Thursday, March 31, 2005

2005 Preview - Positional Analysis Part I

With Game 1 looming on Monday, it's time to take a look at the Indians 2005 roster to analyze the team that Mark Shapiro has been building for contention.
Catchers
The position is the strongest it has been in years, with Victor Martinez solidifying his status as a solid run-producer after his insertion into the cleanup spot last year. Martinez should continue to grow, along with the other young bats in the lineup, by using last year's experience as he attempts to replicate his 2004 All-Star achievement. Just 26, Martinez should continue to improve on his defense and game-calling skills as he becomes more confident and comfortable with himself. His throwing improved at the end of last year, though it remains a weakness.
In Josh Bard, the Indians finally have a dependable backup (no disrespect to Tim Laker) that is able to log significant innings donning the tools of ignorance. Bard excels in his defense and handling of the pitchers, though it remains to be seen how his hitting will fare after his hernia operation last year.
This position runs deep for the Tribe as well, with Ryan Garko ticketed to start in Buffalo, and Javier Herrera, David Wallace filling out the upper levels of the minors. Don't be surprised if a lower-level catcher becomes trade bait mid-season.
First Base
Ben Broussard established himself as the 2005 starting first baseman after a nasty slump in mid-season. His glovework remains solid, but Broussard must build on his success in the latter months of the season to ensure himself a spot in the lineup after 2005. Eric Wedge seems confident that Broussard is his man, but skepticism remains.
Travis Hafner, though a 1B in name only, will get the majority of the DH starts. Hafner should see some action in the field in NL parks to keep his stick in the lineup. Hafner crushed his way to a terrific season, slowed only by a nagging elbow injury, which was rectified in the off-season. Hafner's patience at the plate is unusual for a power hitter of his size, but it also is instrumental in setting the tone for the "One to Nine" approach of the 2005 Tribe.
Jose Hernandez, and possibly Casey Blake, will fill in periodically.
Racing his way through the minors is Michael Aubrey, the former first-round pick slated to start in Buffalo. If Aubrey continues to rake the way that he has, Broussard's days could be numbered as the starting first baseman. All reports on Aubrey indicate that he is a slick fielding, doubles hitting lefty. Very similar to Broussard, so it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out this year and next year. Another name to watch is Ryan Garko, who tore his way through the minors last year. Though a catcher by trade, he may project into a 1B/DH in the very near future. Shapiro seems (unlike his predecessor John Hart) to favor players with more upside, as opposed to relying heavily on experience.

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