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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Cleveland Indians

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The Indians' last playoff appearance was in 2007, but it feels much longer than that.

That's what happens when a rebuilding project shows no clear signs of progress, condemning a team to what should be another 90-loss season ... and another one after that.

The problems begin with the starting rotation. The Indians have wasted so much time developing soft-tossing lefties that they have yet to find anyone who can, you know, get people out. Sure, Fausto Carmona was an All-Star last year -- their only representative, actually -- but at a time when frontline pitching is becoming more and more plentiful across the league, his 1.31 WHIP and 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings don't hold a candle to the competition.

Maybe Justin Masterson can finally take a step forward. Maybe Carlos Carrasco can build off the progress he made late last year. Maybe top prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz will coast through the minors and save the day sooner than anyone expected. Maybe.

But even if one or two of those things happen, the Indians will still be a step or two behind the rest of the league.

They do have a little more hope on offense. Five-category stud Shin-Soo Choo and slugging catcher Carlos Santana are both early-rounders in Fantasy. If ex-superstar Grady Sizemore can complete his return from microfracture surgery and regain the form we haven't seen from him since 2008, the Indians will have a halfway respectable middle of the order.

But again, the hope is more in tomorrow than today. It's in prospects like Lonnie Chisenhall, who should eventually bump Jayson Nix from third base, Jason Kipnis, who's doing his best to convert to second base, and Nick Weglarz, whose high walk rate could make him an OPS monster. All three could arrive this year, but none is enough of a surefire, can't-miss prospect to recommend for mixed leagues at this stage of the game.

And so the wait continues.

Breakout ... Carlos Santana, C

Rarely do 150 at-bats carry so much weight for a player, but Santana was so productive at such a position of need that his brief debut last year should give you all the confidence you need to draft him as a high-end option. You know how impressive Buster Posey was last year, beating out Jason Heyward for NL Rookie of the Year honors even though he had two fewer months of production? Well, Santana was matching him stroke for stroke before hurting his knee in August. He actually finished with the higher OPS of the two, and it's not like it was a surprise given his minor-league track record. His unprecedented strike-zone judgment (seriously, who walks more than he strikes out as a rookie, especially among catchers?) should make him a stud even if he doesn't quite hit .300. The fact he's not considered a real risk in Fantasy even coming off knee surgery shows just how much upside he has.

Bust ... Grady Sizemore, OF

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Sizemore might be the hardest player to assess in Fantasy this year. He could just as easily be a sleeper as a former first-rounder coming off two injury-plagued seasons, the last one ending in mid-May. But on the tightrope walk between the two extremes, he's leaning the wrong way. Players have had success with microfracture surgery in the NBA, but it's relatively untested in baseball. And for a player whose game depends so much on speed, the knee procedure could be the thread that unravels everything. Even if Sizemore is able to come back strong, even if he plays every day and provides his usual power, he's unlikely to regain his prior form. You can't expect him to steal 30 bases again, and without a significant contribution in that area, his shortcomings, such as his high strikeout rate and suspect batting average, become more pronounced. True, he'll only cost you a middle-round pick, but middle-round production might be the best-case scenario for him.

Sleeper ... Chris Perez, RP

OK, so Perez isn't exactly a nobody in Fantasy. He'll get drafted in every league, in fact. But most Fantasy owners don't seem to grasp just how impressive his breakthrough 2010 season was. From June 28 on, he posted a 0.53 ERA, striking out 37 batters in 34 innings. He allowed less than a hit every two innings during that stretch. A pitcher can't get any more effective than that. So why do Fantasy owners lump him with the David Aardsmas of the world when he's performing on the level of Mariano Rivera? True, he pitches for a bad team, but that hasn't stopped Joakim Soria from earning elite status in Fantasy and accumulating 35-plus saves every year. At a time when so many big-name closers -- from Francisco Rodriguez to Andrew Bailey to Jonathan Broxton -- have so many concerns, Perez is more valuable than anyone gives him credit for. He's a late-rounder who's almost sure to perform like a middle-rounder, if not better.

Cleveland Indians Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Grady Sizemore CF 1 Fausto Carmona RH
2 Asdrubal Cabrera SS 2 Justin Masterson RH
3 Shin-Soo Choo RF 3 Carlos Carrasco RH
4 Carlos Santana C 4 Mitch Talbot RH
5 Travis Hafner DH 5 Josh Tomlin RH
6 Matt LaPorta 1B Alt Jeanmar Gomez RH
7 Jayson Nix 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Jason Donald 2B CL Chris Perez RH
9 Michael Brantley LF SU Rafael Perez LH
Top bench options RP Jensen Lewis RH
R Austin Kearns OF RP Tony Sipp LH
R Luis Valbuena INF RP Joe Smith RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Lonnie Chisenhall 22 3B Double-A Triple-A
Maybe not a 30-homer guy but a complete enough hitter to matter in Fantasy. Likely starting by July.
2 Jason Kipnis 23 2B Double-A Triple-A
Converted outfielder still learning second base, but his bat should make him a Fantasy mainstay when he arrives.
3 Alex White 22 SP Double-A Triple-A
Ceiling still in question but doesn't need ace stuff to be Indians' best starter. Could arrive by midseason.
4 Nick Weglarz 23 OF Triple-A Triple-A
Power and patience could make him an OPS monster if glove doesn't stop him. Someone to watch this summer.
5 Drew Pomeranz 22 SP DNP -- unsigned Class A
First-rounder in 2010 has legitimate ace potential but needs to prove himself in minor leagues first.
Best of the rest: Jason Knapp, SP; Nick Hagadone, SP; Vinnie Pestano, RP; LeVon Washington, OF; Tony Wolters, SS; Joe Gardner, SP; Bryce Stowell, RP; Cord Phelps, 2B; Scott Barnes, SP; Zach Putnam, RP; Robert Bryson, RP; Josh Judy, RP; Ezequiel Carrera, OF; and Corey Kluber, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Indians optimistic about Nick Swisher bouncing back in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:07 pm ET) Indians general manager Chris Antonetti talked Monday about how the team expects first baseman Nick Swisher, who finished the season on the disabled list due to problems with his knees, to bounce back next season.

"It’s important to get the surgeries out of the way, especially as we look to next year," Antonetti said, per MLB.com. "Retrospectively, I don’t think we knew what he was trying to battle through and perform through. It’s easy to look back now and wonder if we could have done it differently, done the surgeries sooner. To his credit, he worked hard and tried to play through it for the team. Encouraging: He should come in to spring training ready to go and contribute the way we all know he’s capable of contributing."


A's reliever Eric O'Flaherty left off roster for AL wild-card game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Athletics reliever Eric O'Flaherty was left off Tuesday's roster for the AL wild-card game at Kansas City due to a reported arm injury, according to MLB.com. Yahoo! Sports reported earlier in the week O'Flaherty has a sore elbow.

Lack of lineup protection hurt Braves 1B Freddie Freeman in 2014
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was great during clutch situations in 2013, finishing second in the majors with a .443 average with runners in scoring position. However, he wasn't nearly as productive in that area in 2014, batting .294 with runners in scoring position.

"I think the formula for Freddie is getting consistent chances," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The (No.) 1 and 2 hole was up and down this year. We couldn’t find consistent answers there. We needed Jason (Heyward) in both spots, in the middle and leading off. That was not what he wanted to do. Jason views himself as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. He’s a team player and he’s going to do whatever the manager asks him to do, but that’s what he views himself as, a middle-of-the-order hitter.

"But if you give Freddie consistent chances and they pitch to him, that’s another big key. You’ve got to have somebody behind him, that’s part of the puzzle. Yeah, Justin (Upton) had a great year hitting behind him this year, but one reason (Upton) had a lot of RBI is that Freeman walked a lot."


Ryan Zimmerman could be Nationals' starting first baseman in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman has come to terms with his future role likely being as a full-time first baseman since Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper appear to be the long-term options at third base and left field, respectively, for Washington.

"Do I wish some of the injuries that I've had never happened so I can continue to play Gold Glove third base that I enjoy doing? Of course I do," Zimmerman said, per MLB.com. "But things happen. They are not easy decisions. It's not easy for me to say I have the possibility of moving from third base. It's reality."

If the Nationals choose to make Zimmerman the starting first baseman in 2015, then it doesn't appear the team will bring back incumbent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has a mutual $15 million option for next season.

"Sometimes those things are tough. That's just how it is. We'll see what happens," Zimmerman said. "But I think it's more important to look at what [LaRoche] has done while he has been here, how much he has meant, not only to the players, but the fans and the organization. He is a great guy, never complains. He is a great teammate and a great player."


Marlins SP Jose Fernandez 'progressing perfectly' post-elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:52 am ET) Marlins manager Mike Redmond provided an update Tuesday on the status of starting pitcher Jose Fernandez, who missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May.

"He is starting to play catch within the next few days," Redmond told MLB Network Radio. "Everything is progressing perfectly."


Red Sox want to talk extension with Yoenis Cespedes
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told MLB.com the team plans to discuss a contract extension with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .260 with 22 homers and 100 RBI. Cespedes is owed $10.5 million next season, the final year of his contract.

Josh Donaldson says his knee feels more 'stable'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, who's been dealing with a knee injury, said he's encouraged because it feels more "stable" than it did the past couple days, reports CSNCalifornia.com. Donaldson should be in the lineup when Oakland visits the Royals in Tuesday's Wild Card game.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis to stay in the hospital longer
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Updating an earlier report, Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is expected to remain in the hospital the next few days while undergoing tests related to the infection he contracted, reports Newsday.

Tanner Roark expected to come out of the bullpen
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark is expected to be used as a reliever in the NLDS despite going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts this season, reports MLB.com.

Mariners bring Jesus Montero back to 40-man roster
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/29/2014) The Mariners activated designated hitter Jesus Montero from the suspended list, which puts him back on the 40-man roster. Montero was suspended after getting into an altercation in late August with a team employee in the minors.

 
 
 
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