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What if the Indians don't sign another pitcher?

Whom do you prefer, among the in-house options to join the rotation?

Joe Robbins

The Indians would seem to be in the market for starting pitching, given that Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who threw the second and third-most innings of anyone on the team in 2013, are now free agents. On the other hand, there have been reports that the Indians won't go much beyond $80 million in payroll, which is where they'll already be sitting once they work out contracts with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, and other arbitration eligible players. So, it could be that there won't be any big offseason additions to the rotation, and that all five spots will be filled by players currently under team control.

Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Zach McAllister are all pencilled in already, but it's not clear whom the fifth spot would be given to. There are three who'd have to be considered the front-runners though, anyone beyond them would be a big surprise: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Josh Tomlin. If it comes to that, obviously a decision wouldn't be made until late in spring training, but for argument's sake, which one of them would you prefer, if you had to choose right now?

Trevor Bauer (RH, 22 years old)

It was only two-and-a-half years ago that Bauer was the #3 overall pick in the draft. He's obviously a very talented pitcher, who had great success at UCLA and in the minor leagues while in the Diamondbacks system. He throws 4 pitches and until 2013 he used them to generate a lot of strikeouts. On the other hand, his strikeout rate crashed this year, both at Columbus and in his few starts with the Indians. Walks have always been an issue for him, including 29 in 33.1 career MLB innings, and 5.4 per 9 innings in Triple-A this year. His unique warm-up routine has been controversial since he was in college, and he hasn't always gotten along with his catcher, due to Bauer's preference to call his own game. He's lost velocity since college, and it could be that his stuff isn't ever going to be what it used to. He's still very young though, so there's time yet for him to make adjustments and get things to click.

2012 21 ARI-min AAA,AA 2.42 22 130.1 61 157 2 1.289 0.6 4.2 10.8
2012 21 ARI NL 6.06 4 16.1 13 17 1 69 1.653 1.1 7.2 9.4
2013 22 CLE-min AAA 4.15 22 121.1 73 106 13 1.582 1.0 5.4 7.9
2013 22 CLE AL 5.29 4 17.0 16 11 1 73 1.824 1.6 8.5 5.8

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Carlos Carraso (RH, 26 years old)

Carrasco was a highly touted prospect for years, first in the Phillies system, then the Indians, after being part of the Cliff Lee trade. He spent much of 2011 in the Tribe rotation, with middling results, before being shut down late in the season and then needing Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss all of 2012. He did well in Columbus this year, with the best strikeout rate of his career. The results in Cleveland were a different story though, as he allowed 33 earned runs in 33.0 innings over 7 starts. He did much better after being moved to the bullpen, posting a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings. Much of that difference was due to a dramatically different BABIP, but his strikeout and walk rates were both better as a reliever. It could be that his struggles during the second and third times through a lineup mean he is best-suited ro relief work (and the Tribe bullpen could probably use another arm), but his velocity was higher in 2013 than before his surgery, and maybe he just needs a little more time to get his command back, and can still be an effective starter.

2011 24 CLE-min AA 9.82 1 3.2 3 3 1 1.909 2.5 7.4 7.4
2011 24 CLE AL 4.62 21 124.2 40 85 4 85 1.364 1.1 2.9 6.1
2013 26 CLE-min AAA 3.14 14 71.2 21 79 6 1.116 0.8 2.6 9.9
2013 26 CLE AL 6.75 7 46.2 18 30 1 56 1.757 0.8 3.5 5.8

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Josh Tomlin (RH, 29 years old)

Like Carrasco, Tomlin had been a part of the Indians rotation before requiring Tommy John surgery, which Tomlin had in August, 2012. Tomlin was roughly league average in 2011, but in 2012 he'd been struggling. Whether that's due to the injuries that eventually shut him down, I cannot say. Tomlin's velocity was back to pre-surgery levels when he returned this August. He did well in 27.1 innings at Columbus, striking out 21 while walking 0. He pitched 2 scoreless innings in his only appearance of the year with the Indians. Tomlin seems to be fully recovered from the operation, but questions remain about whether or not a fully healthy Tomlin is good enough to start in MLB. He's one of just 6 MLB pitchers with 300+ innings over the last 4 years and fewer than 5 strikeouts per 9 innings. None of them have an ERA+ of better than 97. His walk-rate over that time is the 5th best in baseball, but the lack of strikeouts puts a lot of ball in play.

2011 26 CLE AL 4.25 26 165.1 21 89 3
93 1.077 1.3 1.1 4.8
2012 27 CLE AL 6.36 16 103.1 25 56 3
61 1.461 1.6 2.2 4.9
2013 28 CLE-min AAA,AA,A 1.65 8 27.1 0 21 3
0.622 0.0 0.0 6.9
2013 28 CLE AL 0.00 0 2.0 0 0 0
1.000 0.0 0.0 0.0

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I don't like any of the three enough to feel good about them starting the year in the rotation. Forced to choose, I'd go with Bauer and hope that he can make the adjustments needed to succeed with diminished velocity. He's still only a year and a half removed from success in Triple-A as a starter, and I'd hope Mickey Callaway could help him get back to that.

How about you?