Hope in Cleveland? Five Players Who Could Step Up For Tribe in 2011

Geordy BoverouxCorrespondent IIJanuary 14, 2011

Hope in Cleveland? Five Players Who Could Step Up For Tribe in 2011

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    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 5:  Matt LaPorta #7 of the Cleveland Indians fouls one off in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox August 5, 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
    Darren McCollester/Getty Images

    Its no secret that the Cleveland Indians have some work ahead of them in the rebuilding process. But with such a deep farm system and many former All-Stars being dealt, Tribe fans are anxious to see something come from the plethora of young talent the Indians are supposed to have.

    The Minnesota Twins have become more of a large-market team with a new stadium and the ability to keep their talent around, while the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have spent a lot of money in the offseason to make a once seemingly winnable AL Central a very formidable one. 

    Heck, even the Royals made a splash by dealing Zack Greinke for a good haul of prospects to add to their strong farm system. Yet the Tribe has decided to rely on in house options to start contending, but time is running out.

    There are young players such as Carlos Santana with flashes of greatness in 2010, but there are many more players in Cleveland, young and old, who need to have good years in 2011 to try and prove the theory wrong that God hates Cleveland.

Matt LaPorta

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Matt LaPorta #7 of the Cleveland Indians plays against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the game at Angel Stadium on September 7, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The centerpiece of the CC Sabathia deal in 2008, LaPorta inspired fantasy baseball team names such as "The LaPorta Potties" more with his play than his last name in his short career.

    LaPorta was supposed to be the second coming of Travis Hafner, but a .221 batting average and only 12 home runs in 2010 have made many Tribe faithful skeptical of his bat becoming a feared part of the lineup for years to come.

    The young first baseman has shown little to no plate discipline and has barely had flashes of the power that Mark Shapiro and the rest of the front office told Indians fans he was supposed to have.

    2011 is LaPorta’s year to show Cleveland at least a glimmer of hope, or else Chris Antonetti might show him the exit door.

Grady Sizemore

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    CLEVELAND - APRIL 30:   Grady Sizemore #24 of the Cleveland Indians makes a catch in the outfield against the Minnesota Twins during the game on April 30, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Sizemore was the arguably the best outfielder in baseball entering the 2008 season.

    My how things change.

    Back-to-back injury-plagued seasons can do that to a once promising career and it has left Indian fans doubting if he can ever fully recover.

    Sizemore's most recent microfracture knee surgery is supposed to have him on track for Opening Day, but no one has said anything about him being able to play at 100 percent when April rolls around.

    Sizemore has obviously shown he can play in this league, but as of late, he has not shown that he can play a full season in the bigs.

    He doesn't need to play a full 162 game schedule and have another 30/30 season for Cleveland to improve on its disappointing record the past two years.

    However, he does need to show Cleveland something that he can still play at at least a fraction of his old ability.

Carlos Carrasco

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Carlos Carrasco #59 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 6, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    So that's the pitcher we were supposed to get in return for Cliff Lee.

    Carrasco was brutal to watch in 2009, posting an 8.81 ERA with a 2.28 WHIP in only 5 starts at the end of the year.

    The Cleveland brass gave him some extra seasoning in 2010 opting to call him up late in the year again to make 7 starts. Carrasco showed the extra time in the minors paid off by posting a 3.38 ERA and a solid 6.6 K/9 rate.

    Cleveland has a porous infield defensively and having a pitcher who doesn't rely solely on contact could help the Tribe get a few extra digits in the W column.

    The Indians need some of their young hurlers to step up in 2011, and Carrasco is at the front of that list.

    With a full spring training and virtually guaranteed rotation spot, Carrasco should have enough confidence to have an even better 2011.

Lonnie Chisenhall/Jason Kipnis

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 11:  U.S. Futures All-Star Lonnie Chisenhall #8 of the Cleveland Indians at bat during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 11, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Chisenhall was the Indians top prospect once Carlos Santana got his long-awaited call up to the bigs, but Kipnis' play at the end of the minor league season has sparked a well-merited debate in Cleveland.

    Chisenhall had a solid, yet underwhelming year in Double-A Akron for a top prospect. A .278 batting average and 17 HRs to go along with 22 doubles is nothing to scoff at, but not what was expected of him in 2010.

    The hot corner is his to man in the coming years, and Cleveland may need him to step up sooner rather than later with no viable options currently up in the majors.

    Kipnis was on fire after briefly being called up to Triple-A Columbus to aid in their championship run at the end of the season and was a major part of the championship team hitting for the cycle in the series.

    Kipnis had a strong year in Akron with a .311 batting average and solid power for a middle infielder with 10 HRs and 20 doubles, but he really opened eyes with his short stint in Columbus.

    Both Chisenhall and Kipnis could start their long tenures in the infield of the Prog in 2011.

Alex White

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    2009's first round pick out of North Carolina, White looked like a grown man among boys as he quickly rose through the Indians' farm system last year.

    With a 2.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP between High-A Kinston and Double-A Akron, White is expected to start 2011 at Triple-A Columbus.

    His 7.0 K/9 could provide a huge boost to the Indians struggling defense if he can make batters miss at that rate in the majors. He also doesn't give up the long ball, sacrificing only 12 in 25 starts in 2010.

    The Indians usually take their time with their young players in the minors, but White might be too talented to hold back.