Like Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber was acquired via a mid-season veteran-for-prospect trade. And like McAllister, Kluber should be in the mix for next season's rotation. Kluber also shared something with McAllister; growing pains in 2012.
2012 Age: 26
2012 WAR (Fangraphs): 0.6 (Sub Level)
2012 WAR (B-Ref): -0.6 (Replacement Level)
2012 Salary: ~$480K (minimum)
2013 Contract Status: Renewable Contract (<1 Year Service Time)
By most standards, Corey Kluber was not a prospect going into this season. He's two years older than Zach McAllister, and 2012 marked his third straight season in AAA. He fell into that middle ground between marginal prospect and minor-league journeyman thanks to his age and decent but not impressive numbers. He had always had a good strikeout rate, but that was tempered by a mediocre hit rate and a walk rate that predicted doom if he was promoted to the majors. But in 2012 Kluber knocked a walk/9 off his career norms and bumped his strikeout rate as well. He was now going 6 innings per start in AAA, a much better rate than he'd previously done.
So when the Tribe rotation crumbled into dust in July, the opportunity presented itself for Kluber. McAllister had earlier been permanently promoted to the majors, and when both Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe were removed from the rotation, Kluber was thrust into the major-league rotation. The Indians didn't really have anyone else worth trying, and the season was already lost by that time, so Kluber was allowed significant leeway that he probably wouldn't have gotten had the Indians been in contention. So Kluber struggled at times, but toward the end of the season, started to have some successful outings.
While Kluber gave up lots of hits, he maintained good strikeout and walk rates, which again portends well if he can improve a couple things. Kluber has a nice put-away pitch in his slider, which is a good thing, since his fastball didn't miss many bats in his first extended major-league experience:
I believe what Brooks counted as a curve was really his slider; if he does throw a curve, it doesn't look much different than his slider.
Zach McAllister has a very good chance of making next spring's rotation, but I think if the Indians had their way, Kluber would go back to AAA to serve as front-line depth. Kluber has been a durable pitcher, throwing over 150 innings in each of his past four seasons, but command is what turned Kluber into a viable starter candidate, and if he can maintain those improvements, he should get another shot in the rotation at some point next year.
2012 Game Log
|162 Game Avg.||5.35||38||30||169||207||121||101||23||53||149||74||1.530||11.0||1.2||2.8||7.9||2.81|