The current Cleveland Indians rotation houses six pitchers who can be downright dominant when they’re pitching on all cylinders. At the head of the pack are Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Kluber won the 2014 Cy Young award while Carrasco is looking like a future Cy Young candidate himself.
In the middle are young arms Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger. Salazar has an incredibly live arm, but his inconsistency just had him demoted to the bullpen, while Bauer is slowly putting things together and Clevinger looks ready to become a full-time member of the rotation after several strong starts already this year.
And don’t forget about veteran Josh Tomlin, who just tossed a complete game two days ago thanks to impressive command which makes up for his lack of “swing and miss” stuff.
All six players lost their rookie status with the Indians, and everyone but Tomlin is under team control until at least 2020 thanks in part to either lengthy rookie contracts or modest extensions.
The Cleveland front office is a group that knows its young pitching, and they could have more of it coming right down the pipeline.
MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect pitchers
|3||Triston McKenzie||RHP||19||A+||2015 Draft, CBA (42)||2019|
|5||Brady Aiken||LHP||19||A||2015 Draft, 1st Round (17)||2019|
|12||Juan Hillman||LHP||20||A||2015 Draft, 2nd Round (59)||2019|
|14||Rob Kaminsky||LHP||22||AA||2015 trade w/ STL||2017|
|15||Adam Plutko||RHP||25||AAA||2013 Draft, 11th Round (321)||2017|
|16||Shane Bieber||RHP||21||A+||2016 Draft, 4th Round (122)||2019|
|17||Shawn Morimando||LHP||24||AAA||2011 Draft, 19th Round (578)||2017|
|21||Aaron Civale||RHP||21||A+||2016 Draft, 3rd Round (92)||2019|
|23||Ryan Merritt||LHP||25||AAA||2011 Draft, 16th Round (488)||2017|
|25||Julian Merryweather||RHP||25||AAA||2014 Draft, 5th Round (158)||2018|
|27||Micah Miniard||RHP||21||A||2014 Draft, 8th Round (248)||2020|
*acccording to MLB Pipeline.
One of the Indians' big focuses in the last couple draft was pitching, and it shows in their top prospects. Top overall pitching prospect Triston McKenzie was the team's second draft pick in 2015 — a compensatory first-round selection — and he looks like he could be a future ace. Bleacher Report recently listed him as the number one Cleveland Indians prospect and the #27 overall prospect in all of baseball. Look for him to continue to skyrocket up the rankings as he whiffs advanced hitters are seemingly unsustainable rates.
The other 2015 top picks, Brady Aiken and Juan Hillman, taken in the first and second round, respectively, are struggling a bit and still adjusting to their first taste of full-season ball. But it would definitely be a panic move to give up on young arms this early in their development.
Thankfully, 2016’s third- and fourth-round picks, college arms Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber, are blossoming. Bieber has walked just one batter all season, earning a promotion to High-A Lynchburg already, while Civale has been the ace of the Single-A Lake County rotation thus far and was promoted to High-A yesterday.
It is not all recent draft picks and teenagers filling out the ranks of the Indians top pitching prospects, either. A quintuplet of older arms are currently sitting in Triple-A with Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, Shawn Morimando and recently promoted Julian Merryweather all capable of giving the Indians a spot start should their number get called upon.
Other notable starting pitcher prospects
Most notable among the players listed are Luis Lugo, Thomas Pannone, and Matt Esparza. Lugo is a former top 30 prospect who appears to have found a second wind after being promoted to Double-A. The 23-year old southpaw is currently sporting a 3.20 ERA through nine starts for Akron.
Pannone has been a revelation this year. After leading all Indians full-season pitchers in ERA last season, Pannone has only given up an earned run in one of his eight starts this year, striking out 53 batters in 45 innings while walking just 14.
Esparza has also stood out in High-A Lynchburg and has four quality starts under his belt already this year, earning a promotion to Double-A Akron yesterday.
Taiwanese sinker-baller Shao-Ching Chiang is also having a breakout season for Lynchburg, pitching deep into games and forcing weak contact whenever possible.
One pitcher in particular to keep an eye on is Francisco Perez, a 19-year old flamethrowing left-hander who won “Pitcher of the Year” in the Arizona Rookie League last year and is expected to begin 2017 in Low-A Mahoning Valley.
Looking at their top pitching prospects, the Indians only look like they have one player who could be a potential ace in McKenzie, but that’s okay. They make up for it with a bevy of depth pitchers, at least 10 or more with serious middle to back-end rotation possibilities. Three starters in the system have already pitched for the Tribe at some point last year and I’m expecting a few more to make spot appearances in 2017 should the need arise. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to draft more advanced arms, and without a first round pick in 2017, the Indians will need to do their best to find those diamonds in the rough this year.