Could Cleveland Indians closer Emmanuel Clase still be the Rookie of the Year?
The Cleveland Indians acquired Emmanuel Clase with 21 games of major league experience under his belt. By MLB rules, that means that Clase is still considered to have rookie status this season. While there was a definite rough patch for Clase, he’s still among those being considered for the American League Rookie of the Year.
The year began for Clase with a bit of uncertainty. He was undoubtedly a strong pitcher with blazing speed, but coming off a suspension left questions on if he could jump back into that type of production. However, due to a strong showing and struggles from the rest of the bullpen, Clase emerged as the best arm in the pen and locked down the closer role for the organization.
Since July 17, Clase has three holds and is perfect in save situations with 11 saves in the books. He’s also allowed just one run during that time while tossing 24.2 innings over 24 games for an ERA of 0.36. The most impressive part of the run might be the fact that Clase has walked just one batter, has given up only 11 hits and has struck out 24.
While Clase has been impressive over the last couple months, the Rookie of the Year award is a year-long recognition and the competition is just as impressive.
At the beginning of the month, Baseball America released an update on the top candidates in the race for the American League Rookie of the Year. The top three on that list were Luis Garcia, Shane McClanahan and Adolis Garcia, but the “on the cusp” group included Clase among four other players.
Starting with Luis Garcia, he’s put together a solid campaign. Making 27 appearances for the Houston Astros, including 25 starts, Garcia has been able to log a 10-7 record while posting an ERA of 3.43. He’s struck out 158 batters while walking 42 over 139 innings.
Garcia’s had a good year and been a strong starter for Houston, but I don’t know if his case is better than Clase’s. The barrier could be the starter-reliever comparison that might lean towards Garcia. He’s also struggled in two starts during September which will hurt his case.
Moving to Shane McClanahan, a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, who has had a similar season to that of Garcia. Through 110.1 innings over 22 starts, McClanahan has posted an ERA of 3.59. He’s also been able to strike out 128 batters while walking 34. Like Garcia, McClanahan has impressive stats. He even threw a shutout start on Sept. 8, but is it enough to top Clase?
Finally, we come to Adolis Garcia, the only fielder on this list. An All-Star this season, Garcia entered the year with 24 games under his belt. He played just three games in 2020 and 21 in 2018, but this year has been big for him. Over 131 games in 2021, Garcia is slashing .245/.293/.467 with 22 doubles and 29 home runs.
The All-Star selection certainly helps Adolis Garcia, but overall the recent surge from Clase seems to make him a top consideration. While we’ve mentioned the recent stretch, the big picture is impressive for Clase as well.
On the year, Clase has made 63 appearances, totaling 61.2 innings. Over that span he’s posted a 3-5 record, but he’s tallied 22 saves, half of which have come over the last two months. He’s also managed to retain an ERA of 1.46 while striking out 65 and walking just 15.
There was a rough patch this season for Clase, but all of the players on this list have had struggles. That’s part of being a rookie. However, Clase has been able to keep the overall numbers rather low. Sure, he’s had his moments, but in the end he has still managed to be a very effective closer.
Throw in the fact that his best stretch has come in over the last two months, giving him a bit of recency bias, and he has a real shot at being named the American League Rookie of the Year. If he does take it home, he would be the first player for the Cleveland Indians to win the award since Sandy Alomar Jr. following the 1990 season.