If you're not familiar with Cleveland Indians right-handed pitching prospect Adam Plutko, you're quickly running out of time.
The 24-year old UCLA product has been Mr. Consistent during his three year stint in the Tribe farm system, advancing at least one level every season and most recently being promoted to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers on June 16th.
Plutko was the lesser known commodity in a killer UCLA rotation which featured Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole. But after Cole and Bauer were drafted in 2012, he became the team's ace, leading the Bruins to the 2013 College World Series Championship and being named CWS Most Outstanding Player in the process.
The No. 9-ranked prospect spoke with Let's Go Tribe about pitching superstitions, Game of Thrones and predictive analytics in this exclusive interview.
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Brian Hemminger (Let's Go Tribe): Is it common for people to screw up your name? On paper, it doesn't seem difficult but I've seen you accidentally autocorrected to Pluto and most recently your big Columbus Dispach debut named you Adam Flutko.
Adam Plutko: Yeah, I guess. I don't know if people think I'm a planet or I don't even know where the "F" comes from. Maybe they don't like me very much. (laughs) Most of the time, it's a pronunciation thing. People pronounce it "Plootko" when it's more like a soft "E," sounding like "Pletko." Usually Pluto has been the worst until Flutko last week.
Brian Hemminger: You're a big fan of Game of Thrones and you recently started your wife on it. How's that going?
Adam Plutko: I've been a big fan of it ever since the show came out and I was catching my wife up. She's on like the last season episode eight out of 10 so she's almost there. I really enjoyed this past season. It was really well-written. The last two episodes were probably the two best episodes they've ever had so she's in store for a treat.
Brian Hemminger: Your wife Allison has been with you since early in your career at UCLA. How important has that support been for you? Not everyone in the minors has a relationship like that.
Adam Plutko: This season wears on you and having your significant other, wife, girlfriend, fiance, whatever it may be, around, it's huge. She sets up home, she tells me where we're living. Within 48 hours of getting promoted here, she already found a new apartment for us. She set up cable, electricity, utilities, it was done and I didn't have to do anything. She's a rock star and she's awesome. She makes my life so easy in-season. The moves can be tough. She moved with me from Lake County to Carolina in 2014 and then from Lynchburg to Akron last year but she was pretty happy with this one being just a two hour drive.
Brian Hemminger: You have an adorable German Shephard. Does he really wake you up every morning when you're home?
Adam Plutko: (laughs) Yeah, every morning. I'll be sleeping and he'll jump on me and just lay on my chest until I wake up because he's up and ready to go. After long bus rides where you get in at 4:00 am, it's not always the most welcome morning ritual at about 8:30 am, but he's great. He's huge, about 100 pounds.
Brian Hemminger: In my research, I came across a post about your "dirty gross" hat when you were pitching at UCLA. What's the backstory on that?
Adam Plutko: Yeah (laughs) It just had good vibes in it. We were winning. We were just kind of a team that didn't feel like we should have been there in the first place so we felt like a bunch of dirtballs and I think it just kinda spoke to that team and who we were. We weren't flashy. We weren't showy. We just came in and got the job done all hardnosed and that was pretty much it.
Brian Hemminger: Ryan Merritt, Mike Clevinger and Shawn Morimando have all had a shot on the big league club this year. Is that something in the back of your mind knowing you could be the next one?
Adam Plutko: Sure, you could be the next one at any given time, but if you're actually focusing on that and not getting better to prepare yourself for when you do get the call, you're probably not gonna be as prepared as you should be. Yeah, you can focus on that, but to me, the focus is in the wrong spot. My focus is on trying to improve myself so I'm prepared for if and when that happens.
Brian Hemminger: Speaking of improvements, your fastball velocity has improved about 1-2 mph every year since you're been drafted and can reach up to 94 these days. What's helped spur that along?
Adam Plutko: Nobody really knows where velocity comes from in regards to hard evidence of "this is the thing that made me throw harder." I think the combination of me being stronger, I'm weighing about 20 pounds more than when I first got drafted. The weighted balls improved some things with my delivery as well as pure delivery adjustments so everything has kind of contributed to the tick up but it was something I think from the coaching staff to me, we kind of knew it was going to happen in regards to getting things right where they should be.
Brian Hemminger: When people compare you to current members of the Indians pitching staff, the most common pitcher is...
Adam Plutko: ...Josh Tomlin
Brian Hemminger: Do you like that comparison?
Adam Plutko: That's high praise. If you ask anybody about Josh Tomlin, they'll have nothing but good things to say about him. The fact that I get comps to Josh is great. I met him in Spring Training and he just wanted to help me kinda learn on a steep level. So yeah, I'll take comparisons to Josh Tomlin every day of the week.
Brian Hemminger: Are you concerned at all that there could be a logjam situation up in Cleveland in regards to starting pitching depth? Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar are all locked up into 2020 and even Tomlin still has another year on his deal after 2016.
Adam Plutko: This is a game that anything can happen at any given moment. Hence, the 19 inning game and Morimando getting called up. He was in Pawtuckett ready to make his Triple-A debut and all of a sudden I'm watching him on TV pitching against the Blue Jays 12 hours later in his big league debut. He wasn't focused on the big leagues. He was just trying to prepare himself for when that would happen and he was well-prepared and ready to take the ball for the Indians. He's smiling ear to ear when he thinks of his debut.
Brian Hemminger: Let's talk strategy. You're one of the few pitchers I know in the Tribe system that's not afraid to induce fly balls. Many pitchers just want to get strikeouts and ground balls because fly balls can lead to home runs but you've never really had a problem with that. What's been the key to your success in that department?
Adam Plutko: I think a lot of that has to play with deception. I can't sit here and say I'm trying to get all fly balls because I'm not. Ground balls can be really valuable just like a pop-up to the shortstop can be valuable. It has a lot to do with fastball metrics. Just kinda how the fastball plays as far as what the metrics play, leans towards me being more of a flyball pitcher like Marko Estrada or someone like that. Yeah, I get some flyball outs, but I'm not trying to always do that. It's just something that's just kinda happened and followed me throughout my career.
Brian Hemminger: Speaking of pitching metrics, what are your thoughts on modern projection systems?
Adam Plutko: I don't like predictive analytics or metrics. I like hard "what works?" complete, full metrics. To me, predictive analytics like WAR, it's really just a guess. Sure, you can call it probability if you want, but what's another term for probability? It's guessing. I think if you ask people, 'Can a guy who throws 90-93 pitch up in the zone and get outs?' the probability that I can pitch up in the zone and get outs is no. I've made it to here and I'm trying to continue my success, but right there, that's predictive analytics saying that's not supposed to work.
Brian Hemminger: Let's talk about your approach. Some guys when it's their day to pitch, they're an evil bastard, some are more loosey goosey. What's your approach on the days you have a start?
Adam Plutko: I fall somewhere in between. I like to stay loose before the game because it kind of makes the time go quicker. I've been uptight before games in the past and it just seems like the day just drags on. Every time you look at the clock, only two minutes have gone by so I just try to play some cards and try to let the time pass but the second it's game time, I'm just trying to get with the catchers here, see what they're seeing and work together to go about what gameplan is gonna be best for these hitters.
Brian Hemminger: You're four starts in, doing great so far for Columbus. What are your expectations for the remainder of 2016?
Adam Plutko: My expectations are just to continue to get better just in case that time happens and I'm prepared to win a ballgame for the Cleveland Indians in whatever way I possibly can. That's not an easy thing to do on an every day basis. You always hear the cliche that you're just trying to take it one game at a time and work on it day to day, whatever the case may be, but if you really try to follow that approach, it's something that's really hard to do and not worry about what's coming. My goal is to just be as consistent as I possibly can.
Brian Hemminger: Any shoutouts?
Adam Plutko: The people who are in tight with me know who they are. Everyone who's followed my career, I really appreciate them caring about me. As far as shoutouts to one individual, there's just too many along the way that have helped me get to where I'm at.
You can follow Adam on Twitter @Papaplut23