Cleveland Series Preview

We’re not always going to be able do this but in an opportunity came about that I might exchange series previews with another site (Wahoo Blues). You can click on the link to see my answers to their questions. Here are Lewies answers to my questions.

Glad to see the Mariners back home. Should be a good series.

2011 Indians better or worse than 2010 Indians, why?

No question, they’ll be better—why wouldn’t they be? The Indians didn’t lose any key players in the offseason. Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Grady Sizemore combined to play just 178 games last year; Santana and Cabrera look fine now, and Sizemore is on his way back. Plus, you’ve got further development from guys like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Justin Masterson, and top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall is waiting in the wings. Barring a complete roster-wide disaster, it’s definitely a net gain for the Tribe.

What is the Indians’ line-up, highlights and lowlights?

We’re still at the stage of the season where managers are figuring out what they have, so Manny Acta could tinker with the batting order this weekend. But the most likely order is:

CF Brantley

SS A. Cabrera

RF Choo

C Santana

DH Hafner

2B O. Cabrera

LF Kearns

1B LaPorta

3B Hannahan

We might see Shelley Duncan in for Hafner against Jason Vargas or Erik Bedard and Travis Buck will probably replace Kearns against the two lefties. We might see Lou Marson at catcher with Santana shifting to first for a game, too.

Hafner (1.008 OPS) and Hannahan (.921) have looked great so far, but they’re likely to come back down to earth soon. Santana is raking as usual, and we’ve seen encouraging signs from LaPorta and Brantley. Really the only spots in the lineup that have been holes so far have been the corner outfield spots. The Kearns/Buck platoon could still be a problem, but I’m not at all worried about Choo’s .362 OPS.

Who are the Indians sending to the hill this weekend and can you tell us a bit about them?

Game 1 will be Carlos Carrasco. He’s a 24-year-old righthander with a low-90′s fastball and a solid slider, curveball, and change-up. He got roughed up by the White Sox in his first start for 7 ER on 10 hits. A trip to cavernous Safeco is just what the doctor ordered for a rebound start.

Game 2 is Justin Masterson. Last year he was one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball; a .324 BABIP and 66.6% LOB rate gave him a 4.70 ERA despite a 3.87 xFIP. The opposite happened in his first outing, when he through seven innings, giving up one run without a single strikeout. One game is way too small to draw any serious conclusions, but he’s got a 1.29 ERA with a 4.97 xFIP. He was one of the Tribe’s top strikeout artists last year, and he needs to get back to that if he wants to be successful.

Game 3 is Josh Tomlin, who won a spot as the No. 4 starter with a strong spring. His debut was similar to Masterson’s: 1 ER in 7 IP despite getting only two strikeouts. He showed great control in the minors so strikeouts aren’t as vital to his success, but he’s going to have trouble getting quality starts if he can’t miss more bats.

Who are some of the youngsters that could be building blocks for the future?

Santana and Chisenhall will be the offensive cornerstones of the next Cleveland dynasty, with guys like Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, and Jason Knapp anchoring the staff. Masterson, Brantley, and LaPorta have lost some of their pedigree, but all project as at least useful players down the road. Hopefully we can keep Choo and Cabrera around long enough for the youngsters to mature.

Who are the trade deadline darlings this year for Cleveland?

Assuming the Indians have fallen from first place by July, anyone whose contract is up after the season will be on the block—there’s no good that can come from keeping them around. Kearns is almost sure to be dealt (again), assuming his legal troubles don’t get in the way. Adam Everett, Chad Durbin and Orlando Cabrera fit the mold as well. Don’t be surprised if the Indians also trade a starter—Carmona is a possibility, with my gut-feeling dark horse candidate being Mitch Talbot. Sizemore is a possibility, but I think his trade value is too low now for it to be worth it.

How many wins come out of the 2011 Indians?

Before the season, I said 74. After this hot start I’m feeling confident and up that to 76.

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