The 2013 Cleveland Indians outfield will be the most different part of the team when compared to 2012. Shin-Soo Choo, who has been the starting right fielder since 2008 has been traded to Cincinnati, making Asdrubal Cabrera the longest tenured starter on the Indians (at shortstop since 2009). The left fielder will also be new as the three main left fielders from 2012 (Johnny Damon [retired], Shelley Duncan [Rays] and Aaron Cunningham [Rangers]) have all been released.
This makes the only remaining outfielder Michael Brantley, but he will not be returning to center field. The Indians made a huge splash in the free agent market just before camp opened, signing former Atlanta Brave centerfielder Michael Bourne to be the new centerfielder. Also in the Choo trade the Indians acquired new outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds. Stubbs will be playing his fifth season and has never played anywhere but centerfield. He has a tendency to strike out (leading the NL in 2011), but provides a constant steal threat.
Brantley had his best season in 2012, knocking in 60 and batting .288, both far above his previous career highs. For defensive purposes, the Indians would probably be best suited to use Brantley in left with Stubbs in right because of the difference in arm strength. All three outfielders are similar players but they do have significant differences. Stubbs has the most power, but the worst average and the highest tendency to strike out. Brantley is in the middle as far as power goes, but is the only one of the three who doesn't strike out constantly and knows how to take a walk. Bourne is the best baserunner and the only one of the three to ever win a Gold Glove or attend an All-Star game.
The biggest improvement in the outfield this year will be speed. Replacing the old and slow left fielders with Stubbs is essentially adding 30 steals a season and Bourne can be expected to steal at least 40 more bases than Choo would have. Defensively the outfield will look completely different as well with no more bumbling and stumbling in left. With these three speedsters in the outfield there should be a significant decrease in fly balls hitting the ground.
The reserve outfielder is likely to be the same as in 2011 and 2012, Ezequiel Carrera. He is incredibly fast and generally good with the glove, although he does have a tendency to lose himself from time to time. While the Indians have a few other outfield options, none are as ready as Carrera. One other intriguing option is former Indian Ben Francisco, who is returning as a Spring Training invitee. Rule five pick Chris McGuiness is another possibility although he hasn't actually played outfield yet. The Tribe could carry two outfielders, using Mike Aviles as the back-up at every infield position, especially if they keep a corner outfielder/infielder like McGuiness. The team flexibility will be as good as it gets with four outfielders on the roster who can play any outfield position and another who can play first base as well as right field. Even Mike Aviles, who will be the utility infielder can play outfield in a pinch. This will leave Terry Francona free to maneuver in game with pinch hitters/runners without worrying about a defensive replacement being available.
Brantley will have to get used to a new position and new teammates in 2013.