The U.S. dollar might be worth less than the Canadian dollar and the SI Swimsuit Issue might have been lapped by the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, but you know what hasn’t lost value over the years?
Opening Day roster predictions, made six weeks in advance of Opening Day.
These haven’t lost value, because they never had all that much value to begin with.
So let’s take an early stab at the Indians’ Opening Day roster, shall we?
Starting pitchers (5): Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, Jeanmar Gomez
Comment: The only undecided spot here is the fifth. Obviously, there’s still a chance of the Tribe bringing in a veteran on a Minor League deal. For now, I’m picking Gomez to beat out Josh Tomlin, David Huff and Anthony Reyes. And I’ll admit I have absolutely no basis for this prediction other than my own opinion that Gomez flashed pretty good stuff at the Major League level last year, while Tomlin perhaps reminded me too much of a right-handed Jeremy Sowers, Huff was a trainwreck and Reyes is too much of a question mark after so much missed time due to injury. Then again, Tomlin threw strikes and turned in more consistent results than Gomez. And now I’m about 45 seconds into thinking about this fifth spot, and, frankly, I’m already bored. Let’s face it: Whoever claims the fifth spot has absolutely no guarantee of being in the rotation all of April and May, let alone all season, so why worry about it? Maybe they’ll throw David Huff a bone and forgive him for his Twitter travails, because, when all is said and done, his stuff is on par with that of the others and he’s left-handed. This rotation needs a little of that, in case you haven’t noticed.
Relief pitchers (7): Chris Perez, Raffy Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, Vinnie Pestano, Aaron Laffey.
Comment: The first four guys here are obvious, and Lewis is out of options and newly signed so he’s aboard. The last two spots are question marks. The Indians like Pestano, and for good reason, as he was dominant in Columbus and looked comfortable last September. I think they’ll keep him around. I’m including Laffey here because of the aforementioned lack of a lefty in the rotation and the possible need for a lefty long man out of the ‘pen. That could change, particularly if the Indians like what they see from Laffey as a starter this spring. It would appear that, between the aforementioned No. 5 spot candidates and Alex White, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, the Columbus rotation spots are pretty well spoken for. That’s one reason I can’t help but imagine Laffey returning to relief, but I’ve certainly been wrong before.
Catchers (2): Carlos Santana and Lou Marson.
Comment: Not sure it makes much sense to have Lou Marson, who was anything but Larrupin’ at the plate last year, playing a part-time role in the bigs when he could be getting everyday at-bats in Columbus and improving his offensive game. So I could just as easily see the Tribe going with Luke Carlin or Paul Phillips. That said, the No. 2 guy here will get a little more playing time than your average backup backstop, given that Santana will be at first once or twice a week. Marson, for all his struggles last year, has more offensive upside than those other guys, and he works well with the pitching staff.
Infielders (5): Matt LaPorta, Orlando Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jayson Nix, Jason Donald.
LaPorta’s locked in at first, and his performance will largely dictate the success of this season, from a developmental/rebuild standpoint. (Unless the Indians have plans to make a bid for Pujols
or something.) Asdrubal’s at short and must stay healthy. When I look at the Opening Day outlook for second and third base, let’s just say I’m reminded of that scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” when Marti DiBergi is reading the band some of the reviews of their work. I reasoned through the O. Cabrera signing last week, with the general point being that the Indians just need a little veteran stability on-hand until the likes of Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps are ready to crack the big-league roster. Obviously, the hope on the Indians’ part is that those guys break in by year’s end, though you just never know.
For now, it’s looking like O. Cabrera and Donald at second and Nix (who is out of options) and Donald at third. Yes, I think the Indians will give Donald time at both positions, with the thinking that versatility (buzz word alert) adds value. In a stunning(?) upset, Luis Valbuena did not crack my Opening Day lineup. Keep in mind, Manny Acta can also utilize Nix as a sort of poor man’s Casey Blake (and isn’t that saying something?) and give him some time as an extra outfielder, if it comes to that. I mentioned Nix is out of options, which is ultimately why I think the Indians will keep him as part of their inventory, if only for a few weeks or months. That doesn’t mean I think he’s going to last at the hot corner. Given that he’s a couple years younger than Nix and more likely to be a part of this roster long-term, Donald might make more sense for the Indians at third, but his participation at the position is completely experimental at this juncture, so I have a hard time predicting he’ll win the job outright.
I’m going to cut myself off there, because, when you get down to the heart of the matter, not one part of me firmly believes in any of the above as the long-term, everyday answers at second or third. So for now, let the Indians place some warm bodies in those spots, even if those bodies happen to be playing out of their natural position. There are development and service time issues that will keep Chisenhall and Kipnis (and, to a lesser degree, Phelps) from cracking the big league roster in the season’s first two months, and a little early spring speculation won’t change that.
Outfield (5): Austin Kearns, Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan.
Comment: I don’t see any point in rushing Sizemore, who played just 33 games last year and isn’t expected in Cactus games until mid-March, merely for the feel-good story of him being in the Opening Day lineup. I see him on something resembling the Russell Branyan schedule of a year ago, joining the team in mid- to late-April (and no, this doesn’t mean I see him traded by June). In the meantime, you’ve got Kearns in left and Brantley in center, which should look familiar. Acta likes the athleticism and speed Crowe can bring off the bench and the help Duncan can contribute against lefties.
DH (1): Travis Hafner
Comment: Meet the 2011 Pronk, same as the 2010 Pronk. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the chronic shoulder issue could have completely erased his contributions to the lineup, rather than just drastically diminishing them.