Instead of the standard comments, I’m going to treat the projected 25-man roster as a stock portfolio. I’ll give each player an analyst rating: strong buy, buy, hold, sell, or strong sell. Note that for some players, a “sell” rating isn’t necessarily bad; it just means that I think they’re overvalued at the moment. I’ll be using Baseball Prospectus’ WARP as the baseline for my analysis. I’ll repeat this exercise a couple times during the year, and you can make fun of me then if you’d like. Here goes…
LHSP CC Sabathia
2004 WARP: 6.1
Although Sabathia has come into camp 10-15 pounds lighter, I don’t see too much upside. He’s still a good pitcher, and with a better bullpen I could easily see him win a couple more games. But that would be a superficial gain in value, not a real gain. Regardless of his age, Sabathia has been a remarkably cosistent pitcher since he joined the Indians at the tender age of 20; he’s posted WARPs of 5.6, 6.5, 6.9, and 6.1 in his first four seasons. That’s pretty incredible if you think about it, given the flameout rates of young pitchers. CC is definitely still the best pitcher on the staff, but I think his career has reached a plateau.
RHSP Jake Westbrook
2004 WARP: 8.4
Westbrook isn’t going to fall off the face of the earth, but expecting him to be one of the top 5 pitchers in the AL again is too much to ask. I’ve beaten the dead horse enough recently, so I’ll just leave it at that.
RHSP Kevin Millwood
2004 WARP: 2.4
Of course he’s going to beat that WARP if healthy. The question is by how much. Probably what you’re looking at is the 2003 version of Millwood, which isn’t an ace by any stretch of the imagination but for what the Indians are looking for will fit in just fine. He probably should be the team’s #2 by season’s end.
LHSP Cliff Lee
2004 WARP: 3.4
This is the wild card of the staff. Lee’s strikeout rates held even as he struggled in July and August, so I’m banking on a big jump this season. His early career numbers resemble the struggles of Matt Clement in his first few seasons; hopefully that’s a good sign.
RHSP Scott Elarton
2004 WARP: 2.7
Rating: STRONG SELL
A lot of things point to Elarton’s second half being a fluke. The defense behind him saved him more than even Jake Westbrook; The Hardball Times’ Fielding Independent Pitching (which is an approximation of a pitchers’ ERA if a league-average defense was behind him) for Elarton was 5.87, almost a run and a half higher than his real ERA. Now perhaps having Sizemore, Crisp, and Gerut in the outfield during a lot of his starts helped out, but those aren’t encouraging numbers regardless. The percentage of batted balls turned into outs for Elarton was .764, highest on the staff (minimum 20 innings pitched). Given the tenuous nature of the 5th spot in the rotation, I’ll be very surprised if Elarton stays in the rotation through June.