The Cleveland Indians Biggest Strength Is Also It’s Biggest Question Mark

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All around the baseball universe, you’ll see the Cleveland Indians mentioned near the top of the rankings. As we know, some have gone as far as putting the Tribe at the top of the American League. This is a team that was in the Wild Card race right to the bitter end. So it’s not hard to see how it’s possible. And several key players were injured or out. Another reason to believe in this year.

And the pitching staff? Pfft. Best around. Right?

Right?

There’s no doubt that entering the 2015 season, the Indians will be relying on a talented, but relatively young and inexperienced young staff. Corey Kluber comes off an AL Cy Young winning season after finishing 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA. A fantastic season. But can he repeat it? Kluber has shown the stuff in the past, and his 2014 season is more than likely his breakout season – as compared to a flash in the pan. But he alone can’t win the Central for them.

Trevor Bauer was once an elite prospect, and his superb minor league numbers reflect that (23-12, 3.31 ERA). We know he’s brilliant. One of the most analytical pitchers in the game. And while he’s shown progress with the new delivery, expecting too much from him this season would be a bad idea. The arrow is pointing up for Bauer, but he’s likely to fall in as a .500 pitcher this season. Another year of seasoning before he becomes a reliable starter.

Down the stretch, Carlos Carrasco was one of the more dominant arms in the rotation. But let us not forget this was after a demotion earlier in the year to the bullpen. It’s hard to think that Carrasco suddenly “gets it”, and will come out firing on all cylinders like he finished. Wishful thinking, but dangerous.

Gavin Floyd was one of the Indians few additions this offseason. After returning from Tommy John surgery in 2014, Floyd made only nine starts before fracturing his elbow, requiring surgery that ended his season. His numbers were good in the short time he was healthy, but he’s pitched just 78 2/3 innings over the past two seasons.

The last spot is favoring towards Danny Salazar, who is another unproven arm in the rotation. Consistency was an issue for Salazar, but he has shown the ability to create swing and misses with his stuff. But not a guy you can yet “hang your hat on” in the rotation.

Several others are vying for the fifth spot, mostly young and talented – but unproven at the Major League level. Josh Tomlin, Zach McAllister and T.J. House will all compete for the last spot, and all could interchange should some of the previously mentioned starters falter early on.

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It’s clear that the Tribe’s rotation has huge potential. And manager Terry Francona has pointed to it as a key to success. But it may still be a year away from leading the Indians to a division crown. It’s a packed division, maybe the best in baseball – assuming the White Sox improve with the plethora of moves they made. Believing they can win with this staff solely on its potential, with some of the other lingering questions is likely to lead to disappointment.

It’s hard to expect all five starters in your rotation to take a step forward in the same season. And in Kluber’s case, just to not take a step back. This staff will keep the Tribe in it throughout the entire season, but not without plenty of questions along the way.

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