Last week’s revelation that Fausto Carmona is in fact 31-year-old Roberto Hernandez Heredia has massive implications for the Cleveland Indians. The most significant consequence for the Tribe is that the artist formerly known as Carmona probably won’t be with the team on Opening Day, as he is currently forbidden from leaving his native Dominican Republic.
In this week’s edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we took on the biggest question on Tribe fans’ minds: Who should replace Fausto Carmona in the Indians’ rotation?
In addition to all five of us from Wahoo’s on First, we had the honor of being joined by TD from WaitingForNextYear, as well as The Cleveland Fan contributor and former Wahoo’s on First staff writer Ed Carroll. Here’s what we all had to say:
TD (WaitingForNextYear): First off, let me just say that I think the Carmona situation is sad. Saddest of all for him is that I don’t think he will ever pitch for the Indians again. That is pure speculation in my part. But from a baseball standpoint, are the Indians really going to be missing him that much? The guy lost 15 games, had an ERA over five and a WHIP of 1.40. That are far from awe-inspiring numbers, even from a fifth starter. His constant up and down, uneven performances were extremely frustrating for the Tribe brass. But, he was still an innings-eater who would take the ball every fifth day.
The Tribe has assembled a bevy of options to replace him. You’ve got the entire AAA rotation—Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Zach McAllister, Scott Barnes, and Corey Kluber—at your disposal. Then a day after the Carmona mess came to light, right-hander Kevin Slowey was acquired. There are even rumors that the Tribe is kicking the tires on Roy Oswalt (pipe dream).
In the end, it will be Slowey who gets the call out of Goodyear. He is a veteran of the AL Central (former Twin), who had won double-digit games the three years prior to his disastrous 2011 campaign. While he does have an option left, the fact that he has been a mainstay in the Twins rotation in the past gives him a leg up on Gomez, the best of the rest. I am a Gomez fan, and I’m sure we will see him at some point this season regardless. But if Slowey is healthy, he’s the best option.
Ed Carroll (The Cleveland Fan): There’s really no clear-cut choice to replace the pitcher Indians fans knew as Fausto Carmona in the starting rotation. Oh sure, the Tribe has options in-house, with as many as four realistic ones at the start of spring training. Not one of those four (Jeanmar Gomez, Kevin Slowey, Zach McAllister, or David Huff) inspires much confidence as all lack significant success at the major league level.
Although I’m aware the Indians are high on Slowey, I’m not, and I see this race coming down to Gomez or Huff by the end of spring training. There’s really not much of a difference between the two, but personally I choose Huff cause he’s a lefty and has shown flashes of brilliance that may mean we haven’t seen his ceiling. Honestly though, it doesn’t matter who gets the job first, as they’re all likely to get a crack at it.
Lewie Pollis: Just like last year, the last rotation spot will probably be filled around the end of spring training, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start to narrow down the candidates now. There are at least six legitimate options to take Carmona’s spot, but with apologies to Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez, and Corey Kluber, the competition should really come down to three names: David Huff, Kevin Slowey, and Scott Barnes.
If you ignore his 2-6 record last year you’ll see that Huff made huge strides in the 11 appearances he made; thanks to an added cutter he upped his strikeout rate from 4.2 K/9 in 2010 to 6.4 K/9 in 2011, and I’d love to give the new Huff some real playing time. Slowey has the most experience, and assuming he’s fully healthy he should be like a poor man’s Josh Tomlin (great control, roughly league-average pitcher). And Barnes, a 24-year-old who struck out more than a batter per inning in Triple-A last year, has by far the highest ceiling if he’s MLB-ready. McAllister and Gomez worry me because of their inabilities to get strikeouts, while Kluber needs to work on his control issues before he’s ready for the bigs.
Ideally, Barnes would storm out of the gate with a strong spring, win a rotation spot, and emerge as a Rookie of the Year candidate. The second-best case scenario would be Huff and his cutter picking up where they left off last year. Beyond that, I’m skeptical that any of the other in-house candidates would be better than Slowey.
Geordy Boveroux: The spot is now Kevin Slowey’s to lose. That’s not a phrase that could really get anyone excited, but at this point he is the best option available. Many would probably prefer to watch Jeanmar Gomez take another step forward, or add in David Huff to see if he can build on his solid 2011 while also adding a southpaw to a rotation that currently holds all righties.
Slowey is a lot of Josh Tomlin, only a year older and with three more years of Major League experience. Ignoring his 2011 stats (he was injured and was shuffled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen), Slowey’s lowest ERA+ was also 90. While this is below average, it’s an acceptable statistic for a fifth starter that probably won’t hold the job for an entire season. Huff had a career high ERA+ last year with a 98, but his previous career high was 76 in 2009. Gomez has gotten an 85 and 89 ERA+ the past two years.
For a team that is supposed to contend again in 2012, especially against a Detroit team that now has Prince Fielder, I would rather have an experienced pitcher that doesn’t give up walks rather than take a gamble on a younger and more inconsistent arm.
Katie Hendershot: Maybe not the obvious answer here, but certainly not outlandish, is David Huff. He hasn’t been amazing in the past, but he has shown upside. Last season when he was called up in July, he had clearly matured over the course of the offseason and in the first half of the season with Columbus.
In the past few seasons, Huff has shown that he can be dominant. In one of his first starts of last season, he proved that by going seven innings without allowing a run. If you look at his win-loss record from last season, five out of his six losses came when he got only one run of support from his offense.
I see David Huff as a young option with potential. He’s not just going to walk into spring training and get the fifth spot in the rotation. He’s going to have to show that he’s made the necessary changes to compete consistently at the big league level. Kevin Slowey is an attractive option as well, having more experience than Huff.
In the end, I like what Huff has shown in the past, last season especially. One of Huff’s glaring problems is that doesn’t show his dominance every game. He tends to start the season strong but fades over time; therefore he will need to prove that he’s made strides forward in order to win the job out of spring training.
Brian Heise: For me, this all comes down to experience. The Indians were (and even with the signing of Prince Fielder in Detroit still are) a contender in the AL Central race. Because of that, they can’t afford to go through the growing pains of promoting Gomez, Huff, or McAllister to fill out the rotation. The Indians need to win now and waiting for both of them to “get it” at the big league level and perform well on a consistent basis isn’t something they can afford to do at this time.
That’s why, in my own opinion, Slowey is the best available option heading into spring training. He may not be the most talented pitcher on the planet, but what he lacks in terms of dominance, he makes up for in major league experience. Oh, and that major league experience was for the Twins, a team consistently in the thick of things during his time there. He understands what it means to be in a pennant race. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.
With that said, Manny Acta should still hold some sort of competition in spring training and force Slowey to earn his spot in the rotation. Competition tends to bring out the best in people. What better way for Slowey to prove his worth than by grabbing hold of his spot and not letting go?
Wil Sharon: The loss of a starting pitcher is a gift and a curse: the gift being the opportunity to provide a younger pitcher with experience, the curse going without saying. Sadly the prime place fillers for “Fausto,” Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, are now members of the Colorado Rockies. With this said, the best option for replacing the Tribe’s starter is Jeanmar Gomez, who has proven potential and would benefit from the chance to start more than 10 or 11 games in 2012.
While Kevin Slowey is a viable option, the Indians would be better served looking long-term, and Slowey probably isn’t a part of the team’s future. With the Tigers poised to once again dominate the AL Central the Indians are in position to have a developmental season in which Gomez would feature as the fifth starter. Realistically Slowey will get more time than Gomez, if for no other reason than to boost his trade stock, but the development of the younger pitcher is the more practical option.