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Shawn Morimando: The Master of Avoiding the Big Inning

Shawn Morimando: The Master of Avoiding the Big Inning

| On 24, May 2016

The Indians have one of the deepest pools of talent in the MLB when it comes to starting pitching. With a star studded rotation in Cleveland, even they have been hit with injuries this year that have affected how the minor league rotations have shaken out. This is why the team has to be happy to have such great talent in starting pitching at almost every level of their minors. One of the guys that the team is high on is lefty Shawn Morimando.

The left-hander was drafted by the Indians in the 19th round of the 2011 draft. Morimando was drafted straight out of high school prior to joining the Indians. He made his debut with the club in the Arizona Rookie League at the age of 18. While only appearing in three games in the rookie league, it was impressive enough that he was able to make it into those games and not let nerves get to him. He pitched a total of six innings and held an ERA of 3.00. He allowed two earned runs (three total) on two walks and five hits while striking out eight.

His first trip out of the rookie league was to Low-A Lake County in 2012. During that season, he pitched in 22 games and held an ERA of 4.16. In 110 1/3 innings, he struck out 69 batters to the 52 that he walked. For Morimando, his command has always been an issue, and his walk rate continued to steadily increase as time has gone on.

Over the next three seasons, Morimando went up a level almost every year. In 2013, he spent his whole season at High-A Carolina where he had an ERA of 3.73 in 27 games. He followed that up with an even better showing in 2014 where he had an ERA of 3.00 in 18 starts before he was promoted to Double-A Akron, where he appeared in ten starts and had an ERA of 3.83. He then returned to Akron for the entire 2015 season. He started 28 games for the RubberDucks and went on to post an ERA of 3.18 with a record of 10-12. During his time in Akron in 2015, Morimando struck out 128 batters and walked 65 of them.

Between 2011-2015, his BB% steadily rose from 7.7% in 2011 to 9.9% in 2015. Putting men on base has always been an issue for him and it’s part of what has held Morimando back from advancing farther than Double-A. He has a strong ability for striking batters out, but his trouble comes from working off of his fastball. He has a difficulty locating it when he needs to. At the same time, Morimando has done a very good job in his career of getting out of danger when he needs to. So far in 2016, Morimando has stranded 83.6% of runners on base. His WHIP is also currently sitting at 1.09. With the amount of runners that Morimando is leaving on base, it’s hard to gauge how he would fare on a major league team.

For a young pitcher, this is an area that he needs to focus on improving at. Even though he can rack up a bunch of strikeouts, with all the traffic he’s leaving on the base paths, he’s due to get hit hard at some point. So far this season, Morimando has yet to be hit extremely hard in any game. In nine starts for the Double-A RubberDucks, he’s posting an ERA of 1.87 and a record of 8-0. He’s averaging roughly six innings per start, and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Along with that, he’s also averaging 3.74 walks per nine innings. He’s also got a GB% this season of 23.12%. Not only is he striking out a decent amount of batters, but he’s inducing a ton of groundouts, and 1.89% of those have been for double-plays.

To go along with his high ground ball rate, it’s also worth nothing that Morimando has a FIP of 3.55, which is almost two runs higher than his ERA. This really gives credit to the RubberDucks defense and how good they have been for Morimando. Like his former RubberDucks teammate Cody Anderson, Morimando has to be on a team that is ready to deal with a lot of groundballs, because that is how he is generating a lot of his outs this season. If Morimando is going to be successful in a major league situation, he has to be set up with the right defense behind him. Luckily, the defense has been an area that Indians have focused on upgrading over the last two years. Obviously Francisco Lindor is a defensive wizard at shortstop, and Jason Kipnis has gotten much better as well. As for the corner spots, while Mike Napoli is playing a very strong first base, he’s only here until the end of the season. Juan Uribe is also holding up third nicely, but he’s not a long term solution either. If the Indians hope to utilize Morimando with the big league club, they’ll also need to upgrade their defense at first base if looking past 2016.

The Indians have faith that Morimando can help them at the big league level at some point though. They added him to their 40-man roster this past winter, which was surprising to a lot of people. He is still very young, but he’s getting close to the age of where he should be ready to make it to the majors and not be withering away at Double-A.

The bullpen at the big league level is currently lacking strong lefty options. Prior to the game on Sunday, the Tribe sent LHP Kyle Crockett back to the minors and brought in flame-throwing Austin Adams. They brought up lefty Ryan Merritt, who had been working as a starter at Triple-A, from Columbus on Monday. The Indians are dying for some solid lefty to come out of the pen.

Morimando could potentially fill in that role. He has the ability to pitch a couple of innings and is already on the 40-man roster. His issue again though will stem from the amount of runners he puts on. If he can focus on limiting his base runners and just attack the zone, then he could be a good weapon to bring on for the remainder of the season. That being said, if the Indians think that Morimando could help the rotation in some fashion in the near future, then we won’t be seeing him in Cleveland anytime soon

Regardless of when he’ll be seen, Morimando will be a factor at some point, that’s for sure.

Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com