The current Cleveland Indians bullpen is as good as it gets.
The closer, Cody Allen, has converted 14 out of 15 save opportunities and struck out a ridiculous 34 batters in just 21.2 innings of work. Allen won April’s Relief Pitcher of the Month award for his efforts. His battery-mate Andrew Miller was the 2016 ALCS MVP and he’s allowed just one run in 27.1 innings this year while striking out 40 and walking five.
The rest of the pen isn’t too shabby either, as middle relievers Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister and Boone Logan are all sporting sub 2.50 ERAs. New 2017 addition Nick Goody allowed his first run of the season this weekend in 21 total innings of work. Only Dan Otero has an ERA above 3.00 and it’s nothing embarrassing at 3.22.
Through the season’s first two months, Cleveland sports the best team bullpen ERA and it’s not even close, at 2.17 overall. The Los Angelos Dodgers are second as a team at 2.70 while Boston is the only other team below 3.00 and they barely squeak in at 2.98.
This is the last year of team control for both Allen and Shaw. McAllister, Miller and Logan are free agents after 2018.
The Indians don’t need much bullpen help this year, and that’s probably a good thing because there aren’t any elite prospects in the pipeline (not that relief pitchers are usually dubbed as top prospects anyways).
MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect relief pitchers
|24||Shawn Armstrong||RHP||26||AAA||2011 Draft, 18th Round (548)||2017|
*acccording to MLB Pipeline.
Shawn Armstrong made the Indians 2017 Opening Day roster, but he has really struggled with the big league club, surrendering eight runs in just 12 innings of work while striking out 13 batters. He was replaced in the bullpen by Nick Goody early in the season, and with this being his third year making spot appearances for the Tribe, it’s becoming less and less likely that he’ll be a part of the long-term future.
Hopefully he can turn his minor league success into Major League dominance, but the results speak for themselves thus far.
Other notable relief pitcher prospects
Kyle Crockett has pitched off an one for the Indians since 2014, but hasn’t been able to stick around on the big league club due to his inability to be a left-handed matchup specialist. He’s been dominant this year for Columbus with a 1.93 ERA while striking out 27 batters in 23.1 innings.
Joe Colon, Dylan Baker and Perci Garner are all also on the 40-man roster and could be called up as depth options, although Colon currently is the only viable one since Baker is on the 7-Day DL with a back issue and Garner is still working himself back into full-season form in Double-A after missing the first month and a half due to injury.
To me, the most intriguing bullpen options are Leandro Linares, a Cuban defector who has blossomed since transitioning out of the starting pitcher role. He was promoted to Double-A earlier this month and has a 0.78 ERA on the season, striking out 25 batters in 23 innings.
Argenis Angulo looks promising as well. Currently the closer for High-A Lynchburg, he’s racked up eight saves while holding batters to a .165 average on the season. In Lake County, Ben Krauth has been excellent as a long reliever, striking out 38 batters in 31.2 innings while Ryder Ryan has put himself on the map with a 0.89 ERA, a .116 average against and 25 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
While the Indians don’t currently have any top prospects coming up in the bullpen, and they traded away two of their better late-inning arms (Ben Heller, JP Feyereisen) last year to acquire Andrew Miller, there are still plenty of intriguing options for future bullpen help. Linares looks like he could have future closer stuff as long as he can keep his walks down and, if healthy, Baker could be a stud with his upper 90s fastball. There’s certainly no reason to panic despite some top relievers becoming free agents in the near future.