Kaminsky a Top Prospect in Tribe’s Prosperous Pitching Pipeline
Eddie Kerekes | On 22, Mar 2016
The St. Louis Cardinals were desperate. They were looking for a middle of the order bat to help their struggling offense and then veteran outfielder Matt Holliday re-injured his right quadriceps and would be out for an indeterminate amount of time.
The Cleveland Indians had such a bat in first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss. Until the July trading deadline, the team that many had predicted to contend for a championship had been under-performing, sitting seven games under .500 and six out of the second Wild Card spot. The front office knew the Tribe needed to look more toward 2016 than competing in 2015 and part of that was evaluating younger talent, which meant trading away veterans like Moss.
Because of the Cardinals’ desperation, they were willing to part with one of their top prospects, left-handed pitcher Rob Kaminsky. He was drafted in the first round (28th overall) by St. Louis in 2013 and was included on a few top 100 prospect lists heading into 2015. Kaminsky had climbed to the high-A level with the Palm Beach Cardinals at the time of the trade and was immediately ranked as the Indians’ number one pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline.
The Indians assigned Kaminsky to High-A Lynchburg, where he only made two starts until suffering a back injury. The team shut him down for the remaining two weeks, trying to be cautious with the young arm so that the injury provides no issue going forward.
Kaminsky pounds the strike zone with a low 90s sinking fastball, a good changeup, and a dazzling 12-to-6 curve, his signature pitch. He has a high baseball IQ based on his variation of speed on his pitches, and he possesses excellent control, consistently pounding the lower half of the zone. The Indians would like to see him throw the curve more, however, as he stopped throwing it as often in 2015.
A serious ground ball pitcher, Kaminsky gave up zero home runs in 104 1/3 innings in 2015 and only two in 100 2/3 innings the year prior. More than two-thirds of his outs have come on the ground. Because he attacks the zone so frequently his strike out rate is low—only 7.11 Ks per 9 in two seasons—but his walk rate is low as well (2.81 per 9). These numbers project him to be a number four starter according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, similar to T.J. House, another low strikeout pitcher.
In 2015, Kaminsky posted a 2.24 ERA in 19 starts, going 6-6 on the year. This followed a successful 2014 in A-ball, where he went 8-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. The 21-year-old currently ranks as a top ten prospect for the Tribe heading into 2016, with Baseball Prospectus putting him as high as sixth. They also have him as the Indians’ number three pitching prospect behind Brady Aiken and Justus Sheffield.
Expect the Tribe to place Kaminsky in High-A again, but also anticipate a quick call up to AA Akron if he continues to perform well. A mid-to-late 2017 call up is possible for the young lefty, especially on a team loaded with pitching.
Photo: Lee Luther Jr./The News & Advance