As of right now the only relievers guaranteed spots in the Tribe’s bullpen are Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, and Joe Smith.  This means roughly four spots are open for the remaining relievers competing to make the big league squad out of Spring Training.  Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Matt Albers- After being acquired from Arizona as part of the Shin-Soo Choo trade, Matt Albers is pretty close to being guaranteed a spot in the bullpen.  First of all, he is out of options so the Tribe will be somewhat biased in his favor when making decisions.  However, more importantly he was an extremely reliable arm out of the bullpen for the Red Sox and Diamondbacks last season.  The Indians were looking to improve their middle relief, and if Albers can replicate his stats from last season, the Indians would be more than thrilled.  In 63 appearances last year, he had an ERA of 2.39 and a BAA of .215.

Cody Allen- Cody Allen came out of nowhere last year as he ended up turning in a respectable rookie season out of the pen.  He really doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors, and I think he is pretty close to being a lock to make the team as well.  In parts of two seasons in the minors, Allen had a combined ERA of 1.74, and struck out 128 in just 98 IP.  His BAA was .175 and WHIP was 0.85.  He was off to a great start after being promoted to the big leagues last season until he hit a bump in the road in September with an ERA of 7.56 for the month.  However, growing pains are bound to happen with most young pitchers, and I expect Allen to learn from his rookie year and be a big part of the Tribe’s bullpen in 2013.

Scott Barnes- Who knows how many lefties Terry Francona is planning on taking this season, but he has three legitimate options this Spring Training.  Scott Barnes is one of those options.  Barnes has an unorthodox delivery and can be extremely tough on lefties.  Last year in his brief time in the Majors, Barnes held lefties to an AVG of .200.  There’s no denying that the stuff is there for him to be a successful reliever.  Before being promoted last year, Barnes held AAA hitters to a .196 AVG and had 67 K’s in 52 IP.  It will be interesting to see how Barnes, Rich Hill, and Nick Hagadone stack up against each other throughout the spring.

Matt Capps- The Indians made a sneaky little addition when they added Matt Capps on a minor league deal.  I think it was an underrated move that could pay big dividends if Capps is healthy.  Capps was having another solid season as Minnesota’s closer last season before his season was cut short due to injury.  He converted 14 out of 15 saves last season and had a 1.09 WHIP.  He is just 3 years removed from an all-star season in which he saved 42 games as well.  With the back-end of the bullpen obviously pretty set in stone with Perez, Pestano, and Smith, Capps does not have to be an all-star closer again.  All he needs to do is solidify the Tribe’s middle relief.  If he’s healthy there’s no question he will do just that.

Nick Hagadone- Out of the 3 left-handed relievers competing for big league spots this spring, there’s no doubt that Nick Hagadone has the most upside.  His average fastball had a velocity of 94.3 MPH last season, so he can definitely bring the heat.  He was off to a good start with the Tribe after being called up to the big leagues last season, with ERAs of 2.08 in April and 2.25 in May.  However, Hagadone imploded as summer came around with an ERA of 14.73 in June.  So he had one bad month…ok, a really bad month.  However, he still has the stuff to be a back-end bullpen guy in the near future.  I also think he has the best odds of making the team out of the 3 lefties in consideration right now.

Frank Herrmann- So far it’s kind of been a toss-up if we wanted to predict which of these candidates will take the last few bullpen spots.  However, unless Frank Herrmann does something miraculous in Spring Training, I think it’s safe to say he will not be starting the season with the big league club.  There’s too many other quality arms competing for the same spots, and we honestly have seen what Herrmann has to offer over the past couple seasons.  Unless he shows a tremendous amount of growth, he seems to be just a mediocre middle-reliever as of right now.  He will likely just be a guy giving us some bullpen depth at Triple-A if needed.

Rich Hill- Does Terry Francona want a left-handed specialist in his bullpen?  That’s the million dollar question that will pretty much determine Rich Hill’s fate.  Hill is in competition with Barnes and Hagadone for the left handed reliever spot(s) in the bullpen.  Hagadone would not really be considered a “specialist” because he should be able to pitch to lefties and righties because of his stuff.  Since Scott Barnes is more along the lines of a specialist, I think only one of the two between Hill and Barnes has a realistic shot of making the team.  If Francona does want a lefty specialist on his club, Hill makes a strong case.  In his career, lefties have a BAA of .206 versus Hill.  If healthy, his track record certainly backs his cause.

Bryan Shaw- Bryan Shaw is the other reliever we acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Shin-Soo Choo trade.  There’s really nothing mind-blowing about Shaw and his stuff.  However, over the past couple seasons in Arizona, he’s simply found a way to get the job done and has been very consistent as well.  His WHIPs over the past couple seasons have been mediocre (2012-1.42, 2011-1.34) as has his career .273 BAA.  However, he posted ERAs of 3.49 and 2.54 over that time frame as well.  Groundball pitchers are somewhat scarce as relievers, but Shaw definitely qualifies as one.  He is just another one of many solid candidates to fill out the rest of the bullpen.

It’s pretty much impossible to predict who will take the remaining 4 spots in the bullpen as the bullpen is such an unpredictable area of baseball to begin with.  Just for fun, I’m going to say the last 4 spots in the bullpen will go to Albers, Allen, Capps, and Hagadone.  However, this is obviously still open for much discussion.


  • joey says:

    im not sure why albers is guaranteed anything.i member watching him for baltimore,and seemed like he always had like a high 4 era,plus hardly ever strikes anybody out…barnes is decent,but could use more time in aaa. id rather put huff in the pen. allen has off the charts talent. like him alot. capps is not that good,trust me,not that it matters,but ive had to drop him off my fantasy team the last 2 yrs. hes washed up,and if the twins dont want him with all their needs than u know somethings wrong with him.i like hagadone. hermann no thanks. shaw maybe. out of the options ur giving. i will say the last 4 spots should go to. allen,huff,hagadone,and shaw. i do predict a trade before the season starts tho,so some of these guys might be elsewhere.

  • Ryan Pinheiro says:

    Albers showed tremendous improvement last season compared to what he used to be in Baltimore a couple of years ago. He also struck out 68 batters in 64.2 IP a couple seasons ago in 2011, so it’s not like he doesn’t strike anyone out. Capps may not be a prime closer anymore, but as a middle reliever he should be fine. As long as he’s healthy, he is more than capable of filling this role.

    • joey says:

      yeah i know albers had a good year last year,but hes had more bad years than good ones,and capps should only be brought in to start an inning,do not,i repeat do not bring him in the game with men on base,cuz he gives up lots of base runners.

  • Steve Alex says:

    Weren’t Albers’ bad years as a starter? He seems much better as a relief pitcher. I think the options are rather strong for the bullpen. Somebody with a good arm will be squeezed out, most likely the one with options left.

  • Chris says:

    Albers is guaranteed a spot for the same reason Asencio was last year. It just doesn’t make sense to trade for a player out of options and not at least let them have some chance to make an impact at the major league level.

  • drew says:

    Why don’t the Indians trade Chris Perez and use the salary saved to sign Kyle Lohse? It seems they have quite a few quality bullpen arms and are lacking in starting pitching.

  • medfest says:

    Albers makes the team because he’s capable of throwing multiple innings several times a week and gives the Tribe a reasonably reliable long man.

    Hagadone makes the club because he’s left handed and throws hard,if he can harness his stuff he could be lights out especially against lefties.

    Shaw makes the club because he’s got a cutter that induces ground balls and still gives him a decent strikeout rate, a nice combination to have.

    The last spot will go to a lefty.Barnes has got the Luis Tiant turn going for him and a nice slider,Hill is the curveballer and Kazmir and Huff if they doesn’t make the rotation are an option as well.

    Allen will be groomed for the closer’s role at AAA,he’ll be up during the season.

    Capps still needs to prove he’s healthy, he’ll go to AAA and then will be trade bait/insurance if all goes well.Unless he’s got a contractual out clause I don’t know about..

    Herrmann and the lefties who don’t make the squad will go to Columbus,which is not a bad place to play if you can’t be in the majors.The Clippers look to have a hell of a pitching staff as well.

    The Indians don’t have any superstar pitchers but they’ve got some talent and having to send talented guys down is a good sign.

    Last years bullpen was great at finishing games,but pretty crappy the rest of the time,I think this season’s version(Perez shoulder concerns not withstanding)has a good chance to be one of the best in the league.

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