Second Thoughts: Internal options for the pitching staff
With the trade deadline looming the Indians are said to be extremely active in trade discussion to improve the current team. Reports have linked the Indians to nearly every big-name presumed available starting pitcher and they’re also said to be on the lookout for relief help. Their preference is to land a starter who is under team control past this season. Of course, that’s an expensive proposition.
The Indians are still facing an uphill battle to earn a playoff spot, and the thought of sacrificing prospects for short term gains might not be the best course of business at this point. If that’s the determination of the front office then the team will have a need to look internally for players that can shore up the pitching staff.
The goal of this article is to identify and discuss those players.
Danny Salazar – With the struggles of Carlos Carrasco in the majors and Trevor Bauer at the majors and AAA, Salazar has risen from AA to the Indians sixth starter in just half a season. Right now he would seem to be the first starter called up in the event of an injury, bad performance, or the need for a spot starter. Unfortunately, Salazar’s workload is being monitored and it’s doubtful he’d be allowed to take the ball every fifth day for the balance of the season if it came to that. He could be a valuable fill-in short term and even impact the club down the road in the bullpen.
Trevor Bauer – It was about at this point in the season when we were hopeful that Bauer would be forcing his way into the Indians’ rotation. Instead, he’s mostly struggled in his spot starts in Cleveland and he’s been disappointing at AAA to boot. Bauer’s strikeout rate has dipped and his walk rate has risen from last year. He needs more development in Columbus, and unless it’s out of necessity I don’t think he’ll be much of a contributor in
Cleveland the rest of the way.
Carlos Carrasco – Carrasco’s struggles in Cleveland have been covered at length. In June, he was given a chance in the rotation only to turn in four disastrous starts mixed in with one good one. Now Carrasco is back at AAA where he’s been pretty good this year. He’s a talented pitcher who has to get past some mental hurdles to take the next step forward. It’s hard to say where he stands in the Indians eyes right now, but it seems possible that he’ll have another chance at some point this year to turn things around. With Bauer’s struggles and Salazar’s workload concerns, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Carrasco this season.
C.C. Lee – Lee has one of the best arms in the Indians entire system. He’s currently on the Indians roster and the struggles in the pen dictate that he may have a chance to stick. They need some fresh arms in the bullpen and Lee is good enough to have a Cody Allen type of impact in a middle relief role. I hope he’s not shuttled back and forth based upon roster needs as the Indians need his arm.
Preston Guilmet – Guilmet has one appearance in Cleveland this year and it was an impressive one. He’s likely placed himself in position to be the next reliever called up should/when that need arises. Guilmet has been great at every stop in the minors and can provide one skill that the current group of relievers struggle with: throwing strikes. I feel that Guilmet and Lee, in particular, can shore up the Indians middle relief corps right now.
Matt Langwell – Langwell is another reliever who got a cup of coffee with the Indians already this season. He isn’t the high-end arm that a C.C. Lee or Austin Adams is, but he’s decent depth moving forward should the options ahead of him falter.
Blake Wood – Wood is fresh off rehab and trying to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. He’s a wildcard at this point. So far in several different levels in the minors Wood has 18 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. Unfortunately, that has also come with 12 walks from a guy who has never had particularly good control. Wood did show good enough stuff in Kansas City for the Indians to take a flier and rehab him. It’s a mystery when exactly he’ll become a viable option but I imagine the Indians are going to take a look at him eventually.
Bryan Price – Statistically, Price might be having the best season of any reliever in the system. At AAA this year he’s posting a career high strikeout rate (11.9 K/9) and a career low walk rate (1.9 BB/9). He’s behind the relievers listed above, except maybe Wood, but appears ready for his shot in Cleveland when the time comes.
Scott Barnes – Working to his advantage is that he’s on the 40 man roster and the Indians have a need for left-handed relievers. Working against him is that he’s been terrible in Cleveland and Columbus this year. Barnes doesn’t appear to be on the radar any longer, but you never know.
Austin Adams – With the options ahead of him I’m not sure that Adams finds himself in Cleveland this year. However, he’s garnered a lot of attention lately and for good reason. Adams has a triple digit fastball and 50 strikeouts in 35 innings in Akron. He’s a big-time relief prospect and if he did find himself in Cleveland this year he could have a big time impact.
I noticed that too regarding McCalister and Salazar. At first glance, it looked like they might be preparing Salazar for a relief role, but I think Andy's thinking makes more sense - if McCalister feels okay, he probably starts Tuesday for the Indians in Seattle, while Salazar takes McCalister's spot at Columbus. That doesn't mean Salazar couldn't relieve for the Indians later in the season, but for now, it would still benefit Salazar and the Indians for him to continue developing as a starter, as that's what you really want Salazar to become long term barring injury or ineffectiveness.
Sturdevant is out for the year. he is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Agreed, on Barnes. He's stuff seems to have fallen off. But he looked like a number 3 until that knee injury sidelined him.
I'm just hoping one of the two finds themselves. It seems like there is always a LH or two that takes a bit longer to develop.
As for Barnes, ever since he was shifted from a starter to a reliever, he hasn't been as good. He looked promising as a #3 starter prospect a few years back before he injured himself coming off the mound trying to field a ground ball in what may have been his final AAA start before he would have been called up to Cleveland (as a starter). The following season, the Indians shifted him to the bullpen, presumably to limit his innings, but they never shifted him back, and though he looked solid his first season as a reliever, he really didn't reach the same level as a prospect as a reliever, certainly not at the level of Hagadone because he doesn't have the same stuff as Hagadone. It probably would be too late to shift Barnes back to the rotation (even though there is room- Matsuzaka's position, for instance), but Barnes looks to be more organizational filler now rather than an impactful prospect like he once did.
I'd be curious to know: What is the status on Tyler Sturdevant and what is his ETA? He had one of the best arms in the organization (along with Allen and Adams), but haven't heard anything on whether he's close to pitching again in 2013. Any info would be greatly appreciated- thanks!