We've been running through the 2014 season for each member of the Indians and key prospects from their farm system. (You can find every entry in the series here.) Now we've reached a countdown of the top ten players on the team, as voted by the Let's Go Tribe staff.
#7: Cody Allen
- Position: RP/Closer
- Age: 25 (until next week)
- Acquired: Drafted, 7th round (698th overall), 2011
- Contract status: Pre-arbitration in 2015 (~$500,000)
Cody Allen's 2014 looked an awful lot like his 2013. After struggling a bit in his MLB debut in 2012, Allen exploded onto the scene in 2013 and established himself as the closer-of-the-future in Cleveland. The only difference in 2014 was the removal of that "of-the-future" qualifier.
Check out these stats: 2013, he struck out 11.26 and walked 3.33 per 9/iP. In 2014, the strike outs were up a bit (11.76) and the walks were up even less (3.36). His HR/9 was .9 both years. His FIP was 2.99 both years. He even threw almost the same number of innings (69.2 this year vs. 70.1 last year). The only real difference is in luck (his BABIP dropped from .307 to .266, resulting in a lower ERA (2.07 vs. 2.43).
And this is a pretty great thing for the Tribe. Having a guy you can pencil in for 70 elite innings in the back of your pen is a great luxury, and something the Indians have been missing lately.
Allen started 2014 where he left 2012 - one of Terry Francona's most trusted late-inning set-up men. He rattled off nearly a full month without allowing an earned run, and after a couple rough outings on the west coast (3 ER at San Francisco), he went another three weeks without giving up another.
It was right around this time that the coaching staff grew tired of John Axford's struggles in the closer role and had Cody Allen step in (we thought) temporarily, until Axford was ready to re-take the job. Well, that day never came. Part of that was Axford never doing enough to force a decision. But a bigger part was just that Cody Allen was too dang good to move.
Axford left the closer role May 10, but Allen didn't really grab the spot until May 30 (he was part of a committee between those dates). After May 30, he had a 1.49 ERA, thanks to increases in K/9 and BB/9. He saved 23 of 26 chances over that time, as well.
By any measure, Allen was one of the best closers in baseball once he grabbed the role.
2014 grade: A
There could be a financial argument for moving Allen back to a set-up role. Once Allen hits arbitration, having spent a couple years accruing saves will have a big impact on his salary. But the reality is, moving Allen out of the 9th would both look bad to both him and other players (since it would be purely financially driven) and would not be the best baseball move, as he is clearly well situated to serve as closer of this team.
And so I'd expect Allen to take the ball from Tito for the first save of the year, and I see no reason to think he won't handle the job - and handle it well - all year.