Offseason Grades: Cleveland Indians

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Credit: Jason Miller / Getty Images

Category: Relief Pitchers

Grade: C

Most lists go from forward to backward, however, in a bullpen, the most talented player is typically the last one to come out for a game. In Terry Francona‘s bullpen, there are typically eight players and most of the middle guys only pitch to one batter until it reaches the set-up man and the closer. Let’s start at the back for the relief unit of the Cleveland Indians in 2016.

Cody Allen will undoubtedly be the closer for the Tribe again in 2016. He is entering his first arbitration year, but is not due to become a free agent until 2019. Allen had 99 strikeouts in 69.1 innings pitched last season and pitched in over 70 games for the third consecutive season. Allen has shown over the past three seasons that he is a durable player that is outstanding in clutch situations. Last year, Francona was so confident in his ability to succeed that he sent him out for more four out saves than any closer in Major League Baseball. He tallied 34 saves last year–a career-high, which brought his total to 60. Should Allen stay healthy 100 saves certainly does not seem too far out of reach for the young stud.

Last season, Bryan Shaw was the eighth inning pitcher pretty regularly to set-up for Cody Allen. Like Allen, Shaw has shown his durability for the Indians over the past three seasons, pitching in over 70 games in all three years and 80 in 2014. Despite the durability and good statistical numbers–a 2.95 ERA in 64 innings pitched in 2015–Shaw faded at the end of the season. Before the All-Star break, he recorded a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched compared to a 4.18 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched after the break. He might play better later in the season if he pitched in less high-pressure situations or earlier in games where Francona could manage his pitch count more closely. When Shaw’s pitch count rose above 15 in 2015, opponents hit .500 against him.

A possible candidate for the set-up man role is Zach McAllister. McAllister was a starter for the Indians before last season when he made the transition into the bullpen. The 6’6″ flamethrower struck out 84 batters last season in just 69 innings of work. He faced 122 batters with a runner on the base paths in 2015 and only allowed six extra-base hits. McAllister is the type of pitcher who does not let up the big hit to put his team away. His role in 2016 will definitely expand and it may even dip into the eighth inning.

Jeff Manship is the first situational pitcher for the Indians. While he pitches relatively well versus lefties, allowing them to hit .235 against him in 51 at-bats, he dominated righties in his best career year in 2015. The 30-year-old righty held right-handed hitters to a .103 batting average in 78 at-bats. Manship struck out 33 batters in 39.1 innings pitched in his first year as an Indian. He recorded a 0.92 ERA, his next best season long ERA in his six-year career is 5.28. The big question for him will be to see if he can repeat the feat at 30-years-old.

Kyle Crockett, the 24-year-old stud in his 2nd season with the Indians, is likely to see more time in 2016. He has less than 50 career innings to his name and throws two main pitches, the four-seam fastball and the slider. He also throws the change-up seldomly. While Crockett doesn’t get the strikeouts that other Tribe pitchers get, he has a very good ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio that Francona utilizes to get starters out of a jam mid-inning when he throws Crockett in.

Austin Adams is an undersized reliever who broke into major league baseball last season for the Indians at the age of 29. He pitched slightly better against lefties than righties in 2015, but after throwing just 33.1 career innings, it will be interesting to see what role he plays with the Indians in 2016.

Two players to keep an eye on next year will be Shawn Armstrong and Giovanni Soto. Both young pitchers threw for under 10 innings last year, but each made a strong impression in their short time with Cleveland. Armstrong held left-handed bats to .143 and Soto did not allow a run in 3.1 innings pitched. The sample size is small, but with more work in the Spring, these young studs may be ready for a limited role with the club.

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