By Scott Barzilla

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted hours before Shin-Soo Choo was traded to the Cincinnati Reds with Jason Donald for Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorious. Rumors have the Indians also dealing Asdrubal Cabrera to the Arizona Diamondbacks for one of their young pitchers.

Imagine being a Cleveland Indians fan over the past five years. Five years ago the Indians had C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee in their rotation. They traded both away for prospects, but it is hard to see what they got in return. These things happen and when they happen you find a team adrift on a sea to nowhere. It’s not that the Indians are terrible per se. If they were terrible it might even be more acceptable. They are rudderless.

Their starting rotation went from promising to one of the worst in baseball nearly overnight. Their bullpen did the same in the same time frame. Their lineup has some bright spots, but they are devoid of stars. More than anything , that is the problem in Cleveland as they struggle to stay relevant in the AL Central.

TRIF

Rank

Comments
C Carlos Santana

-0.4

19th

An improvement to mediocre may have been the highlight for this team defensively.
1B Casey Kotchman

1.7

12th

He has always been solid with the glove, but just doesn’t produce enough offensively.
2B Jason Kipnis

-2.5

22nd

He struggled down the stretch, but most players do at the end of their first full season.
3B Jack Hannahan

2.9

10th

He is the Casey Kotchman of third base. Lonnie Chisenhall will replace him as the regular third baseman.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera

-3.8

23rd

Highlight reels are nice, but I trust the numbers and they aren’t pretty.
LF Shelley Duncan

-4.0

24th

Left field has been a Bermuda Triangle and it looks like it still is as of this writing.
CF Michael Brantley

-5.7

26th

He’s a corner outfielder masquerading as a center fielder. Please send help.
RF Shin Soo Choo

-9.1

28th

The bat returned last season, but he has lost more than a step in right field.
Total

-20.9

28th

Most people focused on the maligned starting rotation, but this lineup leaves a lot to be desired.

Catcher

Carlos Santana was supposed to take the next step into super stardom after a strong debut season in 2011. He did take a step forward in 2012, but it was with the glove instead of the bat. I suppose you can’t get too mad when a player takes a major step forward in one of the two major facets of the game. Santana might never be a star with the bat, but he is still very good and their failings elsewhere shouldn’t be placed on his shoulders.

First Base

The Indians signed Casey Kotchman last season in the hopes that he would solidify the first base position (after the failures of Matt Laporta). He solidified it defensively but was a non-factor with the bat. Now, the club has signed Mark Reynolds and has flirted with Kevin Youkilis. If Reynolds gets major time at first then those solid defensive numbers will go down the drain. If Youkilis still ends up there and they decide to DH Reynolds (and jettison Travis Hafner) then it might work out in their favor.

Second Base

I like Jason Kipnis even though his fielding and hitting numbers nose dived down the stretch. He was the lone bright spot on offense for much of the season and I’m sure that pressure started to weigh on him. Defensively he should be average while he produces about as well as any second baseman can be expected to.

Third Base

Lonnie Chisenhall was supposed to be the third baseman of the future the past two seasons, but Jack Hannahan spent most of the time there. Hannahan is a gifted defender, but this team needs more offense from its corner spots. Chisenhall should be able to produce that if given the opportunity, so he likely will finally see the bulk of the playing time in 2013.

Shortstop

Asdrubal Cabrera is a fraud. At least he is with the glove. Fraud may be a bit strong as he is doing the best he can and shouldn’t be blamed if he is over-hyped. Fielding is judged by the number of plays you make and not on how those plays look. Unfortunately, the viewing public often does the reverse and so there is a disconnect between who Cabrera is and who people seem to think he is.

Left Field

It started with Johnny Damon and somehow ended up with Shelley Duncan. Duncan can produce some power when things are going well, but the Indians really need to figure this position out. The revolving door has also included Michael Brantley before he switched to cover center field. All of it might be fall out from the Grady Sizemore situation, but it needs to stop before someone else gets hurt.

Centerfield

Did someone say Grady Sizemore? Remember him? Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and sometimes organizations rise and fall for no better reason than a vanishing super star. For years, the Reds tried to build around Ken Griffey Jr. when he could never stay healthy. They are now perennial playoff contenders after abandoning that plan. The Indians seemed to hold onto the last gasp that was Sizemore this season. Now, hopefully they can move on.

Right Field

I suppose that Shin Soo Choo was a positive overall considering his injury riddled 2011 campaign, but defensively he is not good enough. At least he wasn’t good enough last season. Choo was on the trading block in the Winter Meetings, but no one took a bite. It seems he and Asdrubal Cabrera might not be able to completely relax this offseason as both continue to be bandied about in trade discussions.

 

 

 

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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