IBI Power Poll: And the Final Starter is?
There seems to be a dogfight between Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin...
The top four spots in the Cleveland Indians rotations were essentially set once the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti decided that they weren’t going to re-sign bothScott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez..
While you can banter about the numbers of where each will ultimately start in the rotation as the season carries on, the four locks for the rotation are Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister.
The ace of the staff, Justin Masterson, has been in mid-season form, throwing eight innings in his three appearances, while giving up only four hits and two walks, while striking out six. Kluber has been getting his innings in, and while he hasn’t been spectacular, has struck out ten in nine innings without giving up a walk. He’s given up five earned runs, as well as ten hits. Zach McAllister has been effective in his three starts so far this spring, going 7 1/3, while striking out four without a walk, and giving up two earned runs and five hits.
The Indians have been cautious with flame-throwing youngster Danny Salazar, as he’s only made two appearances, totaling two 1 2/3 innings. They are controlling his major league innings, but has been logging innings in minor league camp, and seems on pace to pitch in the Indians #5 slot out of the gate, to help give him time to build up arm strength and control his innings.
Make no mistake about it: Danny Salazar is a part of this rotation.
Today we are going to focus in on the #5 position in the rotation, as it appears to be down to two legitimate candidates, with some fringe players still logging innings with a chance should there be an injury.
While I’m 100% sure the long term success in the rotation will ultimately fall to many of the players named in this piece as the season progresses, our focus is on who is going to start the season in that role. Terry Francona has stated many times in his press conferences that once the season starts, the position in the rotation becomes less important. He’s right…once the season starts.
Who are the candidates?
Carlos Carrasco, RHP: Carrasco missed the 2012 season after Tommy John surgery ended his 2011 season prematurely. Carrasco had just started coming into his own in 2011 before a sore arm slowed him down, and ultimately ended his year. While he had an incredible six-start run during that 2011 season, the month leading up to his injury was nothing but struggle.
There’s a lot to like about the youngster athletically. While he’s not really a youngster anymore, he is still only 27, and if he pitches to his potential, he does possess top-of-the-rotation ability.
There are several problems that have cropped up with Carrasco over the years, and he still remains a guy that often makes it to the precipice, but never makes that final push. After missing a season-and-a-half, and getting suspended twice, the hope is that the maturation process is over and that he’s ready to take the next step.
Yeah, he has a million dollar arm, but he’s yet to show that he has anything but a ten-cent head with regards to mentality and demeanor.
He has several advantages going for him without even talking about how he has pitched this spring. The first, and perhaps the biggest, is that Terry Francona essentially said that the position was his heading into the 2014 season. Now, we do have to take that with a grain of salt, as Francona often does and says things that motivate players, but he’s also not a liar. My best guess is that Francona had Carrasco penciled into the slot. It’s not hard to see what kind of stuff he has, but there was another factor involved: Carrasco is out of options.
Last year, this likely hurt him as the season progressed, once he served his first suspension, threw at Kevin Youkilis, then served his second suspension. The Indians stashed him in the minors because they could, and to perhaps teach him a lesson in maturity.
From all indications, Carrasco handled himself well, accepted a bullpen role later in the year, and worked himself back into the good graces of Francona and the Indians front office. He’s taken well this spring, making three starts over seven innings, while striking out nine, walking one, and giving up six hits and only one earned run. He’s looked good so far, but spring is spring, and a lot could happen with two weeks left.
Josh Tomlin, RHP: Tomlin is like the red-headed step-child of the equation. The soft-tossing righty had Tommy John surgery halfway through the 2012 season after struggling for most of that season, and since then, has really been counted out as a full-time starter by most everyone that follows the Tribe.
Let’s be honest: everybody loves power-arms.
Josh Tomlin certainly doesn’t have a power-arm.
Tomlin has been spectacular this spring, pitching in four games and going 14 total innings, while striking out a crazy 14 with only two walks and four earned runs, for a 2.57 ERA. Oh, and you don’t have to go back and read: he HAS struck out 14.
No, this isn’t a case in which Tomlin went from an 89 MPH fastball to 94. It’s just a case of Tomlin locating his spots once again, and throwing spots a lot earlier than most pitchers do in the spring, as well as in their recovery from Tommy John.
It’s easy to forget that in 2010 and 2011, Tomlin went a total of 18-11, with a 4.40 ERA, while pitching 250 total innings. If he could find that once again, and perhaps even improve upon it, he could be a weapon as a #5. Of course, it’s easy to let spring training numbers enamor the most rabid fans.
What’s hurting Tomlin versus Carrasco is that with all things being equal, Tomlin has an option left. That alone will likely give the so-far-evenly matched competition to Carrasco. Of course, things work themselves out, and I still see the potential for Tomlin to make this club. Two weeks can be a lifetime.
Trevor Bauer RHP: Bauer is the young gun in all of this, and when the Indians traded for him, many had him pegged for the back-end of the rotation last season. To say that he struggled last year would be the understatement of the century. He couldn’t throw strikes, and when you can’t throw strikes in this league, you are destined to fail.
Bauer responded by reinventing his delivery in the offseason. While that scares the crud out of me, much of his re-invention has been finding what’s made him successful in the past. Of course, he’s still fairly adamant about making the changes himself, but he has been receptive to coaching from Mickey Callaway. Personally, receptive isn’t good enough, but who am I to judge.
This spring has mostly been good to Bauer until his last start, in which he gave up six earned runs in only two innings pitched. Of course, who knows what he was working on, or what the Tribe brass or Bauer himself was focused on that game. It’s spring.
Bauer clearly is the one guy on this list who has legitimate top-of-the-rotation stuff, but at 22 and with options left, the Indians will likely handle him with kids gloves going forward. This could be a year-long test for Bauer to prove that whatever he is working on delivery-wise can produce repetitive arm slot in his delivery. If it does, he could be a fantastic addition to the rotation come mid-summer.
Aaron Harang, RHP: It appears as though the first three guys may be at the top of this list, which leaves question marks about Aaron Harang, and to some extent, Shawn Marcum.
Marcum isn’t a legitimate candidate right now, as he’s still recovering from his thoracic outlet surgery from last year. It’s unknown what his contract situation is going forward with Marcum, it’s likely the Tribe will rework his contract in a similar manner as they did for Daisuke Matsuzaka last year, with Francona signing him and allowing him to work back into shape as the season progresses, either for the Indians should they need him, or allowing him to eventually latch onto another team.
Harang may actually be in a similar situation, although he doesn’t have to work back from injury. While he’s only pitched in five innings so far this spring, he’s struck out three, only walked one, given up four hits and only one earned run.
He’s a soft-tosser though, and really does resemble Josh Tomlin in ability and make-up, but at 36, is a whole lot older than the Indians home-grown player. What Harang does have is that veteran presence that Francona craves, and fits in the mold of several other Indians pitchers of the past that the Indians have signed and have given them a boost.
I am 100% convinced that Carlos Carrasco is the choice right now for Terry Francona. I know the manager has been very non-committal with regards to who the choice is right now, but that makes perfect sense. With Scott Kazmir leading the way last year, while very complimentary, Francona often said that “things would work their way out.”
Why commit to one guy when “things can work their way out.”
So if you read anything in the next few days that say that Francona doesn’t know the starter is going to be going forward, don’t believe it. He knows who his first choice is going to be, and who he would pick if something happens to the first choice.
Don’t bank on Bauer either. I really believe he’s got a 2015 date on his MLB stamp right now, unless things really begin to click in Columbus.
Either way, the Indians have choices, and that’s always a good thing.
Now it’s time for you to vote for who you think is going to start the season off in Cleveland. Remember, this isn’t a “who’s the best pitcher of the four” sorta poll, but just a “who’s going to grab a rotation slot coming out of spring” poll.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I presented the stats to you, point-blank; if you want to ignore them, that's your call. Like Hermie, I too am interested in what "stats that matter." Hermie came to the same conclusion I did - Carrasco has matched or outdone Tomlin in every category outside of IP. And, that's not surprising because the Indians want to give Tomlin as many outings as possible to get him back up to strength and make him a viable option for later this season because rarely does a team get through a season with five starters, so Tomlin will likely be called upon later this season with some important starts. His higher IP does NOT indicate he leads for the fifth spot.
Plus, if Tito and company were so concerned about Carrasco's past, then why give him any chance at the fifth spot and promote him to win the fifth spot, as Tony and others have mentioned on more than one occasion? Why even keep Carrasco this offseason, then? Obviously, they haven't written Carrasco off as you have.
It's obvious you're a Tomlin fan, and I think he'd do just fine in the 4-5 spot, but I already pointed out why it's unlikely he gets the fifth spot in Cleveland; never mind the fact the stats favor Carrasco (look at them again- Hermie provided them for your convenience right on this page). Tomlin is still working his way back from TJ surgery, which essentially negates any chance of him being the long-man.
In addition, if Carrasco does falter, who is going to fill in for him? Tomlin is the likeliest choice- Bauer is still working on consistency, Marcum isn't healthy enough to be reliable, and Harang probably doesn't go to AAA, with the Braves, D'Backs, and A's, among others having injury issues in their respective rotations. He likely is elsewhere UNLESS he goes to the bullpen to start the season. T.J. House? Doubt it; I think most, including the Indians, would be more comfortable with Tomlin, who has ML experience and success versus a guy who has never made a ML start before. Anderson wouldn't be an option until late July/early August at the earliest; if there were problems a month or two into the season with Tomlin as the fifth starter, the Indians wouldn't just wait until then to make a move, so Anderson wouldn't be the first option to fill the fifth spot if there is a problem- several other options would be tried before Anderson even became an option. What better option is there for winning in 2014 than to have Carrasco be the fifth starter and Tomlin the sixth starter, considering the situations with Bauer, Marcum, Harang, House, and Anderson?
These are all the more reasons why Carrasco is likely to win the fifth spot and why Tomlin is likely to be the sixth starter to start the season. Plus, as mentioned before, shifting Carrasco to the bullpen would be much easier if he falters than if Tomlin struggles and/or gets injured than having to insert Carrasco back into the rotation (never mind the mental aspect).
The safest course is to have Carrasco start in Cleveland and have Tomlin starting in Columbus. If worse comes to shove, you shift Carrasco to the pen and you insert Tomlin into the rotation. Going otherwise would leave a gaping hole, never mind the fact you don't know if Carrasco could handle the bullpen back to the rotation shift, never mind the fact you usually don't want to shift pitchers like that. Because Carrasco is stretched out, you could probably do it, but I doubt the Indians go that way.
It's really Carrasco's time to "sink or swim" as a starter- he's out of options, there's no time like the present, he has the arm to be a difference maker IF he can show the mental and emotional ability to match the physical ability, and none of it has any chance of happening if he gets shifted to the pen now. Carrasco is virtually a lock to be the fifth starter if he is healthy.
Curious what numbers those are "that matter"...
Carrasco: 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 9.0 K/BB
Tomlin: 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 7.0 K/BB
Other than number of innings pitched...Carrasco has Tomlin beat in pretty much every stat. Now obviously samples are way too tiny to take anything away from this, and both guys have put up great numbers. But you are dead-wrong saying Tomlin has better numbers than Carrasco.
Carrasco has looked very solid. 1 walk and 9 strikeouts in his 7 innings is a very good sign. Sure maybe come regular season he bombs or maybe he struggles here the next couple weeks and Tomlin blows by him. But right now...Carrasco is earning that 5th spot. Tomlin is pitching well enough to get it too but he's the 6th guy right now...maybe 7th with Harang having a solid showing so far too. Good to see some depth here for sure.
"Everyone was expecting great things from Carlos when no one ever heard of McCallister, Kluber, Salazar, and most doubted Masterson could convert from set-up to Starting"
No one ever heard of those guys? Really? Someone must be new to the site... ;)
I agree Francona is gonna field a team to win....which is why I think Carrasco will be the 5th starter.
That said, I don't think the competition is over by any means, if it ended today Carrasco's probably the guy because he's done nothing to lose it, but things can change. Tomlin's looked very good, getting a lot of strikeouts. His last outing was typical Tomlin though in that he cruised through 4 and then gave up the long balls, which is the knock on him, susceptible to HRs especially the second and third time through the order.
I think them having a number of power bullpen arms and vets in camp is a strike against Tomlin too, since if they send Carrasco to the bullpen, that means the whole bullpen competition was for nothing, because there won't even be an opening unless someone's hurt or Pestano isn't in there. I think they'd be more comfortable letting Tomlin work in AAA, probably have a vet in the bullpen to start the year. Unless everything goes spectacularly well for the original starting 5, you'd still expect to see him start quite a few games in Cleveland.
You can go to Mount Olive and quote compilations all you want. There is nothing breakout in Carrasco this spring.
Lil Cowboy most certainly HAS outpitched Carlos this spring - numbers included. At least the ones that matter.
You guys and your fantasy rotisserie logaritham's have your place and this isn't one of them.
And you got a point I guess Walter. Carrasco like Ubaldo has past issues with anger that, where he not a highly paid athlete, he would have done community service time if not jail time for.
And for that he would be consulting, in a way, with a probation officer rather than a big league manager and coaches. Proby's tend to be a lot more inflexible, believe me.
It's also important to note when and why Carlos ended up with his suspensions. Because unlike numbers, its a lot harder to spot and manage.
And it wasn't because he is Latin, at least lets get over that one as far as the Ubaldo inference.
He has great stuff, still does and always has. But the Phillies gave up on this guy because he never proved he could handle IN GAME difficulties. As their young highly touted prospect he never solved it.
As an Indian his best consistency, besides an outstanding - what 7 start string prior to his elbow popping - has been in our bull pen.
He is a headhunter now until he gets out of uniform. Hopefully that is behind him - a maturity issue he had when faced with injury - and then proving himself afterward.
But once you have acted out that way its on you for life. It's a professional athlete felony. The questions never leave.
Has this guy matured enough to handle considerable anger management issues?
Will he quit on this team/management if he doesn't win this competition?
Can a guy who has lived his entire life as a once highly touted prospect and now is as much suspect as a result even adjust to a role as a reliever - a role that has considerably LESS earning potential?
People at this site love to run down guys like Tomlin and pump up guys like Carlos C.
Both of you are indulging yourself on this. The answer we will get with Tito on this will tell us a lot about where Carlos is in his career.
Manny Acta would hold this guys hand. Tito fields a team to win. Carrasco is way past the hand holding stage period. Look at this team now and they suit up to win - that is what Tito has done in one year. That is what I have seen at Goodyear and elsewhere - A TEAM THAT EXPECTS TO WIN THE DIVISION AND MORE.
Look at all of the pitching in our system that has blown past this guy besides former lower arms that have gotten away, like Archer and Rondon.
Everyone was expecting great things from Carlos when no one ever heard of McCallister, Kluber, Salazar, and most doubted Masterson could convert from set-up to Starting.
[because the number 'SCREAMED' he couldn't survive the splits Joe? Remember? And the Tribe was only wasting his arm because they were desperate for starters? Remember those posts and those numbers Joe?]
Carlos is the one with baggage, not Tomlin, and it most certainly is a factor in this decision.
If Indians can survive this spring with no injuries than Harang will be on another team especially with pitching injuries on the Braves, Dbacks, A's, and Rangers.
I hope Marcum will go to Columbus to get stronger and become an option for the Indians by June.
While I think Tomlin would fit in quite well in a 4-5 spot and is being undersold by some, Carrasco has matched or outdone Tomlin this spring. Look at the stats here from ESPN.com: http://espn.go.com/mlb/springStats/_/team/cle/type/pitch
No way can you say that Carrasco has been only "OK"; otherwise, Tomlin has only been "OK." Both have been neck-and-neck, or Carrasco has a slight edge, and unless Tomlin blows him away and Carrasco falters (neither of which has happened,) Carrasco will start as the 5 starter in Cleveland and Tomlin will start in the rotation at Columbus, probably as the 1 or 2 starter.
Yes Carlos is out of options and he is going to be on this team.
But no way he has beaten the Lil' Cowboy out. Even with back to back dingers to the Pale Hose yesterday. Tomlin is on top of his game.
Gotta believe that Tito and ShapAnt wanted this to be the other way around - with Carlos pitching lights out. Instead he's been ok but just ok.
It's a tough call in part because Carlos has anger issues that seem to have subsided. Has he matured enough to lose out a close call with out tanking?
Also Carrasco is so tantalizing with the kind of stuff he has - but - he has never yet proven he is worthy of all the promise people have put on him.
Tomlin is that opposite story - he never was supposed to succeed above Pony League in High School but he just does.
It's a toss up that only Tito can answer. Can't wait for opening day to see.
Tomlin gets sent to Columbus,no brainer.
Tomlin has options left,needs to return to the starting pitching grind after TJ surgery and is a future part of the rotation.
How soon that future is depends on a lot of things.
Harang will make the club as a long man and stop gap if Carrasco goes belly up as a starter.
He's a veteran presence,that we all know Francona likes,and not a bad insurance option.
Bauer needs to get his groove back before he'll even be considered an option.
Marcum will need to prove he's healthy first and then regain his command to help this team this season.Not a bad risk to take for the Tribe.
With that said I hope and believe Carlos Carrasco should be the 5th starter. Hes got the type of stuff where if he "clicks" all of a sudden you have 3 top of the rotation guys and 2 middle rotation guys. That's awesome. I am a little torn though because I honestly believe Josh Tomlin is a 5th starter in the big leagues.
Depending on how things play out it might be interesting to put Carrasco into a high leverage position in the bullpen.
I actually feel pretty good about the rotation. You got the 4 top guys. 2 nice options in Tomlin and Carrasco. 2 solid veteran guys as depth and the wild card in Trevor Bauer.
I agree about Tomlin, but still think Carrasco will be named the fifth starter; Carrasco got that "in training" last year, and Carrasco's value would be maximized as a starter. Plus, it would be easier to transition Carlos from starter to reliever than reliever to starter (all the more reason why Tomlin will NOT go to the bullpen- he's in the rotation at Cleveland or Columbus to start the year).
While you could make that reliever to starter transition because Carrasco has been stretched out, it's still better and safer to shift from starter to reliever, never mind the fact that Carrasco has done nothing to lose that 5 spot in ST to this point. To Tomlin's credit, he hasn't done anything to make the decision easier or just giving it to Carrasco, and truth be told, that's the way the Indians really want it- have both pitch well and make the decision a "difficult" one where neither gets it "by default" - but based on Carrasco's performance and noted "advantage" for the five spot to start ST, I can't see where he is not named the fifth starter if he is healthy, even if Tomlin continues to pitch well.
Still, Tomlin will likely be important because he is essentially the sixth starter, at least until Bauer can prove consistent command and dominance and Marcum can show consistent health and effectiveness (provided he stays with the Indians; still, Bauer is really the main competition for Tomlin for that sixth spot, one that Tomlin has the edge on, since Tomlin can consistently command the baseball at the ML level, something Bauer has not done yet).
1. It won't help Tomlin if he has to sit for days at a time - besides the fact Tomlin has never pitched regularly out of the bullpen, the Indians will be cautious with him as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery- that means pitching on a regular schedule, which means pitching as a starter, in all likelihood in Columbus.
2. Tomlin won't be a viable option for the rotation if Carrasco falters/gets injured or if any of them falter/get injured (Tomlin really is the #6 guy until Bauer can prove consistent results at Columbus) if Tomlin is shifted to the bullpen to start the year.
As mentioned, Harang is similar to Tomlin- you could have him start the year as the long-guy in the bullpen if you want a long guy with starter experience back there (not sure if the Indians will go that route, though).
I also agree that Tomlin is potentially a strong weapon to have in reserve as a potential 5 starter. It seems Tomlin often gets shortchanged because he doesn't throw hard (though I suspect he is throwing a few miles harder after TJ surgery), but keep in mind that control and command is usually more important than pure velocity; if it was all pure velocity, Carrasco and Bauer would be dominating as Salazar has. Why haven't they? Because, Salazar can put the ball where he wants it far more often than Carrasco and Bauer have to this point; hopefully, both will progress in terms of command (though expecting them to have Salazar's or Tomlin's command at any point is probably unrealistic).
Tomlin likely won't gain any more velocity (he probably has gained 1-2 MPH on his fastball, though, which certainly won't hurt), but his plus command is certainly far better than most team's five starters (heck, better than most team's four and even three starters).
Heck, the Indians had guys for many years in higher spots in the rotation who didn't come close to Tomlin's ability to command the baseball, even Sabathia for many years. Certainly, Tomlin would fit just fine in the 5 spot, a spot at least 25 other teams (up to 29 others) would take him, especially with how thin pitching is around the league (you did see that Joe Saunders was signed recently, right, and he's struggled badly for at least the last three years. Joe Blanton is another one who hung around the league for a few years and struggled badly his last few years too. Tomlin is DEFINITELY a better option in the five spot than those two right now, and there are several others - Harang and even Marcum, where you could say that Tomlin is the better choice).
Having Tomlin in the six spot and as a possible alternative is definitely an asset for the Indians both now, and potentially, in the future as well.