The Tribe’s Pitching…

Firstly. Sorry this took so long, got really busy and dropped the ball a little bit on the promised post. Secondly, this is the follow up to the post I did last month about Tribe position player outlook for this coming season. Thirdly, I will give a rundown of who will probably be in the Tribe’s rotation this season on Opening Day, and some of the bullpen guys as well. I will also mention a few of the Tribe’s prospects and what me might see out of them this year. So here goes…

Aaron Laffey will probably be the Opening Day Starter for the Tribe

The Starting Rotation –

If you can call it that anyway, sure they will start games, but who knows what kind of rotation it will be on. It might end up being a group of 25 guys like this year who get 1 start a month. Who knows. It will be interesting to see how the new pitching coach, Tim Belcher, handles the young arms and how Manny Acta chooses his rotation. I am not expecting much out of the pitching this year after what we saw last year, but knowing how the Tribe’s arms goes, our bullpen will probably be good this year after being so atrocious in 2009. We have several guys who could be in the rotation to start the year, and there really is not much of a hint as to who it may be yet, but this is what I predict.

1. Aaron Laffey – The lefty was, outside of Cliff Lee, the most consistent pitcher on the team last year. He won’t blow you away with his stuff, but he has solid control and good movement. He is only going to be 24 next year, so he could be an anchor this rotation for years to come. He probably won’t turn out to be a #1 starter in his career, but he is the best that we have now. I definitely can’t complain about him at all, and I think at his best will be a very solid #2 or #3 guy down the road.

2. Justin Masterson – While I can’t really say that he was worth Victor Martinez, but I don’t think any one in the MLB is worth a guy like Martinez. Masterson however, did show flashes of being a really good pitcher last year and has been showing them for the past few years. Like Laffey, he is very young, he will be 24 in March. He was kind of a mystery after we got him last year, he was either un-hittable and in the strike zone, or un-hittable and out of the strike zone, or just hittable. Also like Laffey, he projects to be a #2 or #3 down the road, and could, if the rest of the team allows, win 15 games in 2010.

David Huff had a great rookie year. He could be the best starter the Indians have, and the Ace of the Future

3. David Huff – Another young lefty. Young arms is all we have right now, and this one was great last year. Very impressive rookie season in 2009, he will probably build off of that and he reminds me of a Tom Glavine type of crafty lefty. I think he could probably be this teams ace moving forward, but allow for a sophomore slump next year as American League hitters make adjustments to his style. He goes out every day and attacks the strike zone, doesn’t overpower opposing hitters, but he can get people out.

4. Fausto Carmona – Realistically he will probably be higher up in the rotation. But until he gets things figured out I have him pencilled in the #4 spot. He has the stuff to be dominating. He should be, based purely on stuff alone, be the Opening Day starter and long term ace of the staff. He is only in his mid 20’s and has a bright future if he gets his control and composure settled down. I think he will be up and down like he was when he came back last year. I hope, nay, I pray for him to be UP like he was when we made the run to the ALCS. He has the stuff to be a 20 game winner year in and year out, he just needs to get it all figured out.

5. Jeremy Sowers – I am surprising myself with this one. I honestly think Sowers is a good pitcher, and a better choice to start the year then Carlos Carrasco. With Sowers, much to the suffering of Tribe faithful, you get another soft tossing lefty who relies on his control and smarts, and he has showed flashes of why he was a 1st round pick. He was typically good through 5 innings last year and then he would implode on himself, walking and giving up hits. If he can get whatever his problem is figured out, and learn to pitch more then 5 innings a game, he could be a front end starter, or an above average #4 or #5 starter. If he struggles out of the box, then Carrasco will be given this spot to see if he got his 2009 struggles out of his system.

-Speaking of Carlos Carrasco, I can easily see him getting the #5 spot over Sowers if he impresses in Spring Training. But what he definitely will not be is a spot starter and long reliever in the bigs. I think the best thing for him would be, if not in the rotation, to be the #1 guy in Columbus and let him keep working on his game on the consistent basis down there. He is just another one of those guys who has tremendous upside, but no one has any idea as to what we actually have with him.

– Jeanmar Gomez. This kid looked amazing last year. He dominated minor league hitters day in and day out. He won’t start the year on the team, he will be in AAA. He is only 21, 22 when the season starts, and has the highest potential of any starter we have in the system right now. The Tribe will be careful with this young arm, to ensure that things don’t go like they did with Adam Miller, I hope Gomez has better luck. If things are really bad again next year, expect to see Gomez after the All Star break in Cleveland.

– Hector Rondon was the other minor league standout last year for the Tribe. Like Gomez, he will start off in AAA. If any one of the 5 starters struggle, I wouldn’t be suprised if Acta went to this young gun early on in the year. He has pretty electric stuff and could be a fixture on the Tribe for a long time. He is a definite September call-up, and could very well grace us with his presence in Cleveland sooner if anyone is hurt or pitching badly.

Bullpen –

Who are they gonna call?

What bullpen? We have one of those? In all seriousness, we have a pretty good group of guys in the ‘pen, its just a matter of them performing to expectations and on a consistent basis. Just a few of the guys who I am excited about, and think will have much better years this year.

Tony Sipp (I love this guy, I don’t know why he wasn’t in the Bigs sooner) – He was pretty good last year once we brought him up. He throws hard and can be a great late inning guy. I think he’ll start off the year in the middle innings, but I have a strong feeling that he will end up setting games up for Kerry Wood, or maybe even replacing Wood as the closer.

Jensen Lewis – Another guy who no one really knows where he will end up. He was very effective in 2008 as closer and set up man, but last year he was up and down between Columbus and Cleveland, and while he was pretty solid, he wasn’t consistent or quite good enough. I think he can be a great reliever, but who knows. I think this is his last chance to latch on to a permanent bullpen spot in Cleveland.

Chris Perez – After his early struggles he looked pretty damn good. Struggled some more down the stretch, but overall I am pretty impressed with the hard throwing righty. Could be the closer of the future, probably has more of a chance at that then Sipp. Will start as the set up man probably. Could move to closer if Wood is hurt or traded.

Speaking of… Kerry Wood – Depressing FA signing as of last year. But in his defense, he did not get used much, and had no chance to get a rhythm. If we start off hot and he gets into a groove he could be very dominant all year long. But if we struggle out of the box and he does too, he should be traded to ditch his contract, if he isn’t traded this offseason. While that is unlikely, it is still possible. He could net us a few prospects. Just sayin’.

Rafael Perez – Another Tribe pitching conundrum. Goes from lights out to single A pitcher on the nightly basis. Manny Acta mentioned him as someone who he has been impressed by in the past, so that is a vote of confidence for the lefty. He will probably start out in a set-up role, and might not do well there. I think he will be more of the same this year, up and down performances. I think he will stay on the team all year, but might not be there next year.

Joe Smith – I don’t really know what to think of him yet. Last year he didn’t do much to impress me or disappoint me, but I think he will be our go to longer reliever and a usual sighting in closer games during the 6th and 7th innings. I think he could return to the form he was in his rookie year with the Mets, and could be a really good member of this bullpen in 2010.

Jake Westbrook – IF HE IS HEALTHY, he could be a good member of the rotation, but I think that when he comes back the rotation will be more or less set. It is possible he joins the ‘pen as the long guy, and the 6th starter when guys need an off day or something. I would love to see Westbrook back in the rotation, he has been a solid starter and innings eater his whole career, and is a 15 win guy most years. He could join the rotation in June on the back end of things and relieve Sowers and or Carrasco of their rotation spot.

I think the Tribe ‘pen could be really good this year. But I thought that last year and look what happened. You cannot predict how a bullpen will perform in the MLB, it is just impossible. However, if I had to make an educated guess, I would think that this group will be in the middle of the pack in the AL in 2010, if not better. That will however depend a lot on how the starters do and if they can go deep into ball games, and if the offense does what we all know it is capable of doing. We’ll see though folks. It really could go both ways, I may be excited about it now, but I am optimistic. Even though the team will probably struggle, I expect them to compete for this division. It may be foolhardy or stupid, but I love my Cleveland Indians.

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