Cleveland Indians Bullpen is One of the Best and Deepest in Baseball

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

After the addition of Boone Logan, the Cleveland Indians have one of the best and deepest bullpens in all of baseball heading into the 2017 season.

The Cleveland Indians made one of the most improbable World Series playoff runs in recent memory last season.  Despite being one of the best teams in the regular season, a pair of devastating injuries to their rotation seemed to derail any chance the club had in the playoffs.

But despite Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar getting hurt, the Indians were able to thrive thanks to a lights-out backend of the bullpen and the work of manager Terry Francona to get the most out of it. With the recent addition of reliever Boone Logan on a one-year deal, the Tribe figures to not only have one of the best bullpens in the league once again but one of the deepest thanks to a plethora of plus arms.

The Core of the Bullpen

Adding Logan to the Tribe bullpen may not seem like a ton at first glance, but what it does is helps every member of the bullpen fall into the proper spots, beginning with the closer role. Cody Allen will return to that role he’s held down the last few years. After back-to-back years of 30-plus saves, Allen remains one of the better closers in the league and has shown the ability to not just get the traditional three-out save but multi-inning saves.

Andrew Miller will be back for his first full season in an Indians uniform after spending just the final two months of the regular season and one insane month in the postseason. While he won’t be used as he was in the playoffs, he still figures to fill the “bullpen ace” role and pitch anywhere in the 7th, 8th or even 9th inning this season. He remains arguably the best reliever in the game and his ability to pitch multiple innings will help bridge the gap between the starters and Allen, although he may not have to do that too often.

Despite his painful finish to the season, Bryan Shaw will slot back into his familiar 7th/8th inning role. He may not have the flair of an Allen or Miller, but he’s proven to be effective and reliable. Over the last three seasons, Shaw has made 229 appearances, second-most in the league (Jeurys Familia, 230).

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Dan Otero was a surprise last season, though in reality 2016 was a lot more like his 2013-2014 seasons than his failed 2015 season that led him to Cleveland. 2016 was the third time in four years he posted a sub-2.30 ERA.

Adding Boone Logan to this mix gives the Indians the missing lefty specialist they haven’t had for a few years. In fact, one could argue they haven’t had one as good as Logan since Rafael Perez nearly a decade ago. Over the past two seasons, Logan has held opponents to a .172 batting average, lower than any current Indians pitcher over that span. He won’t be replacing a guy like Shaw but is a perfect late-inning complement to him. No more seeing the Anthony Rizzo or David Ortiz‘s of the world facing off against righties late in games.

The Final Spots

Even after those big five, the Indians figure to have plenty of bullpen depth. Zach McAllister may be a name Tribe fans love to mock, but since moving to the bullpen in 2014 he’s been very solid. He’s thrown 127 1/3 innings in 118 games, posting a 2.76 ERA and 3.13 FIP. He’s also struck out over 10 per nine innings. Not bad for a guy that figures to be at best sixth in the bullpen pecking order.

Holby Milner figures to get the first crack at the seventh spot in the bullpen. As a Rule 5 draft pick, Milner must remain on the roster all season. He has thrown just 11 innings above Double-A but has shown some potential and could give Francona a third lefty in the pen.

Beyond him, there’s Shawn Armstrong, who remains a fringe top prospect with wipeout stuff. He still has work to do on control, though. Kyle Crockett is another lefty that Tito could turn to and has been up and down the last three seasons. Mike Clevinger remains a big league starting pitcher prospect but showed last year he could be used in the bullpen effectively.

It remains to be seen if the Indians will carry seven or eight relievers, but whichever number it is, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, or deeper, bullpen in the big leagues. The team has two guys that could close, one of the best LOOGYs in the game, a pair of workhorses, and plenty of depth to back all those guys up in case of injury.

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There still figures to be some turnover in the bullpen as there is with every team ever year, but the core of the bullpen hasn’t been stronger in a long time (if ever). If Tribe fans thought the 2016 bullpen was magical, they ain’t seen nothing yet.