Over the last several weeks, we’ve been previewing the Cleveland Indians’ season by profiling every player on the Tribe’s 2012 Opening Day 25-man roster. With the first pitch at Progressive Field just a few hours away, we’re recapping our player previews with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic predictions for each member of the team.
Here are the worst-case scenarios for each 2012 Tribe player.
Carlos Santana: Santana reaggravates his knee and cannot play catcher on a regular basis. His power numbers stagnate and his walk rate falls as the league figures out how to pitch to him, and his low BABIP turns out to be indicative of his true talent level. Forced to spend most of his time at first base or designated hitter, he loses his positional and becomes an unexceptional corner infielder. (full profile here)
Casey Kotchman: Kotchman’s hit rate plummets and takes his whole game down with him. Already an ineffective hitter, his confidence is shaken and he overthinks his approach. His solid glove can’t make up for his anemic bat, and the Indians end up better off with Matt LaPorta. (full profile here)
Jason Kipnis: Kipnis gets a bad case of the sophomore slump. His power and plate discipline numbers decline as opposing pitchers figure out his weaknesses and the toil of a full MLB season starts to wear him down by midsummer. He starts to press and loses some playing time, which make matters even worse. On defense, he and Asdrubal Cabrera comprise the worst double-play combo in the league. People start calling Cord Phelps Cleveland’s second baseman of the future. (full profile here)
Asdrubal Cabrera: He’s the player we saw in August (.705 OPS) and September (.709 OPS), not the one we saw in May (.947 OPS). His power surge turns out to have been a phase and he abandons his new approach. Essentially it’s back to 2010 (.693 OPS, 85 wRC+), when he made his living just by hitting the ball, not by hitting it far. His bat can no longer make up for his already-lacking defense and he becomes just another unremarkable middle infielder. (full profile here)
Jack Hannahan: It turns out 2011 was a fluke. The Indians either start the season with a hole in their lineup and have to give the job to an unready Chisenhall. Hannahan is reduced to being a bench player and a late-game defensive replacement, Chisenhall loses the chance to work on his approach in Triple-A, and Tribe pitchers don’t get the enormous benefit of having Hannahan’s glove behind them. (full profile here)
Shelley Duncan: Duncan’s strong showing last year was just as fluky as his rookie debut. He hits for above-average power but his slugging ability is significantly diminished and that’s the only remarkable aspect of his game. His walk rate remains stagnant while his strikeout rate returns to the 30 percent range. The Indians end up better off with Aaron Cunningham or Ryan Spilborghs. (full profile here)
Michael Brantley: Brantley’s strikeout rate continuing to rise and his ISO dipping back below .100 are both possible scenarios to worry about, but barring major injury or crisis of confidence the real worst-case scenario is that he doesn’t show any real improvement. If his power and plate discipline plateau or decline in 2012—essentially, his Marcel projection (.268/.321/.381, 96 OPS+)—it will be hard to project anything close to stardom for Brantley down the road. (full profile here)
Shin-Soo Choo: The injury bug strikes again before Choo has a chance to get his groove back. He and Grady Sizemore combine to spend a full season’s worth of games on the disabled list, and he’s not the Choo of old even when he’s on the field. His 20-homer power is a thing of the past and his hit rate settles on a new, lower equilibrium. He’s still at least average at every facet of the game, but he’s no longer good enough to be underrated. (full profile here)
Travis Hafner: Hafner’s BABIP and age catch up with him and he struggles to reach even his non-James projections. That is, when he’s on the field—his usual rash of injuries is even worse than his norm and he misses more than half the season. The Indians regret not trading him for A.J. Burnett. (full profile here)