Lefty Merritt Merits Attention
Laurel Wilder | On 26, Feb 2015
It’s understood that the Indians need a right-handed power bat. But, like any want or need, it can’t be the only thing on the list. Batters aside, what else do the Indians need to bolster their organization?
A left-handed pitching prospect, you say?
Oh, don’t worry. They have that.
His name is Ryan Merritt, and the 23 year-old is making leaps and bounds toward becoming a household name for Indians fans.
Merritt, who spent 2014 with the Carolina Mudcats, was recently awarded the Bob Feller award from the Indians organization, which is given annually to the top pitcher in the Tribe’s farm system. Last season, Merritt went 13-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 26 starts, and led all Carolina league pitchers with 160.1 innings pitched. He struck out 127 batters and led the Tribes entire minor league system with his ERA.
More impressive than his numbers may be the fact that last season was only Merritt’s second full professional season. Merritt was a 16th round draft pick in 2011 out of McLennan Community College and pitched in four games that year with the Arizona League Indians, followed by only 14 games with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2012. Fans got their first real taste of Merritt in 2013 with the Lake County Captains, where he pitched in 24 games before receiving an end-of-season promotion to the Mudcats for two appearances. Merritt posted a 6-9 record in Lake County and a 3.42 ERA in 126 ⅓ innings. He struck out 91 batters in Eastlake.
Merritt was selected – and started – for the 2014 Carolina-California All-Star game last season and was selected as a Pitcher of the Week for the Carolina League during the week of June 23, 2014, and was also selected as a Tribe Minor League Player of the Week early in May. Merritt was a Minor League Player of the Week for the Indians in May of 2013, as well.
Clearly, Merritt is no stranger to this recognition. He had the opportunity last season to work with Manager Scooter Tucker and Pitching Coach Steve Karsay for the second year in a row, which enabled him more time to develop with those who knew his tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and overall abilities on the mound. Did The Tribe Win Last Night quoted Karsay in May:
“He is doing very well,” Karsay said. “Obviously the numbers show what he is capable of doing. He is a guy I have had before, so I have seen growth. He has done a great job lifting in the offseason, things people don’t see. He needs to work on his direction. He needs to make sure he has consistent arm slot on his pitches. He certainly has the stuff and work ethic to go very far.”
Merritt credited much of his early success with the Indians organization to increased confidence and experience with professional hitters. In 2013, Merritt admitted that he didn’t know what to expect upon being drafted, but, once he pitched a bit in Arizona and Mahoning Valley, he learned more about the atmosphere of professional baseball. He said having that experience behind him gave him more confidence heading into higher levels of the game.
As Merritt’s journey through the Indians’ system continues, it’s clear that his confidence has remained unshaken. He will likely start the season with the Akron Rubberducks, though, should his performance continue to make impressive strides, there is a good chance he could end the season a little bit higher on the totem pole. Merritt was added to the Indians 40-man roster in November and was also in Cleveland in late January as part of the Tribe’s Winter Development Program. He is currently one of five southpaws on the 40-man.
The Indians have many of the pieces they need making their way through the system. Though it’s unlikely Merritt will find his way to the big league stage this season, he is one of the young pitchers ready to make his mark on the organization.