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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Cleveland Indians

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Though the Indians finished with a sub-.500 record for the third straight season in 2011, they were in contention right up until September, taking a big step forward for an organization thought to be in rebuilding mode.

Of course, that's kind of the problem. The Indians' out-of-nowhere breakthrough relied on so many unlikely performances from so many unlikely sources that the actual extent of the team's progress is difficult to gauge.

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Justin Masterson emerged as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Josh Tomlin continued to get by on some of the league's most hittable stuff. Asdrubal Cabrera somehow became a power hitter. And a collection of no-name relievers came together to produce the AL's fifth-best bullpen ERA.

Then again, for all that went right, about as much went wrong. Grady Sizemore's return from knee surgery ended in disappointment. Shin-Soo Choo was hardly a factor, battling physical and mental demons all year. Matt LaPorta continued to wallow in mediocrity. And the king of the bullpen, closer Chris Perez, wasn't nearly as dominant as he has shown he can be.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, though, came in the form of midseason acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez, who continued his career-worst performance even with his exodus from Colorado in exchange for top pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. Those two represented about all the farm system had left, which means the Indians mortgaged their future for a division title that never came.

So now they're handcuffed, lacking the resources to improve on a roster full of question marks. They did add Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey to the starting rotation this offseason, but mostly to counteract the loss of Fausto Carmona -- or Robert Hernandez Heredia, rather -- whose availability is in question until he resolves his identity issue. They also signed veteran Casey Kotchman as competition for LaPorta, but he isn't exactly a thumper at first base.

Apart from such patch-up jobs and cosmetic changes that are sure to come up during the season, you shouldn't expect to see much turnover on the Indians roster in 2012. They decided on their nucleus last year. Now, let's see where it takes them.

Bounce-back player ... Shin-Soo Choo, OF

After back-to-back .300-20-80-80-20 seasons, Choo's 2011 was clearly a step in the wrong direction. But it was also unusually contentious. His DUI arrest on May 2 led to a backlash in his native South Korea that he admitted became a distraction, and the numbers back it up. He hit .241 with one home run from that point until June 24, when he broke his thumb. The two months he missed with the injury gave him a chance to regroup, and when he returned on Aug. 12, he was a different player, hitting .348 with three homers in 46 at-bats before going down with another injury -- this time a strained oblique -- that effectively ended his season. Clearly, Choo's 2011 was marred by bad decisions and even worse timing, but his performance in August was encouraging enough that he deserves a free pass. He's only 29, after all. A swift decline wouldn't make sense, given his track record. You should feel confident drafting Choo as your second outfielder, as usual.

Bust ... Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

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OK, so Cabrera was the surprise of 2011, emerging off the waiver wire to contribute 25 homers and 94 RBI at the weakest position in Fantasy. It was fun, sure. But the danger for Fantasy owners is when that once-in-a-lifetime season becomes the new expectation. Not only were Cabrera's 25 homers a complete departure from his established track record, but they came with an elevated fly ball rate that began to wreak havoc on his batting average in the second half, when he presumably became homer-conscious. He hit only .244 after the All-Star break, and his .411 slugging percentage during that stretch was actually lower than the one he put together during a six-homer 2009. If he continues to force the issue, he could turn out like Aaron Hill. Then again, if he reverts to being more of a line-drive hitter, he'll have to settle for fewer homers. Either way would cause Cabrera to take a step back in Fantasy, perhaps to the Erick Aybar-Derek Jeter class of shortstops, so proceed with caution.

Sleeper ... Jason Kipnis, 2B

Granted, Kipnis' first couple weeks on the job were a little too good to be true. He hit six homers in the span of 11 days before his deal with the devil ran out, landing him on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury. But just because he's not really a 40-homer threat doesn't mean the whole thing was a sham. He also had five steals during his time in the majors, demonstrating a combination of power and speed normally associated with the best of the best second basemen, such as Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. And the attributes he was most known for in the minors -- his .300-plus batting average and high walk rate -- weren't even on display during his 136 at-bat trial. Kipnis is as well-rounded of an offensive contributor as you'll find among middle infielders, and even with his stellar debut, he has managed to remain under the radar in Fantasy. Don't be surprised if he's a top-10 second baseman by season's end.

2012 Cleveland Indians Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Michael Brantley LF 1 Ubaldo Jimenez RH
2 Asdrubal Cabrera SS 2 Justin Masterson RH
3 Shin-Soo Choo RF 3 Derek Lowe RH
4 Carlos Santana C 4 Josh Tomlin RH
5 Travis Hafner DH 5 Kevin Slowey RH
6 Grady Sizemore CF Alt Fausto Carmona RH
7 Jason Kipnis 2B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Casey Kotchman 1B CL Chris Perez RH
9 Lonnie Chisenhall 3B SU Vinnie Pestano RH
Top bench options RP Tony Sipp LH
R Jack Hannahan 3B RP Joe Smith RH
R Matt LaPorta 1B RP Rafael Perez LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Francisco Lindor 18 SS Class A Class A
Lindor isn't close to the majors, but he might be the only impact player in the Indians' minor-league system. He's worth a long-term look if you're aiming for a Starlin Castro type.
2 Cord Phelps 25 2B Majors Triple-A
Phelps had solid minor-league numbers last year, but he's clearly an inferior hitter to Kipnis. He'll need a break just to get a look as a utility man in 2012.
3 Zach McAllister 24 SP Majors Triple-A
The former Yankees farmhand had an up-and-down major-league showing last year. He has a low ceiling, but he could factor in the rotation if Lowe or Slowey doesn't pan out.
4 Nick Hagadone 26 RP Majors Majors
Of the Indians' many reliever prospects, Hagadone stands out as one with closer-type stuff. But even if he makes the roster, he has a few players ahead of him for that role.
5 Dillon Howard 19 SP DNP -- signed late Class A
Howard stands out as the Indians' top pitching prospect and a potential frontline starter, but at age 19, a lot could go wrong for him still. He's a long-term option only.
Best of the rest: Thomas Neal, OF; Chen-Chang Lee, RP; Austin Adams, SP; Scott Barnes, SP; Chun Chen, C; Giovanni Soto, SP; Corey Kluber, SP; Danny Salazar, SP; and Bryce Stowell, RP.

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Player News
Blaine Boyer plays long toss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Padres pitchr Blaine Boyer played long toss Wednesday and could throw a bullpen sessino Friday, MLB.com reports.

Boyer has been sidelined since Sept. 4 with a shoulder injury. He owns a 3.05 ERA and 29:8 K:BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings.


Lisalverto Bonilla to start Friday with Scott Baker still out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:53 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla will make another start Friday with Scott Baker still sidelined, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Baker indicated that he has improved but is not ready for a starting assignment. Bonilla delivered a quality start and earned a win in his first start Saturday.


Anibal Sanchez feels good Wednesday, set for bullpen Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez felt good Wednesday after throwing a bullpen session the prior day, MLive.com reports. He's set to throw another session Thursday.

"We've just got to wait and see what happens," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's got a bullpen tomorrow. If he comes out of that all right, we'll have to schedule a simulated game."

The simulated game, which could come as early as Sunday morning, could be the precursor to getting Sanchez on the mound in a game before the season is over. He could start the team's penultimate game of the season next weekend if the Tigers were to have the division title wrapped up, though he would likely pitch just a few innings.


Glen Perkins to undergo MRI Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Twins closer Glen Perkins will undergo an MRI on his pitching arm Thursday, MLB.com reports.

The test will check his elbow and biceps area after the closer complained of soreness this week. Perkins has surrendered 10 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last eight appearances.


MRI on Angel Pagan's back comes back clean
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) An MRI on the back of Giants outfielder Angel Pagan has come back clean, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reports.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that Pagan is feeling much improved and feels he can return to the lineup Friday. Pagan, who hasn't played since Sunday, has hit .302/.342/.391 with three home runs, 27 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 381 at-bats.


Addison Reed takes loss vs. Giants Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed was hung with a loss Wednesday, allowing two earned runs on two hits and two walks while recording just one out in his team's 4-2 defeat against the Giants.

Reed (1-6) came on in a tied game to start the ninth inning. He walked the first batter he faced and struck out the next man up before things turned south in a hurrt, with a single and a walk loading the bases and another single bringing two runs home. Reed has allowed five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings over his last four outings. He owns a 4.13 ERA and 66:15 K:BB ratio in 56 2/3 innings.


Santiago Casilla strikes out two in 17th save
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:28 pm ET) Giants closer Santiago Casilla struck out two batters while allowing no hits or walks Wednesday to pick up his 17th save in his team's 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Only a two-out error prevented Casilla from recording a 1-2-3 inning. He's now delivered back-to-back scoreless appearances after giving up runs in three of his five previous outings. Casilla owns a 1.82 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 43:15 K:BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings.


Sergio Romo earns win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:24 pm ET) Giants pitcher Sergio Romo picked up a win Wednesday, giving up one hit and striking out one in a scoreless inning of work in his team's 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Romo (6-4) threw 12 of his 14 pitches for strikes while delivering his third straight scoreless outing. After struggling in June and losing the closer role, he's performed well over the last month and a half, giving up just two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings since the beginning of August. Romo owns a 3.90 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 57:12 K:BB ratio in 55 1/3 innings.


Dodgers outright Red Patterson to Triple-A Albuquerque
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) The Dodgers sent pitcher Red Patterson outright to Triple-A Albuquerque Wednesday. The pitcher cleared waivers after being designated for assignment.

Andrew Chafin gives up two runs in no-decision vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:19 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Andrew Chafin wasn't a factor in Wednesday's decision, allowing two earned runs on three hits and four walks in six innings and striking out two in his team's 4-2 loss to the Giants.

Chafin gave up a run in the top of the second inning on an RBI double, but his offense responded in the bottom half of the inning with a run to tie the game. The starter then surrendered another run in the fifth on a sacrifice, but the offense picked him back up again in the next half-inning to keep the score tied. Chafin has been solid in two starts despite having an issue with free passes. He owns a 1.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 5:6 K:BB ratio in 11 innings. He's scheduled to face the Twins Tuesday.


 
 
 
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