With the injury bug beginning to make its way around the Indians’ clubhouse, more specifically out in the bullpen, I decided to raise an interesting question to the staff here at Wahoo’s on First. Which player can the Indians least afford to lose for a prolonged period of time due to injury? In other words, who is the one player on the roster where the general reaction to a serious injury would be a resounding “NOOOOO!” Here’s what everyone had to say.
Kyle Downing: The one player the Indians cannot afford to lose is Justin Masterson. We’ve proven we can win games without Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, etc, but Masty has been the anchor for what has been a surprisingly solid starting rotation this year. He has had scoreless streaks of 19 and 20. He has beaten 3 Cy Young award winners in head-to-head matchups. He has been our ace, a leader, and a great example to our younger pitchers. We simply cannot lose him if we hope to contend this year.
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Nick Houghtaling: The Indians can not afford to lose any starting pitcher for a long period of time, for whatever reason. With the lack of consistent starting pitchers on the roster and the tiny amount of major league ready pitchers in the farm system, the team simply does not have enough depth at the position to succeed if they lose one for whatever reason.
Evan Vogel: The Indians couldn’t exist without Carlos Santana, let alone afford to lose him. Sure, on May 1 he was hitting .395/.483/.711 and going into Wednesday’s game against Cincinnati he is down to .284/.397/.512, but Santana is constantly on base, he has power, and he is playing a premium position. While his defense isn’t the greatest behind the dish (12 percent caught stealing) compared to what Yan Gomes has done in his limited playing time (62 percent caught stealing), there is no doubting the potential and skills that No.41 has when in the batter’s box.
While some are wondering what the Indians could do with Gomes to get him more playing time, the loss of Santana is not the way to get that extended look. Not only would the league have a lot of time to find the holes in Gomes’ swing (evident by his .631 OPS in his first 111 plate appearances), but who can get on base as consistently as Santana outside of Joey Votto
and Jose Bautista
, who are pitched around at extremely high rates.
Santana is already worth 1.6 WAR, tied with Nick Swisher as the most valuable player on the Tribe (based on WAR), and if he can get a few balls to drop again, he’ll continue to post pretty absurd numbers, becoming one of the top offensive catchers in baseball, if you didn’t already consider him in that class, while continuing to become a menace to pitchers in his age-27 season.
Brian Heise: I’m going out on a limb here, but I really feel like the Indians could least afford to lose Mark Reynolds. Stick with me here while I explain. We’ve already seen the Tribe survive partial stretches without Santana, Bourn, Swisher, Kipnis, and Cabrera. Granted they weren’t long periods of time with serious injury, but the Indians were able to get through it. Reynolds on the other hand has yet to miss a game and has become the Indians home run/RBI machine. Without the threat of his bat in the lineup the Indians would immediately lose some of what has made them so good this year. Sure, he strikes out and yes, his batting average has come back down to Earth, but it just feels like Reynolds has become the heart of the lineup. Plus, he seems like one of the glue guys in the clubhouse.
I think the Indians can least afford to lose Justin Masterson, although Zach McAllister
is a close second. Both of them have been so consistently good, and the team looks to them for leadership. The rotation really is the one thing that can make or break this season for the Tribe, and without Masterson, it would likely fall apart. The Tribe has starting pitching depth, with Carrasco and others waiting in Columbus, and Brett Myers
returning from the DL, but none of those options are comparable to the kind of pitcher that Masterson has been so far in 2013. One of the keys for the Indians this year has been having an ace who can control the opposition when the offense is struggling to score runs. Everything he does as the leader of the rotation is vital to the team’s success. McAllister is just as important, because the bullpen’s success hinges on having multiple starters who can always be counted on for quality starts. There’s just absolutely no way the Tribe can stay in contention without their two best pitchers.
Merritt Rohlfing: The player the Indians can least afford to lose is Justin Masterson. Yes, Carlos Santana has the everyday effect of being awesome and Nick Swisher is a ball of joy and Asdrubal Cabrera has a thumping bat and shiny glove, but Masterson’s loss would be psychological as much as statistical. He’s the anchor of the rotation, and a guy who, even in the depths of a losing streak, the Indians can look to for a shutdown outing and get it all back on the right track. At least, I’d like to think they do, I happen to have a very high opinion of Justin. The Indians pitching is in a very tenuous position right now – any given day Zach McAllister could suffer a harsh regression back towards what his SIERA suggests, Ubaldo Jimenez could collapse, or Scott Kazmir could disappear. They need Masterson to lead the way and lend a stable form of leadership to the staff. It sounds hokey and old baseball-like, but we’re still dealing with people, and people like to follow a leader.