On record as disliking our Ubaldo trade, due to the fact that we control him for just two more years (I wanted three) and the common knowledge that he is not really a trusted ace of a staff yet I’ve put it behind me and am excited about the Indians future.
My firm belief that the Tribe is not in contention for the AL Pennant still holds. They cannot match up with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers and won’t anytime soon.
But as every dream I have ends in an Indians World Series victory, that is not the only measure of success I hold my club to.
In the American League Central contention seems sure. In the next two seasons the Indians will be a factor. The current crop of teams is quite weak and every team has many flaws that will hold them back from any type of multiple 90+ win seasons in the near future.
Take a look at the AL East standings. If you moved Cleveland into the division right now we would be 5th out of 6 teams. And that would be with us playing our watered down AL Central heavy schedule. Aren’t you glad we aren’t in that division? The Rays are better than us. Yet they are double digit games down.
The obvious news on the mind of every Indians fan still is the big trade. The media probably gave the team a slight edge over the Rockies in terms of initial public support on who won it. Not that that matters one iota though.
But, the biggest factor to me in whether we win the trade or lose it will be how Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall turn out.
The team does now seem to have a crop of young, cheap pitchers in Jimenez, Masterson, Tomlin, Carrasco, Carmona, Huff, McAllister, Gomez and Barnes who can provide depth through the season and rival any rotation in the division.
The organization has solid depth throughout the farm on the pitching side, yet few young hitters have been groomed internally this decade. That is, until Kipnis and Chisenhall became the Indians “big deadline bats.”
The core of the Indians lineup in the future is going to be littered with names such as Hafner, Sizemore, Choo, Brantley, Santana and Cabrera. That is a completely guaranatee. They all of course may be in and out of the lineup based on contracts being up, injuries or trades. That stuff definitely can and will happen. But, it is clear that for the duration of their time in NE Ohio, they will be written into the lineup on a daily basis in permanent marker.
That group is solid, not spectacular. But, the main complaints of Tribe fans this year is our 5-9 batters. And that really is the case in our entire division. The lineups don’t have depth.
Let’s take a look at last night’s 5-9 in the lineup of our divison foes.
Detroit – Martinez, Peralta, Guillen, Avila, Betemit
Kansas City- Francouer, Giavotella, Moustakas, Escobar, Pina
Chicago – Quentin, Pierzynski, Beckham, De Aza, Morel
Minnesota – Kubel, Valencia, Young, Nishioka, Butera
Cleveland – LaPorta, Fukudome, Duncan, Kearns, Donald
I would rate the Indians 4th on that list ahead of Kansas City. But, with a group of the “Core 8″ listed earlier plus LaPorta/new guy that lineup depth is without a doubt the best in the Central.
Each guy in the group has his issue with something that at times holds him back. It will never happen where the group is all healthy and mashing together at the same time. The game is too volatile.
Let’s look at the factors each has to still overcome to be more consistent.
Brantley – isn’t a good enough leadoff hitter or a great defensive player
Cabrera – below average defensive shortstop
Choo – serious regression this year is a cause for concern, shaky defense but stellar arm
Sizemore – I could write all day, you guys figure it out
Hafner – cannot play over 110 games
Santana – hasn’t become the true force yet that we expect, but I still see it happening
Kipnis/Chisenhall – play some D, kids
But, Lonnie and Jason can give our team a new dimension.
Contention in the form of 90-95 win seasons for 5 years is not happening. But, an AL Central run of 85-90 wins for a few years surely is within our grasp.
Clearly, the Indians have a group of guys who can become a consistent upper level team in the division for the forseeable future. But, with a serious lack of development from one or both of Kipnis and Chisenhall things will really go downhill. We just traded two of our top four prospects and these guys were the other two.
A run of October success cannot begin without staying above the Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Royals. I will always measure our success by making it to October because getting there guarantees you have a shot at some crazy stuff happening.
We’ve bagged a core of players who isn’t going to be a favorite in the AL, or MLB, anytime soon yet that group easily can become a favorite in the Central.
Our franchise can be wildly successful by making it to the playoffs at a much higher rate than our division foes. This is a time where the division is wide open so here’s to Ubaldo and Justin carrying the Tribe to those banners – I hope.
Relatively, let’s just get our boys into October and then I believe with enough of those chances eventually a ring can be won.
I only hope Kipnis and Chisenhall realize how vital they are to our future.