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Running outta starters at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Running outta starters at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
April 24, 2013
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The Indians’ season hinges on starting pitchers’ Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.

It really is that simple.

With or without the two youngsters, the baseball season still will be an entertaining one here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, but to have any chance at being good, Bauer and Carrasco have to not only be a part of this starting rotation, but have to be good.

Discussion about the rotation has been pounded into the ground by everyone at every site that talks about the Cleveland Indians, but the facts are simple: the rotation isn’t good enough to sustain a major league team for longer than a month, because the Indians have only two dependable starters.

Justin Masterson has been brilliant, and while it’s possible that he continues to pitch like an ace for an entire season as he did in 2011, it’s not a lock that he actually does it. Zach McAllister has been solid in all of his starts, but he’s now the de facto #2 starter. The rest of your rotation right now is Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, and we all know how that ends.

Enter the rookie, Trevor Bauer.

Bauer has made two starts for the Triple A affiliate Columbus Clippers in 2013, and they have been sensational. In those two starts, he’s gone 13 total innings, given up 10 hits, three earned runs and four walks, while striking out 16 hitters. Opponents are hitting .233 against him (.235 vs. lefties, and .231 vs. righties), and he’s looked every bit the ace that he’s ultimately projected to be.

That’s a stark contrast to the pitcher that’s shown up in the big leagues over the past two seasons for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cleveland Indians.

In 2012, Bauer made four starts with D’Backs, and three of the four starts looked similar to his struggles for the Indians in his solo start in 2013. He failed to get past the fourth inning in those three starts, and made 70+ pitches in all three. In the fourth start, he went six innings, giving up only two hits, while striking out six and walking one. He made 96 pitches in that game.

Overall, he’s made a grand total of five starts in the big leagues, so that’s hardly a pattern, but you can certainly make a case that he’s not quite ready to start in the major leagues.

Unfortunately, the Indians don’t have the time to wait out the final couple of months of seasoning that he likely needs. He needs to be a part of this rotation by May 1st, and he has to be pretty good.

Then there’s Carlos Carrasco.

He’s made two appearances for the Columbus Clippers as well, and has been even better than Bauer. In his two games, he’s gone ten total innings, giving up only two hits without any runs, while walking one and striking out 12. Opponents are hitting .065 against him, and .111 overall. His velocity has been mid-90’s, and he’s been able to locate everything.

Of course, he has a pending eight-game suspension because he can’t manage to keep pitches away from opposing hitters head. He’s also never managed to garner any consistency whatsoever as a major league starter. I think it’s fairly clear that he’s been a bit challenged mentally by the final jump to the majors, but the talent is unquestioned.

Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco both have the potential to be #1 starters. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco both have the ability to be the best starters in the rotation. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco have to be a part of the rotation, and soon, or the Indians just don’t have a chance to stay in contention.

So what’s the problem?

There aren’t many Stephen Strasburg’s in the league, and even he wasn’t expected to carry a rotation. Bauer and Carrasco might not be expected to carry the rotation once they are inserted into it full-time, but they certainly will be the backbone. That can wreak havoc on those that aren’t strong of mind, and you can question both in that regard, if not for different reasons.

Bauer is eccentric in many ways, and you can make a case that his routines are built around mental as much as it is physical. Carrasco is clearly a guy that has anger issues, and has in the past. What happens when they become a major focus of a team’s success this early in their careers? Clearly it’s not the best-case scenario, but I can’t imagine that addressing the rotation with Brett Myers, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Kazmir gave the Indians enough assurance to think this couldn’t happen.

So now the question becomes when Bauer and Carrasco get the call. It should be soon.

What about Scott Kazmir? The optimistic view on the lefty is that it was his first start in two years. The pessimist is that his history lends itself to struggle. Where am I at after his first start? He hasn’t pitched in two years, and he was pitching close to home. Of course, he was also hurt to start the year off, and had a history of health struggles. There just doesn’t seem to be any way that Kazmir can rebound into the sort of pitcher that made him so dominant from 2005 through 2008. Even then, he wasn’t blowing the doors off of anyone as being the best pitcher in the league, but he was really, really good.

He struggled in 2009, and again in 2010, and then…was gone.

He’s five years removed from being effective.

I realize anything can happen. He’s still young. He still has ability. To expect him to become anything more than a spot starter in THIS rotation is ridiculous. Anything can happen, but for Kazmir, the anything is rarely good.

What about Ubaldo Jimenez? Yeah…right…

What about Corey Kluber? If you watch Kluber throw, you see velocity, and you see movement, and you think, “this guy could be good.” He can strike out a ton, and look like a guy that could pitch in the big leagues and be effective. The problem with Kluber is that the sum of the parts doesn’t seem to equal a major league starter. His best role is likely a long relief/spot starter, and that’s if he can make a club that has a rotation in place. Point being is that “being better than the options available” is no way to make a rotation.

The fact that he’s set to be the eighth starter in April says it all.

What about the system? I’m not going in depth here, but who exactly is ready to take over in the rotation past the guys I just mentioned? The first name that crops up is Danny Salazar, and he’s really good. There definitely are durability issues with Salazar, and that’s the real question with the kid. If he can maintain health, I really believe that he can be a really good pitcher. But, I don’t think he’s anything more than say, a McAllister. That’s not a bad thing, and it does supply depth, but they need a bunch more.

Past Salazar, you have T.J. House. House has velocity, and he has upside, and he’s young. He’s also matured a bunch in the past year. Again, his ceiling isn’t a top of the rotation guy, and I see him more as a Kluber-ish sorta guy. He is a lefty though, so that could boost in a year or so.

Past House, you have Cody Anderson and Shawn Morimando. Anderson has the stuff to be really, really good. Maybe he could even be better than Salazar, but that is a question mark at this point. I don’t know that that is a pat on the back to the Indians’ system though.

What’s my point here? The Indians not only lack rotational depth, but there may not be much help in the next three or four years.

Trades have to be made, and they could be painful. We shall see.

Is there any way this team can win with the current roster? You know, stranger things have happened, and the Central doesn’t look to be all that good. We’ll get to see the Royals this week, and they may have as much or more talent as the Tigers. Still, they are the Royals, and I just don’t see a winner there. The Indians could hover around .500, make a couple of surface moves to fix the rotation, win 85-87 games, and still win the division. With that said, do you think this rotation can win a playoff series?

It doesn’t seem likely…

…but it’s April 24th…and rumor has it there’s a lot of baseball left.

Alright…I’m done talking about the rotation…until next week…;)

The Rearviewmirror:

Fernando Nieve…we hardly knew ye…

So, is Mark Reynolds going to become Indians’ folklore, or what? First comes the 500 foot shot in spring training. Now comes the shot after he nicked in the arm this past Saturday. I love the guy, but boy, does he scream Dave Kingman to me. He is fun to watch.

Carlos Santana is going to make a run at MVP.

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the offense. It’s going to get much, much better. That will keep the rotation moderately solvent, but I worry about that bullpen. They’ll have to carry a ton of weight.

Is Ubaldo still on the team? How mad are you all about that fabulous play by Drew Stubbs in the first inning of his last start? If he can’t make that fabulous catch that turned into a double play, it’s possible that Ubaldo doesn’t make it through the first inning. If he doesn’t make it through the first inning against the Astros, would he still be an Indian?

I don’t know, but…

It’s a beautiful day for baseball…everybody…

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 jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Homer
April 24, 2013 - 10:59 PM EDT
Not sure if this is a legit option but the Red Sox are reportedly (Nick Cafardo) trying to move Alfredo Aceves after optioning him to AAA. Just throwing this out...
art
April 24, 2013 - 7:42 PM EDT
I'd still give Barnes a shot, also I wouldn't be reluctant at all to give a couple of starts to Espino.

I know the Indians won't consider this at all, but I'd certainly do it.
Tony
April 24, 2013 - 7:21 PM EDT
Damn you Stubbs for making that catch.....;)
Homer
April 24, 2013 - 7:12 PM EDT
"Trades have to be made..."

I couldn't agree more, I pounded the drums all off season they needed to make a move with ACab / CPerez. I still think that, but now things have changed a bit. The Tribe has depth in the middle of the diamond the avg Joe knows that, but at some point they have to make a move with it. I'm concerned the mkt won't really develop until its too late for the Tribe. Things could get ugly and some moves may cut deep.

Looking first at the "fat" of the roster lets say this team is near .500 after the AS break and the pitching continues to have holes. There's a few "easy" moves the Tribe could make... The first wave of players that could become trade chips might include some of... Reynolds, Smith, Albers, Hill and Marson. All of these guys could become expendable due to contract status.

The next wave... These are the guys that would inflict some injury (if you will), Justin Masterson, ACab and CPerez.
Let me back peddle a little here, I don't want to see any of this group moved personally, I like them as a fan. But realistically, the depth of the system should afford the Tribe the opportunity the ability to maximize the trade value of ACab and CPerez. Justin Masterson, say what you will about the big Masty, but I think the Tribe is almost forced into trying to extend him into the future. IF for some reason he's bent on trying FA in another year+ then I say trade him for young SP.

As for Carrasco and Bauer there's some development that needs to take place with both, both have high ceilings and both are much needed pieces for this team. They won't be able to handle these two with kids gloves because of the sheer lack of SP in the system. It's problematic dealing with Carrasco's seeming immaturity and the Tribe will have to be creative to work around his suspension, but it can be done as others have alluded to.

Bauer has the stuff to big time but needs to learn to manage his pitch count / game plan. Personally, I think cutting him down to 3 / 4 pitches would help him focus on control a bit. He's a guy I think needs at least another year of polish but considering he's only 22 time should be on his side. That being said the absolute void of SP talent outside a handful of arms will seemingly force him onto the sence sooner rather than later.

As for the farm there's simply not much to be excited about. I really think Cody Anderson could come into the picture in a big way. Outside of him (maybe House and Salazar too) few others offer the seem to be forcing their way forward. This isn't to say the cupboard is bare but guys like Morimando, Lugo, Brown, Lovegrove and maybe Howard are still yrs away.

Overall, the Tribe needs a influx of SP. I don't think it could be any clearer. Lets hope & pray they're able to add some serious talent - soon.
Jim
April 24, 2013 - 5:20 PM EDT
Joe...

That's my early worry with Bauer...there's an Ubaldo-esque quality about the amount of pitches needed...at least at the big league level. He's young...but you want those habits to go away.

Salazar needs a bunch more work, IMO...but there's a lot of natural talent there. He just needs seasoning.
Joe
April 24, 2013 - 4:34 PM EDT
I see where Bauer went 5 innings today, with 97 pitches. Has to get more economical. Need 6-7 innings per outing. Good result though.
Aside from Bauer and Carrasco, there really is no help in AAA and Salazar needs more work. Of course, if they stretch Barnes out, he could be a good alternative. He's started before. Still like that idea.

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