Posts By Danny Madden
Throughout the playoffs thus far, there’s been a lot of talk in regards to how the Indians pitching staff may not be strong enough to make it through to the World Series. While this could potentially be true, there’s a key component of this Indians team that could propel them through all of the injuries, and that would be their bullpen.
Coming into the season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the pen as a whole. In 2015, it was pretty clear that manager Terry Francona loved to rely on his two guys – closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw. Allen, appeared in 70 games in 2015 and threw in 69 1/3 innings. Shaw, on the other hand, appeared in 74 games and threw 64 innings.
These two were the anchors of a pen that was fairly questionable through most of the 2015 season. Like most seasons, Tito made a relatively unknown guy amazing in Jeff Manship, just as he had done to Scott Atchison in 2014. Along with them, there was Zach McAllister, Kyle Crockett, and even Trevor Bauer at the end of the season. From time to time we did see guys in the likes of Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, and Giovanni Soto.
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.
It’s not easy being thrown into a role and being asked to perform right away. It takes time. You need to get the feel for the everyday grind instead of just going out there once every two or three days. There are guys out there that can’t make that transition. Sometimes those guys are just meant to be backup depth players. Other times, these players will take the opportunity by the horns and run with it and never look back.
This is how Joe Sever has been handling his everyday duties at Akron this year.
Sever was drafted by the Tribe back in 2012 in the 21st round. The nephew of former NFL quarterback John Elway, Sever has spent parts of five seasons in the Tribe’s minor league system.
It can be seen time and time again with players trying to find their place on a team. Sometimes you’re moved around the diamond until you find your home; for others it’s moving around in your spot in the lineup to find out where you’re the most comfortable.
Sometimes, you get a little of both. For Todd Hankins, he’s experienced both position changes and lineup mix ups during his time at Akron. It looks like now though that he’s finally found his home, and some comfort, at the plate.
Hankins has been a member of the Cleveland organization for quite some time now. After being drafted by the Tribe in 2011, Hankins is now in his sixth season for the Indians. He began his pro career at the age of 20 where he played 65 games with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. During that span, he hit .246/.318/.354 with four home runs, ten doubles, three triples, and drove in 43 runs. He also swiped 14 bags.
The Indians have bolstered their depth in the minors over the last few drafts. Their drafting abilities have produced some exciting results over the last few seasons. Cleveland has seen that in some players that have been promoted over the last season in the likes of Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin. In 2013, the Indians drafted a young man straight out of high school, Clint Frazier, someone who has really bolstered his prospect value over the last two seasons.
Frazier, a Georgia native, was drafted by the Tribe in the first round of the 2013 draft. Drafted at the age of 18, Frazier brought a lot of promise with his fast bat speed and high power output. He broke into the Indians minor league system in 2014 when he spent 120 games with the Low-A Lake County Captains. In his season there, he hit .266/.349/.411 with 13 home runs, 18 doubles, six triples, 12 stolen bases, and knocked in 50 RBI.
Confidence is key.
In order to find any type of success at whatever level you’re performing at, whether it be in the Majors or the minors, you need to have confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, then the other team is going to notice and take advantage. Without confidence in yourself, you’re never going to make it. Fortunately, Indians fans are lucky enough to be seeing a new found confidence in Double-A RubberDucks’ first baseman Nellie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 21, was initially drafted by the Indians in the 15th round of the 2012 draft. After 32 games at the Arizona rookie league in 2012, Rodriguez started 2013 at Class-A Lake County before moving back to short season Mahoning Valley. He spent 47 games with the Captains and struggled at the plate, hitting .194/.305/.256 with one home run. He was better with the Scrappers, hitting .287/.366/.452 in 73 games with nine home runs.
The rotation in Cleveland has been through its troubles and tribulations over the last few weeks. The Indians have seen the promotion of Mike Clevinger in lieu of a struggling Cody Anderson. They have also seen Trevor Bauer do Bauer-like things in the rotation as well, which can be either good or bad depending on who you’re talking to.
While the Indians have worked their way into first place in the AL Central, and deservedly so, they’re close to getting a huge boost back in their rotation as their number two guy, Carlos Carrasco, inches his way back to Cleveland.
Carrasco suffered a left hamstring injury on Sunday, April 24, during the series in Detroit. He’s spent the last few weeks on the disabled list trying to work his way back to Cleveland. Since then, he’s participated in two simulated games with the Low-A Lake County Captains. On Saturday, he was able to make his first rehab appearance with the Double-A RubberDucks.
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.
If there is any area where the depth is lacking in the Indians system, it’s definitely in the catching department. Luckily, the Indians have been blessed to have two outstanding catchers in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. While there is little to no young talent in Columbus, Akron has a pair of two very interesting catchers at their disposal. One of those guys that’s been standing out this season is Jeremy Lucas.
Lucas, 25, was drafted by the Tribe in the 12th round of the 2012 draft. He went to Indiana State University out of high school. He made his debut in 2012 with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. In 29 games, Lucas hit .250/.364/.386 with two home runs, six doubles, eight RBI and struck out 14 times against 16 walks. He’s been well known as a good on-base kind of guy, and he certainly kept that up through most of the minors.
The future outfield for the Cleveland Indians looks fun.
While the current outfield consists of All-Star Michael Brantley, it also is made up of veterans Rajai Davis and Marlon Byrd, along with former first round infielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Byrd and Davis are obviously not going to be here long term, and Chisenhall is a place holder until the big bats of Double-A Akron can reach the big leagues. One of those big bats for Cleveland is current Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer.
Not every pitcher is going to have a blow-it-by-you fastball. We’ve seen in the past that having an electric fastball doesn’t always make you an outstanding pitcher. Sure, it helps out a ton, but you don’t need it. What every pitcher aims to achieve is to have control and sustainability. I introduce to you right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko, otherwise known as Josh Tomlin 2.0.
Plutko, 24, was drafted by the Tribe in the eleventh round of the 2013 draft. The UCLA product has been one of the most reliable arms in the Indians farm system since arriving. He made his debut with the club in 2014 at Low-A where he started in ten games and posted a record of 3-1 and an ERA of 3.93. In 52 2/3 innings, he racked up 66 strikeouts to 12 walks. Again, control is his game through and through.
In the midst of a dwindling season, the Indians were holding on to one of their outfielders, who wasn’t exactly needed on the team anymore. In order to capitalize on value, and trade an asset when there was an offer available, the Indians front office jumped on the opportunity. That is how the Indians came to acquire infielder Eric Stamets from the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder David Murphy.
Stamets, 24, was initially drafted by the Angels back in the sixth round of the 2012 amateur draft. He made his debut with the Angels Low-A affiliate in 2012 where he played in 62 games and hit .274/.323/.347. In those games, he had 20 RBI, 13 doubles, one triple, one home run, and seven stolen bases. He then followed up his solid debut season with an even better 2013 at High-A Inland Empire where he hit .281/.335/.375 and had 53 RBI, 28 doubles, four triples, four home runs, and 16 stolen bases in 126 games.
Unfortunately, his offense never seemed to blossom after that season.