|#1||James Shields||Justin Masterson|
|#2||Jason Vargas||Corey Kluber|
|#3||Jeremy Guthrie||Zach McAllister|
|#4||Bruce Chen||Danny Salazar|
|#5||Danny Duffy||Carlos Carrasco|
Justin Masterson had a huge jump in strike out rate last year that led to a good season. I don’t think he can maintain that level and he still wasn’t as good as Shields. Corey Kluber was surprisingly good in 2013, and it didn’t look like luck. He will likely be a solid middle of the rotation guy similar to Vargas and Guthrie and probably a bit better. Projections are expecting a similar year to last year for him. The rest of their rotation could be pretty good or atrociously bad depending on how things break.
Zach McAllister posted a 3.75 ERA last year, but it was not as solid as Kluber’s performance. Zach had a slightly above 2 K/BB ratio, a 7.5% HR/FB, and only 37% rate of ground balls. The strike out rate is not impressive and he doesn’t have the control to make that work consistently based on the rest of the skill set. He actually profiles a lot like a young Jeremy Guthrie with a little less control. That should lead to a back of the rotation profile.
Next up is Danny Salazar had something click last year and started striking everyone out posting 13.63, 11.83, and 11.25 K/9 innings rates at AA, AAA, and the majors respectively. His control has always been pretty good, and there is a decent chance he ascends, maybe even above Masterson by the end of the year. With only 52 innings of major leagues under his belt that is far from certain though. The 83.3% strand rate from last year is unlikely and his strike out rate will certainly drop. There should also be a bit more of a book on him now, so the league might adjust to him. He has enough stuff that this may not matter. He looks like a #2 starter already with possible improvement in the future. At only 24 he should be limited to 160ish innings most likely, so in a stretch run it will be interesting to see how he is handled.
Carlos Carrasco is the odd man here. He has a fifth starter/swing man profile and they will be lucky if he sticks in the rotation in any meaningful way. There is a chance Shaun Marcum could bounce back and take this spot after a rough 2013 campaign.
These two rotations look somewhat similar to me from an expected production of those particular 10 guys. Duffy is much better than Carrasco and the Royals have a big advantage having a number one better than anything Cleveland can muster. The middle three are better for the Indians mostly based on youth and the upside of Salazar.
I think the Royals have an advantage overall because of Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. Unless Trevor Bauer comes back toward his promise quickly and can be in the rotation later, the Indians don’t seem to have anyone close to stepping in and giving them a boost. On to the pens:
|Greg Holland||John Axford|
|Aaron Crow||Cody Allen|
|Kelvin Herrera||Vinnie Pestano|
|Tim Collins||Marc Rzepczynski|
|Luke Hochevar||Bryan Shaw|
|Wade Davis||Josh Outman|
|Donnie Joseph||Josh Tomlin|
|Louis Coleman||Nick Hagadone|
We have discussed, and seen for a couple of years, that the Royals’ bullpen is a strength for them. Cleveland’s is not. John Axford is simply not very good, and I am not sure why anyone would want him closing for their team. He has posted 4+ ERAs in the last two seasons, which is pretty lousy for a back of the bullpen pitcher. Cody Allen played over his head last year, but at least has a power arm and is useful for them. Vinnie Pestano is effective when he doesn’t walk the park, which is what he did all of last year. Marc Rzepczynski is a decent middle reliever type. Outman, Tomlin, and Hagadone are all questionable as to whether they should be on a major league roster. Bryan Shaw might be the best of the bunch, though Allen might get that since he has had a little more success at the majors.
That is a rough bullpen, and the Royals should have a sizable advantage here. Overall that means the Royals could conceivably outperform Cleveland across the board when you look at hitting, defense, starters, and relief pitching. I don’t think that translates into the Royals being way better overall, but I definitely think the Royals are the better team.
Next I’ll write a summary take away from all of these that will talk about the Royals overall chances of winning the central and playoff chances when you add the two wild card spots to it.