Cleveland Indians: Pitching Issues start with MLB Draft

Aug 8, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 8, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Indians have terrible luck when it comes to selecting starting pitchers in the MLB Draft.

Heading into 2017, there are exactly zero people who can claim they felt the starting rotation would be such an issue for the Indians. Yet, here we are. The Tribe starters are last in the AL in ERA, with multiple starters with an ERA over 5.00.

Only Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger have ERA’s under 4.00 among the regular starters.

There are no easy answers as to how to fix it. Mickey Calloway has earned the right to do whatever he feels is best without second guessing. We aren’t looking to have that conversation here. But it is worth pointing out that among the starters in Cleveland right now, including Danny Salazar, only Josh Tomlin was drafted by the club (Salazar was a free agent signee).

Why does it matter? When you look at how the roster has improved over the years, much of it has come from developing players that were drafted by the club. Brad Zimmer is just the latest to make an impact, but Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Cody Allen were all drafted by the Indians.

Sure, shrewd trades and minor transactions have bolstered the roster, including the pitching staff. Yan Gomes was a throw in with Mike Aviles in the Esmil Rogers trade. Corey Kluber was acquired via  a trade, as was Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger. Carlos Carrasco has been the only positive return from the Cliff Lee trade. Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley both came via a trade.

When it comes to drafting starting pitchers, though, the Indians have not had much luck. As mentioned before, Josh Tomlin is the only current starter that the Indians have on the roster that was drafted by the team. This was all the way back in 2006 and Tomlin was a 19th round selection. His career 4.7 WAR is actually one of the better numbers among starters in the Indians draft history.

In 2001, J.D. Martin was a first round pick that never pitched an inning for the Indians, making only 24 starts for the Washington Nationals.

In 2002, the Indians spent a first rounder on Jeremy Guthrie, who posted an ERA over 6.00 in an Indians uniform. Granted, he did turn into a solid starter later in his career and owns a 17.7 career WAR. Second round pick Brian Slocum made all of two starts for the Indians in 2006 and allowed 11 runs in those two games.

In 2003, the Indians drafted Adam Miller in the first round, but he never saw the majors. Aaron Laffey was also in that draft class, but he was nothing more than a fringe starter and posted a career ERA of 4.44.

The 2004 draft saw Jeremy Sowers go sixth overall. He made 71 starts over four seasons for the Indians, but posted only a 1.5 WAR and a 5.18 ERA over that span. He never pitched in the majors for another team.

In 2005, Tim Lincecum was drafted in the 42nd round. Unfortunately, he didn’t sign with the team. He won a World Series and a pair of Cy Young Awards in San Francisco instead.

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The same 2006 draft that brought Josh Tomlin saw David Huff, Steven Wright, and Chris Archer get drafted by the Indians. Yes, that’s Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays and Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox. Archer was traded in 2008 to the Cubs for Mark DeRosa after being a 5th round pick. Wright, a second round pick, was traded in 2012 for failed former top prospect named Lars Anderson. Huff was just a back end starter for the Tribe and never amounted to more than a token lefty in the rotation.

In 2008, Trey Haley and T.J. House were taken in the 2nd and 16th rounds, respectively. They have a combined -0.1 WAR. Haley never saw the majors and House is no longer in the team’s future.

Alex White (2009) and Drew Pomeranz (2010) were the team’s top picks in back to back years. Both were packaged off to Colorado in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Pomeranz has seen improvements in his pitching and is now in Boston, but White has’t pitched since 2012.

Cody Anderson was drafted in 2011, but just had Tommy John surgery. He has shown some flashes, but his recovery will be a stronger indicator of where he can be as a pitcher.

Next: Who is representing the Indians in the 2017 MLB Draft?

Most of the prospects drafted from 2012 and onward are too young or still buried in the minors to make any type of evaluation. While we cannot pass judgement on them, at least Justus Sheffield was a key piece in the Andrew Miller trade. There has been a considerable amount of draft capital devoted to pitching, so at least the club is working towards improving the situation.