Fausto Carmona will be starting for the Indians next year, but after him, there's a lot of uncertainty in Cleveland's projected rotation. The team's 2011 options are generally young, promising and unproven; here's a more detailed look.
Mitch Talbot has probably pitched well enough to earn a rotation spot for 2011 and the early returns are good for Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin. Both Gomez and Tomlin have ERAs under 4.00, but neither pitcher has started more than six games, so manager Manny Acta can't pencil them into his 2011 plans quite yet. David Huff has started regularly for the Indians, but opponents have hit him hard, so the Indians recently demoted him to the minors. Justin Masterson has followed up a strong 2009 season with a mediocre 2010 campaign (5.33 ERA) that probably doesn't guarantee him a rotation spot next year.
It seems like Carlos Carrasco has been around for a while, but the right-hander is still just 23. Carrasco has spent the season at Triple A Columbus, where he has a 3.77 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 143.1 innings. It seems like Carrasco, who the Indians acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, will be ready to start for the Indians in 2011.
Like Carrasco, Corey Kluber joined the Indians organization after the Tribe traded away a veteran starter. The Indians obtained Kluber, who is now pitching at Akron (AA), in the Jake Westbrook trade. The 24-year-old right-hander has a season ERA of 3.61 with 9.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, though most of that came when Kluber was in the Padres organization.
Let's not rule out Zach McAllister, who the Indians acquired for Austin Kearns. The 22-year-old posted a 5.09 ERA at Triple A and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted on Twitter tonight that the Indians may call McAllister up in September.
Two other prospects are just as promising, but not quite as ready. Hector Rondon broke out last season with a 3.38 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in the upper minors, but the 22-year-old righty hasn't pitched since May because of forearm tightness. He is not a sure thing, but could start for the Indians at some point in 2011.
Alex White is holding his own at Akron in his first pro season. The 2009 first-rounder has a season ERA of 2.57 with 7.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across two levels. He doesn't turn 22 until this weekend, so the Indians may want him to pick up more minor league seasoning. Some 2009 draftees – Mike Minor and Mike Leake come to mind – are already contributing in the majors, but most players take more time to develop.
The Indians also have depth in the upper minors in the form of 22-year-old left-hander Scott Barnes and 23-year-old right-hander Paolo Espino. Barnes has posted 8.0 K/9 and a 4.57 ERA at Akron and Espino has a 4.25 ERA between Akron and Columbus.
The Indians signed Carl Pavano and Kevin Millwood to short-term deals in recent years, so they could make similar offers this offseason. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote today that he "wouldn't be surprised to see the Indians shop for a free agent veteran to eat up some innings." Perhaps Westbrook could return to Cleveland, where he has spent most of his pro career. After the Indians traded him, Westbrook suggested he'd be open to re-signing in Cleveland.
The Indians will head into 2011 with a promising but unproven group of prospects and young major leaguers, so when Chris Antonetti takes over as GM after the season, he may look to sign an innings eater to complement the team's stable of youngsters.