Offense: Michael Bourn-CF, Asdrubal Cabrera-SS, Jason Kipnis-2B, Nick Swisher-1B, Michael Brantley-LF, Carlos Santana-C, Mark Reynolds-DH, Lonnie Chisenhall-3B, Drew Stubbs-RF. Bench: Lou Marson-C, Ryan Raburn-2B/OF, Mike Aviles-UTIL.
CLE R/G: 4.38. CHW R/G: 3.88.
Michael Bourn may have been the true victim of the Great Minnesota Center Field Exodus as it seemingly robbed him of any good destination to sign with, landing him in Cleveland. I'm sorry Michael. It's not your fault. Bourn will be interesting to watch, as he's a 30-year-old whose entire value is tied up in speed. Until he starts losing that first step though he will be very frustrating both on the bases (top five in the league in SB the past three years) and in the field, where he can get to just about every ball. He's a solid choice at the top of the lineup as well, since he walks more than your standard slap-hitting center fielder. In a rather shocking development, Asdrubal Cabrera didn't magically crack the 20 homerun barrier again last year. I was just as stunned as you were. He probably won't ever repeat the power numbers of his 2011 season, but if he can hang around the .332 wOBA he managed to put up last season he'll be valuable at short stop. Which is good, because he is kind of terrible at playing short stop.
Most teams wouldn't think to hit a player who slugged under .380 the previous year third in their lineup, but most teams aren't the Indians. Jason Kipnis is continually being plugged into that three hole and has been off to a horrible start thus far. How horrible you ask? His OPS is lower (.403) is lower than Alex Rios' batting average. He will bounce back once the hits start falling and there is plenty to like about having a 15-15 second baseman that plays good defense. He's got a decent eye (despite current stats) and could develop into a bit more power. One brief tour of duty in the AL Central was not enough for Nick Swisher. He returns. The Ohio native was recruited heavily by Cleveland because they haven't had a regular first baseman that could actually hit since Ryan Garko. Ryan freaking Garko. Did you even remember he existed? It's like when your parents mention the name of someone you used to play little league with. You don't remember the name or the person. Just that they were. Swish isn't going to be as productive as he has been over the past few seasons, partially due to aging, partially to stadium effects, and partially due to the fact that he'll need to hit better as a first baseman than a right fielder. He'll still hit tons of doubles and draw lots of walks, but the homerun numbers will decrease.
Michael Brantley was somehow an above average hitter last season (OPS+ 113). I ... I just don't know anymore. He draws enough walks to have a good OBP, but he has no power and isn't a good thief. He's only okay in the field and I don't understand how this offense is off to such a good start. MICHAEL BRANTLEY SHOULD NOT BE BATTING 5TH IN ANY LINEUP. Carlos Santana on the other hand is awesome and should be batting higher and no I don't just love him because his name and the fact that he's been my keeper for four seasons now. Last year was a letdown for Santana's power numbers, but he cut down greatly on strikeouts without losing any walks, so wash? I expect the power to all come back this season and he has been killing it so far. He's average at throwing out base runners and will spend more time at first base than most catchers.
Along with Bourn and Santana, Mark Reynolds is carrying the team's offense. Reynolds will probably lead the team in homeruns, as he's the only hitter in this lineup with a real shot at hitting 30. The problem with him is the same as it's always been though: he strikes out far too much and doesn't make enough contact to be a truly valuable hitter. You'd expect someone with a career 11.8% BB% to have a career OBP higher than .332 but then again you wouldn't expect any team to bat Michael Brantley 5th and I'm sorry but I just cannot get past that. Reynolds is an absolute butcher in the field, but that will matter less in Cleveland since he should just be DHing though he may spend time at first and/or third in a pinch. Lonnie Chisenhall just feels like an Indians prospect in the fact that you've been hearing about him seemingly forever and are still waiting for him to actually do something. His good batting eye didn't follow him up from AAA though, which is hindering his overall usefulness. He's got what should develop into 15-20 homerun power and plays a good third, but if his BB/K doesn't improve he'll never be more than just a complementary player. Drew Stubbs offers the chance of cheap power and speed with good defense, but once pitchers discovered his inability to make contact with pitches he became expendable. Which is how you go from playing center field for the Reds to playing right field in Cleveland.
Pitching: Justin Masterson-RHP, Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP, Brett Myers-RHP, Zach McAllister-RHP, Carlos Carrasco-RHP, Chris Perez-CL.
CLE RA/G: 6.00. CHW RA/G: 4.00.
This is one of the ugliest rotations you will see this season. Just hideous all over. Justin Masterson is the best pitcher in this rotation and would be a fine third starter on any team. But he's the ace here. Which says a lot. It's beginning to look like his 2011 was the outlier though and his 2010/2012 version is the real him. He's an extreme groundballer that gets punished when his pitches don't sink. He has a mid-90s four-seamer, a strong sinker, and a slider. Ubaldo Jimenez is the rare pitcher who somehow thrived with the Rockies and has just been a mess since leaving Colorado. Most of this could be blamed on his incredibly diminished velocity, but he's also given up many more homeruns while walking more hitters, which is about as good a combo as alcohol and a sexual attraction to lawnmower blades. Baldy throws a four-seamer that now sits in the low-90s (no longer the beautiful 96+ MPH pitch it once was), a sinker, a slider, and a splitter.
We all know Brett Myers from his brief stay in our bullpen last summer. Terry Francona will be using him as a starter this summer, which Myers has done acceptably in the not-too-distant past. The problem is that he's now older and age hates pitchers. He's a groundball pitcher who has hilariously given up seven homeruns already this season. He gave up eight all of last year. Brett throws a low-90s four-seamer, a curveball, and a changeup. Zach McAllister is one of those pitchers you won't remember in a few years. He's okay, in a back of a terrible rotation kind of way, but nothing to write about. He's got a low-90s four-seamer, a slider, a cutter, and a changeup and nothing terribly interesting to talk about.
Something named Corey Kluber appears to have temporarily taken Carlos Carrasco's place in the rotation, like some sort of pod person. He did alright at AAA last year, but he's 27-years-old now and is pretty much what he's going to be though it appears he finally developed some control. He's got a lower-90s fastball/sinker, a cutter, a changeup and a slider. Chris Perez somehow has not managed to upset the fans in Cleveland enough to be shipped out by the management, which still astounds and amazes me. He's a good pitcher, but there are other options in the bullpen that could likely do just as well without making everyone angry. Perez's fastball has been a bit slower this season, though that could just be a funky (and awesome) outlier. He also uses a slider.
Outlook: The Indians did a lot to improve their offense this winter and Trevor Bauer gives them the chance of having a legitimate ace in the near future. But the problem is we live in the present. I'm stuck in Kansas and the rotation in Cleveland is terrible. Both things will change by 2015. Sox win the season series 12-7.