By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
There are "training trees" the same way that there are coaching trees in sports. The profession of athletic training isn't that old, so it's relatively easy to trace things back. Early programs at Indiana University and Eastern Kentucky put out a number of highly thought of trainers in the 1960s and '70s. There are vastly more programs now, but it's also a small profession. Trainers work their way up through the minors, hoping for a shot. Since there are only two or three slots at the major league level for each team and one throughout the minors, it's even tougher. In the history of the Dick Martin Award, which goes to the top-rated medical staff in baseball, there's only one direct lineage. Last year's winner, Nick Kenney, came from previous winner, Lonnie Soloff. Soloff has long been one of the most respected ATs in the game, best known for his rehab miracles working with Ken Griffey Jr. and the Reds medical staff. Soloff has had a tough task and mixed results over the past few seasons, but the players continue to trust him. In fact, Soloff was specifically cited as one of the reasons Grady Sizemore wanted to stay. Reputation is one thing; results are another. It's the latter that helps a team win, and with this risk profile, Soloff is going to have to work more magic just to stay mid-pack like last season.

Health Keys: Avoid a lineup full of holes despite a lot of top-loaded risk.

(HEAD TRAINER: Lonnie Soloff; FIVE YEAR RANK: 2; 2011 RANK: 13)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
1B Casey Kotchman
Manny Acta can do a glove/bat platoon with Kotchman and Carlos Santana, which helps both.

LF Michael Brantley
Brantley is barely green and only the timing on his wrist surgery keeps him that low. Players come back from hamate surgery well, but Brantley doesn't have much power to give up if the effects linger. Watch his contact numbers early in camp.

SP Justin Masterson
Masterson held his innings level and did it without a severe breakdown. He's a rare pitcher who had offseason labrum surgery and is still green. That's because it was on his non-pitching shoulder. He'll be fine for spring training.

Also Green:
SP Derek Lowe
2B Jason Kipnis
Kipnis hasn't spent much time at any one level. It shows he's a solid prospect, but there's nothing to get a read on for consistency. The System doesn't use minor league data, so it just sees a young guy who's clean, profiles well, but is at a risky position without experience. An unknown is, by definition, a risk, even if it's inaccurately profiled. I'm honestly not sure about Kipnis and neither is anyone else, so a middling yellow seems reasonable.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera
He's a low yellow, but a series of nagging injuries in the midst of a breakout year read mixed. The power numbers stone cold freak out the System, making it scream fluke and worse. (The System is a bit reactionary sometimes.) It's not a projection engine, but one of the things that drags down performance in a regression year is some small injuries turning into something bigger.

3B Lonnie Chisenhall
The concussion he had in the minors doesn't show up here, but he seemed to wear down at the end of the season. Some of that could be fatigue or he could be slow to make some adjustments. Either way, it's common for rookies. Now, he faces a full season of both, so this yellow actually could end up a bit low.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez's worst injury last season was a cracked nail. The Rockies insisted his velocity loss was mechanical, not physical, but they were trying to trade him at that point. Jimenez's real change wasn't so much the velocity, but the hits. He gave up a lot of them, which indicates that it could have been mechanical, with less movement and less control. If the Indians can fix that, he'll be solid again. If not, the System's right for having him yellow.

RP Vinnie Pestano
Everything the System doesn't like about Chris Perez, it likes about Pestano, aside from his short track record. So many similar relievers flame out that the position is inherently risky.

C Carlos Santana
I hate this red, but understand it. Santana's leg problems aren't like Joe Mauer's or even Buster Posey's. He came back lsast season with a vengeance, playing 155 games split between C and 1B. The Indians will do the same thing this year, maximizing Santana to keep him healthy and cover for a weak spot at 1B. Lou Marson's a solid backup.

CF Grady Sizemore
Not all reds are created equal. Sizemore is a huge risk. Last year's knee surgery wasn't nearly as serious as the microfracture in 2010, but at this point, the injuries have piled up so much that even a simple knee cleanout turns into a bigger deal. The guy that the System thinks Sizemore is like is Bobby Bonilla, which from this vantage point looks like a win for Sizemore if he can match it.

RF Shin-Soo Choo
Choo had two solid seasons, but was "injury prone" before that. He came back from thumb surgery only to have a nasty oblique strain. It amounted to a lost season for him and represented the type of traumatic thing easily ignored. He can re-establish himself as a solid player, but another season of this type of this-and-that injuries will likely end his time as a starter.

SP Kevin Slowey
Slowey got into the doghouse in Minnesota due to a series of injuries. The one to his pitching shoulder is the most worrisome, given his already low velocity. The drop wasn't too big, so as long as he can hold in the upper 80s, he's tolerable. There's a (bad) theory out there that RHP can't succeed with less than 90 mph. While Slowey isn't the best example, he shows it's possible to have a career if you have control and an out pitch instead.

P5 Josh Tomlin
Tomlin's 2011 season ended early due to elbow inflammation. His elbow is rough, worn down and likely to be problematic. We don't really know why this happens, because so few pitchers have mechanical studies done to give us the proper data. Tomlin's a placeholder, so up to 150 innings is a reasonable expectation. After that, maybe the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona will be back or ... well, I'm not sure what happens then.

CL Chris Perez
The System does not like anything about Perez. It doesn't like his velocity loss, his K-rate plummeting, or his battles with control. Maybe they can hug it out, but this is one the System is adamant about. Avoid. (An oblique strain has him sidelined until Opening Day. Like we said, avoid him.)

DH Travis Hafner
After a litany of injuries -- shoulder, back and others -- this rating should be no surprise. The Indians don't have a lot of expectations of him playing more than 100 games. The DH slot offers some cushion for other injured players, like Sizemore and Choo.

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