Cleveland IndiansOur expert from ScoutPRO.com,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.
Cleveland Indians Team Projection
A big reason to the Cleveland Indians success in 2013 was the improvement of their pitching staff.
1. SP Danny Salazar
Salazar pushed his way quickly through the Indians system last season. He had an electric K rate (12.5) in the minors in 2013 with solid command (2.3). Danny had a 2.71 ERA at AA and AAA in 20 starts. Cleveland gave him a token start in mid July (1 run in 6 innings with 7 K's) before calling him up for good on August 7th. Salazar allowed 2 runs or less in 7 of his 10 starts, but only pitched over 6 innings once as the Indians tried to limit his pitch count. He has an elite fastball (96.2) with a solid changeup and serviceable slider. He has enough talent to be Cleveland's #1 starter in 2014, but he does come with some risk. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and threw over 110 innings for the first time in his career last year. His K rate (11.3) remained elite in the majors with solid command (2.6). Salazar has the most talent of any of the Indians returning starters, but his innings will be capped in 2014. I like his upside and I see him delivering 180 plus innings this year.
2. SP Justin Masterson
If a fantasy player can figure out why Masterson struggled so badly in 2012 and why he made such a big improvement in 2013, he would win the ticket to fantasy paradise. Justin's command (3.5) only improved slightly, but it was well below his 2011 season (2.7). His K rate (9.1) made a huge jump and was much harder to hit (.222). His AFB (91.6) was lower than his previous 2 seasons. Masterson still relies on his slider as his only other pitch. Last year, he dominated RH batters (.182 with only 10 extra base hits allowed in 275 at bats). As good as his season looks, it could have been better if he didn't miss almost the whole month of September with an oblique injury. Masterson was tougher to hit last year. He didn't throw more strikes, didn't add another pitch, and didn't add any velocity. It really just comes down to better pitch location and execution. He hit a league high 17 batters, so he probably just established the inner half of the plate better. Justin has been an every other year pitching over the last 4 seasons, so this may be a down tick year. His poor command needs to improve to repeat his success. Overall, he has some downside risk in 2014.
3. SP Zach McAllister
McAllister had a 3.43 ERA after his first 11 starts before going down with a right middle finger injury in early June. The injury forced him to miss 7 weeks of the season. His command (3.3) took a step back from 2012 (2.7), which led to a drop in his K rate (6.8). Zack issued 40 of his 49 walks to LH batters, but had more success getting lefties out (.249 - .267 RH). McAllister made some adjustments with his pitches last year. He added an occasional split-finger fastball and cutter. He throw his fastball (91.3) 73.2% of the time. His curveball is his #2 pitch, plus he throws a show me changeup. Zack is 57-39 in his minor league career with a 3.41 ERA and 600 K's in 755.3 innings. His K rate and command flashed upside in 2012. Last year, he was serviceable before his finger injury, but his skill set declined slightly. McAllister has some upside if he can make a step forward with his command against lefties.
4. SP Corey Kluber
Kluber pitched very well for the Indians after being called up in mid April. He had excellent command (2.0) with a solid K rate (8.3). In the minors, Corey struggled with his command (3.6). Just like McAllister, Kluber suffered a right middle finger injury in August. Kluber has a solid fastball (93.2). He threw a cutter as his #2 pitch followed by a curveball and changeup. He was very hittable in 2013 (.271), but allowed 3 runs or less in 17 of his 24 starts. On the year, Kluber allowed more hits than innings, but most of his negative damage happened in 3 starts (20 runs and 36 base runners in 14.7 innings). Overall, his minor league resume (4.42 ERA) doesn't support his major league success. His improvement of command was the key reason for his step forward. Corey does rely on his secondary pitches, so he may have had some growth last year. Decent arm, but his age and resume suggest downside risk.
5. SP Trevor Bauer
Bauer was brutal at AAA last year. His walk rate (5.4) exploded upward, which sent his K rate (7.9) to a career low. Trevor also hit 13 batters in the minors. He is 2-4 in his major league career with a 5.67 ERA and 28 K's in 33.3 innings. Bauer has a walk rate of 7.8 with the Indians. While with Cleveland, he threw 46% fastballs (92.8) plus a slider, curveball, changeup, and split-finger fastball. It's almost like he is confused on his approach to batters. Bauer needs to define which secondary pitch he trusts the most and what pitch will help him the most to get left handed batters out. Over the winter, the Indians coaching staff has been working on cleaning up his mechanics. The results have been positive. Bauer is a high upside pitcher with poor command. If the walks are under control, Trevor could offer upside in K's. A player to watch for sure in spring training.
6. SP Carlos Carrasco
After missing all of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery in September of 2011, Carrasco returned to the majors last year. Carlos allowed 6 runs or more in 4 of his first 6 starts with Cleveland, which led to him being sent back to AAA. He has a poor walk rate (3.5) and a short K rate (5.8). Both RH (.309) and LH (.351) batters had success against him, but he struggled with his command vs. lefties (13 walks and 10 K's). His AFB (94.9) was elite and was a career high. He threw a changeup as his #2 pitch, followed by a slider and curveball. Carrasco had success at AAA in 2013 with excellent command (2.6) and a plus K rate (9.9). His major resume looks pretty bad, so he will be easily overlooked. Possible breakthrough season, but a fantasy player may need a short leash.
7. SP Cody Anderson
Anderson has pitched well during his 2 seasons in the minors. He has a 2.86 ERA with 197 K's in 239.3 innings. Cody has shown solid command (2.7) and his K rate (8.1) made a slight step forward last year. His fastball sits in the mid 90's and his secondary pitches improved last year. He did struggle in his 3 starts at AA (5.68 ERA - 6.4 walk rate), so he is still needs time to develop. Anderson isn't an elite prospect, therefore he won't move quickly through the system.
8. CL Cody Allen
Allen had a great season for the Indians last year. He had a plus K rate (11.3), but his walk rate (3.3) still needs some work. Cody had success against both RH (.236) and LH (.230) batters. Allen pitched well in every month except July (4.22 ERA). His AFB (95.4) is elite and his only other pitch is a curveball. He had a 1.74 ERA during his minor league career with 128 K's in 98 innings. His success last year was in line with his minor league resume, except his command (2.1) was better. This suggests he has more upside. I believe he has the best arm to be the closer for Cleveland.
9. RP John Axford
The missing link to Axford's success is as simple as throwing first pitch strikes. He lost his command of the strike zone on the first pitch in 2012 (54% - 61% in 2011 - 1.95 ERA). His decline in his 1st strikes % led to another poor season in 2013. John's AFB (95.4) remains in an elite area. He throws a curveball as his 2nd best pitch, followed by a slider. Axford continues to be a low FB (30.5%) pitcher, but he has had a scorching high HR/FB rate (19.2 in 2012 and 17.2%) over the last 2 seasons. He lost his command to left hand batters (20 walks in 116 at bats). After a late trade to St. Louis, Axford did improve his command (2.6). John has 106 major leagues saves, so he will be in the mix for the closing job if his mechanics hold up. We need to see him throwing 1st pitch strikes in spring training.
10. RP Vinny Pestano
Pestano pitched pretty well until late May (2.45 ERA) before blowing up on May 25th (6 base runners and 4 runs in 1 inning). He converted all 6 of his save chances in June when Chris Perez went down with an injury, but he allowed plus base runners in half of his chances. There was talk of a decline in velocity. His AFB (91.2) was slightly lower than his previous season (91.8), but it has declined in each season in the majors. The only other pitch he throws is a slider. His command (5.3) regressed by 2+ walks and it wasn't in an elite area when it started (3.1). His lack of command led to him being sent to AAA (3.14 ERA with 13 K's in 13.7 innings) where he regained his command (2.6). Pestano was a very good set up man for the Indians in 2011 and 2012. His lack of command will keep him out of the 9th inning and he'll have to fight off Cody Allen for the 8th inning job.