Where I doubt Cleveland most is on the run-prevention side of the ledger. The two fluky starts by Mitch Talbot weren’t signs of things to come anyway, and now his injury exposes Cleveland’s lack of pitching depth in the upper levels. Josh Tomlin’s 2.75 ERA and three wins mask fringy stuff, including a below-average fastball and no real out pitch to miss bats; he’s likely to be homer-prone in addition to just generally hit-prone. Carlos Carrasco at least has two above-average pitches in his fastball and changeup, but he has never really had an average breaking ball and his command remains a stubborn problem. Even erstwhile ace Justin Masterson has weaknesses, including a career-long platoon split borne of his low arm slot, and while I expect him to dominate right-handed hitters I doubt he’ll sustain his current .103/.212/.103 line against them.
Grrrr. First, these are young pitching prospects we are talking about. Guys that will continue to develop. Nobody, no matter how long they have been around baseball, can say with any great certainty who will and who will not end up with a successful career in the Major Leagues. There are the occasional guys that seem to be can’t miss. (Even though some of them do miss.) But as for the rest, staying away from major injury and learning the art of pitching on the fly seem to be the major differences between perpetual prospects and legit MLB starters.
Perhaps though, the major issue I have with the statement above is that the Indians have a lack of pitching prospects. Going back to spring training, you would have to consider Carrasco, Tomlin, Talbot and Gomez all prospects. Granted, 3 of them were going to make the team, but weren’t they still technically prospects? Talbot had 29 career big league starts behind him, so perhaps he sheds the ‘prospect’ label. Carrasco (12 starts), Tomlin (12 starts) and Gomez (11 starts) all had less than a season’s worth of starts in the bank.
Add to that list David Huff and Jensen Lewis who have big league experience, and Alex White who is continuing his phenomenal rise through the organizational depth chart. White is at AAA Columbus tearing up the competition. He has an ERA of 2.0, with 20 strikeouts and 3 walks through his first 3 starts there this season. His highest ERA at any level was his first season in the pros- a 2.86 mark at Kinston. (He finished that season with a 2.28 at Akron.) He passes the eye test and the numbers test.
Another top pitching prospect is Drew Pomeranz. I know, he’s currently at single A Kinston, but even an Indians minor league representative I spoke to recently agreed it is a matter of weeks, not months before Pomeranz is at AA Akron, with Columbus a very real possibility this season.
Take a look at the possible rotation going forward. You have Carmona, who really isn’t a staff ace, but has the most experience in the group. Then you have Justin Masterson, who has been the losing streak stopper this season, sporting a 4-0 record and among the league leaders in ERA. At 26, Masterson appears to have a grasp on what he can do to be a successful pitcher at this level. Last night’s recovery from a bad first inning should serve as proof of his maturity. There is Carrasco, who may have the nastiest stuff of the group, but is learning on the job and should have things ironed out in the next year or so. Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have to figure in any discussion of the future rotation.That’s 5. Gomez, Tomlin and Talbot all have a shot at dethroning one of the above (don’t laugh, but for my money it may be Carmona).
No depth? Really?
And that is completely discounting guys like Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister who I’m sure would like to find their name on a Tribe uniform in the near future. Or Kelvin De La Cruz and Austin Adams who are pitching well at Akron this season.
I think the Indians have plenty of good prospects ready for their chance to play. Sorry Keith.
(Photo: Chuck Crow / The Plain Dealer)