While the recent success of Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez has shocked many, it has not surprised those who have been around the Indians system all year. Assisted by last year’s moves at the trade deadline and then cemented in July 2010, Cleveland is now stacked with pitchers up and down the minor leagues. From dominant starters to shutdown relievers to potential situational lefties, there is certainly no shortage of arms for the future in the Indians system.
These two posts will introduce folks to new names thriving this season as well as updates on well-known entities. There are certainly enough studs and serviceable MLB parts to really give Cleveland an above-average pitching staff, at the least, within the next year or two.
Upper Levels: We’ll start off today with pitchers now playing for either Triple-A Columbus or Double-A Akron. All of these players have the upper level potential to contribute by September this year but all should be a part of the off-season plan and in Cleveland by 2011.
The best place to start is in the Clippers bullpen where a revolving door has today seen Jensen Lewis returned for the fourth time this season. On the opposite end of the track, however, four relievers on that team are posting impressive numbers after earning the promotion from Akron earlier this season.
RHP Vinnie Pestano, 6’1”, 195-lbs, 2/20/1985, 20th rd June 2006 Draft CS Fullerton
Akron: 1-1, 3 saves, 2.70 ERA, 14 games, 13.1 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 18 K
Columbus: 1-1, 9 saves, 1.57 ERA, 31 games, 34.1 IP, 28 H, 12 BB, 46 K
Combined: 2-2, 12 saves, 1.89 ERA, 45 games, 47.2 IP, 40 H, 14 BB, 64 K
He missed the second half of last season with an injury but has returned to his dominant self of late. The 25-year-old did not allow a run in July and although he is older than the rest of the list, he might be the most MLB-ready right now. Expect a September arrival for Pestano.
RHP Josh Judy, 6’4”, 200-lbs, 2/9/1986, 34th rd June 2007 Draft Indiana Tech
Akron: 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2 games, 2.0 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 K
Columbus: 2-0, 1 save, 3.00 ERA, 26 games, 33.0 IP, 36 H, 10 BB, 37 K
Combined: 2-0, 1 save, 3.34 ERA, 28 games, 35.0 IP, 42 H, 10 BB, 39 K
Judy jumped onto the scene in 2009 with a strong year at Lake County and has been with Columbus for most of the season. His strikeout-to-walk, projectable frame and mid-90′s fastball make him a keeper and one to watch in spring training next year.
RHP Bryce Stowell, 6’2”, 205-lbs, 9/23/1986, 22nd rd June 2008, UC Irvine
Kinston: 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 11 games, 25.1 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 41 K
Akron: 1-0, 7 saves, 0.00 ERA, 14 games/1 start, 22.1 IP, 15 H, 11 BB, 33 K
Columbus: 0-0, 4.35 ERA, 9 games, 10.1 IP, 7 H, 12 BB, 15 K
Combined: 2-0, 7 saves, 1.40 ERA, 34 games/1 start, 58.0 IP, 38 H, 31 BB, 89 K
The biggest surprise of the 2010 season has been this starter-turned-reliever who began the year down with the K-Tribe. He then did not allow a run with Akron, and has struggled slightly with Columbus, but should be given time over the next calendar year to adjust there.
RHP Zach Putnam, 6’2”, 225-lbs, 7/3/1987, 5th rd June 2008 Draft Michigan
Akron: 4-1, 3 saves, 3.86 ERA, 20 games/7 starts, 51.1 IP, 58 H, 9 BB, 41 K
Columbus: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 5 games, 7.0 IP, 12 H, 3 BB, 6 K
Combined: 4-2, 4.47 ERA, 25 games/7 starts, 58.1 IP, 70 H, 12 BB, 47 K
The first ’08 draft pick to play for Akron last season, he recently earned the promotion to the Clippers. The hit rate is not as low as you would like it to be, but he is as athletic as they come and should be in the same category as Judy for this upcoming off-season.
As DP noted earlier today in Da Clip Show, injuries and roster turnover continue to deplete the entire Columbus pitching staff. Thus, it is clear that the majority of the top level prospects in the organization currently play for the red-hot Akron Aeros, who lead the entire Eastern League in ERA and record since May 31st. For starters now, let’s begin with a pair of starting pitchers who might be helping out that Clippers rotation by the end of the year.
RHP Corey Kluber, 6’4”, 215-lbs, 4/10/1986, 4th rd June 2007 Draft Stetson
Acquired via trade w/ San Diego Padres on July 31, 2010 for RHP Jake Westbrook
San Antonio: 6-6, 3.45 ERA, 22 games/21 starts, 122.2 IP, 121 H, 40 BB, 136 K
The focus of this first feature is on the most recent acquisition of the Indians organization, this hard-throwing right-hander from the Padres organization. He led the Double-A Texas League in strikeouts this past year and now has 167.2 IP in San Antonio. He will make his Akron debut Wednesday at first-place Altoona but it will be a very important rest of the season for him. As an ’07 draft pick, Kluber is up for roster protection in the off-season or could be picked up via the Rule 5 Draft. Expect the Indians to test Kluber over these next several months to identify if he is worthy of a spot on the ever-important 40-man roster.
RHP Alex White, 6’3”, 200-lbs, 8/29/1988, 1st rd June 2009 Draft North Carolina
Kinston: 2-3, 2.86 ERA, 8 starts, 44.0 IP, 32 H, 19 BB, 41 K
Akron: 6-4, 1.49 ERA, 13 games/12 starts, 78.1 IP, 62 H, 18 BB, 57 K
Combined: 8-7, 1.99 ERA, 21 games/20 starts, 122.1 IP, 94 H, 37 BB, 98 K
Many people have been on the White bandwagon for a while, most notably Ryan Isley, and for very good reason. His 1.99 ERA is unreal for a right-hander in his first full season and he has dominated the Eastern League . Time will tell he moves up to Columbus soon, making him the fastest moving Indians pitcher since Jeremy Guthrie in 2004.
Moving down to the Akron relievers, here is a list of four arms acquired in recent trades that all still are on the major league track. They might be older than some other well-known prospects, but the key here is that three are 6’4″ are taller and come from outstanding prospect pedigrees. More likely than not, these four will remain in Double-A for the rest of the season but could contend to help fill up that Columbus staff next year.
RHP Connor Graham, 6’6”, 256-lbs, 12/30/1985, 5th rd June 2007 Draft Miami (OH)
Acquired via trade w/ Colorado Rockies on July 23, 2009 for RHP Rafael Betancourt
Akron: 3-5, 1 save, 3.43 ERA, 30 games/4 starts, 60.1 IP, 62 H, 36 BB, 44 K
This big local product began as a starter this year before moving into his more gradual fit as a reliever. He now has a 2.18 ERA in 26 relief outings with a 4.29 ground out-to-air out ratio, a change from his previous strikeout-heavy ways.
RHP Bryan Price, 6’4”, 210-lbs, 11/13/1986, 1st rd June 2008 Draft Rice
Acquired via trade w/ Boston Red Sox on July 31, 2009 for C Victor Martinez
Akron: 4-2, 1 save, 3.26 ERA, 49.2 IP, 52 H, 13 BB, 55 K
The other prospects acquired with Masterson are both now playing in Akron and Price has been very impressive. Scouts drool over a 4+ strikeout-to-walk ratio and Price also has a 0.62 ERA at Canal Park, the easiest spot for Indians administrators to watch the team.
LHP Nick Hagadone, 6’5”, 230-lbs, 1/1/1986, 1st rd June 2007 Draft Washington
Acquired via trade w/ Boston Red Sox on July 31, 2009 for C Victor Martinez
Kin.: 1-3, 2.39 ERA, 10 GS, 37.2 IP, 28 H, 29 BB, 45 K
Akr.: 1-1, 4.88 ERA, 10 GP/7 GS, 31.1 IP, 30 H, 24 BB, 30 K
Comb.: 2-4, 3.52 ERA, 20 GP/17 GS, 69.0 IP, 58 H, 53 BB, 75 K
The prized prospect of the Martinez trade, Hagadone has had an up-and-down year with a handful of injuries and a switch to his natural role as a reliever. Still recovering from June 2008 Tommy John surgery, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he moved back to the job he had in college. Hagadone is just starting to find some comfort at this new position, and it will be a while, but there is going to be some added pressure too. As an 07 pick, he is in the same boat as Kluber for roster protection and will need to find a niche quickly.
RHP Rob Bryson, 6’1”, 200-lbs, 12/11/1987, 31st rd June 2006 Draft Seminole CC
Acquired via trade w/ Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 for LHP C.C. Sabathia
Lake County: 4-0, 4.05 ERA, 8 games, 13.1 IP, 13 H, 2 BB, 21 K
Kinston: 2-1, 1 save, 2.25 ERA, 13 games, 20.0 IP, 7 H, 8 BB, 38 K
Akron: 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 4 games, 4.0 IP, 3 H, 6 BB, 6 K
Combined: 6-1, 1 save, 2.89 ERA, 25 games, 37.1 IP, 23 H, 16 BB, 65 K
Bryson is a usually forgotten trade piece included in the Sabathia deal two years ago before facing surgery. He is back this year and moved quickly up to Akron, where has impressed in his past three outings after a rocky debut at Canal Park.
(Photo of Corey Kluber above via Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com and photo of Nick Hagadone via Tony Lastoria/Indians Prospect Insider)