September 21, 2014

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Chris Assenheimer: What might Tribe’s future look like? Take a peek

Though the Indians have been playing well – a 7-2 second-half record – the focus is still on the future.

So, in keeping with that theme, here’s a look at what  the team will most likely consist of to open the 2011 season:

First base

Option A: Matt LaPorta

Plan B: Andy Marte or Shelley Duncan

Forecast: LaPorta, who struggled out of the gate, has eased plenty of fears with a much better performance in his second stint on the big league level this season. There’s no guarantee Marte and Duncan will even be back.

Second base

Option A: Jason Donald

Plan B: Jayson Nix or Luis Valbuena

Forecast: Donald is probably more comfortable at shortstop, but that’s not an option on this team. He will probably enter training camp competing for the job with Nix and Valbuena, but it will be a formality. The Indians like this hard-nosed youngster.

Shortstop

Option A: Asdrubal Cabrera

Plan B: Donald

Forecast: Cabrera is the Indians’ best infielder and one of their top all-around players. They can’t lose him to injury for an extended period, as they did this year, and expect to contend.

Third base

Option A: Jared Goedert

Plan B: Marte

Forecast: Jhonny Peralta’s $7 million option for next season means he won’t be back. Goedert has established himself as a top prospect with a monster season between Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron. If the Indians don’t feel comfortable with a rookie at one of the corner spots, it might be something they address in the offseason, but don’t look for anything major.

Catcher

Option A: Carlos Santana

Plan B: Chris Gimenez, Lou Marson or Wyatt Toregas

Forecast: Santana, Cleveland’s top prospect, has arrived as advertised, beginning his big league career batting third – a spot usually reserved for the team’s top hitter. The Indians are hoping Plan B is never an option in this case.

Right field

Option A: Shin-Soo Choo

Plan B: Trevor Crowe or Michael Brantley

Forecast: Choo missed close to three weeks with a right thumb sprain and still left the disabled list as the Indians’ leader in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. That’s how much he means to this club.

Center field

Option A: Grady Sizemore

Plan B: Crowe or Brantley

Forecast: Sizemore, a three-time All-Star, will be coming off consecutive injury-plagued seasons with plenty of doubts as to whether he is still one of the American League’s top players.

Left field

Option A: Crowe

Plan B: Brantley or Austin Kearns

Forecast: Kearns is under a one-year contract and has probably played his way into a better deal elsewhere. Even if he’s willing to take less money, the Indians might want to go the younger route with Crowe, who has moved ahead of Brantley in the pecking order.

Designated hitter

Option A: Travis Hafner

Plan B: Goedert or Marte

Forecast: Sadly enough, there is no other real option for the Indians, who unless they are willing to eat Hafner’s contract – he’s signed through 2012 – must take their medicine from an ill-advised multiyear deal. A bum shoulder, something, has turned a once-feared power hitter into a weak link in the lineup.

Rotation

Option A: Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, Mitch Talbot, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco.

Plan B: Carmona, Talbot, Masterson, Carrasco, David Huff or Aaron Laffey.

Forecast: Westbrook could be back if he isn’t traded before season’s end and is willing to accept a bargain contract. Obviously, someone else could creep into the picture this offseason or at spring training. Huff, Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin come to mind.

Bullpen

Option A: Chris Perez (closer), Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, Frank Herrmann, Hector Ambriz, Laffey.

Plan B: Chris Perez, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, Frank Herrmann, Hector Ambriz, Gomez or Tomlin.

Forecast: Chris Perez will take over the closer role from Kerry Wood, whose $11 million option for 2011 won’t be exercised. Laffey could easily wind up in the rotation, but figures to open the year as a reliever, as he did this season.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.