Cleveland Indians minor league pitcher Adam Plutko got a taste of success during his college playing days and has carried on his strong play into the early years of his professional career.
Plutko wrapped up the season with one of the better overall performances in the Indians system in 2015. After starting the season in High-A Lynchburg and breezing through the competition, he moved along to the talented rotation at Double-A Akron and continued his strong showing, finishing the year with a 13-7 combined record, a 2.39 ERA, and a 0.93 WHIP in 27 starts.
The results were promising to say the least for the young right-hander, who turned 24 in October.
Plutko joined the Indians via the eleventh round of the 2013 draft out of UCLA. With the Bruins, he was the staff ace and helped lead the school to their first national championship in baseball. Before leaving, he had the chance to pitch alongside current Major Leaguers Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole and set the school’s record for the most postseason wins as a starter with seven in his collegiate career.
He did not take the mound for the Indians organization after signing late and while recovering from a minor stress fracture in his shoulder blade. He played ten games for Lake County in his first professional action in 2014, going 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA and 1.16 WHIP and an impressive 11.3 strikeouts per nine inning rate coupled with a 2.05 walks per nine average. In his fourth pro start, he struck out ten, then set a personal best with 13 strikeouts in his seventh start for the Captains. He moved up to High-A Carolina and struggled some there, going 4-9 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and averaged four fewer strikeouts per game while dropping his walk rate even more.
After the 18 game trial with the Mudcats, he remained at the High-A level as the Indians began their relationship with Lynchburg. An impressive 4-2 start there with a complete game, 1.27 ERA, and 0.70 WHIP in eight starts led to two separate Pitcher of the Week honors in May.
It also earned him a promotion to Akron, where he went 9-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 19 starts. He continued his solid start to the year with a 1.02 WHIP and added another complete game while pitching into the fifth inning in all but two outings.
His numbers plumped up a bit as the season went on, but he surpassed his prior year’s innings pitched total by 16 1/3 innings. He struck out 137 batters on the season, one of the top marks in the Indians farm system, and walked just 28 batters for a 1.5 BB/9 rate for the season.
The Indians rewarded his efforts in 2015 and his top prospect status by first bringing him to the club’s Fall Development Program and then later extending him a non-roster invite to Spring Training.
Plutko sports a fastball, curve, slider, and change while exhibiting excellent control on the mound. His ability to rack up strikeouts in bunches have both shown that he is deserving of his status as a player to keep a close eye on for the future.
With less than a full season under his belt at Double-A, Plutko would presumably start there and hope to progress to Triple-A over the course of the season, but the crowded pitching staff at that level may offer little room for advancement. With just two pro seasons under his belt, he still has time to develop, but has also quickly asserted himself as one of the better arms in the Tribe’s stable of minor league starters.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com