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The future looks bright because of the Indians starting rotation

The future looks bright because of the Indians starting rotation
Corey Kluber (Photo: AP)
October 4, 2014
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When the 2014 season started the Indians had some question marks in their starting rotation.

Justin Masterson was the anchor of the rotation in 2013 posting a 14-10 record with a 3.45 ERA and made his first all-star appearance.  He came into this season as the unquestioned ace of the staff, but with free agency on the horizon questions loomed about his future.

Corey Kluber was a pleasant surprise in 2013 as he posted an 11-5 record with a 3.85 ERA, but there were questions if his breakout was real and if he could duplicate it.

The other two anchors of the 2013 rotation, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, departed via free agency and left two big holes the Indians had to fill.

Young prospect Danny Salazar had a nice debut in 2013 and started the one game wildcard playoff versus Tampa Bay, but he had durability and experience concerns coming into 2014.

Zach McAllister was looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he injured his finger and went on the disabled list in June after a solid start to the season. After returning from the disabled list he was never the same as he struggled to throw his curveball after the injury.

Carlos Carrasco was given yet another opportunity to claim a rotation spot after struggling to do so the past few seasons.  He excelled in a bullpen role in 2013, but was out of options and was a wildcard for the pitching staff coming into the season.

Even with all of those questions coming into the season, the Indians got plenty of answers – most of them good.

Masterson got off to a terrible start in 2014 and never seemed to recover posting a 4-6 record with a 5.51 ERA before being traded to St. Louis on July 30th for outfield prospect James Ramsey. He struggled with consistency all season and his stuff took a decided step back, which in turn destroyed his chances for a big contract in free agency this offseason.

Kluber assumed the role of staff ace after pitching like one all season.  After his breakout showing in 2013, he one upped it and developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2014 and is a Cy Young award candidate after posting an 18-9 record with a 2.44 ERA.  He led the major leagues this season in strikeouts with 269 in 235.2 innings pitched.  At age 28 he is coming into his prime and is under contract through 2018.  He was a model of consistency all season.

Carrasco bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen the last few seasons since having Tommy Johnsurgery in 2012.  He started out in the rotation this season but struggled and was once again sent back to the bullpen.  After pitching lights out in the bullpen he was reinserted back into the rotation in August and was dominant ever since.  For the season Carrasco posted an 8-7 record with a 2.55 ERA.  Since rejoining the rotation he continued to pitch from the stretch which carried over his bullpen dominance to the rotation.  It appears at age 27 that Carrasco has finally figured it out and become a solid starting pitcher.  He is under contract through 2017.

After a fine rookie debut in 2013, Salazar had an up and down season this year and spent some time at Triple-A Columbus.  He struggled to perform at the high level he did in 2013 at the outset of the season performing poorly in his first eight starts which prompted a demotion to Columbus in May.  Since returning on June 22nd he looked like a different pitcher.  His velocity was up and his pitch command was much improved from earlier in the season.  He finished the season at 6-8 with a 4.25 ERA.  At 24 years of age the future is bright for this young flamethrower who is under control of the Indians through 2019.

Bauer made four starts in 2013 for Cleveland but something did not seem right with his delivery as his velocity was down and his control was very erratic.  Bauer rededicated himself in the 2013 offseason working with pitching coachMickey Callaway on fixing the flaws in his delivery and getting his velocity back to the mid 90’s.  He was sent to Columbus to start the 2014 season.  After performing well at Columbus he was called up to the Indians in May and became a regular part of the rotation.  He posted a 5-8 record with a 4.18 ERA and showed the promise and velocity everyone had been excited about when he was acquired.

Rounding out the rotation for the second half of the season was an unlikely candidate in left hander T.J. House.  He was drafted by the Indians in 2008 and did not perform well in his first three professional seasons in the Indians minor league system before breaking out in 2012.  He was called up from Columbus in June, and after a brief return to Columbus and briefly pitching out of the bullpen and a few spot starts he established himself as the fifth starter once Masterson was traded.  He posted some impressive numbers for a pitcher who was an afterthought before the season, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA.  He is under control of the Indians through 2020.

Zach McAllister opened the season in the rotation but once again struggled with consistency and spent time on the disabled list and never regained his spot.  He pitched well the last month of the season out of the bullpen.  Perhaps he can follow in the footsteps of Carlos Carrasco and put it together in 2015.

As you can see, the future of the Cleveland Indians starting rotation is very promising.  If they continue to develop and perform as they did this season, they give the Indians a chance to compete in the American League for many years to come.  So despite a disappointing 2014 season in which the Indians fell short of the post-season, there is plenty to be excited about going forward. It all starts with the starting rotation.

User Comments

Vic Venom
October 6, 2014 - 11:47 PM EDT
Thomas is a different player than a veteran like Bourn and Swisher was at that time of free agency. I would overpay for him, sign him. Then I would look into trading Kipnis.
October 6, 2014 - 10:15 AM EDT
With Offense at a premium, Tomas is going to a team that is desperate in getting offense. They will have to over pay him more than what Abreu got from the White Sox.

October 6, 2014 - 7:16 AM EDT
Going after Yasmani Tomas seems like a dream scenario, too bad there's plenty of competition

I think the Dolans may be more gun shy now, particularly after getting burned with Bourn and Swisher. Both are essentially 8, and 9 hitters in this lineup and are the highest paid players. That is sad. That's FA.
October 6, 2014 - 7:11 AM EDT
I don't think the post TJ surgery CC Lee is as good compared to the prior to injury, we will never know bc he didn't get the big league exposure.

The best pen prospect right now is Shawn Armstrong, IMHO. He should be added to the 40 man roster this offseason and get some big league experience next yr.

As for Dayan Viciedo, I have my doubts he's non-tendered, but it's possible. The Tribe could slide Murphy into 4th OF role, I think he'd fit better there, he has experience in all three spots. Btw, I think Viciedo hit .230 and 12-13 hrs last would be banking on a rebound.
Vic Venom
October 6, 2014 - 12:55 AM EDT
Tony said a couple years back that CC Lee was one of the tribe's best pitching prospects or prospects in general in the minor league system. I dont see it with this guy CC LEE. He didn't impress me at all this season and looked VERY suspect at times.
Vic Venom
October 5, 2014 - 9:43 PM EDT
@Devin The Dude

I agree they need a right handed bat but they need to get a decent one. There are options for a RH bat in the minors, and I still would like to see what Aguilar can do at the major league level. They need to get a BIG TIME BAT. Not some experiment or a retread who they are banking on having a turnaround season. My dream scenario would be for the Dolans to sack the fu^k up and shell out some $$$$$$$ for Yasmani Thomas. Right handed power hitter that could hit 40 homeruns at progressive field. You wouldn't have to deplete your farm system, and you get an OF that could be another Giancarlo Stanton.
October 5, 2014 - 8:02 PM EDT
@vic listen, man... all we can do is speculate. that's what we're all doing here. of course i'm going to use the phrase "if they pitch to their potential," and of course we know that some will exceed our expectations and some will fall short. i acknowledged that we need to see how guys like shaw and allen bounce back from their workload this season. my point remains that getting a RH run producing bat is a significantly higher priority than stocking up on bullpen arms. go ahead and get some depth in the bullpen, sure, but we're talking about a team that averaged about 3 runs a game for the entire second half of the season. that bat needs to be priority #1.
Vic Venom
October 5, 2014 - 7:18 PM EDT
Great minds think alike.
October 5, 2014 - 10:58 AM EDT
People want to be rid of Carlos Santana for right handed relievers (listen to sold smoke signals episodes if you don't believe me) yet Justin Smoak is someone people still view as an alternative? Good lord.
October 5, 2014 - 10:53 AM EDT
Justin Smoak is terrible.
October 5, 2014 - 8:58 AM EDT
Vic Venom,

I agree with you on the OF and 3B situation but would only add that the team does need another right handed bat that can drive in runs. I also agree with you on using the minor league situation and Naquin is a good player along with Ramsey. I agree also that Shaw isn't a setup man and Ideally would love to see another closer besides Allen
October 5, 2014 - 8:54 AM EDT

I heard that too so he probably won't be let go(Trumbo). Viciedo is someone I would definitely be interested in and also Justin Smoak if let go by the Mariners
October 5, 2014 - 7:30 AM EDT
So McAllister is going to be a Wade Davis clone. Sure. Ok. Based on...Playstation? XBox?
Vic Venom
October 5, 2014 - 4:30 AM EDT
"If they pitch to their potential." WHAT IF? THIS IS A TRIBE TOWN!
I am not a fan of Shaw in the setup role. Cody Allen isn't bad, and he produces a lot of punch outs for a closer, but I need to see BETTER from him at times.
October 5, 2014 - 3:58 AM EDT
@vic the only thing suspect about our bullpen is how allen and shaw will bounce back from 70+ appearances this year. if they pitch to their potential, we have three quality lefties (rzep, hagadone, crocket), a setup man, and a quality closer. atch was a surprise this year as well. sure, we should go get some depth options to fortify what we already have, but that is in no way an area of need for this team...
Vic Venom
October 5, 2014 - 1:32 AM EDT

I am with you on getting viciedo if he is let go. I want Trumbo if they dont get Viciedo. However, based on this article.

It seems like the new Diamondbacks GM is a fan of Trumbo, so they might not get rid of him.
Vic Venom
October 5, 2014 - 1:30 AM EDT
All of this talk about adding a RF and a 3B, but you dont say anything about improving the bullpen. I dont think RF and 3B are as a big of a need based on Chisenhall improving and the outfielders we have in the minors that can play RF aka NAQUIN. You can't have a "lights-out" starting rotation and a suspect ass bullpen. That is what the Tigers have. You can make a blockbuster trade for David Price and have a great rotation but if your bullpen is jank as hell, you aint EVER winning a title.
matt underwood
October 4, 2014 - 11:34 PM EDT
i agree - go get donaldson

that being said i have 0.0 faith in this front office to do anything right. they'll probably play it safe and sign more garbage players trying to catch lightning again
October 4, 2014 - 8:53 PM EDT
I'm with all of you who believe we need to trade any non-Lindor player, including Chiz and/or Ramirez, to get Donaldson. That one move fortifies the lineup AND left side defense with a cost controlled 25 HR RH bat... there is no reason not to make that move. Overpay. Get it done.
October 4, 2014 - 7:21 PM EDT
I'm typically a wait for the system to develop talent guy, but I see this club much differently than recent yrs. Frankly, this is a WS contending club with two additions; a 3b and a RF. If they can keep their SP intact and add a vet great. I think they should look for a bullpen arm that's reasonably affordable as an additional setup man. I'm skeptical the bullpen will show signs of wear. Maybe with the addition of Zach MacAllister in a setup role with help fortify the pen, but I'd still look for an affordable experienced arm under $3M to add to the pen. As for 3b, I think they should be all over Josh Donaldson. Id be open to Dayan Viciedo as a bit of a role player / platoon with Murphy if he is indeed non-tendered. I don't see Viciedo as the answer, but he'd seemingly be reasonably affordable.
October 4, 2014 - 6:08 PM EDT
I don't know where you got those payroll number for next year Matt, but I came up with 65.4 million, and that is before I even included any of the Arb eligible guys and I exlcuded Aviles' option. I'm not sure where the payroll would actually end up (Maybe GSon could figure it out), but I would guess it would be around 10 million more than that, maybe more.

You also can't just look at 2015 salaries when considering whether or not we can afford a player of V-Marts caliber. Every year beyond 2015's payroll must be considered. For example, in 2016 we have around 9 million coming off the books with Murphy and Raburn, but we will also be giving 7.75 million in raises to Kip, Santana, Brantley, and Gomez because of backloaded deals.That number increases to 9.75 for the 2017 seasons. We also have a number of good players seeing arbitration for the 2nd time that season (Carrasco, Chiz, Shaw) as well as some arb 1 players that I would expect to get hefty raises (Allen, Kluber, Hagadone). Without making any moves at all we could potentially see our payroll increase substantially (Maybe 10 million or so) from 2015 to 2016 giving us a payroll of 85 millionish. I expect some trades to be made as some guys start getting more expensive, but Vmart would cost 15 million or so a year, and that would put our payroll around 100 million for 2016. That will happen....never.
Matt B
October 4, 2014 - 5:32 PM EDT
The Indians need to add a power bat for the middle of the lineup to compliment Santana, Brantley and Gomes. I did some research on what the likely payroll could be and factored in raises and a contract extension for Kluber and we sit at $66,015,667. I also found some background on what typical power bats in their 30's get in free agency and the number was about $10.2 million. I know what everyone will say that getting Victor Martinez back is an unreal dream but it is very possible. Consider that he has stated that he would like to finish his career here and that we have about $15 million to spend from what we spent this year at $84 million. So give Victor a 3yr/42million deal. That would leave our roster at:


Raburn (Salary is to big to dump and could surprise some people)

House (Most consistent pitcher this year not named Kluber)


*Murphy is traded to the Cardinals because the Cardinals need someone who can at least hit the broad side of a barn and can play out field. We get prospect Tyrell Jenkins (A) potential starter or power bullpen arm.

Canadian Joe
October 4, 2014 - 5:29 PM EDT
Path, I don't think you will get a whole lot from the likes of Callaway or Tito about what's between the ears of Bauer or Salazar, or House. Granted, it would be great to hear, but I would think any discussions Tony might have regarding those topics would be "off the record".
Insofar as the trade talk for Donaldson or Stanton is concerned, or any other power hitter for that matter, the Indians farm system is as relevant as it has ever been. There are a lot of good prospects there, and I would not like to see the guts ripped out for a player for 2-3 years. I am not young, but I would sooner wait a year or two, and see how the Bradley's and the Frazier's progress, before I sell the farm. I think the long wait for a Championship has jaundiced a lot of our views, and we want to win now !!! If a deal is not there that we can comfortably live with, then don't do the deal. And wait another year or two.
Joe Chengery, where are you ?
October 4, 2014 - 4:38 PM EDT
Nice, clear writing Kevin. But really, what's new about any of this?

The fans who participate here are pretty knowledgeable it seems to me, and it seems to me that you aren't telling us anything we don't already know. I'd really like to have some more and deeper insight into where it is that Bauer and Salazar are still struggling (I have my own sense, but what does an expert see, or even better, what does Callaway have to say?), or how to more deeply understand the difference between Carrasco v2013 and v2014? Or what is it about House that has suddenly transformed him from an "afterthought" into an (almost!) solid ML pitcher?

In other words, I can easily look up stats and see how many years they are controlled for, would just love to hear more back-story...anyway, keep up the good work...

And sure, Donaldson would be a fine addition, who know if he's available, as Beane is very unpredictable, and not always the best trade partner, so its all rather silly speculation imo...8--)

October 4, 2014 - 3:54 PM EDT

is it time for Ronnie Rodriguez to be pushed up to AAA?? Do you think Luigi Rodriguez starts in AA and then gets pushed up once the Indians clear space in AAA?? Is Tony Wolters the heir to Mike Aviles??
October 4, 2014 - 3:50 PM EDT
Someone just needs to right an article on whether or not we should try and trade for Donaldson. Its an interesting topic and I don't want the conversation to pop up in every single comment section.
October 4, 2014 - 3:37 PM EDT

it's negotiable. That would be my initial offer but not the final offer. Have to negotiate and walk away from the table if need be. To say the Indians don't have the prospects like you said yesterday is absurd. The Indians have the prospects to pull it off the question is if they can agree to which ones to give up.
October 4, 2014 - 3:30 PM EDT
Hiram, you are hilariously overhauling Indians prospects and players. Jordan Smith is nothing. Relief pitchers like Hagadone are throw-ins for a trade. You are headlining a trade for Donaldson, an MVP-caliber, cost-controlled player, with a guy who can barely handle 3 lb and Jose Ramirez? Ramirez is a nice player, you don't rade Donaldson for Lindor, much less
October 4, 2014 - 3:26 PM EDT

don't care if he's tall or not but what I do care about is if he can hit and hit from the right hand side. Idk why his height is of any relevance in this... Viciedo, IMO just needs a change of scenery. I like him a really good rotational player along with Murphy. Don't know what you're looking for but it sounds strange. I totally disagree with you on CC Lee. Lee has the stuff and the delivery to be very good. He seems to at times lose command and needs to work on overall consistency. He had stretches where he was very good. I think his time is coming next year and I expect good things from him... I thought House was more consistent than both Salazar and Bauer,

I totally agree with you on McAllister. McALlister can only throw a fastball and I think the FO and Mgr have already made up in mind that he's going to be in the bullpen where he is of big help
October 4, 2014 - 1:58 PM EDT
IDK if it was consistency that McAllister lacked.. or stuff.. His fastball is a ML pitch. Nothing else he throws has the making of a plus ML offering. His curveball doesn't, his split seldom starts over the plate.. Every thing he throws is hard, so, keeping ML hitters uncomfortable with speed or pitching inside.. doesn't happen. For lack of a better way of stating it.. one pitch pitchers, don't start games in MLB, they start in games for Independent League ball.. If McAllister cannot develop at least one secondary pitch, he will not have much of a chance to be a starter..

W/R to Danny DeVito's brother.. the funds the team generates..all of them are spent on the team by Mr Dolan. Free Agency is fools gold and should not be utilized as a source of talent.. Trades of players.. bad contracts for bad contracts.. prospects for established stars.. is the only currency the Indians has used that has resulted in an improvement to the team..

Going out a dumping millions on a FA...has been bad.. the Indians FO should have taken that $$$$, made a big pile on the home run porch (its not being used much)..and lit it on fire.. Call it the "Useful FA Fire"...

Using scarce resources for FA players.. remains a waste of time..

@ Hiram.. Donaldson's a shrimp with a fast bat.. pass..
-Viciedo is a lazy & a poor defender.. pass..
-CC Lee isn't a ML reliever.. he may trick a few hitter..but not for long..
-House is # 4, Salazar is # 5

October 4, 2014 - 12:47 PM EDT
If I were the Indians I would go out and see what the A's want for Donaldson. I would give them a package of Chisenall, Ramirez, Hagadone and Jordan Smith. If Viciedo is nontendered as the rumor has then I would sign him and put him in RF. Maybe late in the off-season sign another bullpen arm and role players. From that point on I would use my farm system to get anything else I need. BTW, the Indians need to sign at least SP to stash in AAA.

Look at my lineup:



BTW, we had it wrong this season. House deserved to be the #3 guy because he was far more consistent than both Salazar and Bauer

Bullpen(if they go with seven, which is a bit overkill)

McAllister(Wade Davis clone)
Shaw(not an 8th inning guy)

Sign a couple of nice SP's for AAA to go with Tomlin(I personally think it's time to move on from him)

Add make sure you developing Anderson, Morimando and others who are in AA. Indians really need to push up the starting pitching because the stagnation of these guys is becoming alarming

If Bourn gets hurt you can call up Naquin, if Swisher gets hurt you can call up Aguilar. You are convered at each and every position in case someone gets hurt or isn't cutting it.

Look at the bullpen depth:

October 4, 2014 - 11:34 AM EDT
Do y'all go to games? I usually hit one per year but I live in Georgia. Seems like if we could get another 500K in attendance there'd be more money. One thing to note, for example, is that our non-pitcher team OPS is slightly better than that of the Cardinals. Not saying that the rotation can duplicate this past season next year but having them in place for a full season will improve things. I agree that another bat would be nice but don't expect a big FA signing. Don't be so damned gloomy! We've got lots of young talent hitting their collective primes and the org seems to be committed to winning. I know Tito won't be happy until he gets to celebrate a WS win here. That's the attitude that we need.
rich cikra
October 4, 2014 - 10:19 AM EDT
We need a power hitter right fielder or a good solid third baseman.Baseball is exciting with power or speed and we are lacking both.
Joseph Devito
October 4, 2014 - 6:00 AM EDT
Just read an article proclaiming... Indians are not going to make any big changes.Should us fans expect anything more. No, not from an owner who doesn't want to spend. You don't make any changes... you do the same thing ... you get the same results. If they are expecting a rebound year from Swisher or even Murphy... they have lost touch with reality or maybe it's a question of always is with this ownership. How many 1-0 and 2-1 losses do they have to see to realize...WE DESPERATELY NEED A MIDDLE OF THE ORDER HITTER!
Joseph Devito
October 4, 2014 - 5:51 AM EDT
The Indians pitching was surprisingly good but much of it was wasted because of a very poor hitting attack. The real question going into next season has to be ...Are they finally going to go out and get an impact hitter? Antonetti's parade of utility players that he brings in year after year have kept this team in a rut of mediocrity. Message to Antonetti: WE DON'T NEED ANY MORE JUSTIN SELLERS TYPE PLAYERS. WE NEED A HITTER.

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