StrategyFebruary 28, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

By Urban Cohorts

A collective sigh was heard across Cleveland on January 24, 2012. A week before that, Cleveland was celebrating the injury of Victor Martinez, an injury that would give the Indians a chance at winning the AL Central in 2012. But then January 24 rolled around and Prince Fielder ended up on the rival Tigers, dashing the Indians high hopes for a divisional title. All is not lost however. In 2011, the Indians finished in second place with a record of 80-82. Not a bad finish for a team that was riddled with injuries and under-performers. The year was certainly a step in the right direction after two previous seasons of awful baseball.

In 2012, the Indians are looking for their first winning season since topping the AL Central back in 2007. The Indians have a lot of question marks this year. Will their young talent (Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis) pan out? Will their former star players (Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore) return to glory? Is their starting rotation going to be competitive? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: this is going to be a fun team to watch in 2012!

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C Carlos Santana.239.351.4578427795552 
1B Casey Kotchman.306.378.4224410482500w/TB
2B Jason Kipnis.272.333.507247195136 
SS Asdrubal Cabrera.273.332.46087259217604 
3B Jack Hannahan.250.331.388388402320 
LF Michael Brantley.266.318.3846374613451 
CF Grady Sizemore.224.285.4223410320268DL?
RF Shin-Soo Choo.259.344.3903783612313 
DH Travis Hafner.280.361.4494113570325 

Unsettled: Third Base. Going into 2012, Jack Hannahan is the guy to beat for the hot corner role. Hannahan is the front runner for the starting job based solely on his defensive skills. He doesn’t offer much hitting wise with poor career stats across the board. Nipping at his heels is the 23-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall took over the 3B gig late in the season and posted decent power numbers, especially in September (4 HRs, .465 SLG). If he wins the job out of spring training, Chisenhall is a good late round speculation for some power at a tough-to-fill 3B position.

Target: Shin-Soo Choo. Choo missed some time in 2011 and didn’t post the best numbers (37-8-36-12-.259 in 313 AB) while he was healthy. However, the injury was due to a fluke (hit by a pitch that broke his thumb) and he was unlucky in regards to his BABIP (.317 in 2011 compared to a career average of .359). Choo currently has a MDP of 70 overall. This is definitely a bargain for a 29-year-old who was a top-35, five-category contributor back in 2009/2010.

The Rotation

Ubaldo Jimenez (R)10-134.681.4018078188.1w/2T
Justin Masterson (R)12-103.211.2815865216.0 
Josh Tomlin (R)12-74.251.088921165.1 
Derek Lowe (R)9-175.051.5113770187.0w/ATL
Kevin Slowey (R)0-86.671.4034559.1w/MIN

Unsettled: Fausto Carmona. Is it Fausto Carmona or Roberto Hernandez? Either way, he was placed on baseball’s restricted list after being arrested in the Dominican Republic due to false identity charges. There is no timetable for his return to MLB. Both Kevin Slowey and Derek Lowe were brought in to help fill the void at the back end of the rotation left by Carmona, but any way you slice this pie, you aren’t getting a very good piece.

Target: Ubaldo Jimenez. In Jimenez’s 11 games with the Indians last season, he posted a 4-4 record with a 5.10 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Take a good look at those terrible surface stats and then erase them from your memory. Jimenez was very unlucky while he pitched in Cleveland. His BABIP was .360 against and his strand rate was 66%. Both of those numbers should regress and bring his ERA and WHIP back to respectable levels. As for the statistics under his control, he actually improved quite a bit pitching in Cleveland. His K/9 rose, his BB/9 decreased, and his GB% went up. In fact, those numbers were almost identical to the numbers he posted back in his 2010 campaign. Jimenez is being drafted about 137th overall, with roughly 40 SPs being taken before him. There is major value to be gained there.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Chris Perez (R)363.321.21392659.2DL?
Vinnie Pestano (R)22.321.05842462.0 

Chasing Saves: Chris Perez closed out games for the tribe and racked up 36 saves in 2011. Don’t look for a repeat. While the save total was nice, Perez wasn’t impressive in 2011. He doesn’t strike many guys out, walks a few too many people, and gives up a lot of fly balls. Perez was lucky last year with a .240 BABIP against. If that goes up, his chances of keeping the closers role will go down. To top things off, Perez was recently diagnosed with a muscle strain and will miss 4-to-6 weeks, leaving his Opening Day status in doubt. Skipper Manny Acta has named Vinnie Pestano as the closer if Perez is not ready for the start of the season. Pestano had an impressive 2011; he struck out 84 batters in 62 innings with a respectable walk rate. If Pestano can handle the interim closer role, then Perez is going to have an extremely short leash.

Final Thoughts

Let’s be realistic here — the Indians probably won’t dethrone the Tigers in 2012. But the Tribe should improve upon their 2011 record, having their first winning season in five years. A Wild Card spot, while unlikely, is certainly possible. But a lot of pieces need to fall into place for that to happen. Choo and Jimenez need to return to their former elite status. Santana and Kipnis need to take a step forward. Hafner needs to play a full season. Cabrera and Masterson need to prove 2011 was not a fluke. Regardless, the Tribe should be a very fun team to watch in 2012 and beyond.

Matthew Law is an avid baseball fan living in the greater Boston area. He loves the Red Sox, video games, and the Roman Empire. He has proven to be indestructible- surviving after a truck crashed into him dead on.
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