The Indians have assembled a good pitching staff that should keep them in the running for the AL Central title in 2014. The fifth rotation spot is up in the air this spring, and we will need to see how things play out over the next week to figure out the situation fully.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
Justin Masterson was a breakout star for Cleveland in 2013, finally learning how to neutralize lefties with his slider. He will rack up the innings for you and provide good strikeout numbers, but his control is still suspect, as he issued just over 3.5 BB/9 last season. He does keep the ball in the park, and we've already noted his ability to miss bats, so go ahead and add him as an early middle round stable SP2/3.
Corey Kluber was a nice fill in for the Indians in 2013 when Brett Myers went DL, and while he faded a bit at the end of the season after suffering a finger injury in August, his lock on a rotation spot is secure this season. He misses hitters' bats plenty with a 8.31 K/9 and does not hurt himself by walking many batters, having posted a 4.12 K/BB ratio and a 2.02 BB/9 rate to boot in 2013. His .331 BABIP and 71.9% strand rate demonstrate a bit of luck, but his FIP (3.45) shows that only a slight bit of regression should be expected.
If there is a draft day darling on the Indians, it is Danny Salazar. Drafters are salivating over his elite 11.25 K/9 ratio last season, and with a 96 MPH fastball in his repertoire, the high strikeout numbers should persist. My main concern is that the Indians limited his innings drastically last year, and are slowing working him to be able to pitch 5 innings come Opening Day. Be realistic in your projections, as the 167 IP posted above may be the ceiling in 2014. In any league, be it redraft, keeper or dynasty, when he pitches, you have to start him and simply accept that like Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez, he will not see his true value until he can pitch without an innings cap.
Zach McAllister missed time last season with a finger injury, which necessarily limited his innings and reduced his value. He is going later in drafts as a result, but he is a solid SP5/6. He does not rack up the strikeouts, nor does he demonstrate great control (3.28 BB/9), however, his peripherals hover around the acceptable level and in an AL-only or deeper mixed league, he has value at the end of your draft.
Josh Tomlin has been pitching well enough to remain in the completion for the fifth rotation slot, coming back from Tommy John surgery. Never a strikeout artist, his forte has been his great control and relying on his defense to bail him out when necessary. As an extreme fly ball pitcher, he needs to keep the ball in the park to be effective, which has not always been the case with him. Even if he secures the final starting spot, he is not someone you want to be considering in your drafts.
Carlos Carrasco is the other pitcher in camp that his vying for the fifth spot in the Cleveland rotation. He missed all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, and while he was good at Triple-A, he struggled when brought up the Indians. He does possess and mid-90s MPH fastball, and perhaps shifting to the bullpen would alleviate his control issues while utilizing his best pitch.
Aaron Harang simply was not good in 2013, being released by Seattle and then hooking on with the Mets with a minor league contract. He was an acceptable starting pitcher when called up for four spot stats in September, but not good enough to stick around in New York. He is mostly an innings eater pitcher who does not strikeout enough batters while yielding hard contact liners when hitters connect with his offerings. Best avoided in all but the deepest of formats, you can let him drift to the wire without regret.
Shaun Marcum is not recovering from his neck issues on a pace that will see him be available to pitch Opening Day. He was a disaster of a free agent with the Mets last season, but some of that was undoubtedly due to his health issues. At this point, the Indians will let him rehab and may rely on him to join the rotation, depending on injuries and ineffectiveness, but you can feel comfortable ignoring him on draft day.
The top portion of the Cleveland rotation provides some value in the form of Masterson, Kluber and Salazar's strikeout potential, and McAllister can be a decent late round rotation filler or someone to look to for spot starts with good matchups. The final rotation spot is up in the air, and you would be better suited to ignore those candidates when assembling your roster.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at email@example.com. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.