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2007 Cleveland Indians

Next up, the Tribe.

Mark Shapiro's contract obligations:

C - Victor Martinez - $3MM
C - Kelly Shoppach - $0.38MM
1B - Casey Blake - $3.75MM + incentives
2B - Josh Barfield - $0.38MM
SS - Jhonny Peralta - $0.75MM + incentives
3B - Andy Marte - $0.38MM
IF - Hector Luna - $0.4083MM
IF - Ryan Garko - $0.3831MM
LF - David Dellucci - $3.75MM
CF - Grady Sizemore - $0.75MM
RF - Trot Nixon - $3MM + incentives
OF - Jason Michaels - $2MM + incentives
DH - Travis Hafner - $3.75MM + incentives

SP - C.C. Sabathia - $8.75MM + incentives
SP - Paul Byrd - $7MM
SP - Jake Westbrook - $6.1MM
SP - Cliff Lee - $2.75MM
SP - Jeremy Sowers - $0.3848MM

RP - Joe Borowski - $4MM + incentives
RP - Roberto Hernandez - $3.3MM
RP - Aaron Fultz - $1.5MM + incentives
RP - Rafael Betancourt - $0.84MM
RP - Jason Davis - $0.67MM + incentives
RP - Matt Miller - $0.56MM
RP - Fernando Cabrera - $0.3918MM

Minors:

RP - Tom Mastny - $0.38MM
RP - Tony Sipp - $0.38MM
SP - Adam Miller - $0.38MM
RF - Shin-Soo Choo - $0.3831MM

It's roughly $60MM committed; Shapiro has operated carefully to assemble such an affordable contender.  He seemingly has room to add some players in the summer, especially if he discards some of Byrd's salary.

Will the offense be second best in the AL again?  I believe so.  Their stars, Sizemore, Hafner, and Martinez, should maintain their levels.  Hafner could be even better in sum if he can top 130 games played.  Looking at some revamped positions: the Tribe could take a small step back at first base, and steps forward at the other three infield positions (youth is served and Aaron Boone is gone).  With Dellucci getting most of the PT in left, they'll blow past last year's .258/.311/.393 from that corner.  RF should hold steady or improve.  It would be tough to spar with the Yankees for the game's best offense but it's not unfathomable.

Defensively the team looks OK if not spectacular.  Improvement from Peralta would go a long way.

The rotation looks borderline top five to me.  The Tribe had a collective 4.31 starter ERA last year, good for third best. This year, the lack of Jason Johnson plus some Jeremy Sowers regression should mostly balance out.  Potential gains come in the form of 32 starts from Sabathia (a Cy Young candidate) and replacement of Paul Byrd with Adam Miller (4.64 ERA according to PECOTA) or Fausto Carmona (4.04 ERA).

The bullpen is the clear question mark, and Borowski/Hernandez/Fultz may not help at all despite the money spent.  Two of the team's seven best relievers may start the year in Triple A in Sipp and Mastny.  If Shapiro is not afraid to dump a guy like Hernandez for Sipp if performance calls for it, the Indians can improve upon last year's 4.66 relief ERA.  Betancourt and Cabrera could be a nasty pair if things come together.  It might make sense to overpay for a reliever with a young outfielder, if none of the above work out.

I should add that the team has great depth; they'll be forced to leave Major League quality players in Triple A to start the season.  The Indians look like a World Series contender to me, though wins could be sacrificed to play certain veterans over kids.

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Comments

Is that really the 2nd best line-up in the league?

as long as Hafner can stay healthy, it is certainly up there.

CC Sabathia is a Cy Young candidate? Really?


....Really?

Really, really, really, really, no doubt, absolutely, of course he is.

Who will take a 7.1 Byrd million dollar contract? And dont say a future contender that got injuries. Like right now who will take this contract?

I think plenty of teams would take PART of that contract. Say what you will about Byrd, if he's your fifth best starter you probably have bigger problems to worry about.

But... he has a career ERA of 3.95 and last year was the first time it's dipped below 3.6. One of only two seasons it's dippped below 4. Heck, he's only even broached 200 IP once in his career (in 2002). And only once has he had over 15 victories - and never 20.

I mean... he's good. I'd be more than happy to add him to my team's rotation even with the yearly stay on the DL... but Cy Young material?

In a league with Johan Santana and Roy Halladay?

Career ERA doesnt mean much, nor does the victories.

If the IP are there he's a Cy candidate; that's the question.

http://www.rotoauthority.com/2007/02/2007_fantasy_ba_1.html

Cleveland definitely has the ability to be the second best offensive team in the AL. Hafner, Martinez, and Sizemore are all above average for their positions. A Dellucci/Michaels platoon in LF will likely get you 25 HR and 85 RBI, with a .280/.360/.470 line. Casey Blake will be at least be league average at 1B, maybe better. Barfield's numbers should improve over last year, better lineup, better park. I know he's switching leagues, but he only played one year in the NL, it's not like he was a year 10 NL vet making the switch, it should be easier for him. Trot won't give them much power, but he'll hit .280 or so and get on base at a .360 clip.

The keys to the offense will be how much the Lasik surgery helps Peralta and how Andy Marte performs. If Peralta rebounds to something close to his 2005 season, and Marte is average offensive at third, they'll score plenty of runs.

As for Sabathia and the Cy Young, it's entirely possible. The guy is just now entering what should be his prime, he'll be just 27 in July. I know that wins and ERA are the stats that the voters look for in the Cy balloting, but let's look closer at some of his other numbers for a second. Since his second year in 2002, Sabathia has made many improvements. With the exception of a blip in 2004, Sabathia has lowered his walk rate each year from 3.77 BB/9 in 2002 to 2.06 BB/9 last year. Not surprisingly, he also raised his K/9 numbers each year since 2002, from 6.39 K/9 to 8.03 K/9. He's gone from less than a 2/1 K/BB rate to almost a 4/1 K/BB, that's huge. His hit rate has stayed very consistent, ranging between 8.43 and 8.65 H/9 over those last 5 years. Because of his improvement in control and K/BB improvement, his WHIP has dropped from 1.36 to 1.17 in that span.

What does all this mean? It means his lowered ERA last year wasn't a fluke, as long as his peripherals stay consistent as I and many expect they will, his ERA will stay in the mid to low 3.00 range. With a very good offense behind him and an improved infield defense, Sabathia has a very good shot at 20 wins this year. If he can make 34 starts, you're looking at 20 wins, 200 K's, and a low 3.00's ERA. That's Cy Young material, even against Johan and Doc Halladay.

2nd best offense? I'm guessing 2nd best to the Yanks?

They're only 2nd best if they're healthy.

2nd best AL offense. The contenders would be Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, maybe Detroit, and my dark horse of Tampa Bay. Here's how they'd break down:

Boston: No real "blackholes" offensively, but injury/production concerns in Varitek, Crisp, and Drew. If those guys are hurt, no way Boston has the 2nd best offense. Also, Lowell hit a wall in the second half last year, was he worn down or is it the sign of things to come? Above average at LF and DH, but Drew is maybe the only other guy who would be above average, possibly Varitek.

Toronto: "Blackholes" offensively at 2B and SS hurts this lineup. Above average at CF and 3B, possibly 1B. RF and DH could be above average if Thomas an Rios are both healthy all year. LF and C are league average, although LF has the potential to be better than average is Lind is for real and gets the majority of the PT.

Cleveland: No "blackholes". Above average at CF, DH, and C. Potentially above average in LF, 2B, and maybe SS. 3B, 1B, and RF are average offensively, although 3B could swing anywhere from below to above average.

Detroit: If Sean Casey plays 1B all year, 1B is definitely below average, and potentially a "blackhole". Alot depends on health here, Sheffield, Polanco, and Guillen are guys I'd watch, plus I-Rod and Maggs are another year older. Potentially above average at RF, SS, DH if healthy. Average at CF, LF, C, 2B, and 3B. Some of these positions can change depending on health.

Tampa: Potentially average or above average in every spot but SS and C, but those could be average as well. So much talent and potential, but so much of it is too young. A force to reckon with for the next 10 years likely, between the guys up now and the next wave over the the next 2-3 years.

Boston would be #2 hands down if they can stay healthy all year, but that's a big if I think. Cleveland has the most depth I think, as Blake could shift back to 3B if Marte flops, Garko moves into the 1B spot. Choo is behind Nixon in RF, likely in AAA, but a good bat as well. I think maybe last year was the year everything broke right for Detroit, I wouldn't count on it again this year.

Someone is going to say I left out the White Sox, but any team considering playing both Darrin Erstad and Scott Podsednik in their lineup can't be the 2nd best offense in baseball.

WOW the whole damn AL central will be an offensive juggernaut. I think there's a very good chance they'll have the best offense in the AL.

firesticks, are you joking? I realize I'm biased as a Yankees fan but saying the Indians offense is better than the Yankees is absurd. They'll only be close to the Yanks if they're healthy.

Top AL offenses:

1). Yanks: There's no breathing room for any pitcher here. Mientkiewicz (sp?) is the only "automatic out".

2). Red Sox: Great offense but they miss a good leadoff hitter (let's wait a while till we gawk at Youkillis). They do have some obvious weaknesses such as Drew's health, Pedriora (sp?), and whether or not Coco can perform again.

3). Indians: If they're healty they'll roll. If Nixon and Hafner alone are healty that's 230+ RBIs.

4). Jays: They have a nice young offense and now they added the Big Hurt. Thomas had a great year last year and if he does somewhere near the same this year, a 4-5-6 of Wells, Thomas, and Glaus can be 350+ RBIs.

5). Tigers: The only reason they aren't higher is because they all of a sudden froze in the WC. If they do do what they did last year (besides in the WC) and with Sheff, they'll be at least #3.

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