A rival scout sizes up the Indians
I'm a little worried about them. They played great last year, but they might have overachieved. You know what, though? They've got some young talent that's really coming on.... It hurt them that this Fausto Carmona thing [he's actually named Roberto Hernandez Heredia and is 31, three years older than he claimed] came up so late, in January. He wasn't pitching real good, and he makes a lot of money. It's almost to the point where they could release him.... Between injuries [broken left thumb] and a DUI, Shin-Soo Choo had everything go wrong last year. But he's a 20-to-25-home-run guy, he's going to hit .300 and he's got a real good throwing arm.... Ubaldo Jimenez's mechanics tend to break down. His front side will open, and he'll lose the strike zone. But he's bright, and their pitching people are good. They'll straighten him out.... Justin Masterson is going to start on Opening Day. Maybe that takes some pressure off Jimenez. Masterson's got filthy stuff—a heavy sinker. It's all come together for him.... I never anticipated that Asdrubal Cabrera would have the power he showed last year. And he's a magician with the glove.... Carlos Santana would be an elite hitter at any position, but especially for a catcher. Maybe they can get him out of games after six or seven innings, save his legs.... It's not like Lonnie Chisenhall is George Brett, but a lefthanded-hitting third baseman is really a valuable commodity. He uses the whole field, and he's got some pop. Hitting .280 or .300 and playing third—that's a nice package.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER MANNY ACTA
3rd season with Indians
Cleveland's winning percentage over the past three seasons when Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore are in the lineup. The outfielders have played just 179 of a possible 486 games together. Sub-.500 is bad, but the Indians have been even worse without Choo and Sizemore. Since 2009, their winning percentage is .420 when missing one or both.
As the Indians work around Chris Perez's oblique injury—the closer may not return until mid-April—they can make one change that would significantly help their bullpen: broaden the role of Rafael Perez. The 29-year-old lefthander had his best season in 2007, when he threw 60 2/3 innings in 44 appearances and had a 1.78 ERA. Since facing 5.4 batters per appearance that season, he's been used increasingly in a specialist role—down to 3.6 batters per appearance in 2011. It's not necessary. Perez's career OPS allowed is just 41 points higher against righties (.701) than it is against lefties (.670), and much of the difference is due to the intentional walks he issued to righties. He has a much better strikeout-to-walk ratio against righties as well. Perez doesn't throw from an extreme angle, and his changeup, which he added two years ago, has been an effective pitch for neutralizing righthanded batters. By expanding Perez's role, manager Manny Acta would get more work from one of his better relief pitchers. Even after Chris Perez returns, that would be a good way to close ground on the Tigers in the AL Central.
FRED VUICH (JIMENEZ)
DAVID MAXWELL/GETTY IMAGES (PEREZ)