Our vote for the Cleveland Indians No. 3 overall prospect came quite literally down to the wire. Pitchers Mike Clevinger and Brady Aiken ended up sharing 55 percent of the 698 total votes that were cast the poll. Clevinger came out on top with 23 percent (163 votes) to Aiken’s 22 percent (157 votes).
The Indians acquired Clevinger during the 2014 season in exchange for relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano. While Pestano was completely ineffective for the Los Angeles Angels in 2015 (5.40 ERA, 6.56 FIP in 11.2 IP), Clevinger has flourished in the Indians farm system.
Clevinger threw 158.0 innings over 27 starts playing for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, both career highs at any one level in the minors. He is only three years removed from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, but if anything, he has come out better than he was pre-surgery. In 2015, he struck out 22.7 percent of the batters he faced and walked just 6.3 percent, the second-best total of his career behind his 2014 stint in Class A ball when he started just five games and walked 5.4 percent of his opponents.
That improved control and lowered walk rate helped Clevinger to be one of the best pitchers in the Double-A Eastern League, and lead to him receiving a call-up to Triple-A just in time to aid the Columbus Clippers during their playoff run. In his debut at the Triple-A level--in a playoff atmosphere no less--Clevinger went seven and two-thirds innings without giving up a single hit while striking out a career-high 10 opponents. He did not technically complete the no-hit bid, however, as he was pulled after 102 pitches.
At 6’4" and 220 pounds, Clevinger is built similar to a prototypical right-handed power pitcher, but he is more a control pitcher. His fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, but has been known to reach as high as 97. To complement his fastball, Clevinger also sports three above average secondary pitches: A slider, a curveball, and a changeup.
Minor League Ball’s John Sickels has Clevinger ranked as the Tribe’s No. 3 overall prospect as well. MLB Pipeline has him as the No. 15 overall, sixth overall pitcher in the organization, but those rankings have not been updated for some time and I would suspect him to shoot up the rankings once his 2015 performance is taken into account.
Other teams have reportedly asked about Clevinger in possible trades, but the Indians held onto their potential future #3 starter, as well as they should. I look forward to seeing that flowing hair working the mound for the next several years in an Indians uniform.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 4 PROSPECT FOR 2016
Brady Aiken, SP
Indians first-round pick in 2015, will not see his first minor league action until after the 2016 season starts. Has a ton of potential if he can return to pre-Tommy John form.
Bobby Bradley, 1B
2015 (A-): 465 PA, 27 HR, 3 SB, .269/.361/.529, 153 wRC+
Bradley showed in 2015 that his Rookie League debut was no fluke, blasting 27 home runs, 9 more than his closest competitor. And he has yet to turn 20.
Rob Kaminsky, SP
2015 (Cardinals A+): 94.2 IP, 2.09 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 20.1% K%, 7.1 BB%
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals midseason in exchange for outfielder Brandon Moss. Features a low-90s fastball, a changeup, and a sharp curveball.
Tyler Naquin, OF
2015 (AAA): 218 PA, 6 HR, 6 SB, .263/.353/.430, 127 wRC+
Former first-round pick whose ranking has slid in recent years due to injury. Could be in the Majors in early 2016 if he can stay healthy in Triple-A.
Justus Sheffield, SP
2015 (A): 127.2 IP, 3.31 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 24.9 K%, 6.9 BB%
First round pick in 2014, features a low-90s fastball, curveball, and changeup. Potentially undersized at 5'10", but above average off-speed pitches means it may not be an issue.