From the Going Out on a Limb Files: Jason Kipnis should be an improvement over Orlando Cabrera at second base.
Some mid-Spring Training thoughts:
Since 2001, the Indians haven't had consecutive winning seasons. They almost did it 2007-2008, but the 2008 club finished at exactly .500. Thankfully, the Indians won't have to buck that trend this season, as they finished 2011 80-82. But they will have to overcome the dreaded Even-Year 21st Century Curse. Since 2002, the Indians have not had a winning season in an even-numbered year.
But years and history aren't going to win the Indians games this season. A roster full of players coming into their theoretical prime will. Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Lou Marson will be 26 this season,
Michael Brantley and Jason Donald 27. Heck, Shin-Soo Choo will only be 29. This is a lineup that has plenty of room for organic growth, and the offense was one of the weakest parts of the team in 2011.
The rotation, although anchored by two potential aces, seems very shallow. Derek Lowe is likely starting his final major-league season, and probably doesn't have much left in the tank. Josh Tomlin never had much in the tank to begin with, but has gotten more out of his stuff than just about any other pitcher in the majors, past or present.
There have been setbacks already. Carlos Carrasco was lost for the season last September, Grady Sizemore will at the very least miss two months because of back surgery, and the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona has yet to gain entrance to the country, though it looks like eventually he'll be (back?) with the team.
All this vacillating is another way of saying that there's the potential for greatness but also frustration for this team. If Kipnis and Chisenhall progress as expected, if Brantley finally becomes the basepath disruptor we've been waiting for, if Ubaldo reverts to dominance, then this is a team that can go toe to toe with the Tigers in the AL Central. But what if those things don't happen? Let's not contemplate that: it's too early in the spring to be thinking realistically.