Cleveland Indians closer Emmanuel Clase named to All-Rookie First Team
The case for Emmanuel Clase to be named the Rookie of the Year just got stronger. The MLB Pipeline released their All-Rookie teams and among the First Team was Clase. Not only did Clase make the list, but he was the only reliever in the league to make the First Team. With the Second Team having just two relievers, Clase turns out to be considered the best of baseball’s rookie relievers and just one of three good enough to make the All-Rookie teams.
For Clase, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The 23-year old reliever lit up radar guns across baseball while working his way into the full-time closer role for the Cleveland Indians. When it was all said and done, Clase had posted an ERA of 1.29 while striking out 74 batters over 69.2 innings of work.
Additionally, Clase kept his WHIP below one at 0.962 while logging 24 saves for Cleveland. His last blown save came in July, being perfect in save opportunities over his last 13 chances, including perfect months of August and September.
While Clase’s end to the season was strong, there were a few hiccups early in the campaign that could hurt his chances. Throw in the fact that he was a relief pitcher who didn’t serve as the team’s lone closer for the entire season and there’s enough there to see why Clase might come up short in the voting. However, it’s hard to ignore his stat line and what he’s been able to accomplish in his first full season, especially after missing all of last season to a suspension.
On MLB Pipeline’s final rookie rankings, they placed Clase seventh on the list. One of four pitchers on the list, and the only reliever, Clase’s case was bolstered by his strong finish. During the second half of the season he was 13-of-15 in save opportunities and maintained an ERA of 0.82 over those outings.
The names above Clase obviously have strong resumes as well. The list starts off with Jonathan India and is followed by Randy Arozarena, Trevor Rogers, Luis Garcia, Adolis Garcia and Wander Franco.
What might be the most surprising is how low Clase was placed on the MLB Pipeline list for “long-term value” from this year’s rookies. Not only did Clase barely make the list, being the 30th player on the list of 30, but he wasn’t even the top player for Cleveland. Triston McKenzie came in at No. 13.
Now, no disrespect to McKenzie. He really came on late in the season and looks like a strong starter for the Guardians in 2022. However, Clase will fill a bigger role in Cleveland. McKenzie will be the fifth starter in 2022 while Clase will be locked in as the team’s closer.
You could make the argument that Clase can’t get in without McKenzie, but if you look at a playoff format, Clase is the better value. As the fifth starter, McKenzie would probably be moved to the bullpen in the postseason while Clase will be responsible for securing wins. Maybe it’s just me, but a lockdown closer seems to have more long-term value than a fifth starter.
Shifting the focus back to Clase and his case for Rookie of the Year, there were only 15 pitchers in the majors that logged 24 or more saves during the regular season. Of those 15, just two kept their ERA below 2.00, being Clase and Josh Hader. Of those 15, only two made 70 or more appearances, being Clase and Will Smith, both with 71.
The list of those stats continues for Clase through the stat sheet. Of those 15 he was one of seven with a WHIP below 1.00 and one of six with fewer than 20 walks. He was also the only one to allow fewer than three home runs over the course of the season.
All those stats piled on top of each other and it seems like Clase has a rather strong case to be the Rookie of the Year. He’s statistically one of the best closers in the game and that goes beyond just saves. Regardless of if he wins the award, his future is obviously very bright in Cleveland.