Hanley Ramirez is far above all other competition in the shortstop category. Troy Tulowitzki is the only other shortstop that should go in the first round. After these two, the competition falls back on some solid veterans and guys like Marco Scutaro, Jason Bartlett, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Erick Aybar who are looking to prove that 2009 wasn’t just a fluke.
- Hanley Ramirez FLA- Hanley played in 150 games for the 4th consecutive year and had a .400 OBP for the 2nd consecutive year. He’s an all-around player who got to 100 RBIs for the first time in ’09 as he thrived in the 3 spot of the lineup.
- Troy Tulowitzki COL- Besides Hanley, Tulo may be the only shortstop to have 100 runs and 100 RBIs in 2010. Tulowitzki had a career high 32 homers last season along with career highs in triples and steals.
- Derek Jeter NYY- This guy is the model of consistency as he continues to put up All-Star numbers. If he can play like last season (107 runs, 18 HR, 30 steals, .406 OBP, etc.), he could be more valuable to fantasy owners than Tulowitzki. Also, Jeter is playing in a contract year which could motivate him even more.
In the running: Rafael Furcal LAD, Yunel Escobar ATL, Jason Bartlett TB
- J.J. Hardy MIN- After being demoted to AAA by the Brewers last season, Hardy enters 2010 with something to prove. Hardy also moves into a great lineup which will benefit his run production. Hardy has the ability to hit 25 home runs.
- Alexei Ramirez CHW- Alexei had a down year after very rough start to ’09. He eventually came out of that slump but his power numbers were way down from his rookie year. The good news is that he still increased his OBP and is being mentored by Omar Vizquel this spring.
- Elvis Andrus TEX- Andrus won the 2009 AL ROY honors after playing a steady shortstop in Texas. His numbers weren’t astounding but they were better than expected. Andrus is worth taking a chance on with a late pick as his speed leads to runs and steals.
- Jose Reyes NYM- Reyes was recently sent back to New York to have a possible thyroid condition checked out. He is also coming back from leg injuries. Reyes’ needs to prove his health before fantasy owners should risk an early pick on him.
- Ryan Theriot CHC- Theriot is consistent (but not great) as far as batting average, runs, and steals. Fantasy owners should not expect a repeat of his power numbers from 2009. Theriot’s production could be hindered by a transition to second base if shortstop prospect Starlin Castro proves to be Major League ready early in the season.
- Edgar Renteria SF- Renteria displayed rather steady production between 1999 and 2007 before taking a step backwards in 2008 and hitting a wall in 2009. In 460 at-bats in ’09, Renteria only managed 5 HR and a career-low .250 AVG.
Projected AL Central Finish: 5th
1. Sizemore cf
2. Cabrera ss
3. Choo rf
4. Peralta 3b
5. Hafner dh
6. Branyan 1b
7. LaPorta lf
8. Valbuena 2b
9. Marson c
3. Huff (LH)
5. Laffey (LH)
· Redmond c
· Rodriguez if
· Marte cif
· Crowe of
· Sipp (LH)
· R. Perez (LH)
· C. Perez
· Wood (closer)
Catcher: Lou Marson will be the opening day catcher but he will need a very strong showing to hold the majority of playing time throughout the whole season. Carlos Santana is the switch-hitting catcher that the Indians see as a future Victor Martinez. Santana’s bat is ready for the Show but he will work on his game-calling skills in the minors. Veteran Mike Redmond was signed to mentor the young catchers during spring training.
Infield: Today the Indians signed Russell Branyan to play first base. He will get most of the playing time but Matt LaPorta will also get time there as he is their first baseman of the future. Luis Valbuena sufficed as their second baseman and will likely get the job again. On the other hand, prospect Jason Donald is not far from being the Tribe’s second baseman. Asdrubal Cabrera stepped up as their starting shortstop and hit .308 while scoring 81 runs in 131 games. Jhonny Peralta had a healthy season but struggled to get onbase and only hit 11 home runs.
Outfield: Grady Sizemore looks to bounce back this year, on and off the field. Grady missed a considerable portion of the season and returned to hit only .248. The Indians need him to hit the ball well given his power and speed. Sizemore also did a poor job in the stolen base category as he was thrown out 8 times with only 13 successful steals. Shin-Soo Choo was the lone bright spot on this roster last season. He played in 156 games and almost reached the .400 OBP level (finished at .394). He’s a run producer and displayed great base-stealing skills, succeeding 21 out of 23 tries. Matt LaPorta is the favorite to start in left but Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe are other young guys looking for at-bats.
Rotation: Jake Westbrook hopes to have a full campaign for the first time since 2006 when he won 15 games. His veteran presence in the clubhouse could be very helpful for the young rotation. A strong first half could make him the next Indians’ starter to be dealt at the deadline (C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee 2009). Fausto Carmona was allowed to make 24 starts despite a season ERA of 6.32. David Huff led the team in wins as a rookie. Justin Masterson will get a full season as starter which could stabilize his numbers. Aaron Laffey, Carlos Carrasco, and Anthony Reyes are young hurlers in hopes of winning the 5th spot. Jeremy Sowers and Mitch Talbot will also battle for the last spot in the rotation but both are out of options.
Bullpen: Tony Sipp and Joe Smith impressed out of the bullpen last year. Jensen Lewis failed to repeat his success of ’07 and ’08. Kerry Wood did fine but not great in his first year with a team not named the “Cubs.” Wood may get traded at the deadline to a contender which would create an opportunity for Chris Perez to take over in the closer role. For any hopes of contention the AL Central, the Indians need lefty reliever Rafael Perez to return to form. He will have many late-game appearances against lefty sluggers Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Johnny Damon, Rick Ankiel, and so on.
2010: The front office is entering a new regime- new GM, new president, new manager. The team has traded away major pieces over the last two years and Cleveland fans should expect the same this year. Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook don’t have much value right now but could be put on the block for salary relief and a minimal return. The big question is whether or not the Tribe will trade Grady Sizemore. Either way, Manny Acta will have a difficult first season in Cleveland while trying to balance playing time between young prospects and stop-gaps, culminating in a last place finish.