That’s the sound of the final nail in the coffin for the Cleveland Indian’s 2010 season. Already 11 games out of first and languishing at .365, the Indians lost star centerfielder Grady Sizemore for the season today. His knee surgery turned into microfracture surgery, and his early prognosis is for a six-to-nine month recovery period. It’s a tough ‘break’ for a franchise that can’t seem to buy good luck these days.
Dark humor aside, microfracture surgeries are no laughing matter. Ask Tracy McGrady and Chris Webber how their recovery went and you’ll get some nervous laughter and an evasive answer. The silver lining in this story is that Sizemore is still young (27) and he doesn’t have to jump thirty inches up and down on those knees on every other play in his sport. In fact, the combination of those two facts allows for at least some optimism in Cleveland. At least the problem was discovered, and sorted to the best of the surgeon’s abilities. Let’s leave it to the doctors report on his recovery.
Hopefully the injury can be blamed for his poor play this year and last, though his declining ISO is somewhat worrisome. Was his knee hurting in 2009? Did he just peak early in 2008? Will he ever regain that 30/30 form? In real baseball, the Indians may take the 2009 vintage and be happy with it. 112 wRC+ center fielders with plus defense don’t grow on trees. And truly, even fantasy owners should be happy if he comes back and plays to 2009’s level, but they won’t pay early-round prices for that production until he proves the power and speed are back. Still, he makes for an intriguing late-round pick in 2011 because of his immense upside, and certainly keeper league owners should not sell low.
So now what? The Indians will slog through the season and see what else the farm system has to offer at the center field position. Trevor Crowe will get continue to get first dibs on the interim position, and before long Micheal Brantley will get the call. In some ways, this may help the organizational health of the Indians by giving two players that have finished their minor league apprenticeships the chance to play every day in the major leagues. Perhaps they prove they can play every day and allow Cleveland to trade them for value elsewhere. Perhaps one of them proves that they can be a valuable fourth outfielder. Either way, they get a shot.
Crowe’s .276/.362/.391 minor league line doesn’t offer a ton of hope for an above-average regular, but his .813 OPS versus lefties could make him a good fourth outfielder or platoon option. His defense in center was around scratch in the minors according to Total Zone, and a scratch-defensive centerfielder that can hit lefties is not dog meat. At the major league level, he just needs to show he can walk like he did in the minors – his 5.5% walk rate to date is not cutting it.
Brantley is playing decently in the minor leagues currently (.306/.386/.373), but, like Crowe, doesn’t have Sizemore’s above-average (or better) power. For his career, he’s played better against righties (.301/.390/.372), so we may have the beginnings of a center field platoon once he’s called up. According to Total Zone, though, his defense has ranged from exceptional at centerfield (+16 in 2009) to abysmal (-21 in 2009). The book is still open on his ability to play the position at all, and it’s important because he doesn’t own any power to speak of.
Fantasy owners are left crying in their adult sodas at their neighborhood establishment. A 30/30 player will not be on the wire at this point, and they may have no solace for teams built on Sizemore’s speedy legs and powerful bat. If they are looking for help from the Cleveland team, Brantley may be the one to pick up, if only because he plays better against right handers and there are more of them.
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