The Indians optioned lefty Logan Allen to Triple-A following a trio of rough starts, including this week’s six-run drubbing at the hands of the Twins. Three of that game’s first four batters homered off Allen to put Cleveland in an early hole. Manager Terry Francona told reporters, including Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes, that Allen’s fastball command has been off. The pitcher himself agreed, calling his location “spotty” and acknowledging that he’s regularly put himself behind in the count and tipped the advantage in the hitters’ favor. Allen was brilliant in Spring Training, allowing just one run in 14 innings with an 18-to-3 K/BB ratio, but the early results this year just haven’t been there. He’s allowed 18 runs (16 earned) on 20 hits (seven homers) and seven walks with 12 strikeouts in 15 2/3 frames.
With Allen out of the rotation for now, it’s not clear who will step into the fifth spot. Righty Cal Quantrill and lefty Sam Hentges are possible options, and Hoynes notes that Hentges was stretched out to 85 pitches at the alternate site before being recalled and plugged into the team’s bullpen. Cleveland had an off-day yesterday, but the Indians are embarking on a stretch of 10 straight days with games, so they’ll need a fifth starter this coming Tuesday.
A few more notes out of Cleveland…
- The Indians received poor news on a pair of their top pitching prospects, Zack Meisel of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Right-hander Carlos Vargas will miss the 2021 season after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery, while fellow righty and 2018 No. 35 overall pick Ethan Hankins has been sidelined by an elbow injury of his own that is currently being evaluated by team doctors. Vargas ranks 15th among Indians prospects at FanGraphs, 17th at MLB.com and 18th at Baseball America. Hankins respectively lands 12th, 10th, and ninth on those same rankings. Neither pitcher was likely to emerge in the Majors this season, as Vargas hadn’t pitched above short-season Class-A and Hankins hadn’t progressed beyond A-ball himself. Still, it’s a noted setback for a pair of promising arms who’ll now see their timeline to the big leagues pushed back — by at least a full season in the case of Vargas.
- Top organizational prospect Nolan Jones will see the bulk of his time at his natural position, third base, in Triple-A to begin the season, but VP of player development James Harris tells Mandy Bell of MLB.com that Jones will also see work at first base and in the outfield in order to improve his versatility. “…[W]e just don’t know where the opportunity will be,” Harris says of working Jones at multiple positions. Both first base and the outfield have been much weaker spots in the Cleveland lineup than third base in recent seasons — in part due to Jose Ramirez’s emergence as an MVP-caliber talent but also due to a generally lackluster collection of hitters in a cobbled-together mix in the outfield and at first base. Jake Bauers has been among the game’s least-productive hitters at first base this season, and the Indians’ piecemeal approach to the outfield has again resulted in sub-par production. Indians outfielders have combined for a lowly 83 wRC+ in 2021, which ranks 23rd in MLB. Their first basemen are 29th of 30 by that same measure, checking in at just 58. Jones entered the season widely regarded as one of MLB’s top 50 overall prospects.