Last winter we talked about several starting pitchers in the Cleveland organization, but Michael Clevinger wasn't one of them. He's roughly the same age as Cody Anderson (he turned 24 in December), and like Anderson is 6'4", which is in the range of heights most organizations look for in a right-handed starting pitcher*. So why did we not lump him in with pitchers like Anderson, Mitch Brown, Ryan Merritt, and others? The short answer is that he didn't do much with the Indians in 2014. The more detailed answer will give the reasons for this.
Clevinger was drafted by the LA Angels in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He was drafted in the fourth round out of a junior college in Florida (Seminole CC), a high selection for a JuCo pitcher. He signed with the Angels, but one year into his professional career, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL ligament in his pitching elbow. He missed the second half of 2012 and most of 2013 recovering from the surgery, so 2014 was his first full season in professional baseball.
He started his season in the Midwest League, then moved to Inland Empire, the Angels' High-A affiliate. While he was pitching there, the Angels dealt him to the Indians for Vinnie Pestano on August 7. He reported to Carolina, and made 5 appearances (4 as starter, 1 as reliever) before the end of the season.
The main unknown with Clevinger when the Indians acquired him was a lack of innings. Including his appearances this year, he has just 178 professional, despite being in the minors since 2011. That was one of the reasons the Indians were able to get him for Pestano, who had struggled with the Indians in 2014. The upside was rather high, of course: if Clevinger, now healthy, pitched to his potential, the Indians could have a starting pitcher capable of entering the rotation in 2016.
Clevinger has the repertoire of pitches you'd want from a starting pitcher: a fastball that gets into the low-to-mid 90s, and three off-speed pitches, with at least two (slider, change) that project to be at least average major-league pitches. And to this point in the season, that potential has matched reality. Through five starts, Clevinger has a 1.95 ERA, and has struck out 26 in 27.2 innings, a ratio just under 9 per 9 innings.
If this trend continues, Clevinger will be right there with Cody Anderson when we talk about starting pitcher prospects in the high minors.
*You certainly don't have to be that tall to make it as a major-league starter, but you're more likely to be given a real shot at making a major-league rotation if you're at least 6'0".