Additional roster information can be found at MLB Depth Charts.
Top Prospects: Hector Rondon (P), Carlos Santana (C), Lonnie Chisenhall (3B), Nick Hagadone (P)
The Indians had recovered from the trade of SP C.C. Sabathia during the 2008 season, and were hopeful for improvement in the 2009 season. However, almost from the beginning things began to go wrong. They started the season with a 5 game losing streak, and never really recovered from it. By the end of April, they were 6 games under .500 and already 3.5 games out of the division lead. The team was decimated by poor performances or injuries from SP Fausto Carmona, CL Kerry Wood, and CF Grady Sizemore. By the time the trade deadline approached, it was clear that the Indians were not going anywhere this season. Midseason trades of reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, 3B Mark DeRosa, and C Victor Martinez signaled the end of the season for all intents and purposes.
The Indians did have a few bright spots. The offense was led by RF Shin-Soo Choo (.300, 20 HR, 21 SB) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.308, 17 SB). SP Cliff Lee pitched well prior to his trade (7-9, 3.14), and C Victor Martinez performed well also (.284, 15 HR). Young players like 2B Luis Valbuena, 1B Matt LaPorta, and starters David Huff and Aaron Laffey all showed improvements in their development. The team, unfortunately, finished even worse than they started, posting a 7-21 record in September to limp into a 65-97 record which led to the firing of manager Eric Wedge.
Team Outlook for 2010
The Indians are hopeful for bounce-back performances from SP Fausto Carmona, RP Kerry Wood, DH Travis Hafner, and CF Grady Sizemore. This, in addition to a full season of SP Justin Masterson, give the Indians hope for the future. The only significant free agent signing they made was the recent addition of 1B Russell Branyan. He should bring some power to a lineup that appears to be severely lacking. That signing will most likely limit the playing time of either Matt LaPorta or Michael Brantley.
Their prospects for the 2010 season look pretty bleak. Their rotation, while young, just doesn’t really inspire me to thoughts that they can compete with the pitching staffs in their own division. The offense is developing, but is probably another year away from being a solid group of hitters. There is help coming, in the form of top prospects C Carlos Santana and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, but they’re not ready yet.
The Indians are hopeful that new manager Manny Acta can help to develop these players, as they look to his experience with the Nationals as a good sign that he can handle the role. Look for the Indians to potentially move anyone not in the long-term plans of the team, including CL Kerry Wood, SP Jake Westbrook, and potentially even DH Travis Hafner if they can find a taker.
Fantasy Outlook for 2010
The players with the most fantasy value are CF Grady Sizemore, who I think will rebound closer to his 2008 performance level, RF Shin-Soo Choo, and SS Asdrubal Cabrera. Beyond that, nearly everyone else is a risky player, with some upside. One player I would watch specifically is SP Justin Masterson, as he should perform fairly well given consistent time in the rotation. Another player that could have some fantasy value would be LF Michael Brantley, as he has the potential to steal 30+ bases with a full time job.
Prediction for 2010
The Indians are in full rebuilding mode, and it really shows at the moment. They have put together a good group of young talent, led by 1B Matt LaPorta and SS Asdrubal Cabrera. But they are at least another season away, and hopefully will use 2010 as a developmental season for the many young players they have on the roster.
68-94, 5th in the AL Central