Like it or not, Corey Kluber is no longer a member of the Cleveland Indians. Will injuries shorten another season for him in 2020? Will the Indians reinvest the $17.5 million in savings to sign other players named Josh Donaldson or Yasiel Puig? Was this trade announced to distract from the fact that the Browns are being eliminated from playoff contention? While we can reasonably guess the answer to all of these questions, one thing is for certain: Emmanuel Clase is now a member of the Cleveland Indians. So what does he bring to the table for the Tribe in 2020?
A Case for Clase
Signed by the Padres as an international free agent in January 2015, Clase was a part of the San Diego system until getting traded to the Rangers in May 2018. Clase completed a trade from April of that year when the Rangers sent catcher Brett Nicholas to the Padres for a PTBNL.
Since arriving in Texas, Clase has shown dominance at the A+ and AA levels. Last season, for example, across 44.2 innings at both levels, Clase allowed just 14 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 50. He also gave up just one home run in the minors last season. How did he do it, you ask? By throwing really, really hard:
Emmanuel Clase with your standard 100mph Cutter. pic.twitter.com/OcqwKuF6QQ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 31, 2019
Tribe fans have been clamoring for a fireballing pitcher out of the bullpen for years, and they may have one in Clase moving forward. So at least there is something there. The flip side is that Clase is only 21 and pitchers who throw this hard eventually have arm problems. It wouldn’t shock me to see Clase go down in the near future as the Grim Reaper (Tommy John) claims another soul.
Clase did make his MLB debut last season with the Rangers, and he did pretty well. In 23.1 innings, Clase allowed just 6 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 21. His ERA was a sparkly 2.31 and his FIP an xFIP were a bit higher at 3.43 and 3.42, respectively. Those numbers don’t mean a lot in such a small sample, but they are something to note.
A couple more positives. In his limited time at the MLB level last season, Clase had a GB% of 60.6%, a good 15% higher than what FanGraphs considers the average (44%). Maybe the Indians are planning on getting a defensive wizard at second base to help close up the middle infield while Lindor is still on the team. If the idea is to deploy a pitcher late in games who can a) go multiple innings and b) induce groundballs that can result in double plays, Clase may be that guy. Additionally, Clase had a K% of 22.3%. That number may drop as hitters begin to figure him out (some reports say that he can throw hard but has a problem leaving the ball over the heart of the plate), but being able to strike out hitters at a decent clip is a good tool to have in the bullpen.
It’s perfectly reasonable to be upset at giving up a 2-time Cy Young winner for a relief pitcher (Delino DeShields Jr. doesn’t seem to move the needle much). I can’t tell you how to feel.
But for now, I leave you with this: