From the time he was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft to making his major league debut tonight, Shane Bieber has been a part of the Cleveland Indians organization for less than two years.
It’s not often a player can strap a rocket to themselves and shoot through the minor league system like Bieber, but a consistent approach and steady, impressive results have helped dramatically.
Bieber was drafted June 10, 2016 out of UC Santa Barbara. Here’s what then-Indians director of amateur scouting Brad Grant had to say about him at the time:
He’s another guy that has an advanced feel to pitch. He really commands the fastball extremely well, and he’s another guy who throws a ton of strikes.
Understatement of the year.
Bieber debuted at Low-A Mahoning Valley July 22, 2016. He was a little nervous, giving up one run on two hits with two wild pitches in two innings of work. That would be the only earned run he gave up all season.
The right-hander wasn’t allowed to pitch more than three innings in any appearance his debut season because he had been part of the UC Santa Barbara rotation that made a trip to the College World Series and the Indians didn’t want to overuse him. All in all, he only pitched 24.0 innings in 2016 in nine appearances (eight starts).
If you’re looking for a reason why he was overlooked on scouting reports heading into the 2017 season, that is probably it.
That being said, his numbers that season were freaking ridiculous. Bieber held an ERA of 0.38 in those 24.0 innings. He allowed two runs (one earned), 10 hits, walked two and struck out 21 batters.
Bieber debuted at Single-A Lake County to start the 2017 season. He wasn’t there long. In five starts, he walked just one batter while striking out 31 in 29.0 innings, earning a promotion to High-A Lynchburg.
In his Lynchburg debut on May 7, 2017, Bieber tossed six innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven and (duh) walking zero.
Bieber spent the majority of his season with the Hillcats, logging 90 innings in 14 starts, holding a 3.10 ERA while striking out 82 batters and walking four (two of them intentionally).
He would earn his second promotion of the season in July, debuting with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks on July 25, 2017. In his debut, he was sensational, tossing 6.2 shutout innings on five hits while striking out five and (OMG!) walking one.
He would finish the 2017 season with Akron, tallying nine starts and holding a 2.32 ERA while striking out 49 batters in 54.1 innings.
An interesting takeaway for Bieber’s 2017 season was the fact that, while he wasn’t walking anyone, he was getting hit. His WHIP for the season was 1.13 because he allowed 185 hits in 173.1 innings of work.
The control master would solve that problem this season.
Bieber began his 2018 campaign with Akron, impressively not allowing a run in his first three starts of the season while striking out 23 hitters in his first 20.0 innings and not walking anyone.
He earned a rapid promotion to Triple-A, debuting for the Columbus Clippers on May 3rd and allowing just one run in 6.0 innings. He must have been nervous because he walked two batters while striking out four and allowing seven hits.
He hasn’t walked a batter since.
Through five starts with Columbus, Bieber holds a 1.05 ERA. He’s struck out 31 batters and walked just the first two in his 34.1 innings of work while giving up four runs on 17 hits. His 2018 season culminated with an incredible seven-inning rain-shortened no-hitter in his last start where he struck out seven batters and the only baserunner to reach was on an error (and he was then promptly picked off by Bieber.)
His WHIP in Triple-A is just 0.55, down significantly from last year and he’s now earned his first spot start with the Cleveland Indians.
Bieber’s worst ERA at any level was 3.10 at both Single-A and High-A. His most walks at any level in the past two years was five with Double-A Akron in 2017. In his minor league career thus far, he’s struck out 244 batters while walking just 15 (two intentionally).