Ryan Merritt has had a pretty great year. He made his major-league debut, he pitched well enough in the American League Championship to propel his team to the World Series, he got every gift on his wedding registry courtesy of Cleveland Indians fans, and he got married. And now, maybe best of all, he made it in the top-12 of our top-20 Indians prospect list. Quite a year.
Ok, maybe making it onto a blog’s top prospect list isn’t better than getting married or making it to the World Series, but Merritt did beat out his closest competition, Juan Hillman, by 28 votes. So that’s cool.
Merritt, 24, only pitched 11 innings in the majors last regular season, but he was excellent in that short time with six hits allowed, six strikeouts, and no walks. That was all well and good, but Game 5 of the ALCS is where he really shined. Coming into the game with fewer than a dozen MLB innings under his belt, the lefty kept the imposing Toronto Blue Jays offense off balance all game. He finished his 4.1 innings of work allowing just two hits and striking out three opponents.
The Indians would have been in a major bind had Merritt not put up half a game’s worth of solid pitching. Trevor Bauer wasn’t going to start again in the series with his lacerated pinky bleeding all over the field, ace Corey Kluber already pitched twice in the first four games, and the bullpen was burned in Game 3 when they forced to string together 8.1 innings to get the win. Andrew Miller probably would have pitched a dozen innings in Game 5 if Terry Francona really asked him to, but thanks to Merritt he didn’t have to.
Between Triple-A and the majors, Merritt pitched only 154.1 innings last season, his fewest innings pitched since 2013. But it wasn’t for lack of availability. Merritt was brought up once in May and again in September. Both times were spent mostly sitting in the bullpen waiting for his shot; three out of his regular season appearances were in relief. He should get more of a look next season, even with the Tribe’s crowded pitching staff.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 13 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
Shawn Armstrong, RHP (Age 26)
2016 (AAA): 49.0 IP, 1.84 ERA,2.19 FIP, 35.3 K%, 14.2 BB%
2016 (MLB): 10.2 IP, 2.53 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 15.9 K%, 11.4 BB% 2011 eighteenth round pick,
Spent the bulk of his time during 2016 in AAA where he struck out seemingly everyone with his mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. Struggles with walks quite a bit, but he can blow hitters away with a couple of advanced pitches.
Willi Castro, SS (Age 19)
2016 (A): 548 PA, 7 HR, 16 SB, ..259/.286/.371, 90 wRC+
2016 (A+): 9 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .222/.222/.222, 18 wRC+
Switch-hitting short stop out of the Dominican Republic. Spent the majority of 2016 in A-ball, strikeouts spiked as did his power. Good speed on the bases, hardly walks at all.
Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 37.2 IP, 1.67 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 20.0 K%, 5.7 BB%
A power arm transitioning from the relief role to starting. His innings were limited in his pro debut due to the college 2016 season, but he should be ready to stretch out in 2017.
Matt Esparza, RHP (Age 22)
2016 (A): 100.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 27.2 K%, 5.5 BB%
2016 (A+): 39.0 IP, 3.92 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 18.8 K%, 8.2 BB%
Excelled in first full season in Indians system, struck out 12 batters in one Class-A game. Made it to High-A late in season, likely to start 2017 with Lynchburg Hillcats.
Erik Gonzalez, IF (Age 25)
2016 (AAA): 460 PA, 11 HR, 12 SB, .296/.329/.450, 122 wRC+
2016 (MLB): 17 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .313/.353/.313, 83 wRC+
Blocked at SS by Francisco Lindor and likely to be passed as a utility player by Yandy Diaz. Still a capable major-leaguer who could find a permanent home somewhere in a trade.
Juan Hillman, LHP (Age 19)
2016 (A-): 63 IP, 4.43 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 16.8 K%, 8.6 BB%
2015 second-round pick with boatloads of potential. Had a 25 inning scoreless streak last season before tiring down the stretch.
Tyler Krieger, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A): 299 PA, 3 HR, 15 SB, .313/.385/.427, 141 wRC+
2016 (A+): 257 PA, 2 HR, 6 SB, .282/.369/.405, 118 wRC+
A high-average hitter with a good amount of speed on the base paths. Doesn't strike out a lot and walks at a decent clip. Could find himself in Akron at some point in 2017.
Shawn Morimando, LHP (Age 24)
2016 (AA): 93.1 IP, 3.09 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 19.0 K%, 9.4 BB%
2016 (AAA): 59.0 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 18.2 K%, 8.3 BB%
2016 (MLB): 4.2 IP, 11.57 ERA, 9.79 FIP, 18.5 K%, 18.5 BB%
Could be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a reliever. Fastball sits in the low to mid-90s. Secondary pitches, including slider and changeup, are good compliments. Command is an issue moving forward.
Adam Plutko, RHP (Age 25)
2016 (AA): 71.2 IP, 3.27 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 22.2 K%, 4.2 BB%
2016 (AAA): 90.0 IP, 4.10 ERA,3.97 FIP, 17.7 K%, 9.0 BB%
2016 (MLB): 3.2 IP, 7.36 ERA, 6.69 FIP, 16.7 K%, 11.1 BB%
Excellent control of his four-pitch repertoire. Won't succeed on "stuff", but has good pitch selection and precision.
Nellie Rodriguez, 1B (Age 22)
2016 (AA): 579 PA, 26 HR, 1 SB, .250/.352/.474, 129 wRC+
Continued to mash as he spent a full season in Akron. Strikes out at an alarming rate, but also saw an uptick in walks last season. Drove in 85 RBI to lead the RubberDucks in 2016