Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Indians have an interesting case going on in the outfield. It's essentially a question of youth versus experience, the steady production against the risk of a breakout player.

The Indians have played this game before. In fact, they did it last year, waiting forever to drop Trot Nixon from the lineup and go with Franklin Gutierrez.

This season, the Indians have a pair of decent veteran outfielders and a younger guy ready to jump in.

Jason Michaels and David Dellucci will give production. Michaels will play well against lefties. Last season the 31-year old hit .270 with seven homers and 39 RBIs. He'll never be a full-time contributor (he's never played more than 123 games in a season), but he does have value.

Dellucci is harder to gauge, if only because he missed most of last season due to injury. The left-handed batter managed just a .230 average in 56 games. Like Michaels, Dellucci has rarely been a full time player. He's 34 and after a pair of solid seasons (he hit 29 homers with the Rangers in 2006 and 13 with the Phillies in '07), the Indians have to wonder what he has left. Dellucci is older than Nixon, after all.

Which brings us to Ben Francisco. No longer a fresh-faced kid (he turns 27 later this year), the outfielder has shown an ability to dominate the AAA level. This may be his last shot to prove he can make it in the big leagues, before scouts, coaches and general managers toss him in the dreaded "AAAA" category.

Francisco was solid in his time in Cleveland, hitting .274 with three homers in 62 at-bats. But he also struck out 19 times.

There's a part of me that wants to see Francisco out there, since I think he could top Michaels' and Dullucci's production if given the chance.

But Indians manager Eric Wedge always seems a little reluctant to give up on veterans with track records. I expect we'll see Francisco in Cleveland this season, but only after Michaels or Dellucci either gets hurt or struggles.

And that's not a bad thing, even if it could lead to some frustrating games early on.



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