Before we delve into the Indians starting rotation for 2015, a shameless plug:

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Will Reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber be able to maintain his dominant 2013 form and lead the young Tribe rotation to the promised land?

The premise sounds very Hollywood — that much is true. Like the 2013 season, the Indians come into spring training with high hopes for their rotation. Corey Kluber returns as the staff ace after a stellar year in which he over-powered nearly every opponent he faced. Filling in the 2,3 and 4 slots are Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Gavin Floyd. The final spot appears to be up for grabs between Right-handed flame thrower Danny Salazar and southpaw T.J. House.

Their are three spots that are locked up for sure: Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer. The final two spots are fluid and very dependent several factors that will present themselves as spring training progresses.

The first kink that will need worked out is Gavin Floyd

I wrote late last year about the Floyd signing and my weariness of it. Clearly, the Indians are hoping that Floyd can reinvent himself like Scott Kazmir in 2013. Unfortunately, lightning never strikes the same place twice. I just don’t see Floyd panning out.

Floyd’s best years are clearly behind him. His 2008 campaign was his best and only year that he eclipsed the 200 inning mark. Since that season, he has pitched 187, 193, 168, 24, and 54 innings in ’09-’14 respectively. In 2014, things were looking up for Floyd. Through 9 starts, he held a 2-2 record, had a 3.5 SO/W ratio, and a FIP of 3.8 (considered average). In a game in which he was pitching masterfully against the Nationals, Floyd was forced to exit the game after feeling something pop in his previously-injured elbow in which he underwent Tommy John Surgery. He would miss the rest of the season with the injury before he was signed by the Indians in the off-season.

The fact that Floyd came back from TJS in 2013 and began what appeared to be a promising 2014 campaign gives me hope for this season. Having said that, two major elbow surgeries in two seasons makes me on edge. There’s only so much the body can take and two consecutive surgeries on a very active of major league elbow.

Honestly, if the Indians could get 120 solid innings, a 3.40 ERA, a +3 SO/W ratio, and an average FIP stat, I would be extremely pleased.

The next question that needs to be answered is what do the Indians do with T.J. House and Danny Salazar

Anyone that has a decent memory and pays even the slightest bit of attention to baseball will tell you that Danny Salazar is special. Salazar has always reminded me of Verlander in his prime. For kicks, check out these two GIFs of the two pitchers throwing a fastball. The similarities between their mechanics is uncanny (click on each GIF to watch):

Justin_Verlander_Ultimate_2012_Highlights DET_CLE_Salazar_strikes_out_10_over_7_2_3_innings

Salazar’s leg kick and arm angle are eerily similar to Verlander’s. If Verlander’s success is any indication, let’s hope that Salazar figures it out this season and puts all the pieces together.

Salazar is your prototypical right-handed blazer who easily throws the ball in the mid-upper nineties consistently. What I love more than anything about his stuff is the discrepancy between his fastball and breaking ball. The split second the hitter has to decipher the rotation of the ball and the speed with which it is travelling towards him gives Salazar an edge not many others enjoy.

Oh, and his breaking ball is straight nasty. There’s that too:

CLE_CWS_Salazar_whiffs_10_in_just_3_2_3_innings

T.J. House debuted for the Indians in 2014 and had a perfectly normal season. He went 5-3 over 19 starts with a 3.35 ERA and 3.69 FIP. Additionally, his SO/W ratio was 3.64 and he pitched 102 innings (approximately 5 1/3 innings/start). Personally, I think that House, for those who are risk averse, is appealing because his first year is indicative of someone who can provide consistent, albeit not dominant, starts.

For those who fancy themselves as risk takers, Salazar is the clear option considering his high upside and unique skill set/pitch repertoire.

If House ends up in AAA Columbus to begin the year and eventually has to come up for a spot start or to fill the eventual hole that Floyd will leave, that would work for me. Right now, taking a chance on Salazar just makes sense. He has all the tools to be a very successful right-handed pitcher alongside Corey Kluber.

Indians news and notes: Week of February 11th

According to Jon Heyman:

For about a week now, various reports have surfaced linking the Indians to several different relief pitchers such as Barry Zito. It was reported last night and confirmed today that the Indians had indeed signed Bruce Chen to a one year/$1 million minor league with $1 million in performance-based incentives.

I have to agree with my colleague Joe Coblitz in that the Chen signing just doesn’t make any sense. His career numbers are nothing indicative of need-to-have talent. Chen’s ERA has been up and down all over his career and, as Joe puts it:

        “Chen’s up and down career provides and excellent reason to ignore conventional statistics and go straight to the FIP. Of those 16 years, Chen finished eight with an ERA above 5.00 and six below 4.00, but all but three of those seasons were within one run of his career average 4.91 FIP. Two of those three seasons (all of which were more than a run above 4.91) came when he pitched 45 games across 2006 and 2007 before missing all of 2008 with injury.”

There just doesn’t seem to be a place in which Chen fits. The Indians have a plethora of starters with several individuals that would spot start or jump Chen if the need would ever arise. Additionally, Chen is going to have to work is way in to an already above-average bullpen. I agree with Joe in that giving innings to Chen is an absolute waste of younger, higher upside talent in individuals like Nick Hagadone, Kyle Crockett, Scott Downs, or Nick Maronde.

Construction update: The New Bar has it’s Name!

I received an email today (as I’m sure many of you have asking about a few names for the bar that is being constructed along with the stacked bullpens, etc. Personally, option #2 is clearly the best and I can’t wait to enjoy a cold beer at The Corner of Carnegie and Ontario while I channel my inner Hammy.

Next week: Dissecting the Indians Bullpen

 Next week, I’d like to discuss the Indian’s bullpen in-depth. Normally  I would want to cover the entire pitching staff in one article, but I know attention spans are often short.

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Go Tribe!