Roster Is Set, Any Concerns?

Scott KazmirWe are a week away from Opening Day! Your 2013 Cleveland Indians have finally come to complete form. Manager Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti had a vision on how they wanted their roster to come together. Throughout the spring, things seemed to break exactly how they wanted them to.

Heading into Goodyear. there were two bench spots, one rotation slot, and four bullpen openings to be won. The signings of DH Jason Giambi and utility man Ryan Raburn were both talked up big time by Francona.

”The day I got the job, Chris and I were talking,” said Francona in late February. “I said if this guy [Raburn] ever comes off the Tigers’ roster, he’s a guy I like. Chris said he liked him, too. So we targeted him early.”

From the jump, Raburn made himself noticed with an 11-23 start (.478). His ability to play second, third, and corner outfield, plus the pop he has shown with hit bat made it an easy decision for Francona and Antonetti to keep him.

Upon his arrival in Goodyear, Francona spoke glowingly of Giambi, the former AL MVP. “He’s not a veteran, he’s the veteran,” he said. “I’ve already gone to him three or four times asking him questions. He’s solid. Brings a lot.” It was clear that Tito wanted an extra coach, the “veteran’s veteran” in his clubhouse to help bring this team together. If Giambi showed his trademark power, he seemed destined to make the team.

Yesterday, both Raburn and Giambi were informed they would be added to the 40-man roster. Raburn will be with the Indians on Opening Day in Toronto. Giambi was placed on the 15-day DL with back stiffness, but will be eligible to join the team on April 9th. When Jason joins the team, an extra reliever will be sent to Columbus.

The only real challengers for the bench roles were OF Ezequiel Carrera, IF Cord Phelps, and C/UTL Yan Gomes. Zeke had a solid spring, stealing 11 bags, but it was always going to be an uphill battle for him to break camp with the Indians. There are already three center fielders on the club (Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs), and with Raburn and Nick Swisher’s ability to play the corners, Zeke’s spring was more of an audition for the rest of the league than anything. He was designated for assignment as the Indians are trying to find a taker for him. Antonetti and Francona would love for him to go down to AAA, but he is out of options and probably will not clear waivers.

Phelps made quite an impression on Francona, looking like a new man this spring and not like the kid who was completely overwhelmed in the bigs in 2011. Cord hit .375 and looked comfortable in the field. But with options left and his inability to play the outfield, Raburn beat him out.  “His future is really bright, he was as professional as can be,” said Francona.

Like Phelps, Gomes raised a lot of eyebrows in Goodyear. There is a future for the 25-year old in this organization, but the Indians would like to see that as a catcher. Antonetti wants Gomes to work on his defense and play every day behind the plate. He will do so in Columbus.

Phelps and Gomes will be the first two position players up should an injury arise.

Righty Carlos Carrasco was told yesterday that he would not be the team’s fifth starter. That job will go to 29-year old left-hander Scott Kazmir. However, Carrasco will start the season on the opening day roster in whittle down his six-game suspension from throwing at Kansas City’s Billy Butler late in the 2011 season. Carrasco missed all of 2012 because of Tommy John surgery. Kazmir will be added to the club on April 6th, the day he is scheduled to make his first start, facing one of his former teams, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tribe’s latest reclamation problem had a great spring and is a terrific story. He beat out Carrasco, kid sensation Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and former phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka.

I have zero problem with this decision. Carrasco is coming off of that TJ surgery and could use more seasoning after taking a full year off. Bauer is the future, and there is no need to rush him. Kluber is organizational depth more than anything. Dice-K was released from his deal last week, but told the media he would like to remain in the organization. The Indians are currently trying to work out a deal with him and have him start the season in Columbus.

If Dice-K sticks around, the Clippers rotation will have Carrasco, Bauer, Kluber, and Matsuzaka as its top four. That is the kind of quality depth the organization lacked in 2012. Should an injury occur, should Kazmir falter, should Ubaldo Jimenez implode, Carrasco would probably get the first call.

My biggest concern with this team is clearly the rotation. There are literally no sure things. Justin Masterson, the team’s top dog, is coming off of a subpar season. Ubaldo is a complete tossup. Third starter Brett Myers is a guy who pitched out of the bullpen the entire 2012 season. This spring, he allowed 20 earned runs on 33 hits in 16 innings. Spring numbers shouldn’t scare anyone, but Myers has only had a sub-four ERA once since 2007. Zach McAllister is the fourth starter and the big right-hander should be solid at the back end of the rotation. Kazmir is a lottery ticket.

Finally, we get to the bullpen. Closer Chris Perez will be ready for opening day, so there will be no need to make an extra decision. Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, and Cody Allen were already locked in.

Lefties Rich Hill and Nick Hagadone won bullpen spots with strong performances. Hill, a former Cubs top prospect, has found a home as a situational reliever. He didn’t allow a run this spring until last night’s four run explosion against the Rockies. Hagadone did not allow a run in eight appearances, striking out 11 and walking two in eight innings. As impressive as these two lefties were, the reliever who probably had the best spring was the newly acquired Bryan Shaw. Shaw came over from Arizona in Choo/Bauer three-team deal and had something to prove. Like Hagadone, Shaw made eight appearances. He gave up just one earned run while striking out 14 in eight innings. His former Diamondbacks teammate Matt Albers will also open the season with the Tribe.

The Indians will carry an eighth reliever until Giambi is ready to come off the DL. At that point, someone will have to be sent down.

So as of today, unless something unexpected pops up, the opening day roster will look like this:

Catchers – Carlos Santana, Lou Marson

Infielders – Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Reynolds, Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn

Outfielders – Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs

Starters – Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco (will be replaced by Scott Kazmir on April 6th)

Relievers – Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill

DL – Jason Giambi

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • FearTheRoo

    Starting pitching is bad. Very bad. Our biggest SP addition in the offseason gave up 10 runs last night.

  • mgbode

    the season hinges on the rotation, which is scary. at least we should be more enjoyable to watch though with a good defense and good hitting (and plenty of speed on the basepaths). if our rotation can get to league average, then we can make a run at the 2nd wild card, I think.

  • Jaker

    “They’re still sh***y”

  • @TheDeePagel

    I’ve been doing some numbers crunching with Masterson, and what I’ve been finding has me very optimistic. A ton of things were the same from him in 2012 as they were in 2011, if not better. I know his ERA and WHIP increased greatly from ’11 to ’12, but a bunch of other things improved or stayed on the same path. Then when you throw in the injury situation that he pitched through last year, it leads me to believe that we will see the 2011 version of him this year. More consistent numbers, and a true work horse.

    Go Tribe.

  • @TheDeePagel

    I have a slightly different take on it. The rotation is clearly the weakest part of the team, but they are not awful either. Our offense has been built to score runs…in bunches….and in a variety of ways. If our offense can score 4 runs a game – something that was like pulling teeth last year, then our rotation can relax, go 6 innings, keep us in it and turn it over to our strength – the bullpen.

    We should never underestimate the affect a poor offense has on starting pitchers. Knowing that when you get behind, that there is the probability that your offense will get you back in the game is huge mentally, and something we lacked last year. We will see a better Masterson and Ubaldo this year simply because of the improved lineup.

  • nj0

    It was one spring training game. Spring training stats don’t mean anything.

  • JeBron_Lames

    Looks good. Can’t wait for next week. Roll Tribe!

  • Steve

    No, the rotation is awful, at least it was last year, when they combined for about negative 6 WAR. The fact that Progressive is such a pitcher’s park hid just how bad the rotation was and that the lineup was actually pretty good last year.

    Also, the second paragraph is nonsense. If you need to count on someone else to consistenly bail you out, you don’t have what it takes to make it this far in a very competitive field.

  • Steve

    Like what? His walk rate went up 35% and his HR rate went up 70%.

    His career HR/FB rate is 9.9%. Last year it was 11.4%, it will probably go down, but his 2011 mark of 6.3% is the outlier.

    His BB-rate skyrocketed because he LHH know just to lay off of him. His BB-rate against them double from 2011 to 2012.

    In 2011, he held RHH to a .277 BABIP and almost nonexistent ISO. I expect him to continue to baffle righties, but those numbers are almost impossible to repeat, unless you are Pedro Martinez in his prime.

  • mike

    The rotation WAR last year was about negative 0.5

    Not -6

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m still not a Masternone fan for me he’s a bullpen guy trying to be a starter with just two pitches. I don’t know if he’s worked on developing another pitch but he sure could use it IMO. He doesn’t have to throw seven pitches like Jimenez but he certainly would benefit from more then a fastball-sinker combination. When his sinker doesn’t work he’s in trouble.

  • mike

    it was like this:

    Position players: +12
    Bullpen: +6.5
    Rotation: -0.5

    which is actually kind of weird because they ended up 18 wins over 50, which is what the WAR showed. Bizarre.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Dee I think the offense better score more then four runs. The good news is I think they will but time will tell.

  • Steve

    No idea where you are getting those numbers. Fangraphs has them at +12 WAR batting, but nowhere near those numbers for the pitching. I don’t use fangraphs WAR for pitchers. BB-ref has the SPs totaling close to negative 6 WAR.

    Masterson -0.5
    Jimenez -1
    McAllister -0.5
    Lowe -0.8
    Gomez -1.2
    Tomlin -1.3
    Kluber -0.6
    Hernandez -0.3

  • Steve

    There’s almost no point in him throwing a change-up, with that arm angle, LHH will have no problem picking it up. Fastball-sinker-slider, stop walking so many lefties, and hope they don’t hit him too hard.

  • Kildawg

    Think a reliever has to be optioned for Kazmir to make his start since Carrasco has that 6 game suspension (ergo the dome-turf road trip). Then Carrasco can be optioned when Giambi comes off the DL.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    I hope that showgirl Larry Dolan doesn’t take the team’s talents to South Beach if they miss the playoffs this year