Morimando Making His Way Towards the Big Leagues

With a second season of work for the Cleveland Indians’ Double-A Akron club, Shawn Morimando has added his name to a long list of candidates for a spot in the starting rotation at Triple-A Columbus for the 2016 season.

Morimando, 23, gives the Indians something that is always of great value in Major League Baseball – a left-handed starting pitching option. His efforts in 2015 were enough to land him on the club’s 40-man roster following the season, helping to establish further his prospect status and a potential future with the MLB club.

He led the RubberDucks with 28 starts last season, which was also the top mark across the Indians minor league system for starts in 2015. Another top left-handed prospect in the organization, Ryan Merritt, and his teammate in Akron, Adam Plutko, were second with 27 starts. Toru Murata made 26 starts for Columbus during the season, as did Mike Clevinger at Akron, Mitch Brown at Lynchburg, and a quartet of pitchers at Class-A Lake County in Sean Brady, Jordan Milbrath, Anderson Polanco, and Justus Sheffield.

Morimando was also tied for the top win total on the RubberDucks roster (with fellow 40-man roster member Merritt), hitting ten for the second consecutive season. His 3.18 ERA continued a steady progression downward in the earned run stat.

Over the course of the season, he gave Akron innings on the mound, pitching into the fifth in 25 of his 28 starts and making 18 quality starts in total. He threw between 80 and 109 pitches in all but two starts. He hit his high-water strikeout mark early in the season, striking out a professional career-high nine batters from the Altoona Curve on April 17, but worked just four and two-thirds innings and was hit with the loss in the contest. Control also came into question over the season, as he had just one outing with no walks on the year and in 13 games walked at least three batters (and in four of those walked four).

He seemed to alternate between stronger months and weaker months, as June and August represented his top ERA’s for the year. In June, he was 1-3 with a 3.51 ERA, a season-high 1.52 WHIP, and had a season-low strikeout-to-walk rate of 1.06 (17 strikeouts versus 16 walks). During August, he struck out 30 and only walked eight, but also allowed a season-high for a month in hits, runs, batting average, and stolen bases.

He faced more than three times as many right-handed hitters on the mound and they hit .265 off of him with eight of his nine home runs allowed. He struck out 98 of them in 496 plate appearances, which was a better rate of strikeouts than he had against left-handed hitters. They hit just .163 off of him for the year as he pitched effectively to the splits.

Morimando struggled at Canal Park, going 3-6 with a 4.02 ERA in eleven starts while opposing hitters batted .282. On the road, he was a more respectable 7-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 17 starts, including a 1.17 WHIP and .211 batting average allowed, but eight of his nine homers were allowed away from home.

It was a bit of a change from the previous season, when his home numbers were better than his road marks and he performed better against righties than lefties. He also made 19 of 28 starts at home that season which may have skewed his results some. He also split that year between Class-A+ Carolina and Akron.

He spent the latter half of that 2014 season with the RubberDucks, going 2-6 with a 3.83 ERA in ten starts, so with some time spent now at Double-A and coming off of a positive season overall, Morimando has put himself into a good position to advance to Columbus. The pitching staff there, however, appears to be extremely congested, with one starter presumably landing there from the spring cuts for the Indians (potentially Cody Anderson), plus any of the returning staff from 2015 (T.J. House, Jarrett Grube, Will Roberts, etc.). Merritt made five starts at the end of the season for the Clippers, so his name would be up for consideration, as well as Clevinger, who made postseason appearances for the club after his 26 starts in the regular season for Akron.

His ball is tough to pick up with a deceptive release point and he incorporates a low-90’s fastball with some sink with a slider, curve, and changeup. He will enter into his sixth season with the organization after they selected him in the 19th round of the 2011 draft out of Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

It has become a very crowded starting pitching mix, which is a fantastic problem for the Indians to have. Morimando has age on his side and the advantage of being one of the top left-handers in the club’s system, on a team lacking a lefty in its starting rotation.

Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com

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