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Cleveland Indians top prospects list - #16: Luis Lugo

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He's a ways away, but young and left-handed isn't a bad combination...

Let's Go Tribe is putting together its own ranking of the top Indians prospects, with readers voting on each entry. Here are the previous entries in the series:

  1. Francisco Lindor
  2. Clint Frazier
  3. Bradley Zimmer
  4. Giovanny Urshela
  5. Francisco Mejia
  6. Tyler Naquin
  7. Bobby Bradley
  8. James Ramsey
  9. Justus Sheffield
  10. Erik Gonzalez
  11. Mike Papi
  12. Mitch Brown
  13. Jesus Aguilar
  14. Yu-Cheng Chang
  15. Carlos Moncrief

This week's balloting saw four players receive at least mildly strong support. Al four of them will likely make the top 20, along with someone who's yet to garner much attention. While the votes were spread around this time, there was still a fairly comfortable winner:

  • Luis Lugo: 32%
  • Shawn Morimando: 1%
  • Ryan Merritt: 20%
  • Cody Anderson: 23%
  • Grant Hockin: 3%
  • Nellie Rodriguez: 5%
  • Tony Wolters: 16%

Luis Lugo was signed as an amateur free agent in February of 2011, when he was still only 16 years old. In rookie ball during his first two seasons after signing, Lugo walked a lot of batters, but also posted big strikeout numbers, and was considered a talent to watch. In 2013 he cut down on his walks, but his strikeouts also fell. He was still a teenager, but he didn't seem quite as exciting a prospect as he had before.

Lugo spent 2014 with the Lake County Captains of the Midwest League. His numbers weren't great during April, and in May he worked as a long reliever, with scheduled appearances very much like starts, but without entering the game until the 5th or 6th inning. On May 27 he pitched 5 innings of no-hit relief, and was moved back up to starting.

Looking at strikeouts and walks, it was Lugo's best season by a comfortable margin. He got back to the high strikeout rate of his first couple seasons (10.40 per 9 innings), but maintained the low walk rate he'd developed more recently (2.85 per 9 innings). His fastball and changeup continued to be solid pitches, and his curveball started to turn into a more effective pitch.

How did he manage an ugly 4.92 ERA with so many things trending in the right direction? The gopher ball.

Lugo gave up 16 home runs in his 126.1 innings of work, a rate of 1.14 per 9 innings, which would have placed him in the bottom 10% of all qualified MLB starters in 2014. After going through a rough patch with his strikeout rate before getting it back together last season, hopefully Lugo's home run rate will undergo the same sort of 'next-year rebound in 2015, because the long ball was the only thing keeping him from a really strong line last season.

Lugo is likely headed to High-A Lynchburg to begin this season. He's likely at least three years away from being ready to help the Indians.

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Who do you think should be the #17 Indians prospect?

Remember to also let us know in the comments which player you think should join the voting next. At least two of the players in this week's poll will fail to make the top 20, so now is the time to push hard for whatever pet cause you may have.