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After a Rough Debut, Merryweather Is Getting Locked In on the Mound

After a Rough Debut, Merryweather Is Getting Locked In on the Mound

| On 12, Jul 2016

As we’ve seen all throughout baseball, the middle of the season is the time for transition. There comes a time when the guys that were signed to minor league deals end up getting released, or maybe a player whose team thought they’d be a big contributor hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Usually it’s just a case of a prospect doing well and has deserved a promotion to the next level, and that’s what we’re seeing with Julian Merryweather in Double-A Akron.

In the 2014 draft, Merryweather was taken by the Tribe in the fifth round out of Oklahoma Baptist University. He started 13 games for short-season Mahoning Valley during that year. In his short stint there, Merryweather had a record of 1-2 and an ERA of 3.66. He kept runners to a .260 average, and struck out 35 to 13 walks.

In 2015, Merryweather started the season with High-A Lake County.  During his 21 games there, he started only four of them and struggled throughout the season. Bad luck struck Merryweather as well as he found himself on the disabled list on two separate occasions throughout the season. He was only able to pitch in 70 2/3 innings, but could never find any comfort throughout the season. Batters were hitting at a .299 average, but he was still able to strike out 69 batters to 12 walks.

Despite struggling through 2015, Merryweather was assigned to High-A Lynchburg at the beginning of the 2016 season, and now teams are seeing what can actually be expected out of Merryweather. In eleven starts for the Hillcats, Merryweather posted a record of 8-2 with an ERA of 1.03. In this span, he struck out 58 batters while only walking 15. While only averaging five and two-thirds innings per start, Merryweather was obviously effective during his time in High-A. For a college arm, you expect this type of progression from a pitcher, hence why he has been somewhat fast-tracked through the minors.

At age 24, Merryweather was bumped up to Double-A Akron at the end of June. He’s only appeared in three games thus far, but it seems like he’s still trying to find his groove with the RubberDucks. So far in his three starts, he’s only been able to make it through 15 innings, which is actually quite impressive with his posted ERA of 7.80 in those outings. He’s been getting shelled early, but his most recent start has showed promise for the right-hander.

After giving up nine runs in his first outing, Merryweather has only given up two earned runs per start in his last two starts. When he faced off against the Altoona Curve on July 6, Merryweather went six innings while giving up eight hits and four runs (two earned runs) while only walking one to his three strikeouts. In his previous start, Merryweather walked six batters on the night, but still minimized the damage.

After getting bombed like he had in his Double-A debut, Merryweather had to make adjustments on the mound to the hitters, and it showed against the Curve.

“I think they’ve been more mental adjustments for me,” Merryweather explained following the game. “Just trying to do the same thing I was doing in High-A. Attacking the hitters, and not giving them too much credit. Not buying into the fact that they might be a little better, whether they are or not. It’s all about going out there and making the same pitches I was making earlier this year.”

As a big groundball pitcher, the RubberDucks defense has been a huge benefit on Merryweather. On the year, 22.1% of his outs have been via the groundball. Knowing this, Merryweather has to be able to trust his defense in order to be successful, and it’s shown in his short amount of time in Double-A.

“I’ve seen almost all of these guys play before, and I know what they’re capable of,” Merryweather said. “The last thing that I worry about is my defense. I know they’re going to go out there and make the plays, and even more.”

When a pitcher is able to make this type of adjustment in such a short amount of time, it sticks out and shows his character. In a system that is so deep in pitching like the Indians are, a pitcher needs to be able to do whatever he can to make himself known, and it starts with his manager. Dave Wallace was most certainly impressed with how Merryweather has handled himself since his debut.

“It says a lot about him, and has a lot of confidence in himself, as it should,” Wallace said after Merryweather’s last start and first Double-A win about his outing against the Curve. “He believes in himself, believes in his stuff, and his work ethic. All good signs that are going to pay off for him.”

It’s going to take some adjusting, but Merryweather could be something special. If he can control the zone as he has thus far in 2016, then it could be the beginning of another quality arm in development in the Indians system.

Photo (Merryweather earlier in 2016 while at Lynchburg): Joy R Absalon/Milb.com