96-66, American League Central champs Projected batting order
1. CF Grady Sizemore:
.277 BA, .390 OBP, .462 SLG, 24 HRs, 78 RBIs in 2007
2. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera:
.283 BA, .354 OBP, .421 SLG, 3 HRs, 22 RBIs in 2007
3. DH Travis Hafner:
.266 BA, .385 OBP, .451 SLG, 24 HRs, 100 RBIs in 2007
4. C Victor Martinez:
.301 BA, .374 OBP, .505 SLG, 25 HRs, 114 RBIs in 2007
5. 1B Ryan Garko:
.289 BA, .359 OBP, .483 SLG, 21 HRs, 61 RBIs in 2007
6. SS Jhonny Peralta:
.270 BA, .341 OBP, .430 SLG, 21 HRs, 72 RBIs in 2007
7. LF David Dellucci:
.230 BA, .296 OBP, .382 SLG, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs in 2007
8. RF Franklin Gutierrez:
.266 BA, .318 OBP, .472 SLG, 13 HRs, 36 RBIs in 2007
9. 3B Casey Blake:
.270 BA, .339 OBP, .437 SLG, 18 HRs, 78 RBIs in 2007 Projected rotation
1. C.C. Sabathia, 19-7, 3.21 ERA in 2007
2. Fausto Carmona, 19-8, 3.06 ERA in 2007
3. Jake Westbrook, 6-9, 4.32 ERA in 2007
4. Paul Byrd, 15-8, 4.59 ERA in 2007
5. Aaron Laffey, 4-2, 4.56 ERA in 2007
Closer: Joe Borowski, 45 saves, 5.07 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Rafael Betancourt, 1.47 ERA in 2007
LH setup man: Rafael Perez, 1.78 ERA in 2007 The new guys
RHP Masahide Kobayashi: With nine seasons and 227 saves under his belt in the Japanese Pacific League, the 33-year-old Kobayashi is ready to test the Major League waters. He'll break in as a middle reliever for the Tribe, with the possibility of taking on a more prominent role as the season progresses. IF Jamey Carroll: Carroll, acquired for a player to be named in a trade with the Rockies, will take over the Indians' infield utility role, filling in primarily for Cabrera at second base, when necessary, and also serving as a late-inning defensive specialist and pinch-runner. RHP Jorge Julio: The most high-profile of the Indians' non-roster invitees deserves mention here, only because he was such a stabilizer in the Rockies' bullpen in 2007. Signed to a Minor League deal, Julio has a shot at landing the final spot in the Tribe's bullpen. Prospects to watch
RHP Adam Miller: Is this the year Miller, the Tribe's top prospect, makes his first impression on the big leagues? If he's healthy, the answer is yes. A bruised finger and a strained elbow kept him from breaking in last season. But when he's healthy, Miller is a dominant arm who could play a role in the rotation or, perhaps, the bullpen.
Returning from injury
Dellucci: Brought in last season to be the Tribe's left fielder against right-handed pitching, Dellucci labored at the plate for two and a half months before tearing his hamstring, essentially ending his season. He'll report to camp back at full strength and hungry to prove last year is no indication of what he can bring to this club.
Hafner: Mere mortals would have been happy to drive in 100 runs last season, but Hafner's production the three seasons prior was so off the charts that '07 was considered a down year for Pronk. The most troubling stat was his .224 average with runners in scoring position. LHP Cliff Lee: Lee's abysmal '07 season (5-8, 6.29 ERA) saw him land in Triple-A, just two years after he won 18 games for the Tribe and one year after he signed a long-term contract extension. He'll come into camp looking to compete for the fifth starting job. He could also become trade bait.
LHP Jeremy Sowers: What was to be Sowers' first full season in the big leagues instead resulted in a midseason demotion to Triple-A. Like Lee, he'll be competing with Laffey for the final rotation spot.Long gone
LF Kenny Lofton: A fan favorite, for sure, but with Dellucci healthy, Lofton didn't fit into the Indians' plans any longer. His return to Cleveland at the trading deadline last year made for a feel-good story, but it still didn't result in Lofton's ultimate, and thus far unfulfilled, goal of earning a World Series ring. Nixon: Unfortunately, Nixon became better known for slamming pies in his teammates' faces than for anything he did at the plate, though he did come through with some big knocks in the postseason. Nixon's greatest contribution was the looseness he brought to the Tribe clubhouse. But Gutierrez swiped his job on the field.
2007 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Martinez, .301
OBP: Sizemore, .390
SLG: Martinez, .505
Runs: Sizemore, 118
RBIs: Martinez, 114
Hits: Sizemore, 174
2B: Martinez, 40
3B: Sizemore, 5
HR: Martinez, 25
SB: Sizemore, 33
2007 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Sabathia, 241
W: Sabathia and Carmona, 19
L: Westbrook, 9
Win %: Sabathia, 19-7, .731
S: Borowski, 45
ERA: Betancourt, 1.47
K: Sabathia, 209
K/9: Perez, 9.20
WHIP: Betancourt, 0.76
1. Can the Indians sign C.C.?
It's been the question of the winter, and it will persist into the spring. The Indians have made Sabathia a formal offer that's been sitting on the table since the holidays. But Johan Santana's long-term extension with the Mets certainly complicates things, as it can be viewed as a comparable contract. The Indians are willing to keep negotiations with Sabathia open throughout the '08 season. 2. Who will win the fifth starting spot?
This was Laffey's job at the end of the '07 season, and manager Eric Wedge was impressed with the poise he showed at the big league level in the season's final two months. But Laffey will be pushed by the veteran Lee and the wily Sowers, both of whom will look to capitalize on the lessons they learned in a tough '07.
3. Will a trade be made?
Third baseman Andy Marte is out of Minor League options, which inevitably leads to some trade rumblings, but he's expected to be on the big league bench. Lee might be less of a sure thing, because the Indians would be understandably hesitant to pay him $3.75 million to pitch in Triple-A. Big league clubs are always looking for pitching help (especially left-handed help), so expect to hear Lee's name in the rumor mill, at the least.
If this team looks familiar, it's by design. The Indians took the rare opportunity in professional sports to essentially bring back the same club that won a division title last season. They'll be counting on Hafner returning to his old self and the pitching being deep enough to tangle with the revamped Tigers.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.