Sunday, March 2, 2008

MLB Previews: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians Last season: 96-66 .593, won AL Central, beat Yankees in ALDS, lost to Boston in ALCS. 2008 Outlook: For a team that accomplished so much in 2007, the Indians made very few off-season moves, though they lost two veteran role-players, Kenny Lofton and Trott Nixon. Lofton was particularly effective in the playoffs, and the Indians haven't done anything to replace either his speed or experience. Great pitching and timely hitting were cornerstones for Cleveland last season and the big two starters, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona should keep them in the hunt throughout. Jake Westbrook could also have a splendid year, after spending much of 2007 on the DL. The middle relief is probably the best in the majors. The Indians will vie for a repeat win of the Central and another shot in the playoffs. Biggest Changes: None to speak of, except David Dellucci in left and Franklin Gutierrez in right, flanking all-star Grady Sizemore. The Indians may be looking around to make a trade for a top-flight outfielder after letting Lofton go. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Reliever Masahide Kobayashi was signed out of Japan to a nice contract, ostensibly as an insurance policy should closer Joe Borowski stumble. Jeremy Sowers, who finished last season in AAA Buffalo, will likely make a re-appearance as a regular starter. Best fantasy bets: Travis Hafner hits for plenty of power, but his whiffs are high and his batting average is average (.266). Grady Sizemore is a better pick, as he matched Hafner in homers (24) and his 118 runs and 33 steals more than make up for the difference in RBI (100 for Hafner, 78 for Sizemore). Sabathia and Carmona are top-line starters, but the real steal could be Jake Westbrook. Three Excellent Links: Wikipedia entry on Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field) and Cleveland Plain Dealer Tribe news, updates, opinions, blogs. Larry Doby's Hall of Fame page Next: Detroit Tigers

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