The bullpen for the Cleveland Baseball Club appears to be a gigantic question mark and possible weakness as they begin the 2020 MLB season.
When it comes to the Cleveland Baseball Club the rotation is solid. Their lineup has some great players such as Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana as well as some interesting pieces in the outfield. With all that being said it is their bullpen which is a complete wild card. The loss of Emmanuel Clase due to an injury and then a PED suspension is not helping matters whatsoever.
Cleveland’s best options
Brad Hand had a great first half to 2019, but the second half was less than stellar. Opponents slashed .200/.265/.304/.569 off of Hand in his first 39 appearances last season with nine earned runs in 37.1 innings. That ballooned to .310/.383/.512/.895 with 12 earned runs in 20 innings (21 appearances). Perhaps the shortened season could prevent another drop in performance this season, otherwise Cleveland will have some shuffling to do at the end of their bullpen, something they cannot afford to do.
Nick Wittgren is a competent bullpen arm, but he is more of middle innings type of reliever. Wittgren is not someone that Terry Francona can rely on heavily and in close game situations. While the former Marlin is an adequate pitcher, he is a far cry from the old go-to guys such as Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen.
James Karinchak is a strikeout machine. Karinchak should be able to step in an be a dependable reliever for Cleveland as long as he can command his stuff. The 24-year old reliever has a ton of upside and could make a huge difference for the bullpen this season.
Absolute Wild Cards
Adam Cimber is a fun guy to watch with his submarine delivery, but he has been hit around quite frequently since coming to Cleveland. Cimber allowed 28 runs in 56.2 innings last season, hardly encouraging from someone who made 68 appearances in 2019. Cimber is someone where everything has to go right for him to be effective, but so far that has not happened often enough.
Oliver Perez is a complete wild card. With the new three batter minimum rule Perez could be limited to short appearances. Perez may have to come in with two outs already or he will have to adapt to be able to pitch an entire inning. Considering his age there is always that moment where a reliever is no longer effective. Tito will have to monitor him closely to ensure that this does not happen this season. Perhaps this leads to more appearances than anticipated for the former starter.
Adam Plutko is in the bullpen after not making the rotation. Plutko seems to be a guy destined for mop up duty either way. There are plenty of other arms in the bullpen who can be utilized in pressure situations. Although, it is worth mentioning the Plutko does seem to have the trust of Terry Francona, a factor that cannot be discounted.
End of the bullpen arms
Dominic Leone has not really found a place in his six-year career. Leone has played for four teams with Cleveland being his fifth. 2017 in Toronto was his best season with a 2.56 ERA and 1.052 WHIP in 70.1 innings, but that seems to be an outlier. Leone’s last two seasons in St. Louis did not come close to meeting that performance where he ended up with a 4.77 ERA and 1.485 WHIP in 64.2 innings.
Phil Maton pitched fairly well in his limited action in Cleveland last season with a 2.92 ERA and .811 WHIP in 12.1 innings and 9.5 K/9. While this is the literal definition of small sample size, the club has seen enough from him to put him on the initial roster.
Cameron Hill is yet to make his MLB debut. Hill has been impressive in the minors with a 2.56 ERA and 1.110 WHIP in 185 games with a 8.5 K/9. Like the others in this group, Hill may have limited chances and could be part of the progressive roster cut downs.