Last season, Shawn Armstrong came in at No. 16 on the LGT "Top Prospects of 2016" list; this year, he beat out Shawn Morimando, Adam Plutko, and Nellie Rodriguez to take the No. 15 spot on the 2017 list.
After pitching 49.2 innings in AAA in 2015 and posting a 2.36 ERA (1.63 FIP), he picked up where he left off and dominated AAA hitters in 2016 as well. In 49.0 innings, Armstrong allowed just 27 hits and struck out 72 batters with a healthy mix of a mid-90s fastball, a nasty cutter/slider, and a precision curveball. While he's dominated hitters at every level thus far, he also tends to walk a ton of hitters (his BB/9 rate in 2016 was 5.33). So while he doesn't give up many hits, he does tend to have traffic on the bases, which could be an issue once he's in the majors.
Armstrong didn't just pitch in Columbus last year; he also had a few brief stints in Cleveland throughout the season. Overall, in 10.2 innings of work at the major league level, Armstrong struck out 7, walked 5, and gave up 3 earned runs, good for an ERA of 2.53 and an xFIP of 4.80. His longest outing came on September 27, where he threw 2.0 innings against Detroit and allowed 0 runs and gave up no hits (oddly enough, he also struck no one out).
Shawn Armstrong will be in Arizona for Spring Training in a month or so, and it's highly likely that he will break camp with the Indians as a member of the bullpen. If he can get the walks under control, he could be a valuable bridge between the middle relief pitchers and the backend three-headed monster that is Shaw-Miller-Allen.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 16 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
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%
2016 third round draft pick, a power arm transitioning from the relief role to starting. His innings were limited in his pro debut due to the college 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.
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.
Mark Mathias, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A+): 490 PA, 5 HR, 9 SB, .274/.359/.405, 115 wRC+
2016 (AA): 16 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .067/.125/.133, -35 wRC+
2015 third-round pick skipped Single-A Lake County and had an expected slow start to 2016, but finished with 40 doubles and improved every month. Played third base when Krieger was promoted.
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.
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
Gabriel Mejia, OF (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 293 PA, 0 HR, 28 SB, .322/.378/.375, 129 wRC+
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2013. Has yet to hit a home run in his professional career, but continues to be a threat on bases after swiping 28 bags in 2016 (second best in New York-Penn Leagu). First season where he struck out significantly more than he walked
Shane Bieber, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 24.0 IP, 0.38 ERA, 1.90 FIP, 24.7 K%, 2.4 BB%
2016 fourth round draft pick, solid pitch repertoire and excellent command (similar to Josh Tomlin) make him an intriguing prospect. Fastball sits in the low 90s paired with a slider and changeup. Could find himself in Lake County in 2017 as a 22 year old.