Where They Stand: Cleveland Indians | Sharapova's Thigh

Can Cliff Lee repeat his dominating 2008 performance?

Since we're all huge baseball fans here at the Thigh, we've decided to examine each MLB team and where they currently stand. We'll look at how the team did last year, changes that happened or could happen with the team this offseason, and how it looks like the team will do in 2009 as of now. We'll even toss in the hottest thigh associated with each team. In this edition, we look at the Cleveland Indians.

2008 Outcome: 81-81, 3rd place in the AL Central

What They've Lost: RP Brendan Donnelly (signed with Rangers), C Sal Fasano (signed with Rockies), RP Juan Rincon (signed with Tigers)

What They've Added: RP Kerry Wood (free agent), SP Carl Pavano (free Agent) RP Joe Smith(acquired from Mets), IF Mark DeRosa (acquired from Cubs) RP Juan Salas (acquired from Rays), 2B Tony Graffanino (free agent)

Needs: Starting pitching and to stay healthy. The Indians suffered through several injuries last year, they are the deepest team in the AL Central and helped solved their biggest problem from last year, which was bullpen. If they can stay healthy they have a very good looking team.

The Talk: The Indians really only made two major offseason moves. Acquiring Mark DeRosa from the Cubs, and signing former Cubs closer Kerry Wood. They didn't lose any major pieces. The AL Central looks to be a very winnable division as the White Sox took a step backwards and neither the Twins or Tigers did anything of major significance. To really make a splash the Indians will be counting on a lot of young guys however. Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo will be manning the corner outfield positions. Both have showed flashes of being very good players, but whether they can keep it up all season in key offensive spots will be a question.

Of course Grady Sizemore is the rock of the Indians team and they will need another big year out of him. New addition Mark DeRosa will likely step right into a leadership role at 2B as a double play partner with youngster Asdrubal Cabrera. Jhonny Peralta will most likely move to 3rd base and Ryan Garko will man 1st base.

The two guys to really keep an eye on are Catcher Victor Martinez and DH Travis Hafner. Both had major injury problems last year which really hurt the Indians offense. If they can get those two guys right, they will be in great shape. Cleveland also has Kelly Shoppach, who broke out with 21 HR last year, to help man both spots.

As for the pitching side of things. Reigning Cy young award winner Cliff Lee will try to prove that last year was no fluke. After failing to pick up any significant upgrades Lee and Fausto Carmona will have to anchor the pitching rotation. Jake Westbrook will likely not be back til after the All-star break, so until then Jeremy Sowers, Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes will likely have to hold down the last 3 spots in the rotation. If the Indians make any mid-season deals a starting pitcher is the most likely place to upgrade.

Other than injuries bullpen may have been the biggest issue for the Indians last year. They were determined to go out and sign a big name reliever and they did so in Kerry Wood. If he can stay healthy he will provide a consistent dominant arm at the end of the bullpen. Jensen Lewis who looked very good in the 2nd half last year will likely share setup duties with Rafael Betancourt.

Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: They are probably done as the Indians front office has said the team is set.

As I mentioned above, the Indians may look to trade for a starting pitcher mid season, especially if it takes Jake Westbrook longer than expected to come back or if Carl Pavano fails to stay healthy.

Young Player(s) To Make 2009 Impact: OF/1B Matt LaPorta

The Indians have young players covering 1B and both corner OF spots. LaPorta has put up big numbers in the minors and at 24 he is likely ready to contribute now. If any of the 3 struggle or if the Indians have more injury problems look for LaPorta to get a shot and when he does, don't be surprised if he takes full advantage of it. There is a reason why the Indians were willing to let go of CC Sabathia for this guy.

2009 Outlook: The AL Central is wide open. I could see anyone but the Royals winning it. The Indians have the deepest team with the most upside however and if their starting pitching can stay healthy and produce they look like the team most likely to come away with the division crown. They finally started playing very well in the second half last year and had the season been a month longer they may have been able to come all the way back and win it last year.

Hottest Thigh Association: Heidi DeRosa

When the Indians acquired Mark DeRosa from the Cubs, not only did they get a great versatile ballplayer but they also gained his very hot wife Heidi. She is a former fashion model. Mark is a very lucky guy.

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