The Cleveland Indians made some roster moves on Monday, adding five players to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 cut off time while removing a pair of pitchers as left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett and minor league right-handed pitcher Dylan Baker were designated for assignment.
The Indians’ 40-man is now full at 40 players.
Crockett, 25, spent just four games on the field for the Indians in 2017 during his fourth big league season. It has been a steady fall from grace for the once-promising southpaw reliever, who put up strong numbers in his rookie campaign of 2014 as a 22-year-old and second-year pro, appearing in 43 games with a 4-1 record, a 1.80 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP less than one year after being taken in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Virginia (he was the first member of his draft class to reach the big league level).
Control issues and problems with free passes led to decreased time with the big league club in 2015. He worked in 31 games that season, walking one fewer batter than his debut season, but doing so in 12 1/3 fewer innings of work. He earned a 4.08 ERA that season and a 1.36 WHIP. At Triple-A Columbus, he fared even worse, going 3-1 with a 5.97 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP in 29 games (28 2/3 innings).
He made just 29 appearances as a matchup lefty in 2016 for the Indians, posting a 5.06 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP in 16 innings of work. He pitched in 29 more games for Columbus, ending that portion of his season with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.
During the 2017 season, he allowed a pair of earned runs on four hits in an inning and two-thirds of work for the Indians. His numbers showed some promise at Triple-A, where he cut down his walk rate and showed his best minor league strikeout rate of his five-year career. He took the mound 51 times for the Clippers, going 5-5 with four saves, a 3.38 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP.
His chance of making the Indians roster for 2018 was already up in the air, as he was out of options and the club already had a pair of lefties appearing to be locked in for next season in Andrew Miller and Tyler Olson.
Baker, a 25-year-old Alaskan product, was added to the 40-man roster following the 2015 season, but has struggled both before and after his placement on the list with remaining healthy and on the field.
A fifth round pick of the 2012 draft out of Western Nevada College, Baker appeared in eight games in his first pro season and 27 in his second before injuries started to pile up. He worked in just 12 games in 2014 and made one appearance in 2015 for High-A Lynchburg (five innings of no-hit baseball) before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Despite the procedure on his right elbow, the Indians protected the promising right-hander, who missed the remainder of the 2015 season and all of 2016 before returning to the mound this past season.
He spent the first three and a half weeks of the 2017 season on the disabled list before being activated and working exclusively in relief for the first time in his professional career. He spent the next five weeks with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, but landed back on the DL at the beginning of June with back soreness. He threw a handful of rehab outings in Arizona for the Indians’ Goodyear farm club before rejoining the RubberDucks in mid-August for four more appearances.
He was a combined 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings of 17 appearances in 2017. His injury history may enable him to clear the designation process unscathed.
The Indians also announced the additions of several minor league prospects to their 40-man roster. Right-handed starter Julian Merryweather (Columbus), infielder Eric Stamets (Columbus), and shortstops Yu-Cheng Chang (Akron) and Willi Castro (Lynchburg/Akron) become readily available depth pieces for the Indians in the coming season while being protected from the Rule 5 draft. The team also claimed utility man Rob Refsnyder off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Their additions follow a move by the team earlier in the month, when the Tribe added catcher Eric Haase to the 40-man roster instead of risking him becoming a minor league free agent.
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