In this article I’m going to piggyback off of Susan’s article, “Pondering life’s persistent questions”, and take a closer look at all the candidates the Tribe currently has for the 5th spot in their rotation:
Trevor Bauer- Without a doubt, Trevor Bauer has the most potential out of any of his competitors right now. Last year in the minors, Bauer had an 11.17 K/9 ratio in AA and then a 10.65 K/9 ratio in Triple-A before he was promoted to the Majors. Normal pitchers simply don’t put up those kinds of numbers, even in the minor leagues. When he was called up to the big leagues at the end of the season, he still put up an extremely impressive 9.37 K/9 ratio. However, Bauer’s biggest problem is his command as he allowed more than 4 BB/9 on average in the minors last year, which is below average at any level. He has an unorthodox delivery which means that he likely has some work to do with his mechanics to cut down on his walks. The Indians have also said that they are open on sending him to Triple-A to start the season. However, if Bauer comes into spring training and shows improvement with his command, then I predict he will win the last spot in the rotation. It would simply be too much upside to turn down otherwise.
Carlos Carrasco- Personally, I think Carlos Carrasco is the most intriguing candidate for the rotation, and frankly, one of the more interesting players to follow this Spring Training. In 2011, Carrasco held his own during his first real season in the big leagues before it ended in August of 2011 due to injury. After having Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2012, Carrasco should be at full health going into Spring Training. In 2011, his average fastball was about 92.6 MPH, which was definitely respectable. However, there have been reports of increased velocity for Carrasco after his surgery, which makes him all the more intriguing. Coming into camp, I actually think he has the best odds out of all candidates to win the final spot, as he is the only one who has had legitimate success at the Major League level in the past couple of seasons.
David Huff- I think it’s fair to say the Tribe fans have seen all that David Huff has to offer over the course of the past four seasons. Unfortunately for Huff, it’s nothing to get excited about. Huff has bounced around from the Tribe to Triple-A a lot over the past four seasons, and he has never really been able to contribute a whole lot (despite being given opportunities). Last season in Triple-A he went 7-6 with a 4.97 ERA. Those aren’t great numbers for an MLB pitcher, let alone Triple-A. Huff has the worst odds of making the rotation out of spring training, and really the only chance he has to make the big-league club would be as a long reliever/mop-up man.
Scott Kazmir- Even though his last good season in the MLB was in 2008, the Tribe decided to roll the dice on Kazmir to get a potential low-risk, high-reward type deal out of him. In winter ball this year, Kazmir struck out 27 in 22.2 IP. Not that one should ever judge a player based on what he does in winter ball, but this shows that Kazmir might have something left in the tank at the very least. The Indians liked where is velocity was at, and they are quite frankly hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Kazmir. Everyone from the fans, to the Indians organization, to probably Kazmir himself, knows that it’s a long shot for him to make the rotation out of Spring Training, but hey, crazier things have definitely happened. He should provide the Tribe some pitching depth at the very least.
Corey Kluber- I’m placing Kluber behind both Bauer and Carrasco on the totem pole to make the starting rotation out of Spring Training. That being said, there are still question marks surrounding both Bauer and Carrasco, so Kluber still has a legitimate chance of winning the 5th spot in the rotation. He was inconsistent in his 12 starts with the Tribe last season with a record of 2-5 and an ERA of 5.14. He definitely has good stuff as he struck out 128 in 125.1 IP in Triple-A before being called up. However, what concerns me about Kluber is that his career performance in the minor leagues over the past few seasons has never been anything special. His lowest career WHIP in the minor leagues is 1.34 and that came back in 2008. If he was never dominant in the minors, he certainly is not going to be anything special in the big leagues either. Without a doubt Bauer and Carrasco should have a leg up on him.
Daisuke Matsuzaka- I’ll be totally honest here…I really can’t think of any way to properly analyze what Daisuke brings to the table. He hasn’t been successful in the MLB in a few years and his past couple seasons have been severely shortened by injury issues. He struggled mightily last year with the Red Sox with a 1-7 record and an ERA of 8.28 in 11 starts. However, that was after he looked somewhat like his former self during rehab in Triple-A last season with a 3.32 ERA, .228 BAA, and 1.17 WHIP in 13 starts before being called up last season. Obviously the risk was minimal for the Tribe when they signed Daisuke, but maybe a change of pace/scenery will help him. Remember, the Indians don’t need him to him to be the international sensation that he was when he first broke in with the Red Sox. They would happily accept him as a solid number 4 or 5 guy if he can prove he is worthy. However, he is without a doubt the most unpredictable of all candidates.
Though it’s up for much debate, here is my order from best odds to worst odds on who will take the final rotation spot: