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The future of the Cleveland Indians bullpen resides in Akron

Want to see the future of the Indians bullpen? Look no further than the Akron RubberDucks.

To be fair, you could say that a lot of the Cleveland Indians future currently resides in Akron, but those are stories for another day. For now, let's focus on one strength that is often overlooked in the Tribe's farm system: relief pitchers. In particular, JP Feyereisen and Ben Heller -- two fireballers who have dominated every level of the minors thus far and currently call Akron their home.

Twenty-four-year-old Ben Heller got his first taste of Double-A opposition last season when he was called up in August to help the Akron RubberDucks in their late-season playoff push. Heller dominated, and even saying that is selling him short. He obliterated the competition. He did walk his first opponent, and allowed a hit that scored the runner, but after that, he was nearly untouchable. Including that first outing, batters tallied just five hits against Heller in his six innings of work. Of the 26 total batters he faced in the regular Double-A season, Heller struck out 15(!!!) of them. If he could somehow keep up that kind of strikeout rate, it would equate to 22 batters per nine innings.

Heller has come back down to earth a bit in 2016, but in 5.0 innings of relief work so far he has struck out six batters an allowed just one hit -- a solo home run. He has yet to issue a walk, and he has already recorded four saves as the RubberDucks closer.

The first thing that jumps out when watching Heller is velocity. He sits in the high-90s easily, and can frequently touch 100 mph. He has shown great command of that rocket fastball, as well as a wipeout slider that works as the perfect out-pitch.

J.P. Feyereisen may not have the triple-digit velocity of Heller, but he has proven to be nearly unhittable at every level in the minors. Between Low-A in 2014 and Class-A ball last season, Feyereisen had a streak of 31 consecutive innings without allowing a single run to cross the plate. Last season, he made it as far as High-A  where he carried a 25.0 percent strikeout rate, an 8.1 percent walk rate, and a 2.61 ERA over 31 innings.

This year, in Double-A, he is back to keeping opponents scoreless. Granted it is only over 5.1 innings so far, but Feyereisen has yet to allow a run in 2016. He has, however, struck out just two of the 17 opponents he's faced, as well as walking two while allowing one hit. After watching him pitch several times over the past two seasons, I have no doubts that he will adjust to Double-A opposition and beyond sooner rather than later.

Feyereisen features a great fastball and a slider that he is still working on improving. It's also worth noting that JP spent the offseason working with Driveline Baseball, the same advanced training program that Trevor Bauer spent time at which helped improve his velocity.

The major-league bullpen is shoddy at best and terrifying at worst, right now. Collectively, they have the second-worst earned run average (4.97) and the third-highest home runs per nine innings (1.86). Panicking about the present may be a little warranted, given who currently sits in the Tribe bullpen night after night, but there may not be much to worry about for the future, whenever Heller and Feyereisen find their way to the majors. The idea of these two as an eighth inning guy and a closer for the next few years is exciting. And I would not at all be surprised to see them as mid- or late-season call-ups to shore up the 'pen for a playoff run. Maybe not as a closer or setup man yet, but in some capacity.

With both relievers on the RubberDucks (and probably the Triple-A Columbus Clippers at some point), it is extremely easy to catch one or both of them on an MiLB.tv game. Tuen into the last couple innings of a RubberDucks game sometime, you will not regret it.