Shin-Soo Choo is one of the best players on the Cleveland Indians.
The 2011 season is under way, and like normal, there are plenty of questions about the Tribe's roster.
Another cheap offseason has left plenty of outcasts and also-rans filling key positions on the team and pundits once again expect the Indians to lose more than their share of games.
There is still hope for the season, however. Quite a few players on this Tribe team (more than the average person realizes) would be key players on contenders.
The real injustice of the 2011 Cleveland Indians roster is how underrated it is. Plenty of people have written it off without taking a long, hard look at the players.
So, let's take a look at the entire Indians 25-man roster and rank them from 25th to first. Note that I'm only doing the active roster, meaning Grady Sizemore, Jason Donald, Joe Smith and Trevor Crowe aren't on this list.
When I re-rank these players around the 40-game mark, hopefully these players will be up and going, and thus able to be ranked. As it is, here is the 2011 Indians roster from worst to first.
Justin Germano is the dregs of the Indians roster.
Justin Germano can only boast a 4.78 ERA in the majors (minors: 4.49 ERA) in the past three years. He only has 5.2 SO/9 (minors: 5.9 SO/9) in that same time span.
The 28-year-old pitcher is nothing special. His horrendous Opening Day outing (3 IP, 4 ER, 2 inherited runners allowed to score) certainly doesn't help.
Germano probably won't make it through the season in the big leagues and is the worst player currently on the Tribe's 25-man roster.
Mitch Talbot needs to prove he belongs this year.
I understand that he had a decent campaign last year (4.41 ERA, 10-13 record), but a below average 5.0 SO/9 coupled with an above average 3.9 BB/9 leaves me worried. His 1.494 WHIP just adds fuel to my doubting fire.
His minor league stats from the last three years (8.1 SO/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.80 ERA, 1.265 WHIP) leave me encouraged, but I want to see Talbot make good on that promise before putting him higher on this list.
Adam Everett's past his prime, but he's the perfect utility infielder.
Simply put, Adam Everett is past his prime. In the past three years, he only has a line of .224/.276/.313, a 56 OPS+, and 2.47 SO:BB. There's no other way to put it: his bat is gone.
Luckily, his offense is not what the Indians have him on the roster for. Despite being 34, Everett showed enough defensive prowess to be the utility infielder. Ultimately, that's all Everett has left, which leaves him low on these power rankings.
Travis Buck surprised in the spring, but now it counts.
A torrid .393/.469/.696 (1.165 OPS) line in Spring Training won Travis Buck a spot on the 25-man roster. Now, he has to continue to prove himself.
Anyone can have a hot spring, so until Buck improves upon his .215/.284/.377 (77 OPS+) line from the last three years, I'll remain skeptical.
Buck has the talent, and if he can carry over the momentum from his hot spring, then the Indians will have found themselves a steal.
Frank Herrmann's not great, but he's more than servicable.
While I love the Tribe's only Ivy Leaguer, it's hard to justify putting him much higher than 21st. Herrmann wasn't bad last year (1.276 WHIP, 4.03 ERA, 96 ERA+, 2.67 SO:BB), but he wasn't much above average.
His 4.8 SO/9 rate is extremely low, making his elite (and probably unsustainable) 1.8 BB/9 very important.
There's hope for some upward movement from Herrmann, though. He struck out five batters in his two innings pitched on Opening Day, and if he can get that rate above 4.8 SO/9, maybe he can become a bullpen mainstay for the Tribe.
Vinnie Pestano's happy to be on the Tribe and is starting off strong.
Pestano's in the same boat as Herrmann; good but not great. There seem to be worse destinies than serviceable relief pitcher, though.
Pestano was great in the minors in the past three years (2.39 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 9.5 SO/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.98 SO:BB).
While he won't be expected to continue that pace in the majors, anything close to that will be a great return for the Tribe.
He started off strong, striking out the side on Opening Day, and hopefully he'll keep on rolling.
He's got promise, but Carlos Carrasco needs to prove himself at the major league level.
Since Carlos Carrasco was a key part of the Cliff Lee trade, all Tribe fans desperately want him to pan out. While there's hope for the future, Carrasco hasn't proven himself at the major league level yet.
In the 67 innings Carrasco has pitched for the Tribe, his WHIP is too high (1.672), his SO/9 is well below his minor league level (8.6 to 6.6) and his ERA is well below average (5.51, 73 ERA+).
Most of those bad numbers come from 2009, not 2010, but until he puts it all together, Carrasco will remain low on this list.
Josh Tomlin's come a long way from being drafted in the 19th round.
His arrival in the big leagues was much less heralded than Carrasco's, but Josh Tomlin's pitched better to this point.
In 73 innings last year, Tomlin registered a 4.56 ERA (85 ERA+), a 1.247 WHIP, 5.3 SO/9 and 2.3 BB/9. While the strikeout rate is lower than you'd like, the fact still remains, he pitched effectively.
If he can get his numbers closer to his minor league levels (mainly the 7.9 SO/9 and 1.9 BB/9), then Tomlin could easily establish himself as a No. 3 or 4 starter on the Tribe.
Carrasco's ceiling is higher, but right now, Tomlin is a better major league pitcher.
There's high hopes for Michael Brantley, both this year and beyond.
To this point, Michael Brantley has the worst average WAR (-0.45) of any Indian in the past three years. That's more of a byproduct of his limited time in the majors than an assessment of his future.
I have high hopes for Brantley, otherwise known as Kenny Lofton 2.0. His .298/.377/.390 line in the minors in the past three years is encouraging, but his 143 walks to 103 strikeouts is even more impressive.
Brantley knows that strike zone and could easily turn out to be the best part of the CC Sabathia trade.
Brantley needs a good 2011 campaign to move up this list. This list is his for the taking; now all he has to do is grab it.
Hopefully 2011 is Justin Masterson's breakout season.
By the end of last year, it seemed like Justin Masterson was finally starting to get it. His first start of this year (7 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 2 BB) continues that assessment.
While it isn't good that he had no strikeouts in that outing, he still tamed a White Sox lineup that had destroyed the Tribe in the previous two games.
The perception is that Masterson has been pitching horribly. This is not actually true. His 4.30 ERA (99 ERA+), 1.423 WHIP, 7.4 SO/9, 3.9 BB/9 stat line points to an average pitcher, not someone to be vilified as useless.
If Masterson takes a big step forward this year, he'd be a great No. 3 starter on a contender. Hopefully, the rest of the Tribe's lineup rounds out and allows Masterson to fulfill this destiny.
Which Fausto Carmona will show up this year? It's anybody's guess.
It's been a nauseating roller coaster ride for Fausto Carmona and Tribe fans. In 2007, he was elite. In 2010, he was good. In 2008 and 2009, he was a train wreck. There's been no real rhyme or reason to Carmona's madness. It's anyone's guess what this year will be like.
For now, he's the best starter on the team. His 3.77 ERA (102 ERA+) and 1.307 WHIP last year were a good sign. His 5.3 SO/9 rate is worrisome. He's not striking out people at a good rate and never has. His destiny is a good No. 2 starter, not an ace.
Once the Indians stop pretending Carmona will ever be the leader of the staff, they can move on and find the pitcher who will be worthy to follow the likes of Sabathia, Lee and Feller.
Austin Kearns is nothing special, but a good backup outfielder.
The Indians re-signed Austin Kearns in the offseason to fill in for Grady Sizemore as he finished his rehab. They would've been better off just giving it to someone else.
Austin Kearns isn't a bad fourth outfielder, but he's not anything more than that anymore. His line from the past three years is .234/.334/.349, only an 86 OPS+ and a pitiful average WAR of 0.1.
Unlike Michael Brantley's season outlook of "the sky's the limit," Kearns' season outlook is "this will be the last time I get a starting job?"
Personally, I expect Austin Kearns to fall on these rankings as the season goes on as younger players establish themselves and Kearns continues to see his abilities fall off.
Maybe he'll surprise me, but I doubt he will. For now, he can enjoy his day in the sun ranked at No. 14.
Shelley Duncan isn't a bad pinch hitter off the bench.
Shelley Duncan's in the same boat as Austin Kearns. At 31, he'll probably never establish himself as a starter on a contender (or on a losing Indians team for that matter). Duncan isn't a bad player, but he's not a good one, either.
Duncan is ahead of Kearns because his numbers are slightly better. I'd rather have a .219/.301/.382 line with an 88 OPS+ and yearly average WAR of 0.13. They're largely interchangeable, but Duncan seems slightly more offensively inclined.
Duncan's value is mostly as a pinch hitter. His big two RBI single in the ninth inning of Sunday's game is exactly what you should expect out of Duncan, nothing more.
It's sad that the 13th best player on the Tribe is a pinch hitter, but that's the state of the Tribe's roster right now.
He may be struggling at the plate, but Lou Marson's still an elite defender.
You know the roster's thin when your backup catcher is ranked 12th.
His offense is horrible (.208/.291/.312, 68 OPS+); there's no getting around it. Marson was a much better hitter in the minors, so there's hope that he can put it together.
Marson's greatest value comes from his defense. Last year, according to WAR From Fielding, Marson ranked eighth among catchers. Even more impressive, he did it in limited time.
Having an elite defender behind Carlos Santana allows the Tribe to play Santana at first every now and then, saving his knees.
Marson's not flashy, but he's one of the best options out there for backup catcher.
Rafael Perez is another link in the strong Tribe bullpen.
Remember 2007 and Rafael Perez's 1.78 ERA, 255 ERA+, 0.923 WHIP, and 9.2 SO/9? That seems so long ago.
Since, Perez has only registered a 4.42 ERA, 94 ERA+, 1.500 WHIP, and 7.5 SO/9. In 2007, he was looked upon as a big part of the future; today, he's just another bullpen arm.
If Perez can stop the slide of his SO/9 rate (9.2 to 10.1 to 6.0 to 5.3 from 2007 to 2010), maybe he can regain his elite 2007 form.
As it is now, Rafael Perez is a part of a very strong Tribe bullpen. 2007 is too much to hope for, but half of that will help the Indians this year and beyond.
Matt LaPorta needs a big 2011 year to prove he belongs.
In a month, ranking Matt LaPorta tenth will either make me a genius or an idiot; there's no in-between on this issue.
In his brief big league career, LaPorta hasn't come close to his minor league stats. Take a look:
Majors (last 2 years): .232 AVG, .307 OBP, .388 SLG, .694 OPS, 19 HR, 199 SO, 58 BB (3.43 SO:BB), 623 PA
Minors (last 3 years): .295 AVG, .393 OBP, .544 SLG, .937 OPS, 44 HR, 141 SO, 103 BB (1.37 SO:BB), 907 PA
Those are two entirely different stat lines. Either LaPorta tops out as a great minor league player or a great major league player; again, there's no in-between.
We should know soon enough what we have in LaPorta, but for now, we have no idea.
Jack Hannahan has been a pleasant surprise for the Tribe this year.
Jack Hannahan has come a long way from non-roster invitee. Now he's the starting third baseman on the Cleveland Indians and the apparent stopgap until Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to take over.
Hannahan is enjoying a fast start to the 2011 campaign, which is a first for him. In the last three years, Hannahah can only boast a .216/.302/.336 line with a 72 OPS+. His defense has been superb, but his offense has been holding him back.
By no means am I saying that Hannahan is a long-term answer; I don't expect him to be the starter by the end of July.
What I do know is for now, Hannahan is a great defensive third baseman and will fill in nicely for the Tribe if the pop in his bat is here to stay.
Tony Sipp is one of the better arms in a formidable Tribe arsenal.
If there's one thing the Indians do have this year, it's bullpen arms. Tony Sipp is ranked eighth here and there are still a couple of relief pitchers left on this list.
Sipp has all of the looks of a great set up pitcher. In his first two seasons, Sipp has posted a 3.67 ERA(110 ERA+), a 1.350 WHIP, and, most importantly, 10.2 SO/9.
If he can control his walks (5.6 BB/9), Sipp could become a nationally known relief man; he's got that kind of upside.
Chad Durbin is a veteran presence in an already strong Tribe bullpen.
How about a nice throwback picture for Chad Durbin's second go-round?
Durbin isn't a bad pitcher, just maybe not what the rebuilding Tribe needs. Adding a pitcher with a 3.62 ERA (117 ERA+), 1.367 WHIP and 7.5 SO/9 doesn't hurt at all.
When that pitcher's 33 and probably won't be around the next time the Indians are in contention, then it might not pay off long-term.
As it is now, Durbin is a good pitcher in the bullpen. If the Indians are looking to win some games this year, he'll help.
Long-term, we'll see how it works out. For these rankings, Durbin takes a high spot in the power rankings.
Orlando Cabrera is a veteran presence on a young Tribe team.
All the same provisions from Chad Durbin apply here. Orlando Cabrera's not a bad player, but I wonder how useful he is starting on a rebuilding team.
The last three years have seen a drop off in Cabrera's performance. His .277/.319/.373 line with an 83 OPS+ is rough, and his defense (-2.8 dWAR) has faded.
The fact that his 0.7 average yearly WAR ranks him tied for sixth on the Indians is another testament to how young and weak the roster is.
If the Tribe surprises people and competes this year, then I'm sure Cabrera will be a big part of it. If they don't, then this could be a waste of time and effort.
For now, though, Orlando Cabrera ranks above most of the young players on the Tribe.
He may not be an elite player anymore, but Travis Hafner is still a useful player.
If this was 2004-2006, then Travis Hafner would warrant a top-5 rating. As it is, the hitter formerly known as Travis Hafner isn't as deserving of this spot.
Yet another observation on how weak the Indians are right now, Hafner is deserving of this ranking based on the rest of the team. He doesn't hit home runs like he used to, but a .259/.353/.430 line with a 114 OPS+ in the last three years isn't bad.
The problems start when you observe that Pronk's only hit 34 home runs in that time frame. He is no longer worth $13 million a year, especially considering he can't play in the field, but in terms of hitting ability, Hafner's better right now than most of the Tribe's roster.
Chris Perez could easily develop into an elite closer this year.
I'm of the mind that since closers pitch so little compared to starters, people massively overrate their value. For the Indians, though, Chris Perez is their most valuable pitcher.
In his first three years, Perez has posted a 3.06 ERA (134 ERA+), a 1.188 WHIP, and 9.5 SO/9. After taking over the closer job from Kerry Wood last year, Perez established himself as alpha dog of the Tribe's bullpen.
As long as he keeps up the good work, the 25-year-old Chris Perez will make his mark on the Indians for years to come. That is, until he leaves in free agency like all the rest.
There's a chance that Asdrubal Cabrera could top Omar Vizquel in Cleveland.
Trust me, I understand how blasphemous this is. I love Omar Vizquel as much as if not more than any Tribe fan out there. But I absolutely mean this when I say this:
Asdrubal Cabrera has a chance to be better than Omar Vizquel.
I love Omar, but his offense wasn't as good as Cabrera's. Compare Omar's best offensive three-year stretch (1998 to 2000), Asdrubal's last three years, and Omar at the same age as Asdrubal:
Vizquel (ages 31-33): .302 AVG, .378 OBP, .394 SLG, 97 OPS+, 9.7 oWAR, 2.5 dWAR
Vizquel (ages 22-24): .230 AVG, .290 OBP, .283 SLG, 60 OPS+, 0.1 oWAR, 2.9 dWAR
Cabrera (ages 22-24): .284 AVG, .346 OBP, .390 SLG, 101 OPS+, 6.6 oWAR, 0.8 dWAR
Asdrubal is far above Omar's level when they were the same age and already rivals Omar's offensive peak. Sure, Omar's a much better defender, but Asdrubal's got a chance to outproduce him overall in the long run.
Asdrubal is still only 25 and has plenty of development left in him. As much as it pains me to say it, he may end up being a better player than Omar.
Carlos Santana represents the bright future of the Cleveland Indians.
There's no denying that Carlos Santana is the brightest young player on the Indians. If his rookie campaign hadn't been cut short last year, he probably would've made a significant push for Rookie of the Year.
In just 46 games last year, Santana racked up a .260/.401/.467 line with a 144 OPS+, 6 home runs, 37 walks to only 29 strikeouts and a 2.2 WAR in only 192 plate appearances. Not a bad season at all.
With another torrid season, Santana could take over the No. 1 spot of these rankings. For now, though, that spot belongs to...
Shin-Soo Choo is the best player currently on the Indians.
No real surprise here. After a three year line of .302/.397/.500, a 144 OPS+, 56 home runs, 47 stolen bases and a 5.43 yearly average WAR, Shin-Soo Choo is an elite player, even if most of America doesn't realize it yet.
Shin-Soo Choo's best accomplishment might be finishing with a higher WAR in 2010 than Albert Pujols. For one year, anyway, Shin-Soo Choo was better than Albert Pujols.
This concludes these rankings. Around the 40-game mark, I'll re-rank the Indians' active roster.
I'll apologize for ranking player X too low, player Y too high and gloat about how I ranked player Z just right. Until then, let's go Tribe.