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Cleveland Indians prospects - "Dark horse" pitchers

Which "dark horse" Tribe pitcher has the best chance of making it to the MLB?

Trey Haley
Trey Haley
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at some of the farm's "dark horse" hitters. Today we move on to the pitchers.


Joe Colon (RHSP; age 25, AA)

Since being drafted in the 12th rd in 2009, Colon's career has been hindered by injuries, but in 2014 he finally managed almost a full season, starting 25 games at Akron before being shut down with a shoulder sprain in mid-August. And he pitched pretty well in those games with a 3.39 ERA and a 6.3 K/9, probably marginally out-pitching Will Roberts.

I'm not sure whether there's anything to be read into the fact that Will Roberts has pitched in ST, whereas Colon hasn't, but if Colon is healthy there surely can't be much between those two pitchers. Furthermore, Colon's arsenal would probably play well in the bullpen if he doesn't quite make it as a starter.

Jordan Cooper (RHP, age 25, AAA)

Cooper was taken in the 9th rd of the 2010 draft and has slowly worked his way through the ranks to the point where he was a regular at Akron in 2013-14 (and also made a couple of appearances at Columbus last season). He's basically a reliever nowadays, although he was called upon for the occasional spot start last year.

Overall, however, Cooper seemed to regress slightly in 2014, so he'll probably begin the new season back in Akron again. With a 7.0 K/9 rate in 150.1 total IP at Akron, his strikeout rate is just about good enough to suggest that he might have an outside chance of making it as an MLB reliever.

Trey Haley (RHP, age 24, AA)

Haley was drafted as a starter in the 2nd rd way back in 2008, but he struggled badly in his first three years as a pro and was switched to a relieving role in 2011. Four years on, he's never managed to pitch even 45 innings in relief due a series of injuries. He's always been somewhat wild and thus prone to walking too many batters, so even though his strikeout rate is good (10.0 K/9 at Akron in 2014) that work is often wasted.

Haley was actually promoted to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 draft in 2012, but he was outrighted back to the minors a year later. He was a minor league free agent over the winter, and the fact that the Tribe elected to re-sign him and then recently used him in a ST game suggests that they certainly haven't given up hope.

Louis Head (RHP, age 24, 2014 AA)

Head was drafted in the 18th rd in 2012 and has made fairly smooth progress through the ranks as a reliever. He earned a mid-season promotion to Akron last year after recording a whopping 15 K/9 rate (with a 2.21 ERA) in 17 games at Carolina, and continued to pitch well at the higher level (9.7 K/9, 2.97 ERA) as well as in the Arizona Fall League (9.8 K/9, 2.45 ERA).

It looks like Head is behind Shawn Armstrong in the relieving ranks right now, but it may not be by all that much.

Ben Heller (RHP, age 23, 2014 A+)

Since being drafted in the 22nd rd in 2013, Heller has been a revelation. By mid-2014 he had earned a rapid promotion to A+, where he continued to deal, with a 2.25 ERA and 9.6 K/9. He could find himself in Akron sooner rather than later, and from there it can be just a short step for a young reliever to reach the MLB, as Kyle Crockett showed last year, when he made the MLB team before he had ever played for Columbus.

Jeff Johnson (RHP, age 25, 2013 AA but missed 2014)

After being drafted as a reliever in the 10th rd in 2011, Johnson was placed on on the Tribe's "fast track" and ended up with 19 IP in AA after a mid-season promotion during his first full pro season. His fine strikeout record (AA 10 K/9; career 10.5 K/9) certainly hints that Johnson may have the ability to become an MLB reliever. However, he missed the whole of 2014 through injury. After extensive research (OK, I asked Tony Lastoria about it!), I believe that he actually had TJ surgery in November 2013, although it wasn't reported widely in the press and he wasn't on Jon Roegele's TJ spreadsheet until I told him about it.

Johnson was named to the Tribe's winter development squad in January, but I've no idea whether he has been able to pitch. If he can pick up where he left off at the end of 2013, then he still has a real shot at the MLB in the next couple of years.

Josh Martin (RHP; age 25; 2014 AA)

After being drafted in the 10th rd in 2012, Martin's numbers as a reliever in his first two seasons weren't particularly notable. However, last  year in 66.2 IP with the Mudcats he recorded a 9.0 K/9 with just a 1.052 WHIP and 2.92 ERA. He also appeared in a game for Akron in which he struck out four batters in two perfect innings.

I would imagine that Martin has earned a promotion to AA for the new season, which given that the Tribe typically uses 18+ relievers over the course of the season, would place him not too far out of contention for an MLB debut.

Shawn Morimando (LHP, age 22; 2014 AA)

For me, Morimando is the most surprising omission from the two prospect lists (LGT and BA) that were used as the benchmarks for this article. Morimando has been both durable and consistent since being taken in the 19th rd in 2011 and earned a promotion to Akron (ahead of Ryan Merritt) midway through last season.  His numbers there were solid and it will be fascinating to see how he fares in the Akron rotation this season alongside the higher-rated Cody Anderson and Ryan Merritt.

Will Roberts  (RHSP; age 24; 2014 AA)

A 5th rd pick in 2011, Roberts has never appeared in a BA Top 30 prospect list, but he's gradually worked his way through the ranks, and his efforts at Akron last season may possibly have earned a promotion to AAA for the 2015 season. He was even given a couple of opportunities to pitch during the early days of ST.

Roberts has been durable and fairly consistent, but with a low  90s fastball and not a particularly great strikeout record, he projects as a 5th starter at best.

Grant Sides (RHP; age 25; 2014 AA)

Sides has made fairly slow progress through the ranks since being drafted in the 12th rd in 2011, but he did make a brief 1 IP appearance for Akron last season and also did well in the AFL (1.59 ERA, 10.3 K/9). He spent most of the season in Carolina, where he achieved a good ERA (2.67) on the back of a decent K/9 of 8.3. Sides possesses a mid-90s fastball but doesn't have the best control, as evidenced by a 4.5 BB/9,  which may hold him back in the future.

Giovanni Soto (LHSP; age 23; AA)

Like Colon and Roberts, Soto has never appeared in the BA Top 30 prospect list, but he still has some potential to become an MLB starting pitcher.  Originally drafted by the Tigers in the 21st rd in 2009, Soto was acquired by the Indians in the Jhonny Peralta trade midway through 2010. After a solid season starting in Akron in 2012, he made it to Columbus at age 22 in 2013, but then suffered a back injury that sidelined him for nearly the whole season.

After a solid comeback year as a reliever in Akron, Soto spent the Winter in Caribbean, where he was initially a reliever in the PWL, before being switched to a starting role. Suddenly everything seemed to click and he finished with a PWL ERA of 2.20 (9.0 K/9). It remains to be seen whether the Tribe will revert him to a relieving role or continue to keep him stretched out in 2015, but either way he certainly seems to have the stuff to potentially make an impact in the big leagues..

Enosil Tejeda (RHP, age 25, 2014 AAA)

Tejeda is a product of the Tribe's Dominican farm system, and made his stateside debut back in 2011. Since then he has recorded seasonal ERAs of 2.91, 1.39, 1.23 and 3.18, demonstrating impressive consistency. He was promoted to Akron in mid-2013 and had a cup of coffee (1 IP) in AAA last season. Over his time at AA he has now pitched 96.1 innings with an impressive 9.0 K/9 and 2.4 K/9 while giving up just five HRs.

A full-time promotion to Columbus might well be on the cards for Tejeda.