Spring training is now upon us, which means one of the most exciting times of the year is just around the corner. Earlier, I profiled the pitching staff and what we should hope to see from them over the course of spring training. Now it’s time to take a look at the hitters who figure to make the biggest impact for the Cleveland Indians in 2012.
Keep in mind that spring training is just a short preview of the season and that the numbers a player puts up may not be an accurate indication of what we can expect out of the season.
Carlos Santana: Santana has shown flashes of brilliance in the past. He has the potential to be an impactful player for the organization in the future, and as he gets ready for his second full season in the big leagues, we should hope to see that he has settled in well, and is ready to be a consistent run producer.
Lou Marson: We need to see an improvement at the plate from Marson. We will likely see him in a back-up role against left-handers to give Santana a rest from catching. Over the course of spring training, we should look for him to make progress against right-handed pitching—one of Marson’s weak spots.
Casey Kotchman: Kotchman needs to prove why he should be the Opening Day first baseman. We can hope to see signs that he is building upon his career year in 2011, and that he can be a productive part of the lineup heading into the season. During spring training, it would be a good sign if Kotchman showed that he could contribute to producing runs and continue getting on base consistently.
Matt LaPorta: A lot of people have lost confidence in LaPorta. His numbers have been uninspiring in the past, and the signing of Kotchman means that LaPorta will probably be starting the season in Triple-A. Given the circumstances, I think it’s important to see LaPorta show that he is making strides during spring training, but the bigger test for him will be the beginning stages of the season. He has struggled at the plate, but he has the potential to hit with power, so I think that’s what we need to see him working on, while at the same time limiting his strikeouts.
Jason Kipnis: We can only hope that the short glimpse of Kipnis’s talent we saw last season was a sign of what’s to come. He struggled with an oblique injury in September last year, so during spring training we can hope to see that he’s back at 100 percent and is going to come into 2012 with the same intensity with which he finished 2011. He’s an exciting player who has the potential to greatly impact the lineup.
Jason Donald: Spring training didn’t go as planned for Donald last year, when a broken left hand, prevented him from winning the Opening Day third base job. A string of injuries in Columbus then barred him from coming to Cleveland until late in the season, but it was better late than never. He showed significant improvements behind the plate, getting on base and showing plate discipline. We can hope to see more of the same from Donald, though we will likely see him in a utility role in 2012.
Asdrubal Cabrera: A lot of things went right for Cabrera last season. His production skyrocketed, and he proved to be a force to be reckoned with on the field through most of the season. It is yet to be seen whether Cabrera can maintain that sort of productivity throughout the course of his career. In spring training, we can hope to become a better judge of that, and hope to see that last season wasn’t a fluke for Cabrera, but just a glimpse of what is to come.
Jack Hannahan: Hannahan proved to be a pleasant surprise last season for the Tribe. He started the season much stronger than he finished behind the plate, but his defense was impressive through the course of the season. The Opening Day third base job isn’t a lock, so Hannahan will have to prove that he can consistently produce behind the plate while maintaining his stellar defense.
Lonnie Chisenhall: Chisenhall was a bit of a disappointment last season, and he has a lot to prove if he wants to start the season in Cleveland. Clearly he has potential and upside, and we need to see the signs that he’s living up to the hype that followed him as a prospect. Spring training should largely be viewed as a way of testing whether he has made adjustments during the offseason and is ready to face big league pitching.
Travis Hafner: Injuries have dogged Hafner for years, and last season was no different. When healthy, we saw some life in his bat, and got some reason to believe that he may still have something left within him. During spring training we can hope to see signs of Hafner’s power and that his is fully healthy.
Michael Brantley: Last season we saw more from Brantley than we had in the past, and going forward we can hope to see that he will continue to produce behind the plate like last season. The end of his season was plagued with a right hand injury, forcing him to be shut down early. We can look for Brantley to continue to make strides at the plate and show that he is fully healed and healthy.
Shelley Duncan: Duncan filled multiple roles when needed last year. He has the potential to play in the outfield and first base, if needed. He has power and proved to be a reliable pinch hitter through the course of last season while moving up and down between Columbus and Cleveland. During spring training, we can hope to see that he will be able to maintain that role of filling in when needed, without the loss of his power or run-production capability.
Grady Sizemore: Sizemore is one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. Everyone is aware of what he can bring to the lineup, but we haven’t seen much of that due to three seasons laden with injuries. One of the biggest things we can see from Sizemore is that he is healthy. We need to see that his injuries haven’t changed him as a player and that is can return to his former glory. Sizemore’s health and productivity will have a huge impact on how the season goes for the Tribe,.
Ezequiel Carrera: Carrera is rough around the edges, but he has potential. One of the biggest things that we should look for from him is an increase in the mental aspect of his game. Last season he made multiple costly fielding and base running blunders. Improvements on the mental side of the game from him are imperative to see during spring training.
Shin-Soo Choo: Off-field issues seemed to affect his Choo’s play on the field last season. During spring training, it is imperative that we see that Choo has put that behind him and is ready to focus. He was also hampered by injuries through the course of the season, limiting his productivity. One thing is certain: when Choo is healthy, he is a run-producer that can greatly alter the outlook of the lineup. During spring training, we can hope to see signs of the old Choo.
Everyone is ready for spring training after the long winter. Hopefully we’ll see the improvements necessary for a good season from all of the players, but either way, it’s an exciting time.