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There is Hope on the Horizon in Cleveland

It took a little longer than expected, but the Cleveland Indians finally recalled prized offensive prospect Matt LaPorta on Wednesday. The first-baseman-turned-outfielder received a brief taste of the Majors back in May but he hit just .190/.286/.286 in 42 at-bats. Sent back down to triple-A, the 24-year-old former No. 1 draft pick (by Milwaukee) hit .299/.388/.530 with 17 homers in 338 at-bats. Prior to his recall, LaPorta was hitting .333 with four homers and eight walks in his past 10 games.

With the trade-deadline deal that sent Ryan Garko to San Francisco, as well as the continued shoulder woes plaguing Travis Hafner, there are plenty of at-bats available for LaPorta if Cleveland wishes to plug him in at first base or designated hitter. The club also currently has just three outfielders on the big league roster – including LaPorta, whose third best position is probably left field (behind DH and 1B). With the club’s playoff hopes non-existent, there should be lots of time for LaPorta to audition for a regular gig in 2010, which he deserves regardless of how well he hits in the final five weeks of the season. Despite his earlier MLB troubles, LaPorta projects to be an offensive force in the Majors with the potential to hit 25-30 homers.

Given the state of the big-league club in 2009, Cleveland fans will probably have to endure a rebuilding effort in 2010. The club lacks the veteran presence on the roster to make a significant playoff push next year and the organization does not have the money needed to bring in high-priced free agent talent (not that a lot of it is available this winter). On the plus side, though, the team brought in a lot of young, affordable talent at the trade deadline and now quite possibly has one of the top three minor league systems in all of baseball.

Some of the prospects that should be ready to contribute in 2010 include: catchers Carlos Santana and Lou Marson, infielders Wes Hodges and Jason Donald, outfielder Michael Brantley, and pitchers Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco, and perhaps Scott Barnes. The 2011 season should see another wave of key prospects reach the Majors, such as third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, as well as pitchers Nick Hagadone, Bryan Price, and Jeanmar Gomez. The 2009 season has been a disappointing one, and 2010 will probably be equally as tough, but the future is bright for the Indians.

And one final thought: Free Jordan Brown.