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Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Cleveland Indians
What's next for the Tribe's youthful triumvirate?
In his first two full campaigns, catcher Carlos Santana, who moonlights at first base, has manufactured very good statistics for a player at his position. It says a lot that he was a disappointment in 2011 because of his .239 batting average (to go along with 27 round-trippers and 79 RBIs) and this past season because he smacked only 18 home runs (in addition to his .252 average and 76 RBIs). It also says a lot that, despite these relative letdowns, he won't be marked down.
The switch-hitting Santana's mediocre contact rate and reluctance to go with the pitch will help to prevent him from taking his batting average to Victor Martinez-like heights. His track record for controlling the strike zone and his plus power make him a virtual lock to contribute significantly in three categories, however. His tools should still make him a threat to bat .260 or better year after year, beginning this season. The 26-year-old will get the at-bats, so he's worth the cost.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis took uninformed fantasy owners by surprise with his .257 average, 14 home runs and 31 stolen bases in 2012. The left-handed batter's .233 post-break average may give pause, but the result was in part the function of some due corrections. Kipnis, 25, also hit southpaws poorly (.215) in 2012, but in limited exposure against them in the minors, he was thoroughly successful. The danger is that fantasy owners consider his cume contributions virtual locks. Kipnis should advance toward 20 home runs, but it seems highly unlikely that he'll attempt to run as often as he did in his first full season.
The real breakout possibility belongs to Lonnie Chisenhall, who, at 24, doesn't have quite as much experience against MLB competition as his Cleveland-cornerstone counterparts. A broken forearm cut out half of what would've been his first full big-league campaign. The left-handed batter's plate discipline was improving last season, but his control of the strike zone must catch up. Chisenhall's hard line-drive stroke should help him yield Kipnis-like power figures, and, paired with speculative maturity at the dish, a solid batting average. The third baseman won't cost much, comparatively.
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