The Indians went all out this offseason to pick up some tremendous offensive talent increasing the power (Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds) and speed (Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourne). Along with the attributes that the Indians were trying to improve in, they added another. An incredible ability to swing and miss at a baseball.
Mark Reynolds is the most famous of the group of newcomers for this as he owns the single season major league record for strike outs with 223 in 2009. To keep him from breaking his own record the next year, he was benched at the end of the season by the Arizona Diamondbacks, leading him to the number two mark with 211 (since passed by Adam Dunn in 2012). Of course, the 2009 record beat out his previous MLB record of 204 in 2008. Right now, Reynolds owns four of the top ten worst strike out seasons in the history of Major League Baseball. He will be the starting DH this year and should play in more than 140 games as he attempts to break his own record yet again.
Another newcomer is also in the top ten single season records as Drew Stubbs 2011 season comes in fourth with 205. Stubbs will be in a much better position than ever before as he will not be hitting lead-off for the Indians leading to less at bats and less important at bats. He will be much more likely to see more fast balls by pitchers just looking to get a bottom of the lineup hitter out as quickly as possible.
All-in-all, the Indians look to be adding a wind storm of new strike outs to the 2013 lineup. In order to celebrate what could be a record year, Burning River Baseball will be running a strike out tracker throughout the season, tallying the total times Indians batters k. The current record for a team is 1,529 by the 2010 Diamondbacks (the AL record is held by the 2007 Devil Rays with 1,324).
Using some very simple forcasting of the upcoming season, based solely on past performance and projected games played, the Indians should strike out about 1,210 times. While this isn't that close to the MLB record, it is near the Indians team record of 1,269 from 2011. There is also a good chance of either Reynolds or Stubbs breaking Jim Thome's single season record of 185 strike outs (2001). Thome also ranks second and third with his 1999 and 2000 seasons (as well as coming in 10th, 11th and 12th). In a way, this season will be an interesting experiment of the importance of strike outs. If the Indians can score more than five runs a game, it shouldn't matter that Stubbs and Reynolds each strike out more than once a game or that Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourne and Nick Swisher each strike out at least three times every four games.
Stick with us for the whole season and keep an eye on the side of the site as we track each and every Indians strike out in the 2013 season. As they break each individual record, we will update the goal, starting with the 2011 Indians record of 1,269, followed by the Rays AL record of 1,324, then the Diamondbacks MLB record of 1,529.
Drew Stubbs will be powering the windmill on top of Progressive Field in 2013.no comments
Continuing from 2012, Burning River Baseball will be bringing you the Cleveland Indians Player Power Rankings. This is essentially a way to keep track of which players are performing above and below expectations. This first list is to set preseason expectations, while the rest will also include the players change in ranking from month to month and a rating of whether they were above or below expectations.
1. Jason Kipnis
Despite the many millions of dollars spent in the offseason, the most exciting player on the Indians was one that was already here. Kipnis lead the Indians offense last year with 76 RBI and 31 steals. In this years offense, he should be able to be less of a run producer and more of a table setter. Expect a drop in RBI, but an increase in average (around .290) and runs (100 or more) with more potent hitters batting behind him.
2. Carlos Santana
Like Kipnis, Santana was both here last year and will benefit from the increased Indians offensive prowess. He lead the Indians in home runs last year, but probably will not after the additions of Reynolds and Swisher. Chances are he will see more good strikes as well, which may lead to him walking less, but hitting for a higher average and more power than the past. Expect 20 or more home runs, a .275 average and a slight increase in RBI (in the mid 80s). Santana will also probably play less games now that the Indians have a real DH and first baseman.
3. Nick Swisher
Newcomer Swisher is the most talented new batter and has a good chance to lead the team in RBI in the upcoming season. He will be thrown right into the heart of the lineup, batting third or fourth, in front of Reynolds and behind Kipnis. Look for a decrease in his overall numbers from the past few seasons as the Indians lineup can't compare to the Yankees team he has been playing for. He will still be among the best hitters on the team though and should knock in between 80 and 90 runs with an average around .260.
4. Justin Masterson
While his scary Spring may bring some reservations, Masterson is still the ace of this team until proven otherwise. A positive outlook would see Masterson pitch 200 innings, strike out 175 and hold an ERA around 3.50. A more reasonable person should expect the innings with 25 less k's and an ERA above 4.50. As the ace, he warrants a ranking this high on the Power Rankings, but don't expect him to stay here very long.
5. Michael Bourne
Bourne will be the Indians new lead-off hitter and center fielder. He, along with Stubbs, looks to bring the steal back into style in Cleveland and could threaten to become the first base runner with 40 steals since Omar Vizquel took 42 in 1999. That looks to be about his ceiling however, so don't expect him to come near Kenny Lofton's record of 75. On base percentage (expect around .333) may be a concern as Bourne doesn't walk much and hits for an average batting average (somewhere in the middle .270s).
6. Michael Brantley
The Indians old center fielder is moving to left field and is almost the complete opposite at the plate from Bourne. Brantley is the Indians most likely hitter to break .300 this year, something no Indians hitter has done since Shin-Soo Choo in 2010. Brantley (and the Indians lineup as a unit) will benefit greatly by hitting in the bottom half instead of the top. He should see a massive increase in runs (closer to 80 than the 63 times he scored in 2012), depending on where he bats and could also knock in more runs and hit more home runs (around 10) as he continues with his career progression.
7. Mark Reynolds
Another new addition, Reynolds immediately becomes the Indians premier power threat and will hopefully give the Indians their first 30+ home run hitter since Grady Sizemore in 2008. The Indians have been completely devoid of power for years, but finally bought some in Reynolds and Swisher. Reynolds is also a right handed hitter, another scarcity in former Indians teams.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera will remain as the Indians short stop, just one of the three position players (along with Santana and Kipnis) maintaining their position from last year's Opening Day. He has regressed from his amazing 2011 season and hit his stride. Expect his numbers to remain similar to past seasons (.275 average with 10 to 15 home runs). His emphasis should be on his defense, which has fallen off over the past two seasons to the point he could be considered a liability. His range is simply not good enough to make up for his 19 errors last year. With the improved offense around him, Cabrera doesn't need to worry about knocking in runs and should focus on preventing them instead.
9. Vinnie Pestano
Pestano will be the Indians primary set-up man again in 2013 after being utterly dominant in his first two seasons. He is shaping up to be the greatest relief pitcher in Indians history and will look to set a new franchise record for holds this season (he is 25 away). He set the single season mark last year with 36. While bullpens can be one of the more fickle parts of a baseball team, Pestano can be expected to maintain most of his excellence and, combined with Perez, should shorten the game to seven innings when the Indians get a lead.
10. Chris Perez
Perez is still the Indians closer, despite a great season by Pestano and another Spring Training injury. Despite missing almost all of the Spring, Perez says he will be ready for Opening Day. Since Perez was able to save 39 games last year on a poor Indians team he should threaten Jose Mesa's single season save record if he remains the closer all year.
11. Lonnie Chisenhall
The Chiz Kid is finally starting at third base without the light hitting, poor gloved Jack Hannahan holding him back. Without the new additions, Chisenhall would be thrust into the middle of the lineup with pressure put on him both offensively and defensively. Now, he will be able to bat in the lower third of the order and focus on just getting on base, rather than actually producing runs. The RBI should come for Lonnie however and Indians fans can expect an average around .275 with up to 60 RBI. His power numbers should be interesting as he has hit the ball hard this Spring and at all minor league levels. His upside seems to be around 20 home runs, but since this is his first full big league season it is hard to tell.
12. Brett Myers
Myers is one of two starters new to the Indians staff this year and will be playing the role of Derek Lowe from last year's saga. He should be a considerable improvement from Lowe, but will still provide some veteran solidarity in the middle of the rotation. If all goes as planned, Myers would be the first pitcher to get pushed to the bullpen to make room for the phenom Trevor Bauer.
13. Drew Stubbs
The starting right fielder, Stubbs is another new player and converted center fielder. He is an all or nothing hitter, capable of impressive power and even more impressive strike out totals. He may be the Indians ninth batter, helping him reduce his strike out totals if pitchers follow Bob Feller's old adage of making the ninth batter just put the ball in play. Expect his strike out numbers (166) to maintain, despite an increase in playing time as well as a large increase in RBI as he is now batting behind his team's best players instead of in front of them.
14. Zach McAllister
McAllister is the number four starter and deservedly so after an impressive rookie campaign in 2012. In 22 starts he held an ERA just over 4.20, so his biggest struggle in 2013 will be increasing his innings load to around 200 while maintaining or lowering his ERA. If he can keep things even, he will give the improved Indians offense a chance to win every time out, which is all that will be asked of the Tribe's fourth starter.
15. Joe Smith
The Indians bullpen is the most tried and true part of the team and Smith is a huge part of that. With solid pitchers on either side of him, Smith is slated to be used as a right handed specialist, rather than a full inning pitcher. With two left handers (Hagadone and Hill) in the bullpen, the Indians will be a little more flexible than in the past, allowing them to match up against a lineup that alternates the handedness of it's hitters.
16. Cody Allen
Allen is moving into his second year and his first full professional season. He only spent parts of a single season in the minors after being drafted in 2011 and is already a trusted member of the bullpen. With questionable pitchers Tony Sipp and Esmil Rogers removed, this year's pen is even stronger than last years. That means Allen will be able to be used in low stress situations to make sure he is as good as he looked early on. His success this year could lead to a trade of Perez more than anything else as Pestano is ready to become the closer, but there is no obvious replacement for Pestano as set-up man.
17. Ubaldo Jimenez
After the travesty of a season Jimenez had in 2012, he doesn't deserve to sit any higher on this list, even though he is the number two starter. Jimenez may be the single most important player on the team when considering whether or not the Indians will make the playoffs. If he is on, he can be one of the best pitchers in the league, but when he is off, he makes it impossible for his team to win. He should be on a short leash after last season with Bauer itching to get back to the Majors.
18. Nick Hagadone
Hagadone has been one of the Indians top prospects and will be given his first chance to start the season with the team. The depth of the bullpen along with the availability of Hill make it seem that he will be used almost exclusively in single hitter match-ups. Once he proves he can excel against left handed hitters, he may be used in more lengthy outings. This Spring Hagadone threw 8 innings and struck out 11 without giving up a single run.
19. Mike Aviles
Aviles is the super-utility man that the Indians have always dreamed of and will be tasked with being the back-up at third base, short stop, second base and outfield after the release of Ezequiel Carrera. Rayburn is also available at third, second and the corner outfield spots, but is inferior offensively. Aviles should get to play at least a few games each week and may be used as a pinch runner late in games as he is the fastest player on the bench. His versatility will also help in this matter as he should be able to replace almost everyone in the field.
20. Bryan Shaw
Shaw came along with Stubbs in the Shin-Soo Choo trade and looks to be a definite upgrade in the bullpen. He is a young pitcher going into his third season and has a 3.18 ERA in almost 100 appearances. He looks like he should fit right in with the Indians bullpen, but will likely be used in low pressure situations early on as he shouldn't be needed in close games with Pestano, Perez, Smith and Hagadone available.
21. Rich Hill
Like Hagadone, Hill has had a perfect Spring through almost 8 innings. The former Cub, Oriole and Red Sox was a starter until 2010 when he signed with the Sox. His 2009 season was the only year since his great 2007 campaign that he pitched more than 20 innings, so this will be a big test to see if Hill has the stamina to be a reliever for an entire season. He certainly seems healthy and ready to pitch and the Indians using him as a left handed match-up reliever should aid him by slowly moving him into a full time role.
22. Matt Albers
Albers was the second reliever to come over in the Choo deal and was one of the last pitchers added to the bullpen. Like Shaw, he was strong last year for the Diamondbacks, finishing with a 2.39 ERA in 60 innings. As the old man (30) in the pen, he may be the first out when the Indians start making moves the first week of the season. Fifth starter Scott Kazmir is not being placed on the roster until April 6th, so the Indians need to drop a pitcher by that date.
23. Ryan Raburn
While Rayburn could be a diamond-in-the-rough, it is more likely that he will flop, just like he has in the past. In his last three Springs, he has hit at least four home runs and 11 RBI, but in 2012 he failed to accomplish in an entire season what he did in a single month in March. Expect an average below his career average of .250 and an OBP below .300. With all the talent on the roster, he will likely be used very sparingly, especially once another hitter is brough up after the first week of the season (see #25).
24. Lou Marson
In the biggest mistake of the 2013 roster, Marson will be returning as back-up catcher. The good news for the Indians is that with no other position for Santana to play, Marson will probably play less than his 70 games played in 2012. Expect his usual horridness along the lines of a .200 average with no home runs and very few RBI.
25. Carlos Carrasco
Carrasco is the defaul last player listed as he is only on the 25 man roster to serve a six game suspension he earned two years ago. Once he serves his suspension it is likely he will be headed back to AAA and a batter will be recalled to take his place as the Indians are carrying an extra pitcher. Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi are the two top choices for his replacement.
#22 is the Indians #1 going into 2013no comments
Your 2013 Cleveland Indians:
C: Carlos Santana
1B: Nick Swisher
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
LF: Michael Brantley
CF: Michael Bourne
RF: Drew Stubbs
DH: Mark Reynolds
MIF: Mike Aviles
CIF: Ryan Rayburn
C2: Lou Marson
SP1: Justin Masterson
SP2: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP3: Brett Myers
SP4: Zach McAllister
SP5: Scott Kazmir (Not on 25 Man Roster)
CP: Chris Perez
SU: Vinnie Pestano
RHRP: Joe Smith
LHRP: Nick Hagadone
RP5: Cody Allen
RP6: Bryan Shaw
RP7: Matt Albers
RP8: Rich Hill
6 Games: Carlos Carrasco
15 Day: Jason Giambi
60 Day: Josh Tomlin
60 Day: Blake Wood
For those who did the math, yes, there are 26 players listed for the 25 man roster. This is because #5 starter, Scott Kazmir is not going to be placed on the 25 man roster until his first start, April 6th. The Indians will need to make a move prior to that day to free up a spot for Kazmir. Carlos Carrasco is only going to be on the roster for six games to fulfill his suspension, then is scheduled to be demoted to AAA Columbus after the game on April 7th. A final move the Indians are planning on making is to add Giambi to the roster on or after April 9th when he becomes eligible. It seems that the Indians made up his back injury to buy them some more time while Carrasco is serving his suspension, following which Giambi will be added to the roster.no comments
Moving into the last two weeks of Spring Training (3/14-3/21), things are sorting themselves out. B games have started, allowing more players to play more innings and starting pitchers are pitching through the fifth inning. The World Baseball Classic is over (congratulations to the Dominican Republic) and massive cuts have occurred, making the actual lineups of Spring Training games resemble those of the upcoming regular season more accurately.
The biggest cuts this week were two pitchers who were expected to compete for a job on the 25 man roster. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Matt Capps were deemed unready for the regular season, but have been given invitations to play for the Columbus Clippers until they are ready. Matsuzaka has already accepted and fully expects to join the Indians starting rotation at some point in time during the year. With the moves there are only about five roster spots to be decided.
Along with the cuts, many more minor league players have been playing in Spring Training games to take up the extra at bats. The most impressive single at bat coming from Delvi Cid who hit a game-winning, walk-off triple against the Giants on a Saturday night that featured the greatest single crowd in the history of Goodyear Ballpark. That was Cid's only at bat of the Spring after spending all of 2012 in Advanced A. Tyler Holt, Carlos Moncrief and Francisco Lindor have all played a little as well and have played admirably.
In addition to the youngsters, the regulars have also been playing well, with a few stand-outs. Lonnie Chisenhall has been a leading producer of the offense this Spring, going into the last week with 4 home runs, 12 RBI and a .786 SLG. Newcomer Nick Swisher has also shown some power with a .675 slugging percent of his own.
There are a few competitions still left in camp, but clear favorites are emerging. Yan Gomes is destroying Lou Marson for the back-up catcher role with a 1.141 OPS compared to Marson's .745. To compare to a player mentioned earlier, Chisenhall has a slugging percent higher than Marson's on base plus slugging.
On the other side of the ball, three pitchers deserve special recognition for being perfect to this point. Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill and Scott Kazmir (all competing for the left-handed reliever specialist role) have yet to give up a run in at least six innings each. Justin Masterson has been on the other end of the spectrum posing some cause for worry with an ERA above 6.00 in more than 10 innings. Kazmir will pitch tonight against the Diamondbacks and if he pitches well, it is likely he will be named the fifth starter as soon as tomorrow. Carlos Carrasco has simply not put up the type of quality innings that Terry Francona would like to see and may begin the season in AAA with Trevor Bauer and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Some of the other players struggling to make the team have been among those with the most at bats. Cord Phelps has been impressive, but looks to be on the outside looking in. Ryan Rayburn and Chris McGuiness are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Rayburn has had a great Spring with a team leading four home runs and 11 RBI, but is infamous for being terrible during the regular season and is likely well past his peak. McGuiness has had an awful Spring, but as a rule 5 pick, needs to be returned to his former club if he is not on the 25 man roster. At this point (.244 OBP in 37 at bats) it looks like McGuiness, who has never played above AA, is simply not ready and will not make it through the entire season with the Tribe. They would probably be better served just to let him go now and not waste the roster spot. It is possible they let Mike McDade go too early as he remains among the leaders in batting average (.400) and RBI (10), despite being cut a week ago. If McGuiness is released at some point, expect the Indians to forgo the corner infield reserve player and carry an extra pitcher.
McGuiness has a Major League glove with a Minor League bat.no comments
There was nobody raising their eyebrows when Terry Francona announced that Justin Masterson would be the opening day starter when the Indians start the season in Toronto. With a starting rotation that is less than stellar on paper, selecting Masterson was the right choice entering the season. He stands to be important if this year’s Indians are to make a run for the playoffs. Masterson, who seems he has been in the majors forever, will probably be there for a while longer, as he’s only 27 and as he’s demonstrated that he can throw 200 reasonable innings every year. But is Masterson a true number 1 starter?
Conveniently, his entire big-league career has come during the PITCHf/x era. If you look at Masterson’s breakdown of pitches thrown in his career, he features a sinking fastball, which he throws around 85% of the time and a slider, which he throws around 17% of the time. He doesn’t feature a third pitch or at least another pitch to keep hitters honest. These uneven ratios and lack of a third pitch concerns me whether he is qualified to be a number 1 starter, or a starter at all. Unless one of your pitches is so far superior like a Steve Carlton slider or a Dwight Gooden curveball, most starting pitchers can’t get away with just throwing two pitches. Even Nolan Ryan with his 100 mph fastball threw three pitches. With Masterson’s three-quarter arm angle and propensity to throw groundballs, he would be an ideal relief pitcher. Also, as a reliever, you only need to have two pitches anyway since you are only facing hitters one time through the lineup. For his career, Masterson has a 3.26 ERA as a reliever and a 4.28 ERA as a starter. I know the Indians are short on starting pitching, but they should do the smart thing and put Masterson in the bullpen.
Masterson though, of all the starters, seems to have the most potential to "bounce back." He has been top seven among qualified pitchers in ground ball rate in each of the last three years, and, as a result, he has also been top 20 in ISO allowed in those three years. That ability to prevent hard contact and extra base hits is probably one of the three most important run prevention skills. As for the other two, the ability to strike batters out and the ability to avoid putting them on base for free, Masterson has about a league average strikeout rate for his career, but his ability to limit free passes has been below average as his career BB% is 9.2% (3.58 BB/9).
Another reason Masterson will probably have a "bounce back" year in terms of marginally improved statistics is that we’ve seen what he can be when he keeps the walks under control. He cut his walk rate down to 7.2% in 2011, and his ERA was an impressive 3.21. His SIERA and xFIP were both in the mid-three’s, but with his ability to induce weak contact, Masterson can outperform the ERA estimators when he limits the walks. Masterson's ERA problems have come from an uptick in the HR/FB and BB% areas. If his ERA normalizes without those two elements improving, he's a fringe SP at best anyway.
For the sake of the 2013 season, I hope Masterson proves himself as a legitimate 1 starter. If not, it will be another long season.no comments
About half way through Spring Training (3/6-3/13), all the news is based around injuries and cuts. Chris Perez is progressing nicely through his shoulder rehab and has started throwing on the side, but will most likely not pitch again in a game in Goodyear. Michael Brantley is also doing better and rejoined the Indians lineup on Sunday. He should have no problem making Opening Day in Toronto. Blake Wood, a waiver claim from Kansas City, had elbow surgery and was placed on the 60 Day DL. He will miss all of 2013. Frank Herrmann also had elbow (Tommy John) surgery and will be out for the entire year. Mark Reynolds has returned from his time off and finally played in a game on Wednesday. Finally, Daisuke Matsuzaka was pulled from Monday's game with cramping in his calf. The severity of this injury is not yet known.
The biggest cut so far was Ben Francisco, who was immediately signed by the New York Yankees. Most of the other cuts were minor leaguers already on the 40 man roster that were sent to AAA camp. These players never had much of a chance of going north with the big league team, but may be seen later this season. The biggest non-40 man cut was probably Matt LaPorta who never got to play in a game this Spring. With the cuts and injuries, one player did move up as well when Rich Hill was added to the 40 man roster. Hill has pitched 5 innings this Spring and is yet to give up a run, while striking out five. He could be used as the 8th man in the bullpen as a long-man or could be an extra lefty in addition to Nick Hagadone.
The Indians played pretty well this week, despite poor weather and the loss of the World Baseball Classic players. The team went 3-1-1 with one cancelation. The pitching has been especially impressive over that time with two shut outs including great starts by Scott Kazmir (0 ER allowed in 8 IP this Spring) and Justin Masterson. Ubaldo Jimenez had a nice start as well, throwing 5 innings on Wednesday (3/13) against the White Sox while allowing just two runs.
The WBC Indians have played well for their home countries, but the first one is already back, with Asdrubal Cabrera returning for Wednesday's game after Venezuela was knocked out in round one. Vinnie Pestano, Mike Aviles, Giovanni Soto and Carlos Santana all moved on to round two in Miami and will miss at least a few more games as their teams continue to strive for the championship.
Rich Hill now has a "leg-up" on the competition.no comments
The Indians second week (2/28-3/5) started out a little less impressively than the first with a 10-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. More bad news came shortly after as Chris Perez hurt his shoulder and will miss the rest of Spring Training (for the second season in a row). Frank Herrmann is also out for the remainder of the Spring, virtually eliminating him from bullpen consideration. He may miss the entire season if surgery is needed to repair his elbow.
The next few games saw the Indians offense return scoring 35 runs over the next five games. Mike McDade deserves another mention this week as he has outplayed all his competition for the corner infield bench spot. So far in March he has batted .455 in five games, knocking in three runs. If the competition for the last bench spot is truly a fair competition, McDade should easily beat out Jason Giambi (0/11 this Spring) and Chris McGuiness (.111 AVG in ten games). His 9 RBI this Spring lead the team.
The Indians should also be excited about the known starters heating up as well. Nick Swisher (.875 AVG in March) has caught on fire this past week with 6 RBI in his last 8 at bats as has Lonnie Chisenhall with 5 RBI of his own. Jason Kipnis started off slow this Spring bat has batted over .300 the past week and looks to be getting into regular season form.
Five starting pitchers have made their third appearance this Spring with Trevor Bauer standing out as best right now. He has given up just four hits in seven innings and only two earned runs. It probably won't matter how he performs this Spring overall as Terry Francona likely has already decided where he will start the regular season. Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka have also both pitched well to this point, leading to a stiff competition for the Indians final open rotation spot.
The next week will see Vinnie Pestano, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Aviles, Giovanni Soto, special instructor Carlos Baerga and MiLB manager Edwin Rodriguez leave camp for the World Baseball Classic. All except Pestano will be traveling to Puerto Rico to compete in division C where Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Spain and the home club, Puerto Rico. The first round in Japan has already ended with team Brazil (sans Yan Gomes) finished 0-3. These players leaving will allow the Indians to give more at bats to players like Gomes and Lou Marson to help decide the final positional battles.
Asdrubal is leaving, but McDade is still here.no comments
According to Yahoo! sports, Tribe closer Chris Perez could be sidelined anywhere between 3-4 weeks because of a strained shoulder. He will not throw for the next week to 10 days.
Perez pitched an inning Tuesday during a 4-1 loss to Kansas City and felt pain in the shoulder Thursday. He said the injury is not as serious as the strain he suffered last spring to a muscle on his left side in his first bullpen session on Feb 23.
The 2013 Cleveland Indians outfield will be the most different part of the team when compared to 2012. Shin-Soo Choo, who has been the starting right fielder since 2008 has been traded to Cincinnati, making Asdrubal Cabrera the longest tenured starter on the Indians (at shortstop since 2009). The left fielder will also be new as the three main left fielders from 2012 (Johnny Damon [retired], Shelley Duncan [Rays] and Aaron Cunningham [Rangers]) have all been released.
This makes the only remaining outfielder Michael Brantley, but he will not be returning to center field. The Indians made a huge splash in the free agent market just before camp opened, signing former Atlanta Brave centerfielder Michael Bourne to be the new centerfielder. Also in the Choo trade the Indians acquired new outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds. Stubbs will be playing his fifth season and has never played anywhere but centerfield. He has a tendency to strike out (leading the NL in 2011), but provides a constant steal threat.
Brantley had his best season in 2012, knocking in 60 and batting .288, both far above his previous career highs. For defensive purposes, the Indians would probably be best suited to use Brantley in left with Stubbs in right because of the difference in arm strength. All three outfielders are similar players but they do have significant differences. Stubbs has the most power, but the worst average and the highest tendency to strike out. Brantley is in the middle as far as power goes, but is the only one of the three who doesn't strike out constantly and knows how to take a walk. Bourne is the best baserunner and the only one of the three to ever win a Gold Glove or attend an All-Star game.
The biggest improvement in the outfield this year will be speed. Replacing the old and slow left fielders with Stubbs is essentially adding 30 steals a season and Bourne can be expected to steal at least 40 more bases than Choo would have. Defensively the outfield will look completely different as well with no more bumbling and stumbling in left. With these three speedsters in the outfield there should be a significant decrease in fly balls hitting the ground.
The reserve outfielder is likely to be the same as in 2011 and 2012, Ezequiel Carrera. He is incredibly fast and generally good with the glove, although he does have a tendency to lose himself from time to time. While the Indians have a few other outfield options, none are as ready as Carrera. One other intriguing option is former Indian Ben Francisco, who is returning as a Spring Training invitee. Rule five pick Chris McGuiness is another possibility although he hasn't actually played outfield yet. The Tribe could carry two outfielders, using Mike Aviles as the back-up at every infield position, especially if they keep a corner outfielder/infielder like McGuiness. The team flexibility will be as good as it gets with four outfielders on the roster who can play any outfield position and another who can play first base as well as right field. Even Mike Aviles, who will be the utility infielder can play outfield in a pinch. This will leave Terry Francona free to maneuver in game with pinch hitters/runners without worrying about a defensive replacement being available.
Brantley will have to get used to a new position and new teammates in 2013.no comments