The Indians won just 65 games a year ago, and in the process, traded away two of their best players in Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee. Their trades of major league talent for minor league prospects emphasize that the team is rebuilding, but yet, I think Cleveland could surprise quite a few people this year. This team isn’t that bad.
At the plate, these guys are going to do some damage. Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, and Shin-Soo Choo are all good on base guys with power and speed, and then some combination of Travis Hafner, Russell Branyan, and Matt LaPorta provide some power in the middle. Even the 7-9 hitters won’t be terrible, especially once Carlos Santana claims the catching job at some point during the season.
The pitching has issues, certainly, and I wouldn’t pick the Indians to win the AL Central this year, but they could hang around for a while and make things interesting. And the future only looks better in 2011 and beyond.
The core of the team is young and cheap, as the organization has quality players or high level prospects at nearly every position on the diamond. The rotation is a big question mark, but there are a quantity of arms to sort through with differing levels of potential. The bullpen is full of young power arms who rack up strikeouts. Give this team a year to mature and figure out how many starters they need to add, and they could be a serious contender in the AL again. There’s that much young talent in place.
And, despite the backlash against the Indians front office for the lack of results, this is still one of the best run organizations in the game. They have a large enough payroll to win, especially considering how many below market contracts they’ll have on the team, and the farm system is deep enough to provide necessary trade chips for when the organization shifts into go-for-it mode.
Don’t sleep on the Indians – they’re on the verge of being good once again.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.