Corey Kluber...Major League Starter?

Jason Miller

Just finished reading an article entitled 2012 minor league leaders in predictive FIP by Glen DuPaul over at THT looking at AAA starting pitchers in 2012 and using a predictive measure known as pFIP (predictive fielding independent pitching). I suggest reading the article at THT if interested in pFIP further. The author uses pFIP to evaluate minor league players, which it hasn't really been tested out on for validity to this point, so take it with a giant grain of salt. What I did find interesting is there were two current Indians on the lists the author created of the top AAA pitching. One list covers the PCL and the other the IL. Of course you can imagine that our new shiny acquired prospect, Trevor Bauer shows up in the PCL list, and in fact is the top pitcher on the list with a pFIP of 3.49. Bauer is the youngest of all of the pitchers on either list, and we can cross reference with Baseball America and more or less the general scouting and statistical support to come to a fairly strong conclusion that Bauer is a legitimate prospect nearly ready for further major league exposure.

The surprising name on the IL list was Corey Kluber. Kluber shows up at no.4 on the list behind some pretty solid names in Chris Tillman of the Orioles, and Chris Archer of the Rays. Now Kluber did this in his age 26 season, so not really all that advanced when you consider that. In AAA last season Kluber struck out more than 9 a game and walked 3.5 and gave up only .6 HR per game, all in 125.1 IP. Then Kluber made 12 starts at the major league level with Cleveland and put up an ugly 5.14 ERA in 63IP. But if we look beyond the ERA we see the following peripheral numbers: 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 1.3 HR/9. Now the home runs are a bit concerning, but in 63 IP, none of these numbers are exceptionally stable, and specifically homeruns with a slightly high 13.4% HR/FB%. But, it is hard not to see that 3.00 K/BB and not see some potential. As mentioned recently about the Brett Myers signing and Myers' issues with the long ball, Progressive Field tends to suppress homeruns and is in general a pitchers park. A guy like Kluber, may be able to perform at a decent level at the major league level if his homeruns against is cushioned and he can keep up a healthy K rate around 7 and walk rate below 3. In fact he could easily find himself as a strong mid to back end of the rotation arm based on something like that.

Bauer, McAllister, and Kluber may all find themselves holding down spots at times in the 2013 rotation.

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