Eight months ago Rob Kaminsky was beginning his second full professional season with Palm Beach in the High-A Florida State League as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Now Cleveland fans know him as the swag acquired from St. Louis for Brandon Moss at the trade deadline. With late-season injuries mounting the Cardinals dealt Kaminsky, their pre-season number five prospect, straight up for Moss, to enhance their playoff chances.
It was a surprising deal, and one likely to benefit the Tribe, as they free themselves of Moss’ $6.5 million in salary and get a pitcher back who has been close to dominant in his two full seasons in the minors.
“It was like Christmas in July.” opined Lynchburg pitching coach Rigo Beltran about the influx of pitching talent to the Hillcats roster at the trade deadline. “I was excited to pick up not just two lefties, but two lefties of that kind of caliber.”
Kaminsky was one of the two, the other being Jayson Aquino, acquired from Pittsburgh for cash the day before the Moss-Kaminsky deal.
In two full seasons, plus a few games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League immediately after signing, Kaminsky has accumulated impressive totals.
In 45 games, 42 of which have been starting assignments, he has pitched 227 innings, with 190 strikeouts and 73 base-on-balls. Opponents batted at a .222 clip against him so far in his career, and he has allowed only three home runs to opposition batters, none of those during the 2015 campaign.
Even though he only has 14 wins, his ERA in that two-year span is a sparkling 2.24, with the lack of wins in part being due to a poor level of offensive support from the teams he was on. For example, the Palm Beach team he left when traded finished with a .238 team batting average, tied for second-poorest in the league, and accumulated only 1,407 total bases for the 2015 season, worst in the Florida State League. This makes Kaminsky’s ability to win six games all the more impressive, as he needed to be close to perfect to put up a W.
He made his debut as a Cleveland farmhand on August 6, 2015, facing the Potomac Nationals. He pitched five and a third innings in a no-decision, scattering five hits and three walks with one strikeout. He would pitch only one more outing for the Hillcats before going on the disabled list for unreported reasons. This effectively ended his season and may have been a way to rest him to not over-tax his 21-year-old arm.
Determined would be the one word that describes Kaminsky’s approach to baseball.
The 5’11” left-hander out of Montvale, New Jersey, will always be doubted because of his size, but doggedly pursues his dream of reaching the Majors. He’s the kind of player you would call a gamer.
“I trust all my pitches now,” said Kaminsky, just before his first outing in the Cleveland organization. “I’m stressing the change-up more this year, though I like to think I’m a three-pitch pitcher.”
His three pitches are a deceptive curveball that works off of his unusual three-quarter slot delivery, a low-90’s fastball with movement, and his developing change-up. When you watch him pitch, his motion looks awkward, but so far has produced excellent results.
His determined attitude comes from where he grew up in New Jersey. “It has the blue collar attitude, you get what you deserve,” he said, “I’m very proud to be from New Jersey and I think everyone knows that.”
As the offseason nears its completion and spring training is just on the other side of the holidays, Kaminsky continues to be driven to succeed. He recently outlined his offseason training efforts in a post to MiLB’s PROSPECTive and keeps up a running dialog on his own webpage at RobKaminsky.com.
If there is any concern about him and his future in the Cleveland organization, it would be whether his future is as a starter or a reliever. So far in his career he has been given the starting nod, but his unusual motion could pose a potential arm-risk long term and with his potent curveball/fastball combo, he might be better served as a short reliever. If this ends up being his route to the majors, he has a similar profile to former Houston Astros closer Billy Wagner.
Whichever way things go, the Indians have brought in a developing talent.
“He has great movement on all his pitches.” said Hillcats coach Beltran. “He went from a two-seam last year to a four-seam this year, which has really helped him get a lot of swings and misses.”
It is probable that he will be assigned to AA Akron, but he could also return to Lynchburg and High-A for a month to refine his skills, much like Adam Plutko did last season. Either way, he will make his Ohio debut in the heart of Indians territory at some point in the 2016 season as a name to know.
Photo: Lee Luther Jr./The News & Advance