The New York Yankees (50-32) dismantled the Cleveland Indians (44-38) in their first meeting last month and the two teams will meet for a rematch. The last time these two teams met, Lewie Pollis – the Cleveland Indians blogger – and I exchanged some questions as a preview for the series. It worked out well the first time, why not do it again? Click here for his questions and my responses. Read on for my responses to his questions.
Q1. The Detroit Tigers have the best hitter and the best starting pitcher in the AL Central. Will the Cleveland Indians be able to hold them off in the second half?
A1. Probably not. This team definitely has the upside of a division-winner and I’d say it’s better than even money that the Indians at least hold onto second place, but at least on paper Detroit is the best team in the division. If they still had a big cushion I’d say they could fight the Tigers off, but they’re in roughly the same place now and it’s hard to project Cleveland as the better team going forward.
CWI – I agree. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera give the Tigers a bit of a head start in the talent department, but the Indians have a solid future ahead of them.
Q2. Shin Soo Choo was not having a particularly productive season before he went down with his thumb injury, but he’s still a valuable contributor to the team – even in a down year. Who will the Indians try to replace Choo’s production with?
A2. So far it’s been a three-way platoon of Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, and Shelley Duncan, who as of Sunday had combined to be below replacement level. The assumed next man in line at Triple-A is Ezequiel Carrera, who was up for a few games earlier this season, but if I had my druthers the Tribe would call up 28-year-old (can you call someone his age a prospect?) Jerad Head. I projected him to be roughly a 4-WAR improvement over Kearns over a full season, so Cleveland will lose at least a full win by not plugging him in in right field until Choo’s return.
CWI – Yankees fans have been on the Austin Kearns and the Shelley Duncan boats before. Not too much to be excited about.
Q3. Lonnie Chisenhall made his MLB debut this past week. Some people see him as a 15-20 HR hitter down the road, while others – namely his manger, Manny Acta – expect to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 HR. What are your expectations?
Q4. You expressed displeasure in the fact that Robinson Cano will be the starting second baseman for the American League in the All-Star Game. Who do you think is more deserving of the nod?
Q5. The Indians have stated that they will not mortgage their future for a shot at the playoffs in 2011. With that said, what are the biggest needs of this team and which – if any - higher tier prospects would you be willing to trade to address those needs if the AL Central remains within reach by the non-waiver trade deadline?
A5. Position player-wise, the biggest holes are second base, right field, and first base, but the Indians have have at least potentially better solutions in all three places. The key at second base is for Cord Phelps to play in place of Orlando “Below Replacement Level” Cabrera more often. Right field we need to call up Head, and there’s at least some chance Nick Johnson could be a replacement for Matt LaPorta while he’s out and an upgrade over him when he’s healthy. The real problem is the rotation. Mitch Talbot has been terrible and Fausto Carmona is injured. The Indians aren’t going to go out and get an ace, but a solid No. 2 or 3 arm would be nice. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Tribe has any prospects who are good enough to bag an impact player but expendable enough for it to be worth trading them. Without any huge glaring holes in the depth chart (even in the rotation, we have at least a couple guys in the minors who can fill in) it wouldn’t be worth our while to pay a premium for an impact player. Unless there’s a high-risk, high-reward player on the block or a team with no leverage trying to rebuild, I don’t think the Indians will make a big splash at the deadline.
CWI – It’s probably better that way in the long run. It is definitely nice for management to show the fans and the clubhouse that they are committed to winning, but hail mary shots at the playoffs can do more to hurt a team than help it. We might just have to see how things are looking when July 31st comes around.
Thank you to Lewie Pollis for answering my questions leading up to the Yankees vs. Indians series.
Here are a few more notes:
- A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes will take the hill against Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson.
- Derek Jeter’s countdown to 3,000 hits will resume tonight as he makes his return to shortstop and the lead-off spot.
- Keep an eye on Wednesday’s game. Not only Phil Hughes making his return to the rotation, but the Yankees will get their first look at Justin Masterson in 2011. He’s been solid this year, but he struggles against left-handed hitters. I expect two-thirds of the Yankees lineup to bat lefty (then again, that probably applies to Monday and Tuesday as well).
The Boston Red Sox (49-34) host the Toronto Blue Jays (41-44) for three games. Hopefully Jose Bautista terrorizes them the way he has done so many other teams. The Tampa Bay Rays (47-37) travel to take on the Minnesota Twins (36-46).
Season Series vs. Indians