As goes Cleveland Indians pitchers, so goes the 2021 Tribe.
There’s plenty of reasons to be down on the Cleveland Indians. They just let one of their all-time great franchise players, Francisco Lindor, leave via trade because he was eventually going to walk in free agency.
Nobody’s picking the Indians to win the Central, as it’s expected to to come down to the Twins and White Sox.
There will be competitive baseball on the Corner of Carnegie on and Ontario, though, all because of the Tribe’s starting pitching.
Here’s a look at how the rotation breaks down ahead of the season.
1. Shane Bieber: The Indians have a card nobody else can claim: They send the best pitching in the AL to bump every fifth day. Everything went Bieber’s way in 2020, save for an ugly Game 5 start against the Yankees in the Wild Card.
2. Aaron Civale: If there was a Cy Young Award to give to someone who was pitching an intrasquad game in February, Civale’s your guy. It was only two innings, but his performance against his teammates in Goodyear leaves us wondering if he can take the next step to cement himself as a front-end starter.
He was 4-6 last season with a 4.74 ERA. He doesn’t walk anybody, but he gave a up a league high 82 hits last season. He’s got to be better if the Tribe wants to have a shot at grabbing a Wild Card spot.
3. Zach Plesac: Plesac, owner of an immaculate inning last season, probably jumps Civale as the No. 2 starter this season after going 4-2 with a 2.28 ERA. He’d probably have another win or two if it weren’t for his outing in Chicago, which led to his demotion to the alternate site.
When he came back from exile, Plesac was fantastic down the stretch, going 3-1 in September. It was surprising to see his projections at baseball-reference.com having him going 10-7 with a 3.70 ERA. I’d look for Plesac to be a 14-15 game winner with an ERA in the low 3s.
4. Triston McKenzie: McKenzie gave us glimpses as to how he shot up the Tribe’s minor league prospect charts. The Indians will be cautious with the player Baseball America regards as their No. 1 prospect, as he logged just 33 innings last season after being promoted from the alternate site.
5. The No. 5 spot. This is where things get interesting, as Cal Quantrill, Logan Allen and Adam Plutko are the front-line candidates to assume this spot.
Quantrill seemed to gain momentum in the local media this winter, but Allen is getting the keystrokes after a week of workouts in Goodyear. Plutko has value in that he can be effective out of the pen, in addition to starting.
With the Tribe wanting to ease the arms of young pitchers like McKenzie, Plutko should see a handful of starts in 2021.
Don’t sleep on Scott Moss, either. I’ve been a fan since I saw him pitch at Class A Dayton when he was with the Reds.
My guess is either Quantrill or Allen win the fifth spot.