C Victor Martinez
2004 WARP: 5.5
The biggest reason for my optimism is a healthy Josh Bard; with a competant backup, Eric Wedge should feel more comfortable sitting Martinez twice a week if need be. Martinez’s offense faded in July and August because he was better even tired than Tim Laker.
OPS by month (2004)
Victor will never be mistaken for a great defensive catcher, but posting .285 EQAs forgive a lot of shortcomings behind the plate.
1B Ben Broussard
2004 WARP: 4.5
Broussard posted ungodly numbers with RISP last season:
Situational OPS (2004)
Runners on: .903
RISP (2 outs): .911
Bases loaded: 2.238
That’s not going to happen again, and should reduce Broussard’s stature a bit. Ben has some things going for him, though: he’s a patient hitter (52 walks in 470 ABs), has decent power, and is not a liability at first base. But he’s not a player you should pay a ton of money to, and with Michael Aubrey a year away, Broussard may be moved after the season. For this year, Ben should get some more looks against left-handers, as Jose Hernandez is going be more a utility infielder than a platoon players.
2B Ronnie Belliard
2004 WARP: 4.6
Belliard’s torrid April turned an otherwise average year into an All-Star appearance. Average is fine with me for what the Indians are paying him. The odds of Belliard making another All-Star team is slightly higher than Butch Davis getting another NFL head coaching job, but he’s still a nice complementary player.
SS Jhonny Peralta/Brandon Phillips
Peralta is probably the front-runner here, but Phillips is still in the picture. Whoever wins the job is going to be put under the microscope given the guy who used to play there. I like Peralta’s bat better than Phillips’, but Brandon is the better defender. If the Indians fail to pick up Belliard’s 2006 option, the problem resolves itself, but for this year, the loser gets banished to AAA. I’m betting on Peralta winning the job and not relinquishing it. He’s not a rookie anymore, but I think he could put up numbers similar to last year’s ROY, Bobby Crosby.
3B Aaron Boone
Another of the horde of decent players on the roster, Boone represents a defensive upgrade at third base, and probably a slight downgrade in offense. He probably won’t steal 30 bases again, especially after two knee surgeries. His lack plate discipline doesn’t endear him to statheads, but he should bat down enough in the lineup so his propensity to hack shouldn’t matter as much.
LF Casey Blake
2004 WARP: 4.3
Moving right on the defensive spectrum automatically decreases his value, and Blake’s 2004 looks like a career year, so I think Casey is due for a big dropoff in 2005. I have no qualms about his defense, given that he’s essentially replacing Matt “Immovable” Lawton; it’s the offense that concerns me. Hitting 28 home runs at age 30 isn’t necessary a harbinger of future power exploits, especially after a career spent mostly bouncing around the minors.
CF Coco Crisp
2004 WARP: 3.2
At this point, Coco Crisp is essentially Kenny Lofton minus the stolen bases and plate discipline. Which doesn’t really say much at all other than to demonstrate why I’m still skeptical about Crisp’s viability as an everyday outfielder. The encouraging thing is that Coco has a minor-league history of taking walks and stealing bases. With Grady Sizemore, a better fielder, waiting in the wings, Crisp has to become a better leadoff threat in order to play a corner.
RF Juan Gonzalez
2004 WARP: 0.3
Ok, I’m a glutton for punishment, maybe because last time I saw Gonzo in an Indians uniform, he had a comeback season. I’ll settle for 400 ABs and 20 HR.
DH Travis Hafner
2004 WARP: 6.6
There’s really nowhere else to go but down for Pronk, but I don’t see too much of a fall-off. The peripherals are still strong, and Hafner is player who seems be to fine with being a full-time DH. If Gonzalez is hitting behind him, he should get enough pitches to mash.