn't ready at first, but I think he's grown into it. 

The problem is where we would put him. It will have to be left field since Sizemore's at center, but does he have the tools and power to pull that switch off? Looks to be another Coco Crisp type situation, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for us; I'd be fine with him starting in 2011.

3. Poor, poor Nimartuena: Nobody loves a three-headed monster, especially when it can't hit, catch, or throw and has taken up residence at third base. 

While we'd all rather the whole beast would just go away, we're stuck with it at least for the rest of the season. That being said, perhaps it would be in the Indians' best interest to pick the least destructive piece of it and just stick with that one. 

That of course begs the question, just exactly which piece IS the least destructive: Nix, Marte, or Valbuena? If it were up to you, which one would you prefer to see at third base permanently for the remaining few weeks of the season? Why? 

Would it have been better to pick one and stick with it from the get-go, or was there some logic to Manny Acta's decision to allow all three to take a shot?

Samantha Bunten: Choosing the least destructive piece of Nimartuena is like playing one of those hypothetical situation games where you have to answer questions like "would you rather be eaten by wild boars or run over by a cement mixer?"

In other words, no matter which option you pick, it's not going to end well. But you've all seen Nimartuena in action, so you know that already.

I suppose Nix is probably the least damaging component, since he can at least occasionally hit something. Valbuena is the guy I wanted to like, especially since he's shown some occasional flash with the leather in the past, but it just doesn't look like he's ever going to figure it out. I can't even discuss Marte without suffering a rage blackout, so Nix it is. Sigh.  

As frustrating as watching these three clowns pretend to play third has been, you really can't blame Manny Acta for continuing to try out all of them. He didn't have much to work with. I'm sure he was hoping eventually one of them would figure it out. 

Dale Thomas: Eenie, meenie, miny, mo...or maybe Larry, Curly, and Moe? Rock, Scissors, Paper? 

Marte is definitely the Rock because he moves like one. Nix? Maybe the scissors because he has been sharp for fleeting moments. Valbuena is maybe paper. He can cover pretty well, but have you ever tried to swing a piece of paper in an attempt to hit a baseball? It just doesn't work. 

I can see the logic...or desperation in Acta's decision to keep trying all three, but I don't think any of them deserve the job. I guess that's just stating the obvious. Go fish.

Dan Tylicki:The least destructive, and the one I'd pick at third the rest of the year, is Jayson Nix for one reason: He can hit at least. 

Why do we keep Marte around again? I forgot why years ago, let's finally release him. 

When you don't have a real third baseman on your roster, one might as well try all three and see if any are good like Acta did. 

As a side note, when none of your three third basemen are even fielding .900, you're sunk. I don't think I've seen numbers that low before, even though third base is naturally the worst one to field.

4. Fun Question of the Week: It's time to make our final round of predictions for this season's division winners. 

Below please list your predicted winner for each division, as well as predictions for the AL and NL wildcard spots.

Samantha Bunten:

AL East: Rays

AL Central: Twins

AL West: Rangers

AL Wildcard: Yankees

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Padres

NL Wildcard: Braves

Dale Thomas: 

AL East: Yankees

AL Central: Twins

AL West: Rangers

AL Wildcard: Rays

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Padres

NL Wildcard: Braves

Dan Tylicki:

AL East: Yankees

AL Central: Twins

AL West: Rangers

AL Wildcard: Rays

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Padres

NL Wildcard: Braves