Tuesday, March 29

FCF Indians Roundtable

It’s that time of year again when the baseball season has not yet begun and baseball fans everywhere just want the season to get started already, so with that I bring you a nice FCF roundtable post to cover some Indians-related topics. Ed: admittedly, it's a fairly small roundtable, as John and I didn't invite anyone else. If anyone wants to add their comments and repost, feel free to do so.

What do you think about the opening day roster of first baseman Matt LaPorta, second baseman Orlando Cabrera, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman Jack Hannahan, designated hitter Travis Hafner, catcher Carlos Santana, left fielder Austin Kearns, center fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo?

JHH: I’m not sure how they will hit, but defensively this looks like an OK team. On the hitting, I’m suspect of everyone but Choo, Santana, and maybe Asdrubal.

Andy: "Tryin' not to, kid." John brings up a great point here - we should be well-above-average defensively this season. Kearns and Brantley are both very good outfielder, and Choo might be the best defensive outfielder this side of Franklin Gutierrez. If and when Grady Sizemore returns, hopefully he can return to his old prowess in CF. On the infield dirt, the OC is an improvement at the keystone sack, and the very fact that Ja(y)sons Donald and Nix no longer man the left side of the infield automatically makes our defense better. Losing Rusty's reliable glove and balls-out effort at first will hurt, but LaPorta should be able to pick up the slack. Santana seems solid behind the plate, but Hafner's shoulder makes me worried about his defensive abilities at the DH position.

Batting-wise, I'm very concerned. Choo, Kearns, and Cabrera are the only proven hitters we have. That's IT. LaPorta has bust written all over him, Hafner is long since washed up, and the OC and Hannahan are here pretty much for their aforementioned defense. There is potential to score runs if Brantley and Santana deliver on the promise they showed in the second half last year and Sizemore returns to form - I think the Indians' offense will depend greatly on how well that trio contributes.

What about the rotation of Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot?

JHH: It is weird not seeing David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, or Aaron Laffey but I suspect we are a slightly better rotation without them. Carmona will be as good an ace as we can hope for and the rest are question marks. In a previous post, I mentioned that seeing all of these five starters reach 20 starts would be an amazing feat. Obviously, we are probably all hoping that the guys not named Carmona have matured a little and hopefully will contribute more than they did last year.

Andy: "Tryin' not to, kid." The rotation is clearly the biggest question mark surrounding the 2011 Tribe, as only Carmona has any track record of success and his career has been a yo-yo. Here's my prediction: two of the question mark guys are going to step up and really outperform expectations - maybe Carrasco and Tomlin, and the Indians will spend much of this campaign holding often-frustrating auditions for the two remaining spots.

Is Chris Perez for real?

JHH: I really hope so. This team and these fans need something to rally around and a lights-out closer brings something to the ninth inning Indians fans have not seen in a long time.

Andy: This Perez (not the one who pretends not to be able to speak English) was the most exciting and fun part of last year's Tribe, and he has the two key attributes of a successful closer: steel nerves and the ability to throw the ball really hard. He might not totally duplicate his brilliant second half from a year ago, but he might well be our best back-end bullpen guy since Mike Jackson.

What’s the best the Indians likely can hope for this season?

JHH: I think the best we can hope for is that the Indians get out to a good start and stay close in most of the series. If this team tanks early it could be a long empty season at the ballpark. Maybe a second place finish in the AL Central is too much to hope for but a third place finish might not be too bad.

Andy: A World Series Championship. Sorry, missed the word "likely" in there. 2011 is a developmental season for the Tribe, make no mistake, and will be at times frustrating for fans. A .500 finish would be an unqualified success and a reasonable "stretch goal" for the young Erie Warriors.

Is it just me or has the usual amount of optimism regarding young talent and having a stocked minor league system not been as prevalent this season?

JHH: Lonnie Chisenhall aside, it is tough to look at the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox and think that we need to just wait and next year is our year. As we get farther from 2007 it seems a distant memory of this team being in contention late in the season. I suspect getting Grady Sizemore back and adding Chisenhall could be a spark but I still have too many questions regarding pitching. I do like Tim Belcher as our pitching coach and we are a young baseball team so maybe my perception is a little off.

Andy: With regards to position players, yes; with regards to pitchers, no. The likes of Gomez, White, and Pomeranz have gotten some good press through Spring training, but as far as position players, not so much. Seriously, besides Chisenhall, is there one pro-ready position player in our system?

What are you most excited about regarding the upcoming season?

JHH: With Manny Acta having a year under his belt, I am excited to see this young team perform. I know that sounds very general but the best part of a new season is not knowing exactly who is going to improve and who won’t. And the best part about being a young team is that young players have the highest potential to see a large improvement in their performance. So the 2011 Indians have a lot of potential and I’m excited to see that play out.

Andy: From proven players, the day-in day-out quiet excellence of Shin-Soo Choo and the bad-ass dominance of Chris Perez. From new players, I'm looking forward to seeing how Brantley, Santana, and Carrasco develop into (hopefully) solid pros.

Go Tribe?

JHH: Go Tribe!
Andy: Go Tribe!

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