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Baseball preview: Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians came within one game of the World Series in 2007.

They were unable to beat the Boston Red Sox, who won the final three games of the ALCS by a combined score of 30-5. The Indians lost Game 5 with C.C. Sabathia on the mound and Game 6 with Fausto Carmona pitching. The two pitchers combined for 38 wins in the regular season, but neither could win the most important game of the year.

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After that heartbreaking collapse, the Indians will return most of the same players in 2008. They signed Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi to a two-year deal. He'll help the Indians in the late innings and provide insurance for closer Joe Borowski. Other than that signing, the Indians didn't make any other major splashes in the offseason.

Cleveland Indians

2007 record: 96-66 (1st in AL Central)

Key additions: RHP Masahide Kobayashi

Key losses: OF Kenny Lofton, OF Trot Nixon

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. C.C. Sabathia, LHP – Last season, Sabathia was 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 241 innings. He was named the AL Cy Young Award winner. Sabathia has won at least 11 games in each of his seven seasons in the majors and has never had a losing record. He'll win 15-20 games in 2008 and will likely give you 170-180 strikeouts. Sabathia has 10 complete games over the past two seasons, so keep that in mind if your league gives points for that category.

2. Victor Martinez, C – Martinez hit over .300 for the third consecutive season in 2007. While leading the Indians to the ALCS, he established career highs in doubles (40), home runs (25) and RBIs (114). Martinez is the best available catcher, so be sure to grab him early if you want him on your team. This season, he'll likely have at least 35-40 doubles, 20-25 home runs and 105-115 RBIs.

3. Grady Sizemore, CF – In three full seasons, Sizemore has showed that he is one of the better all-around center fielders in the major leagues. He's hit at least 22 home runs and 76 RBIs in each of those seasons. Sizemore established a career high with 33 stolen bases in 2007 and also won a Gold Glove. He won't have as many RBIs as most outfielders because he bats leadoff, but Sizemore will help you in most other offensive categories. He's definitely one of my favorite players in the game today.

4. Fausto Carmona, RHP – After going 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 2006, Carmona rebounded with a 19-8 record and 3.06 ERA last season. It's one of the most impressive turnarounds that I've ever seen, but I wonder if he'll be able to post similar numbers in 2008. He's on my fantasy team in a keeper league, so I'm hoping that he is able to build upon last year's success. I'll be satisfied with Carmona if he wins at least 15 games and has an ERA around 3.50 this season.

5. Joe Borowski, RHP – It amazes me that Borowski has been able to save 81 games in the last two seasons. After posting an average 3.75 ERA and 36 saves in 2006, Borowski saved 45 games last year. Somehow he was able to lead the American League in saves although he had a 5.07 ERA. You have to draft Borowski because he'll get a lot of saves again in 2008, but his ERA might cost you some points.

6. Jhonny Peralta, SS – Peralta bounced back from a lackluster 2006 season by hitting .270 with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs in 2007. He's not one of the best shortstops in the majors, but Peralta will still be able to help your fantasy team. I think he'll have between 20-25 home runs and 70-80 RBIs in 2008.

Hidden gems:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B – Cabrera is the favorite to start the season at second base for the Indians and he could be a pretty cheap role player for your fantasy team. He's not going to be a superstar, but he will hit around .280. Cabrera scored 30 runs in 45 games in 2008, so he could score close to 100 runs if he plays the entire season. While he didn't steal any bases in Cleveland, he did have 25 stolen bases in 105 games in the minor leagues last year.

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2. Franklin Gutierrez, RF – In 100 games last season, Gutierrez hit .266 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs. He'll be the starting right fielder in 2008 and could be headed for a breakout season. If he's given the opportunity to start for the entire season, then I think Gutierrez will have a .270 batting average with 15-20 home runs and 70-80 RBIs.

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