Fifth Rounder Merryweather Impresses Early With the Scrappers
Danny Madden | On 27, Jun 2014
The First Year Player Draft every June is a fun time for each and every ball club. Each team gets the opportunity to bring in fresh new faces that are eager to get their professional baseball careers started. The Indians were fortunate enough to have plenty of picks on the first day of the draft, but beyond their first two rounds they were able to grab some quality players at a much lower risk. One of the guys the Indians should be excited about is right-handed pitcher Julian Merryweather.
Merryweather, 22, was drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the 2014 First Year Player Draft. He pitched for Oklahoma Baptist University this past year. In his senior year, he went 12-3 with a 1.07 ERA while striking out 132. He was then named to the 2014 NAIA Baseball All-American team. Before he began his time with OBU, he spent some time in junior college right out of high school. In his time at junior college, it would have seemed that Merryweather’s dreams of becoming a professional baseball player may be something of the past.
“I started at junior college for two years. Didn’t see a lot of success, faced a lot of adversity,” Merryweather said. “In my sophomore year in heading out of junior college I went 0-8 with like a six something ERA. Oklahoma was my only option out of junior college so it just worked out great…It made me stronger for sure.”
After he moved on from junior college, he attended OBU where he continued playing baseball, while also trying to keep up with his academics. Some players tend to go straight to the draft right out of high school. That was not the case for Merryweather though, a professional baseball career was not an option for him quite yet.
“I wasn’t the same pitcher that I am today,” Merryweather said. “I didn’t have what it took to get drafted. My senior year was when it really took off for me.”
Obviously his career did a complete 180 as he had much success in his senior year at OBU, and earned him the opportunity to be drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the draft.
“Going top five, that was a dream come true for me. I never could have thought that would happen,” Merryweather said.
After he signed with the Tribe, Merryweather made his professional baseball debut for Short Season-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers during their home opener in June 17. In his first outing he came out in a relief appearance where he went two innings and surrendered one walk while not giving up a hit or generating a strike out.
“He looks like he has a real power arm and a real good feel for his changeup,” pitching coach Greg Hibbard said. “It’s hard to get a feel for him after a one outing experience. There’s probably some adrenaline going on.”
He held his own for his first time out. He features a fastball, changeup and curve. In his first trip with the Scrappers, he hopes to work on these three pitches, but eventually he could add another pitch such as a slider.
In his second outing of the season, he started for the Scrappers instead of coming out of the pen. During this outing, he went three innings, and did not give up a hit or a walk but he did get his first two strike outs. When the Indians drafted Merryweather, they drafted him with the intention of him being a starter. Making a relief appearance isn’t something that Merryweather objects to though.
“That may have been my third relief appearance ever. I’ve always been a starter. I definitely enjoyed it though,” Merryweather said. “I like coming into the game and letting it out for a few innings. I would definitely say I’m more comfortable as a starter.”
The one aspect of Merryweather that has been extremely encouraging early is his command. His coaches have already taken notice of how he really controls and pounds the zone.
“I thought once he got a feel for his delivery and he commanded the bottom of the zone he threw that well. He threw some really good change ups,” Hibbard adds. “He didn’t get many offers on his changeup tonight, but he was commanded it down in the zone with consistency. He threw the ball well.”
As a pitcher develops in during their career, they tend to get categorized into a certain type of pitcher. Whether that’s a fly ball pitcher, ground ball, strike out, etc. For Merryweather though, he’s more interested in just getting an out in any way he can.
“Honestly, I’d rather just be a guy who can control all three pitches. That comes first. If that leads to strike outs or ground balls, doesn’t matter as long as I’m getting them out,” Merryweather said.
Now that he’s gotten his first couple of inning nerves out of the way, Merryweather looks to build off of his success thus far. Even though he’s only been in the minor leagues for two weeks now, it seems like he’s already found comfort with his newfound team. The future is bright for this young pitcher, and the Scrappers are going to enjoy watching him develop as this season rolls along.