With overall positive marks on his stat sheet in his debut season in 2015, right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong looked to be a potential option for the Indians bullpen for the next season. But while the Cleveland bullpen appeared at times to use a revolving door while players shuttled back and forth between Triple-A Columbus and the parent Indians roster, Armstrong did not get his first consistent taste of the Bigs again until the season’s final month.
In his fifth season in the Cleveland organization in 2015, Armstrong went 1-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.27 WHIP while working as a late inning option for the Clippers. He made a pair of appearances for the Indians in the first half of August that season and got a call-up for the final month when rosters expanded, finishing the season with eight games worked while failing to notch a decision for Cleveland.
While the focus right now may be on the Cleveland Indians’ Major League roster, things are going well throughout the Tribe’s farm system as well.
The importance on drafting strong and developing stronger is no more apparent than at the Major League level for the Indians. The current playoff roster is well-balanced between guys drafted/signed internationally and developed solely by the club (Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cody Allen to name a few), others acquired via trades and developed on the farm (Corey Kluber, Carlos Santana, and other absentee names like Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes), and other veterans still who were added via big trades or free agent moves (Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp).
The names that compose the roster now all worked their way up through the minor league system, whether in the Indians organization or elsewhere. The names of the future are doing the same and some standout performers were recognized this week when MILB.com announced its picks for Cleveland’s organizational All-Stars.
The Lake County Captains are playing out the string as they finish their 2016 regular season on the outside of the Midwest League’s playoff picture.
A tough series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods from August 22 to 25 effectively spelled the end of the run for the Captains (71-68), who dropped five in a row in the series. They bounced back with three straight wins against Lansing before dropping the finale with the Lugnuts and went on the road to Dayton, winning the first game of the series before dropping the final two contests. They have split a pair with Lansing in the final games of the season, with a 1:00 PM start on Monday marking the final game on the 2016 calendar for the Captains.
In other news and notes from the Captains’ log:
The Columbus Clippers punched their ticket to the postseason on Wednesday, clinching their third straight International League West Division crown. They still have to wait to see who they may see in the playoffs, as the other two divisions still need some time to be decided.
The Clippers (78-56) extended their winning streak to nine straight games during the week before dropping each game of a two-game set in Toledo with the Mud Hens on Thursday and Friday. They completed a sweep of Toledo in Columbus just last weekend before taking three straight in Indianapolis during the week to clinch their playoff berth. They will wrap up the month with two at home against Louisville before going to Durham for three straight. September will open with three home dates against the Mud Hens before the two teams return to Toledo for two more to close out the regular season.
In other Clippers news and notes from the Ohio state capital:
Ryan Merritt followed up a strong effort during his time with the parent Cleveland Indians by combining with two relievers on a four-hit shutout on Friday night in the Clippers’ 1-0 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. The only run on the night came courtesy of a solo home run by Erik Gonzalez in the sixth inning off of Washington pitching prospect Lucas Giolito as the Clippers would be held to just three hits themselves on the night.
Columbus (68-53) has gotten hot at the right time, starting the month of August with an 8-4 record to push their lead in the International League’s West Division to eight games over the rival Indianapolis Indians and nine games over the third place Louisville Bats. Their record is good for the third-best mark across the IL landscape, trailing only the marks of the North Division’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (75-44) and Lehigh Valley IronPigs (71-48).
The Clippers wrapped up their series with Louisville by taking the final two games to go 3-1 against them, then took two of three in Toledo against the Mud Hens. They will finish their three-game set this weekend against Syracuse before continuing their homestand with three against Durham and three more with Toledo.
In other news and Clipnotes regarding the Clippers pitching staff:
Two very different All-Star games took place on Wednesday with two very distinctly different results as the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League participated in their own midsummer classics.
The Double-A All-Star Game pitted the Eastern and Western Division clubs against one another from Akron’s own Canal Park. The Triple-A contest featured the International League versus the Pacific Coast League from BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Clippers have returned to their winning ways after some difficult times earlier in the month of June. They wrapped up the month strong, taking two of three in Columbus from the Norfolk Tides before sweeping the IronPigs on their home field in Lehigh Valley.
They opened a four-game weekend series in Pawtucket with a 6-4 loss on Thursday night, but bounced back with a 5-3 win on Friday night, despite rain delaying the game late. The win pushed the Clippers (44-38) into a one and a half game lead in the International League West Division over their rivals, the Indianapolis Indians, who were swept in a doubleheader in Toledo.
In other Clipnotes:
The All-Star nods continue to flow in for the Cleveland Indians organization as on Wednesday morning, three members of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers joined their manager on the International League All-Star team.
Shortstop Erik Gonzalez, starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, and reliever Shawn Armstrong were named to the team after strong showings through the first three months of the 2016 season. They will be coached by their own Chris Tremie, who was previously named the manager of the team.
All three prospects are on the Indians 40-man roster. Both Clevinger and Armstrong have made appearances for Cleveland this season.
Unlike the other two big professional sports, grading a Major League Baseball draft class cannot happen definitively for years. With many prospects coming into the professional circuit straight out of high school or from time overseas, players need time to grow and develop and to learn how to play the game at the highest level imaginable. Even college players, after playing against a higher talent base in the NCAA ranks, need time to adapt to the professional game.
Earlier this week, MLB.com columnist Jim Callis took a look back at the 2011 draft and redrafted players, based on needs and now having a better understanding of how those players selected have performed after five years of time in the pro game. In his mock-up, Francisco Lindor would have gone second to Seattle, with the Indians taking Anthony Rendon eighth and current Indians pitchers Cody Allen and Trevor Bauer each earning selections before the first round was up.
It was an interesting perspective and piece of revisionist history.
The Texas Rangers used two early home runs and some big insurance runs in the eighth to knock out Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday by a 7-3 final from Progressive Field.
Both clubs’ starters, Kluber and Colby Lewis, worked easily through the first two innings before the Rangers struck for first blood in the third and did so quickly. Ohio native Jared Hoying singled to right and Bryan Holaday homered to left on the next pitch, putting Texas on top, 2-0. They added another run with two outs in the fifth as Jurickson Profar hit his first homer of the season, sending the first pitch of his at bat into the seats in right to extend the Rangers’ lead to 3-0.
After four and one-third innings of scoreless, one-hit relief in his Major League debut on Monday, the Cleveland Indians rewarded rookie Ryan Merritt by optioning the left-hander to Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday.
In reality, the move had nothing to do with Merritt’s performance and everything to do with keeping the Indians bullpen fresh after the club used the southpaw heavily to prevent excessive wear on their relief corps after getting just three and one-third innings in Josh Tomlin’s start in the series opener against the Texas Rangers.
In a corresponding move, the Indians recalled right-hander Shawn Armstrong from Columbus to fill Merritt’s spot in the ‘pen.
With spring training now underway and pitchers and catchers in camp in Goodyear, Arizona, the battle for bullpen spots begins in one of the primary camp competitions this spring for the Cleveland Indians. The team will be seeking an answer to the pressing question: who will be manager Terry Francona’s relievers in 2016?
It seemed as though no inexpensive stone was left unturned by the Indians front office, who made several cash exchanges with clubs and signed another half dozen to minor league contracts with invitations to sunny Arizona.
One of the biggest contributing factors to how many positions are up for grabs may actually depend more on the health of the club’s starting left fielder Michael Brantley.