They have also added 1B Casey Kotchman, who was productive for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 (.306, 10, 48 in 148 games). They also hope that Ubaldo Jiminez can pitch close to the ace that he has been touted for his entire career.
The Indians will have to go on without Sizemore, who was injured for most of 2011 (.224, 10, 32 in 71 games). If and when he returns, it should provide a spark to their lineup. Hopes are that he can revert back to his 2006-2008 form (2006- .290, 28, 76, 53 2B, 134 RS; 2007- .277, 24, 78; 2008- .268, 33, 90).
Michael Brantley (.266, 7, 46 in 114 games) will leadoff and play CF until Sizemore returns, then move to LF. Jason Kipnis (.272, 7, 19 in 36 games) should preform well in his first full season. Choo, recovered from the injury that cost him the rest of his shortened season (.259, 8, 36 in 85 games), hopes to return to 2010 form (.300, 22, 90). Carlos Santana will catch, play 1B and DH to keep his bat in the lineup (.239, 27, 79). Their best player is SS Asbrubal Cabrera, who has become the best all-around SS in the American League (.272, 25, 92). Travis Hafner can put up numbers as the DH if he stays healthy (.280, 13, 57 in 94 games). Kotchman will play 1B, and Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall will split the time at 3B. Until Sizemore returns, Cleveland will look to Shelly Duncan and minor league invitees Ryan Spilborghs and Feliz Pie to share time in LF.
The key to the Indians starting rotation will be Jiminez, who was just 10-13, 4.68 in 32 starts for the Colorado Rockies and Indians in 2011. He was dominant in 2010, going 19-8, 2.88 in 33 starts after winning 15 games in 2009. Justin Masterson (12-10, 3.21 and Josh Tomlin (12-7, 4.25) were huge boosts to the Indians rotation last season. Lowe is hoping to bounce back from a terrible season in 2011 with Atlanta, where he went 9-17, 5.05. It was just as bad for Lowe as it was for Heradia on the mound, where the latter went 7-15, 5.25 last season. The Indians may be better off using Carlos Carrasco or David Huff in that spot, they may have more potential.
The bullpen is led by Chris Perez, who had 36 saves for the Indians last year. They have a very underrated set up crew, with former Mets pitcher Joe Smith (3-3, 2.01 in 71 games), Left handers Rafael Perez (5-2, 3.00, 71) and Tony Sipp (6-3, 3.03, 69) and RHP Vinny Pestano (1-2, 2.32, 67). If the starters can get them into the 7th inning, the game is in the hands of a pen who is a strong five deep.
In an ideal world, Choo, Jiminez, Lowe and Hafner all have big years and the Indians become the team to beat in the AL Central. They need that to happen. Kipnis should put up very good numbers and the team should enjoy good seasons from Santana and Cabrera. Las Vegas puts them at 86.5, which is reasonable, but I see them finishing at the same 80-82 they finished last season, this time 3rd place in the AL Central. The Sizemore injury hurts and it may be asking too much for Masterson and Tomlin to duplicate their 2011 success.