By Mike Brandyberry
September 29 began a two week, end of season grade and breakdown by each position. Certainly after the wild ride the 2011 Cleveland Indians took fans on, grades, projections and areas of improvement are all sought for 2012, with the goal being a playoff team next season. Today, we examine the right fielders. Be sure to check out our previous features.
.259 AVG, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 12 SB
The only way Shin-Soo Choo’s season could have gone worse, would have been if Korea had forced him to serve his military commitment.
Short of serving his two year military obligations to Korea, Choo had to feel like his career path was forced in a different direction this season. Choo got off to a slow start, then was issued a DUI in mid-May. He seemed to be struggling already, but the DUI seemed to put added pressure on the star right fielder. Choo under-eyes.net was moved from his customary third place in the batting order and pushed down to the sixth spot.
When the Indians offense seemed to sputter at its worst in June it appeared Choo was finding his stroke and getting hot. However, a Madison Baumgartner fastball broke Choo’s hand on June 24, sidelining him for seven weeks. Both Choo and the Tribe seemed anxious to get the slugger back in the lineup in August as the team was battling to hang in the divisional race.
Shortly after Choo’s return he suffered an oblique injury pushing him back to the disabled list. After a couple more weeks on the disabled list, Choo made one at bat in September before being shut down for the season when he re-aggravated his oblique.
While this year was Choo’s worst season as a major leaguer, he still was an on base percentage machine. Choo draws walks and still ran the bases well, stealing 12 bases in his half a season. The Indians have no choice but friendlyscoupon.net to hope a healthy, refocused Choo can be the .300 hitting, 20 home run player the team has come to expect over the last three seasons.
A healthy, re-energized Choo in 2012, could solidify a lineup that struggled all season. Choo could return to his third spot and push Asdrubal Cabrera back to the second position, making quite a tough start to the Indians lineup.
.262 AVG, 8 HR, 35 RBI
The Indians have always claimed that they will make moves to improve the roster and to compete when they feel they have a chance to win. Kosuke Fukudome was Chris Antonetti’s first, but not only, move to try and keep the 2011 Tribe in the race.
Acquired on July 28 for Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith, Fukudome provided to be a much needed bat to the Indians lineup for the final two months. Fukudome originally hit sixth in the Indians lineup, replacing Choo, but moved into the leadoff spot after Michael Brantley’s wrist forced him out of the hairgrowthnow.net lineup.
Fukudome, who was thought to be a rental player, is a free agent this winter and Antonetti has said they will explore options to resign the hitter. Fans may have come to enjoy hard nosed hustling player, but he really doesn’t seem to have a place on the Indians roster, unless he is willing to play for a small salary with a limited role.
The 34-year old hitter has never hit over .263 in a major league season. And even though the Tribe tried playing Fukudome in center field at times, his range is not what it used to be when he was signed by the Cubs in 2008. The Indians will definitely count on Brantley and Choo to hold two spots in the Indian outfield in 2012.
Since the Indians never seemed to have interest in playing Fukudome in left field, and Choo will return to right field in 2012, there doesn’t seem to be much room for an aging left handed hitter in the Indian lineup.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images