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2010 Cleveland Indians Preview

Rotation
Jake Westbrook, RHP
Fausto Carmona, RHP
Justin Masterson, RHP
David Huff, LHP
Aaron Laffey, LHP

Closers and Setup
Kerry Wood, RHP
Chris Perez, RHP

Starting Lineup
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Jhonny Peralta, 3B
Travis Hafner, DH
Matt LaPorta, 1B
Michael Brantley, LF
Lou Marson, C
Luis Valbuena, 2B

Player in Decline

To be sure, Asdrubal Cabrera is a quality fantasy player. But his 2009 performance might be hard to repeat. He had a .362 BABIP, 20 points above his career average. There’s nothing wrong with targeting him, but expect a batting average closer to the .290 range than his .308 mark last year.

Player on the Rise

Looking for a cheap source of steals? Michael Brantley could be your man. The lefty batter won’t drive the ball, but he controls the strike zone and is a skilled base runner. Brantley swiped 46 bags at Triple-A last year. He’s an efficient base thief, too.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Grady Sizemore: Elite
Shin-Soo Choo: Average
Asdrubal Cabrera: Average
Matt LaPorta: Deep League
Justin Masterson: Deep League

Top 10 Prospects
1. Carlos Santana, C
2. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
3. Alex White, RHP
4. Nick Hagadone, LHP
5. Hector Rondon, RHP
6. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
7. Jason Knapp, RHP
8. T.J. House, LHP
9. Michael Brantley, OF
10. Alexander Perez, RHP

Overall team outlook: With Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez finding new zip codes last summer, the Indians organization is in full-blown rebuilding mode. The offense figures to be potent. However, the starting rotation is in disarray. There are talented arms on the cusp of the Majors and several more in the pipeline, but growing pains are inevitable.

The Starting Rotation: There might not be a less-settled unit in the Majors. Jake Westbrook, formerly a worm-killing, innings-eating control artist, looks to return from Tommy John surgery. His lack of whiffs limits his fantasy appeal, though. Have you seen Fausto Carmona’s sinker? He has lost all semblance of control since those midges swarmed him during the 2007 playoffs. Perhaps it was an omen. Speaking of sinkers, Justin Masterson has a nasty one that eats up righty batters. However, his low three-quarters release makes him vulnerable to lefties, and he must do a better job of limiting free passes.

David Huff is the best of Cleveland’s gaggle of low-upside lefties. His stuff isn’t great, but Huff has a strong minor league track record. Aaron Laffey, never one to miss bats, suffered an oblique injury and failed to paint the corners. Jeremy Sowers walked more batters than he whiffed last year, and he’s a fly-ball pitcher, too. Nothing to see here. Carlos Carrasco had an ugly big league intro, but he had a 3.30 K/BB ratio at Triple-A and has a nice fastball/change-up combo. The breaking stuff needs work. Mitch Talbot gets grounders and is stingy with the walks. He’s a big-league-ready fourth or fifth starter.

The Bullpen: Cleveland tossed considerable cash at Kerry Wood in free agency prior to the ’09 season, only to watch him struggle with his control and post a 4.15 FIP. His fastball was the culprit, as Wood’s mid-90s gas was 1.5 runs worse per 100 pitches than it was in 2008. Batters chose to let him back himself into a corner, swinging at few outside pitches. Wood should bounce back somewhat next year, but Chris Perez is breathing down his neck. Perez loses the strike zone at times, but the former Cardinals prospect has a sizzling fastball and slider, and punched out 10.7 hitters per nine frames last year.

The Starting Lineup: Matt LaPorta underwent hip and toe surgeries in October, so he might be behind as spring training opens. The key piece in the C.C. Sabathia swap, LaPorta has top-shelf power and a patient approach. Luis Valbuena showed more thump than expected, but he struggles against southpaws and will have to hold off Jason Donald. Though he’s likely to regress somewhat, Asdrubal Cabrera is a quality shortstop who added some steals to his game. Chopping the ball into the dirt more than 50% of the time, Jhonny Peralta had a power outage last season. He had trouble catching up to fastballs, as his performance against heat declined by a run per 100 pitches seen compared to 2008.

Michael Brantley has limited pop, but he’s a burner with a clue at the plate. You’ll never have another chance to acquire Grady Sizemore at a discount, so draft him and smile as he returns to his 2005-2008 level of production. He was hobbled by a sports hernia and an elbow injury last season, as well as a lower-than-usual BABIP. A healthy Sizemore is still a first-round talent. Shin-Soo Choo brings patience, power and surprising speed to the table. While he might not repeat 2009, he’s a well-rounded fantasy option. Travis Hafner is no longer a menacing slugger, and his aching shoulder continues to be a problem. However, Pronk did bounce back from an abysmal 2008 showing. Lou Marson has limited time to prove he’s more than a handy back-up backstop, as switch-hitting force Carlos Santana isn’t far off.

The Bench: Entering 2009, Andy Marte’s career was on life support. Once the pride of the Braves system, Marte devolved into a hacking mess, tanking in trials with the Indians in 2007 and 2008. Though still a free swinger, he raked at Triple-A last year and didn’t totally embarrass himself in the Majors. Trevor Crowe has some speed and a decent eye, but a lack of pop and injuries resign him to a back-up role. Donald scuffled at Triple-A last year while hindered by a knee injury. He could be Valbuena’s caddy against lefty pitching.