Cleveland Indians: Projecting the 2012 Starting Five

Geordy BoverouxCorrespondent IISeptember 12, 2011

Cleveland Indians: Projecting the 2012 Starting Five

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    With the 2011 season seemingly over for the Cleveland Indians, it's officially time to start waiting for next year... again.

    One of the biggest strengths in 2011 for the Tribe was their rotation, but now some doubt surrounds it for 2012.

    Carlos Carrasco will miss probably the entirety of the 2012 season after Tommy John surgery. There is also the question of whether or not Fausto Carmona's option will be picked up.

    While I see three locks for rotation spots, there are two others up for grabs.

    This slideshow will determine who will fill out the rest of the rotation for Cleveland as they look for a playoff spot once again in 2012.

Rotation Lock: Ubaldo Jimenez

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    When the Indians mortgaged their future to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, they made the strong statement that they are going to win now, though it will have to wait until next year.

    Still, Jimenez is under team control to 2013, so expect to see the Dominican native on the hill for the first game of the 2012 season.

Rotation Lock: Justin Masterson

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    Perhaps the most improved player in baseball in 2011, Justin Masterson pitched like a top-10 pitcher in the American League this year.

    On many other teams he would be the ace. Due to Jimenez having more-prolonged success and a deeper arsenal, Masterson will have to settle at being arguably the best number two in baseball.

Rotation Lock: Josh Tomlin

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    A very pleasant surprise to Cleveland faithful, Josh Tomlin had a successful sophomore campaign in 2011 thanks to the best walk rate in all of baseball.

    With his ridiculous ability to pound the strike zone despite having below-average stuff, Tomlin will surely hold a place in the Tribe's rotation in 2012.

Rotation Candidate: Fausto Carmona

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    In the first half of 2011, Fausto Carmona was the worst starter in baseball.

    Luckilly for Cleveland, Carmona turned things around after a DL stint in the second half.

    But is Carmona still worth his 2012 option? If it's picked up, he'll obviously have a rotation spot, but there is a possibility that it won't be.

    Pros:

    - Strong pedigree

    Carmona was one of the best starters in baseball in 2007, when he finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.

    - Veteran presence

    Carmona has pitched from the mound at Progressive Field longer than any other candidate and is one of the oldest pitchers in a young Tribe rotation.

    - Strong second half

    As I mentioned before, Carmona looked much better in the second half and could turn that into a strong 2012 as well.

    Cons:

    - His last good year was 2007

    Since his spectacular 2007, Carmona has failed to have any amount of prolonged success in the major leagues.

    - His option is $7 million

    For a starter whose effectiveness is very much in doubt, $7 million is a very high risk investment for what could be a minimal reward at best.

Rotation Candidate: David Huff

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    After failing to show much promise in his first two years at the major league level, David Huff has impressed in his seven starts in 2011, during which he holds a 3.05 ERA.

    Pros:

    - Left-handed

    No other candidate for the rotation spot is a southpaw like Huff, which already gives him a strong advantage over his opponents.

    - Strong 2011

    While Huff had failed to do much of anything in his career, 2011 has been much more friendly. That could go a long way toward a year-long spot in the rotation in 2012.

    Cons:

    -Weak track record

    Huff's respective ERAs in 2009 and 2010 were 5.61 and 6.21. That's not usually the sign of a guy that will have a long and prosperous big league career.

Rotation Candidate: Zach McAllister

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    After being acquired from the New York Yankees for Austin Kearns, Zach McAllister revived his prospect status at Triple-A Columbus in 2011, earning himself a spot as the starter for the International League in the All-Star Game.

    Pros:

    - Good pedigree

    McAllister was named the Yankees' minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, before an abysmal 2010. In 2011 he pitched much better, holding a 3.32 ERA

    Cons:

    - Terrible showing at the Major League level

    McAllister has made two spot starts in Cleveland in 2011. Those two starts resulted in a 12.27 ERA and 2.59 WHIP. 

Rotation Candidate: Jeanmar Gomez

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    Jeanmar Gomez has always been a top choice for a spot start in Cleveland, but he never lasts very long in the big league rotation. Will 2012 be the year he stays in the starting five full time?

    Pros:

    - Good showing in 2011

    Unlike many other candidates, Gomez has impressed in 2011 at the top level. In eight starts throughout the year, Gomez holds a 3.95 ERA, and he has won his last three starts.

    Cons:

    - Weak pedigree

    Gomez will never show up on anyone's top prospect list due to his below-average stuff. There isn't anything very impressive in his right arm.

Rotation Candidate: Corey Kluber

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    Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the three-team deal that sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis, Corey Kluber doesn't have the strongest pedigree but does possess some interesting strikeout ability.

    Pros:

    - 9.1 K/9 rate in the minors

    While so many Cleveland pitchers lack the ability to constantly miss bats, Kluber holds above-average strikeout ability.

    Cons:

    -Terrible year at Triple-A

    While still striking out batters, Kluber holds an inexcusable 5.56 ERA in 2011. Despite this, he still made his big league debut this year, pitching 1.1 innings of relief, but he was sent down immediately afterward.

    - He is 25

    While there's certainly nothing wrong with being 25, when a pitcher makes his debut that late, he usually won't amount to much at the Major League level.

Most Likely Rotation

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    1. Ubaldo Jimenez

    2. Justin Masterson

    3. Fausto Carmona

    4. Josh Tomlin

    5. David Huff

    With a sudden lack of Major League-ready pitching depth, I believe that the Indians will pick up Carmona's option for 2012. He'll slide in to the three hole, right ahead of Tomlin. Huff has pitched the best out of the remaining candidates, and when you throw in the fact that he's left-handed, he's the obvious choice for the fifth starter.