Pragmatic Predictions for the Indians’ 2012 Opening Day Roster

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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 optimisticpessimistic, and realistic predictions for each member of the team.

Here are the most likely scenarios for each 2012 Tribe player.

The Lineup

Carlos Santana: Santana gets a small boost from a higher BABIP, as well as minor improvements in his power and plate discipline numbers. The majority of his starts will be from behind the plate, and while the 50 or so games he’ll play at DH or first base will depress his value he’ll hit well enough to hold his own at any position. He has an All-Star-worthy season and stakes his claim as the Indians’ best hitter. (full profile here)

Casey Kotchman: Kotchman will hold his own offensively as a slightly above-average hitter, and having a steady glove at first will be a godsend to the Tribe’s wormburning rotation. No one will mistake Kotchman for an All-Star and he’s not a long-term solution for a contending team, but he won’t be a liability on either side of the ball, and there’s some value in that. (full profile here)

Jason Kipnis: It’s unrealistic to expect him to repeat his 135 wRC+ in 2012 (though it’s certainly possible that he will), but I’d bet on Kipnis going 15/15 (if not 20/20) and OPSing over .800 again. You could do a lot worse than that second base. (full profile here)

Asdrubal Cabrera: I’m with the projection systems (.278/.339/.433, 114 OPS+). A .772 OPS for a shortstop with good speed is a pretty solid player, even if (as I do) you see him as a subpar defender. He’ll take a backseat to Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis in terms of anchoring the lineup, but he’ll still be a big piece of this team. (full profile here)

Jack Hannahan: Some might point to the lack of a single factor that led to Hannahan’s improvement as a bad thing, but I think it makes him a safer bet for 2012 because regression in one area won’t make him unravel. I wouldn’t bet on him repeating 2011—though he might—but I’ll gladly take the over on the mean projections (.233/.319/.358, 90 OPS+). (full profile here)

Shelley Duncan: The mean projections (.240/.318/.432, 108 OPS+) look pretty good to me, though the reasonable range of possibilities is probably skewed below that given that Duncan has never played as well as he did last year and is old enough to be entering the decline phase of his career. He’ll be a decent hitter and he’ll fill in admirably wherever he’s needed in the lineup, but don’t expect much more than that. (full profile here)

Michael Brantley: Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I say Brantley makes some strides in 2012. I expect he’ll take modest but significant steps forward in his walk rate, power, and (as a result) BABIP. He’s at least an average hitter and a slightly above-average overall player. He might never develop into the stud leadoff man we envisioned when he first came up, but he shows us that his career path is still on an upward trajectory. (full profile here)

Shin-Soo Choo: There’s definitely a chance that he regains his MVP-caliber form, but for a player who turns 30 this year coming off a disappointing season it’s better to temper expectations. He’ll still a tremendous asset to the team, but he won’t be a star. (full profile here)

Travis Hafner: Pronk slips a little bit—maybe halfway between his 2011 numbers and his ZIPS projections—but it’s not the dramatic decline that most of the projection systems predict. He makes about 90 starts and proves yet again to be one of the Tribe’s best hitters, even if he’s not worth his contract. (full profile here)