Posts in this series:
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base|
|Shortstop||Third Base||Designated Hitter|
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
|Starting Pitching||Relief Pitching|
Part I: Review
Michael Brantley started the season as the left fielder, didn't hit, and was eventually replaced by Austin Kearns. Kearns, who was probably a bad season away from ending his career, stayed healthy and anchored the lineup for a time. The Indians dealt him at the deadline, and playing time at the position was shared by Trevor Crowe and Shelley Duncan since Brantley had replaced an injured Grady Sizemore in center.
UZR absolutely adored Kearns as a right fielder, even as recently as 2007 with Washington. But he hadn't played much since that 2007 season, and perhaps age and injuries are catching up with his defense. Or perhaps playing a new position affected his fielding.
Shelley Duncan's positive marks are due mainly to his arm; he had six assists as a left fielder.
This went a lot better than it looked like it would. Even if Michael Brantley was successful as a hitter, he was going to struggle to slug .400. It turned out the Brantley would play more center field than left field, allowing the Indians to run out left fielders who would hit the ball out the park. And, what do you know? They somehow finished in the top half of the league.
Here's how the at-bats were distributed:
A little less Trevor Crowe and a little more Shelley Duncan, and the Indians would have looked even better here. Kearns held down the offensive fort in the first half of the year, and Duncan provided a nice boost in limited action down the stretch. A .500 slugging percentage was a rare thing in 2010, no matter how small the sample size.
Part II: Looking Towards 2011
Not Coming Back
Austin Kearns (Traded, 7-30-2010)
Both the Indians and Kearns benefited from their time together. The Indians got a stretch of fine outfield play for a bargain price and a marginal prospect, and Kearns rejuvenated his major-league career. He'll get a major-league contract from someone, and a lot more money than the $750,000 the Indians and Yankees paid him in 2010.
Anderson Hernandez (Claimed off Waivers, 7-21-2010)
Shelley Duncan (Pre-Arbitraion) - No Arbitration Years Remaining
Duncan was also a nice minor-league signing, perhaps better than the Kearns deal, since he'll be affordable through at least the 2011 season. He finished just two home runs out of second place on the team, and while you wouldn't want to run him out there every day, he'll be a fine complement to Michael Brantley and a nice option to have available off the bench.
Trevor Crowe (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
Sure, he was good defensively, but he only managed a 79 OPS+, barely acceptable for a fourth outfielder, never mind a corner outfielder. He has an option left, and the Indians should use it; he should be injury insurance only.
Jordan Brown (Pre-Arbitration) - 2 Option Years Remaining
Brown had a decent season in Columbus, but with his age (26) and place on the defensive spectrum (LF/1B), he needs to be obliterating minor-league pitching to open eyes. Brown could find his way on the roster as a backup first baseman and fifth outfielder, but it's more likely he goes back to Columbus again.
Michael Brantley (Pre-Arbitration) - 2 Option Years Remaining
With Grady Sizemore theoretically the center fielder next year, Brantley will slide over to left. He hit .284/.335/.371 in the second half, hitting for power but not taking as many walks. If he can manage to push the OBP up to the .360 range with a 80% steal rate, I think the Indians could live with him in left. All this assumes that Grady Sizemore is healthy and can play center field, two things that aren't givens any more.
Matt LaPorta (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
I think LaPorta's played his last game in the outfield, as his glove is a much better fit at first base. Now we'll have to see if his bat is a fit in a major-league lineup.
Jayson Nix (Pre-Arbitration) - No Option Years Remaining
Up in the Air
Chris Gimenez (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining (Off 40-Man Roster)
I think Chris will be the backup catcher if the Indians keep him in the organization. He can play the corner infield and outfield spots, which gives your roster a bit more flexibility. Or if the Indians decide to have Marson be Santana's backup, he'll start for Columbus and serve as insurance.