On the surface, it appears that the Cleveland Indians are slowly slipping back into the unfortunate obscurity that the team had gone through during the eighties and early nineties. Gone are a few difference makers in Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee, and though Grady Sizemore is still on the team, the team does not look posed to topple other teams in their division. However, with some young talent slowly filling the starting ranks, the Indians could be competing for the AL Central title within a few years. Unfortunately it won’t be this year, so the Indians are likely to battle it out with the Kansas City Royals for fourth place in the AL Central.
|C Lou Marson||.246||.347||.361||9||0||4||0||61|
|1B Russell Branyan||.251||.347||.520||64||31||76||2||431||w/SEA|
|2B Luis Valbuena||.250||.298||.416||52||10||31||2||368|
|SS Asdrubal Cabrera||.308||.361||.438||81||6||68||17||523|
|3B Jhonny Peralta||.254||.316||.375||57||11||83||0||582|
|LF Matt LaPorta||.254||.308||.442||29||7||21||12||181|
|CF Grady Sizemore||.248||.343||.445||73||18||64||13||436|
|RF Shin-Soo Choo||.300||.394||.489||87||20||86||21||583|
|DH Travis Hafner||.272||.355||.470||46||16||49||0||338|
Unsettled: Catcher. Lou Marson currently holds the starting gig behind the plate now that Victor Martinez has headed to the AL East. Marson has shown in the minor leagues that he can hit for average (and not much else), yet if he does not perform well he could easily flip flop with career backup Wyatt Toregas or veteran Mike Redmond. However, Marson’s production may be completely irrelevant if the team is in a hurry to bring up Carlos Santana and see what he has to offer. Santana is certainly the catcher of the future, and yet GM Mark Shapiro has mentioned that he is still inexperienced in the minors and should not be rushed. Marson should hold the job for at least a few months, but if Santana starts off fast he may be up sooner than anticipated.
Target: Grady Sizemore. Sizemore’s 2009 statistics looks like he regressed on the surface, yet that is exactly the reason why to target him this year. An off year with injuries derailed the usual 25+/25+ or so season Sizemore has been known for in years past, so with an atypical batting average of .248 and a miniscule 13 stolen bases, drafters may overlook him in the early rounds of a draft and choose someone without the bad set of numbers. However, he is entering into his age 27 season and that combined with better health means that Sizemore still has plenty of time to build back up to the potential 30/30 numbers fantasy sports fans have expected. Consider pointing out his poor numbers and injury history to other managers on draft day and see if you can nab him a little bit later than usual.
|Jake Westbrook (R)||1-2||3.12||1.15||19||7||34.2||in 2008|
|Fausto Carmona (R)||5-12||6.32||1.76||79||70||125.1|
|Justin Masterson (R)||4-10||4.52||1.45||119||60||129.1|
|David Huff (L)||11-8||5.61||1.56||65||41||128.1|
|Aaron Laffey (L)||7-9||4.44||1.62||59||57||121.2|
Unsettled: Nothing. With Cliff Lee’s departure midseason, the Indians did not make an effort to go out and get a veteran arm or two to stabilize a young, worrisome staff. Ever since his fantastic 2007 season, Carmona has been a five-plus ERA train wreck. Masterson showed some brilliance on the Red Sox, but has been quite pedestrian since his arrival with the Indians. Huff and Laffey round out the wait-and-see rotation that will likely interchange a few members as the season goes on based on performance. Carlos Carrasco is the sixth man, but until he proves that he can be consistently effective, he will likely be the one waiting for someone else to fail or get injured before he gets a permanent starting gig. Other than that, there is not much depth to this pitching staff and one would really have to root about to truly find anyone to consider bringing up from the minors.
Target: No one. This pitching staff is much too volatile to gamble on, unless you believe that Westbrook is all the way back from Tommy John surgery. Even if you do believe that, take note that he hasn’t had an ERA under 4 since 2004, so all you will likely get from him are numbers that you can probably get from healthier late round pitchers. The only arm that might be of interest is former prospect Carlos Carrasco, who despite not having a locked down spot in the rotation, may emerge later with some of the talent he has shown in the minors. He did struggle last season in limited duty with an 8.96 ERA and 1.00 K/BB ratio, so if one were to gamble on him make sure it’s in a late round and that there is plenty of bench room.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Kerry Wood (R)||20||4.25||1.38||63||28||55|
|Chris Perez (R)||2||4.26||1.19||68||27||57|
Chasing Saves: Kerry Wood is the man for the final inning, even if that is mostly due to his contract as well as a lack of potential options to replace him. Chris Perez was an exciting option in St. Louis for some time, but he has shown that he is not quite ready to take on an important role. Still, he’s only 25 years old and if he can return to his consistent performance from July and August it is conceivable that he could unseat Wood. However, until that happens, Wood will continue to teeter back and forth between effective and combustible.
It is clear that if one is going to have any Indians on their roster, it will likely be from the offense. Sizemore and Choo will be the first ones off the board due to their 20/20 potential, but after them it will be quite a few rounds before the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta are drafted. Both players have dual position eligibility in most leagues, but only Cabrera has shown that he can be a consistent contributor to a fantasy team with his strength of steals, doubles, and batting average. The pitching staff isn’t worth anyone’s time and Wood is a last resort closer for those in need of saves. The real investment for Indians is in their youth movement, for Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana could be fantasy mainstays beginning this season. Keep an eye on these three halfway through your draft and consider taking a chance on them, especially slugger-in-waiting LaPorta.
Evan Mauser is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Evan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MashinSpuds. He also writes a music blog when he isn't enraptured by baseball.
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