clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB Draft 2017: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher system depth

New, comments

We continue our MLB Draft 2017 coverage with a look at the depth of starting pitchers in the Indians farm system. 

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

#* Player Handedness Age Level Acquired ETA*
#* Player Handedness Age Level Acquired ETA*
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

Player Handedness Age Level
Player Handedness Age Level
Michael Peoples RHP 25 AAA
Thomas Pannone LHP 23 AA
Luis Lugo LHP 23 AA
Nick Pasquale RHP 26 AA
Sean Brady LHP 22 A+
Shao-Ching Chiang RHP 23 A+
Matt Esparza RHP 22 AA
Brock Hartson RHP 23 A+
Justin Garza RHP 23 A
Tanner Tully LHP 22 A
Sam Hentges LHP 20 A
Francisco Perez LHP 19 A-

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.

Overall outlook

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.