Cleveland Indians: 2011 MLB Season Preview

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIMarch 30, 2011

GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Shin-Soo Choo #17 of the Cleveland Indians follows through on a swing against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on February 28, 2011 in Goodyear, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images


Last Year: 69-93, Fourth in AL Central 

Manager: Manny Acta


C- Carlos Santana (S)

1B- Matt LaPorta (R)

2B- Orlando Cabrera (R)

3B- Jack Hannahan (L)

SS- Asdrubal Cabrera (S)

LF- Michael Brantley (S)

CF- Grady Sizemore (L) (Will start season on DL) 

RF- Shin-Soo Choo (L)

DH- Travis Hafner (L)

There isn't a lot of fire power on this Indian ball club. Shin-Soo Choo is the team's best all around player by hitting for average, 20 plus home run power, high OBP and the ability to steal 20 plus bases. Grady Sizemore will not be ready for opening day, and no one knows what kind of player he will be when he does return. Left fielder Michael Brantley doesn't have much power, and I expect him to hit .260/.330/.360 with five home runs and 15 stolen bases. Brantley will play CF and Kearns will play LF until Sizemore comes back. Carlos Santana is set to have a great year if his knee stays healthy.

Travis Hafner is solid at DH, but he can't play everyday even at that position. He will get the same number of at-bats as last year, somewhere in the mid-400's, and put up around 15 home runs. He can't be counted on as a top of the line run producer, but could benefit a team looking for a little help from the left side of the plate.

Matt LaPorta needs to have a big year if the Indians want to improve in 2011. Many projected him a slugger with 30 home run power, with an OBP north of .400. It hasn't happened yet, but I expect him to hit somewhere between 20-25 home runs and .350 OBP to give the Indians a little something to hope for. Asdrubal Cabrera is a nice fit on a good team, but does nothing on a team like the Indians. He should really be playing 2B and doesn't have much power. In addition, he only gets on base less than 35 percent of the time. He's not part of the solution in Cleveland. Same could be said for Orlando Cabrera, but he will be more productive than anyone else they had slated to play. Jack Hannahan will start at 3B. Hannahan would not be a starter on any other team in baseball. 

The Indians had the worst defensive range in baseball last season. Unless Grady Sizemore stays healthy, that number will not improve. Hannahan does have great range at 3B, but O. Cabrera hasn't started a game at 2B since 1998. He played well at SS last year and throughout his career, so I think he will play a good 2B. A. Cabrera has the reputation of playing a good SS, but his defensive metrics are terrible. To make the infield defense worse, LaPorta is a below average at 1B.

In the outfield, Brantley played a poor LF in 2010. That maybe the product of inexperience. Shin-Soo Choo is their best starter in the field. Sizemore is a question mark with the amount of injuries he has had over the last few years. Carlos Santana has a lot of promise behind the plate, and he should improve week after week. 


C- Lou Marson (R)

OF- Austin Kearns (R)

OF- Trevor Crowe (S) (On DL)

OF- Travis Buck (L)

1B/OF- Shelley Duncan (R)

IF- Adam Everett  (R) 


RHP- Fausto Carmona 

RHP- Justin Masterson 

RHP- Mitch Talbot 

RHP- Carlos Carrasco 

RHP- Josh Tomlin 

Fausto Carmona is the clear ace of this staff, and might not be on this team past July. After his breakout season in 2007, Carmona lost his command and struggled through a very difficult 2008 and 2009. The Indians were happy to see Carmona rebound in 2010, mostly to increase his trade value. If Carmona pitches like he did last year, I wouldn't be surprised if he is traded to a contending team (22 of his 33 starts were quality starts).

Justin Masterson has the most upside out of any pitcher on the Indians staff. Masterson's 6-13 record and 4.70 ERA might give people some pause, but by looking at advanced stats it was obvious he was unlucky. Masterson was hurt by a large number of balls put into play ending up as hits and the inability to strand the league average of runners on base. I like his strikeout total, low home run total and his ability to keep the ball on the ground. Masterson throws a heavy sinker in the low 90's, a good slider and a fringe change. He needs to work on his change-up to neutralize left handed hitters. Masterson's control is a little iffy, but my bet is he becomes the best starter on the team.

The rest of the rotation is very questionable. Mitch Talbot will slot behind Masterson as the No. 3 starter. Talbot is a No. 5 starter at best on most teams, and relies on a low 90's fastball, a cutter, slider and change-up. None of those pitches constitute as an out pitch. He has a terrible K/BB ratio (1.28) and will probably end up pitching to a high 4.80 ERA.

Carlos Carrasco, acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, impressed in seven starts with the Indians last year. He throws a straight 93 MPH fastball with a decent slider, an above average curveball and a very good change. He might go through some growing pains this season, but his high strikeout and ground ball rates indicate he has promise as a No. 2 type starter. Josh Tomlin uses a 89 mph two seamer, cutter, curveball and changeup to keep hitters off balance. Tomlin relies on his great control, but his strikeout rate was low (5.30 K/9) and he gave up 10 home runs in 73 innings. I think he will pitch at a 5.00 ERA.   


RHP- Chirs Perez (Closer)

LHP- Tony Sipp

RHP- Chad Durbin 

LHP- Rafael Perez

RHP- Joe Smith (starts season on DL)

RHP- Justin Germano

RHP- Frank Herrmann

RHP- Vinnie Pestano  

I think the best part of the Indians team this year will be its bullpen, which isn't saying much. Chris Perez closed for most of 2010, and impressed with his ERA (1.71). His high K total is impressive, but walks too many which should leave his ERA somewhere in the mid-three area. The rest of the bullpen has a nice balance to it. Both lefties, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp, are tough on lefties and should prove to be effective.

Chad Durbin, signed just last week, was a valuable weapon in the Phillies bullpen for the last few years. I wouldn't call him an eighth inning guy, but he can be effective pitching multiple innings. Joe Smith is a side-winding right hander. He gets a lot of ground balls and is tough on righties, but don't let him face a left handed hitter. Frank Hermann will bring up the rear. He has good control but low K rates, but probably won't get many meaningful innings during the first few weeks. Justin Germano is a soft-tossing right hander who will pitch mostly long relief and mop up duty for the club.  


RHP- Justin Germano 

RHP- Anthony Reyes

SS- Adam Everett (R)

IF- Jack Hannahan (L)

OF- Travis Buck (L)


Santana, who was acquired for Casey Blake, looks poised for a breakout year in 2011. He was well on his way last year after his call up, but he tore up his knee on an awkward slide at home in Fenway Park. In 192 at-bats he had six HRs and a .401 OBP. He has the whole package as he is a Victor Martinez type, but has the tools to be a great defensive catcher. Look for Santana to hit 20 home runs and place himself in the upper-echelon at the catching position.  


White was the Indians' top draft pick in 2009, and will begin the season in AAA. He is considered the top pitching prospect in the Indians' farm system. White throws a low 90's fastball, slider and a splitter that enables him to get a fair amount of groundouts. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sometime in August or September. 

PROJECTED FINISH- Fifth in AL Central  

It doesn't look good for the Indians. This club doesn't have many redeeming qualities, as seen in its poor defensive range, lack of starting pitching and a lineup full of role and platoon players. They have some prospects, but it is going to get worse before this club's fortunes get better. 


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