Thursday, January 19, 2006

25 Man Projection

While we're still 3 1/2 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it looks like the 25-man roster is essentially set:
Starting Lineup
Victor Martinez
Ben Broussard
Ronnie Belliard
Jhonny Peralta
Aaron Boone
Coco Crisp
Grady Sizemore
Casey Blake
Travis Hafner
This is essentially the lineup that scored the 4th most runs in the AL, despite the deficiencies at 1B and RF. The Perez signing and the push for Garko to get experience at 1B indicates that if Broussard starts off slow, he could be displaced (particularly at the $2.4M he'll probably get in arbitration). Wedge and Shapiro seem content to give Blake another shot in RF, which should play itself out by June. If Blake stays in 2005 form (as opposed to his consistent 2004), the ultimate answer to RF may come via trade.

Josh Bard
Eduardo Perez
Ramon Vazquez
Todd Hollandsworth
This is an area that Shapiro said needed an upgrade, but there didn't seem to be one. Bard and Vazquez remain, while Perez replaces Hernandez. The thought was probably to get a RF, which would allow Blake to come off of the bench, which is where he's probably best suited and may end up. Hollandsworth has more experience than the other 4th OF candidates, as well as not needing the consistent ABs that Dubois and Gutierrez need in Buffalo.

C.C. Sabathia
Jake Westbrook
Cliff Lee
Paul Byrd
Jason Johnson
Obviously, we've swapped Millwood and Elarton for Byrd and Johnson (for a lot less years and $), but the rotation still looks very solid. Assuming that C.C. pitches how he did in the 2nd half of last year (like he's finally figured it out) and the other pitchers post numbers close to their average, this remains a strength in a strong pitching division.

Bob Wickman
Fernando Cabrera
Arthur Rhodes
Rafael Betancourt
David Riske
Matt Miller
Scott Sauerbeck
The re-signing of Riske rounded out the bullpen, which essentially replaces Howry with Cabrera. When the bullpen is viewed from that perspective, it seems solid. The major question, though, lies in the back with Sticky Wicky.
Personally, I'm of the belief that Wickman, by his guile and determination, could save games pitching with my arm. It wouldn't be pretty, but it's not very pretty now. Regardless of style points, you cannot argue with Wicky's successful results of 2005.
The big fear is a repeat of 2004 Spring Training, when Wickman went down and the bullpen fell apart. The main difference between that pen and this one is that Arthur Rhodes (or Betancourt) may be able to hold down the fort if Wickman were to go down, whereas Jose Jimenez and Scott Stewart folded like a house of cards (a nod to Bud Shaw - King of Analogies).

On the Outside Looking In
Brandon Phillips (out of options)
Jason Davis (1 option left)
Danny Graves (minor-league contract)
Steve Karsay (minor-league contract)
Lou Merloni (minor-league contract)
B-Phil will likely be dealt during Spring Training and he may be packaged with David Riske, based, ironically, on the early reports on Graves and Karsay. If either is pitching well, they could fill that 6th inning role, allowing the Tribe to trade Riske to a team (upon entering Spring Training) that realizes, too late, that their bullpen is going to be a problem.
Davis (as Eric Wedge told WTAM, prior to the Art Modell interview, today) will pitch in the bullpen in Buffalo and try to master the preparation and routine of pitching out of the bullpen. With his live arm, let's hope that JD can get it all pulled together so he can contribute in Cleveland, and not elsewhere.

Would have to force their way into the lineup
Jason Dubois
Franklin Gutierrez
Ryan Garko
Andrew Brown
Fausto Carmona
Jeremy Sowers
As stated earlier, Dubois and Gutierrez will probably start in Buffalo, though Dubois could hit his way onto the team this Spring. The HUGE drawback to Dubois is his poor fielding, which prevents him from being the ideal 4th OF. Garko will start in Buffalo to get reps at 1B, where he will probably continue to crush the ball. Once his defense is adequate, I expect to see the Stanford grad at the Jake. Andrew Brown has one option left (thanks to an injury exception) and could be another option in the bullpen (along with Davis, Graves, and Karsay) to give the Tribe depth through the long regular season. Carmon and Sowers (the 2 young pitchers Wedge specifically mentioned as "ready to contribute in 2006") will start in Buffalo and should be a phone call away from a spot start at the Jake.

Thanks to the fellas at Let's Go Tribe for help on options, and let's hear some pre-Spring Training thoughts.

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