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MLB Draft 2016: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher system depth

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We kick off our MLB Draft 2016 coverage with a look at the depth of starting pitchers in the Indians farm system.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The current Cleveland Indians rotation is the stuff of legend when they are all on their game. The combination of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar can be one of the best 1-2-3's in the game of baseball, and even Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are serviceable back-of-the-rotation starters. The best part? They all came up as rookies with the Indians.

The almost-exception to that rule is Trevor Bauer, who debuted with the Arizona Diamondbacks but was still under the 50.0 innings pitch threshold to be considered a rookie when he was traded to the Tribe prior to the 2013 season. But Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar have all only pitched in an Indians uniform in their careers. Fault the Cleveland organization for whatever you want, but they are a group that knows their young pitching, and they could have more of it coming right down the pipeline.

MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect pitchers

#* Player Handedness Age Level Acquired ETA*
4 Brady Aiken LHP 19 Rookie 2015 Draft, 1st Round (17) 2019
5 Justus Sheffield LHP 20 A 2014 Draft, 1st Round (31) 2018
6 Triston McKenzie RHP 18 A-short 2015 Draft, CBA (42) 2019
7 Mike Clevinger RHP 25 AAA 2011 Draft, 4th Round (135 2016
10 Rob Kaminsky LHP 21 A+ 2015 trade w/ STL 2017
11 Juan Hillman LHP 19 Rookie 2015 Draft, 2nd Round (59) 2019
15 Adam Plutko RHP 24 AA 2013 Draft, 11th Round (321) 2016
16 Shawn Morimando LHP 23 AA 2011 Draft, 19th Round (578) 2016
25 Dylan Baker RHP 24 n/a 2012 Draft, 5th Round (173) 2018
26 Luis Lugo LHP 22 A+ Signed 2/18/11 (Venezuela) 2017
27 Ryan Merritt LHP 24 AAA 2014 Draft, 16th Round (488) 2016
29 Casey Shane RHP 20 A 2013 Draft, 6th Round (171) 2019
30 Mitch Brown RHP 22 A+ 2012 Draft, 2nd Round (79) 2017

*acccording to MLB Pipeline.

One of the Indians' big focuses last year in the draft was pitching, and it shows in their top prospects. Top overall pitching prospect Brady Aiken was the team's first draft pick in 2015, even though he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and they knew he would not be ready to start the 2016 season. He has spent this season pitching in extended spring training, and he will most likely start the season with the Short-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers in June. Until then, all Indians fans can do is wait and salivate patiently at the thought of a former first-overall draft pick being taken at No. 17 overall.

Two other pitchers taken early last year -- Triston McKenzie in the supplemental round and Juan Hillman in the second round -- have impressed scouts so far in their early careers. Both are currently pitching in extended spring training, as well, and McKenzie is expected to start with Mahoning Valley along with Aiken next month.

It is not all recent draft picks and teenagers filling out the ranks of the Indians top pitching prospects, either. Mike Clevinger is set to make his MLB debut tomorrow (although how long he sticks in the majors this time around remains to be seen), while other pitchers like Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, and even Shawn Morimando have at least an outside shot at making the rotation some point this season, if not in 2017.

The only pitcher on this list acquired via trade -- Rob Kaminsky -- has had some trouble adjusting to Eastern League pitching with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. So far in 2016 he has a 4.75 ERA and a 4.62. Most troubling, his curveball -- which was at one point thought to be tops in the minors -- is not as effective as it was a year ago. He was recently placed on the disabled list.

Other notable starting pitchers

Player Handedness Age Level
Will Roberts RHP 25 AAA
Toru Murata RHP 30 AAA
Michael Peoples RHP 24 AA
D.J. Brown RHP 25 AA
Julian Merryweather RHP 24 A+
Sean Brady LHP 21 A+
Thomas Pannone LHP 22 A
Matt Esparza RHP 21 A
Sam Hentges LHP 19 A

It is probably too late in Toru Murata's career to call him a "prospect," but he did make his debut in the bullpen last year for the Tribe, and he has been pretty good for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers this season.

Down in High-A, Julian Merryweather has been dominating along with fellow Hillcat Justus Sheffield. Merryweather was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2014, and he worked hs way through Low-A as a starter before being shifted to a reliever in Class-A last season. This season, now in High-A, he has started seven games and allowed just three earned runs in 42.2 innings.

Overall outlook

Looking at their top pitching prospects, the Indians have a good mix of top future talent, as well as players who could make an impact in the next year or two. There is also a good balance of lefty and righty potential. TINSTAPP and all that apply, so the Indians could still choose a pitcher or two and no one would bat an eye. However, it likely will not be a focus going in with so many talented prospects ready to burst onto the scene already in the system.