The Indians have lost their bona fide ace in Corey Kluber, which means their rotation has to be tweaked for 2020.
After exercising their $17.5 million club option for him in October of last year, Cleveland traded Kluber and cash for a relief pitcher and an outfielder. This move came after he suffered a right arm fracture in August of 2019 that kept him out of the lineup for the rest of the season.
Being that their workhorse is gone, someone needs to try and fill his shoes this year. The Indians are not quite out of contention in the AL Central, although steam has been lost since their 2016 World Series appearance.
Here is a look at what Cleveland’s starting rotation may look like if the season is not cancelled due to COVID-19.
1.) Mike Clevinger
Clevinger is a natural replacement for Kluber at the top of the order. Although he cannot match his strikeouts, because few in the league could even come close, Clevinger can rival Kluber’s ERA.
Last season in 21 starts, he went 13-4 with 169 strikeouts and a 2.71 ERA. This is fairly consistent with his 2018 numbers, in which he started 32 games and won 13. His ERA spiked a bit at 3.02, but his strikeouts were up at 207.
His pitch versatility is also an asset at the top of the order. Featuring a curveball, a slider, a changeup and a fastball which can reach 99 miles per hour. A young, consistent pitcher makes the most sense for the Indians to roll out at the top.
2.) Shane Bieber
2020 will be (or would have been) Bieber’s third year in the MLB. 2019 was his first as a full-time starter; it saw him start 33 games.
In those 33 games, he went 15-8, threw three complete games and two shutouts. He also collected a 3.28 ERA with 259 strikeouts on his way to an All-Star Game appearance. All he did in his first All-Star Game was strike out the side on 19 pitches, and win MVP.
It can be argued that Bieber has more potential, which could put him at the top of the order. But Clevinger has more time in the league. His consistency outweighs Bieber’s youth for the time being. With a great showing, however, Bieber can become the new Indians ace.
3.) Carlos Carrasco
Had it not been for some very unfortunate injuries, and a harrowing battle with leukemia, Carlos Carrasco could have made a slightly bigger mark on the MLB. Indians fans still wonder what the outcome of the 2016 World Series had been if Carrasco would have been able to pitch.
He had a relatively small sample size in 2019, due to his diagnosis. Carrasco started 12 games last season, but pitched in 23. Due to him returning to the mound in spite of the diagnosis, he was awarded the AL Comeback Player of the Year.
In any case, the 10-year veteran is a lock for the lineup. Placing him third due to his injury history makes the most sense, but his performance could very well move him up. Look for him to play angry and earn some strikeouts if the 2020 season takes place.
4.) Adam Plutko
Adam Plutko has bounced around from the minors to the majors; from the bullpen to the starting rotation. But it seems 2020 would be his year to break into the starting order for good.
The 28-year-old pitched in 21 games last season. He went 7-5 with a 4.85 and 78 strikeouts. Compare this to his slightly truncated 2018 season which saw him pitch in 17 games with a 5.28 ERA, and his skills are clearly being honed.
He needs more time in the rotation and more practice as a starter. Fourth in the lineup makes perfect sense, and will allow him to continue to work on his skills. 2020 is not a make or break year for the young pitcher, but it will allow Indians fans to begin to see what they have.
5.) Jefry Rodriguez
In his first year in Cleveland, Rodriguez pitched in 10 games, going 1-5. His ERA was 4.63 and he collected only 33 strikeouts.
Not the most impressive resume, but 2019 was only his second year in the MLB. He needs more practice in the lineup, and he needs to be featured as a full-time starter. Unfortunately, he will land in the last spot in the rotation.
Rodriguez was traded for, which means the Indians want to see what they can get out of him. But either way, there are bullpen options that could take his place if he continues to struggle.
Featured Image courtesy of USA TODAY Sports
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