The Cleveland Indians rotation.
It almost needs a line all to itself.
Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber helped morph a “rag-tag” group of unproven starters into one of the best rotations in the league, and heading into 2014, it looks like the Indians boast one of the best rotations in baseball.
The top three of the rotation look locked behind Kluber, with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer looking to build upon a season in which they took definitive steps in their growth as potential aces in their own right.
Carrasco finally shook the baggage that he’d been carrying since the Indians acquired him in 2009 in the Cliff Lee trade, and nearly matched Kluber’s numbers start-for-start during the last eight weeks of the season. While he still has a long way to go to prove the consistency that goes along with the term “ace,” he certainly has the pedigree and stuff to do just that. The only question with the fireballing righty is his head, which has gotten in the way in the past.
Bauer still hasn’t looked like the top-of-the-rotation starter that many thought the Indians had acquired when they dealt Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds in a three-team deal with the Diamondbacks, but after the 2013 season struggles, 2014’s performance was a revelation. The uptick last season has led many to believe that 2015 could be his breakout year.
If you’re doing the math in your head regarding the potential of the top three, that’s three potential aces, if the cards fall the right way.
The fourth slot of the rotation (which is likely the #2 or #3 spot when it all shakes out) belongs to veteran Gavin Floyd, who signed a one-year deal with the understanding that he’d be in the rotation if he was healthy. Injuries, however, have been a major issue for the former Indians’ killer over the past two seasons.
In 2013, his last with the White Sox, Floyd required Tommy John surgery, ending his season after only five starts. The White Sox allowed Floyd to enter free agency after the season, and the Braves signed Floyd to an incentive-laden contract.
After eight starts, it looked as though Atlanta had gotten a bargain, but Floyd broke his olecronon in his right arm against the Nationals, ending his season and career with the Braves.
The Indians decided to take the same flier in 2015 on Floyd that the Braves took on the righty in 2014, and it could be an amazing deal if he makes it to October. If not, there are plenty of options currently on the Indians 40-man roster who could take his place, if everything works out.
Mike & I focus our discussion on Floyd’s potential, and the war that could take place in spring training between T.J. House, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister. While Josh Tomlin (and a few others) will all get a shot at the brass ring as well, it appears as though most of the attention for the last spot will turn towards ZMac, House and Salazar, with all having a potential claim to the spot should they all pitch well.
McAllister has the most experience of the three, and is out of options. This likely means that he’ll end up on the big league club regardless if it’s as a starter, or as a reliever. He ended the year with a month of outstanding appearances from the pen, which is where he could be the most valuable to the Tribe, when it’s all said and done.
Salazar seemingly has the most upside, bringing in a blazing fastball that can still touch 100, and a work ethic that the coaching staff has been raving about since they signed him as a free agent in 2006. While he struggles with command of his slider, his fastball and changeup are both plus-plus pitches, and should get him by in most cases. Mickey Callaway has been working with the young upstart on his secondary offerings, and if he finds his way there, he could be the best pitcher on the staff. That’s a big if though.
Unless you are an Indians’ insider, T.J. House likely wasn’t on your radar prior to last year, other than the fact that he was the only legitimate lefty starter that was close to the big league level. House emerged not only as a top lefty, but as one of the five best starters. He has fantastic command on the mound, has improved every year with his mechanics since the 2012 season, and appears to be the early favorite to claim the fifth spot.
Both Salazar and House have options left, however, and that could play into what ultimately transpires in Spring.
Mike and Jim talk about the #4 and #5 slots, talk favorites of who could win the battle, and talk reality when it comes to the entirety of the 2015 season.
Listen to the podcast below, or watch the podcast on YouTube. Make sure you subscribe to both Soundcloud, YouTube and iTunes, and you’ll be notified RIGHT AWAY when our podcast is scheduled (you can watch live, and participate through twitter) and posted!