This is the latest installment of “Indians Arguments” where the two writers for Burning River Baseball get together and calmly discuss different aspects of the Cleveland Indians and baseball in general. Today’s subject is the state of the 2012 outfield.
Joe: Today we will be discussing the Cleveland Indians outfield going into 2012. We will be going through the starters, the bench, the up-and-comers and some expectations.
Mike: We are assuming the Indians wont sign [Yoennis] Cepedes?
Joe: You can assume whatever you want. For my part, I’m going to guess all significant free agent signings are done.
Mike: The big question really is, what type of year will Grady [Sizemore] have? Will he play 130 games? In my opinion the outfield will solidify itself on what he does.
Joe: And where will he play? Everything I’ve seen to this point has the Indians insisting on him starting in centerfield, but I’ve yet to be convinced he can handle the position and definitely think he is significantly worse defensively than [Michael] Brantley, [Ezequiel] Carrera or [Trevor] Crowe. My prediction is that he will be moved to left before the All-Star break if they can’t admit it before then.
Mike: But would Brantley take over in center? I would think that if they were convinced he was ready, he would have played center after Grady went down last year. but i agree with you, moving forward Grady is a better fit for left or DH. They added more depth in [Thomas] Neal and [Aaron] Cunningham because they agree with us, I think.
Joe: They added a lot of depth in the off-season. Not just those guys, but Felix Pie, Fred Lewis and Ryan Spilborghs as well. I only hope that they will not make the same mistake they make every year by signing one of these guys. There is not a single player among them with more upside than Carrera or Crowe.
Mike: I don’t see the upside that Carrera has. I think what you saw last season from him was his ceiling. If he was any better, they would not have re-signed Grady.
Joe: I’m not saying he’s the next Tris Speaker, I’m just saying I have no confidence in the new guys. I would prefer them to put more time into guys like Neal and the others previously mentioned, rather than waste Spring Training at bats on Travis Buck and Jason Michaels.
Mike: Do you think [Shin-Soo] Choo is done crying over his DUI? There is another very important guy. A five tool player when healthy, OBP machine. I firmly believe a healthy Choo is the missing bat the Indians were looking for all off-season.
Joe: Choo is the base for the entire outfield. Even at last year’s standards, he’s the best offensive and defensive player in the outfield. Hopefully he will return to his old form, but I think he is the least of our worries. That is, of course, unless his real name is Shin Jong Il and he’s really a 45 year old dictator.
Joe: Back on Topic. Who do you have as fourth and possibly fifth outfielder, with the starting spots taken by Grady, Choo and Brantley?
Mike: Great question. Can I cop out and say we’ll just let spring training sort that out? They need right-handed pop so [Shelley] Duncan is probably safe to start the year in Cleveland. After that you might want to keep an eye on Aaron Cunningham. He was a highly touted prospect with the A’s and still has show the ability to draw the walk (.331 OBP in 2010 in the pitcher park in SD) not bad for a fifth outfielder.
Joe: I agree about Duncan, but his defense makes it necessary for another outfielder who can actually field. I really want to see Trevor Crowe get his last chance to make it this year. If for some reason he can’t cut it, I’d be open to some of the other options, but not Pie.
Mike: Carrera is a younger version of Pie.
Joe: Exactly. Why would you play the old version when you have the new version.
Mike: Depth, bro. It’s what killed this team last year. Sign a bunch of MLB ready outfielders at league minimum just in case. it’s not a bad plan really. Columbus should win another title.
Joe: And that is the most important thing isn’t it? The Clippers winning International League Championships.
Mike: It’s a healthy by-product!
Joe: And this concludes our discussion on the Indians outfield, stay tuned next week for our pleasant conversation about the Tribe infield.