2013 Tony Awards: Pitcher of the Year
Today we continue the IBI’s year-end awards with the announcement of the Pitcher of the Year.
This award goes to the starting pitcher in the Indians organization that had the best year from a performance perspective, not necessarily from a prospect standing. Last year, right-hander Corey Kluber won this award and it served as a precursor to a fantastic breakout year in Cleveland this season, so perhaps the winner here will have just as much of an impact next season in Cleveland.
Here are the 2013 Tony Awards so far:
Rookie of the Year: Clint Frazier (OF)
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyler Holt (OF)
Biggest Disappointment: Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Biggest Breakthrough: Carlos Moncrief (OF)
Comeback Player of the Year: C.C. Lee (RHP)
Reliever of the Year: Preston Guilmet (RHP)
Later this week the Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced. Again, these awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year. Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.
Onto the nominees…
Pitcher of the Year Nominees
(in alphabetical order)
Cody Anderson (RHP)
26 GS, 9-4, 2.65 ERA, 136.0 IP, 121 H, 42 R (40 ER), 8 HR, 40 BB, 122 K, .244 BAA
Anderson had a fantastic season and really broke through as a legit starting pitching prospect. He finished 7th in the Carolina League in wins (9), 1st in ERA (2.34), 10th in games started (23), 11th in innings pitched (123.1), 8th in strikeouts (112), 2nd in WHIP (1.10), 4th in batting average against (.236), 3rd in K/9 (8.17) and 3rd in BB/9 (2.26). For all of that he was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, and those rankings would have been higher had he not made his final three starts of the season at Double-A Akron.
Dylan Baker (RHP)
27 GS, 7-6, 3.63 ERA, 143.2 IP, 124 H, 68 R (58 ER), 3 HR, 62 BB, 117 K, .232 BAA
Baker was a high round pick in the 2012 Draft who came in raw but with lots of upside, and he showed the rawness and upside this season at Low-A Lake County. The velocity was nice and the stuff is there, just he needs to work on that command and other nuances of pitching. He finished 13th in the Midwest League in ERA (3.63), 4th in games started (25), 4th in innings pitched (143.2), 5th in walks (62), 4th in strikeouts (117), 12th in WHIP (1.29), 4th in batting average against (.232) and 3rd in K/9 among starters (7.37).
Sean Brady (LHP)
10 GS, 0-1, 1.97 ERA, 32.0 IP, 24 H, 11 R (7 ER), 2 HR, 6 BB, 30 K, .205 BAA
Brady was limited to just 10 starts at rookie level Arizona, but a lot of that was due to the short 56-game season in the Arizona League and him missing a few games in the early going because he signed a little later than others out of the 2013 Draft. Needless to say, he came in and pitched like the advanced high school lefty he was thought to be as he flashed good stuff, lots of command and pitchability. He’s a smaller bodied upside arm that will be interesting to not only see how his stuff develops and what kind of success he has, but also if he can remain a starter by the time he gets into the upper levels of the system.
Joseph Colon (RHP)
17 GS, 5-4, 3.23 ERA, 92.0 IP, 83 H, 41 R (33 ER), 2 HR, 27 BB, 76 K, .239 BAA
Colon once again missed chunks of time because of injury as he missed the first two weeks of the season and a large portion of the middle of the season because of injury, but when he was able to get up off a mound he was impressive. He’s a big time groundball pitcher (1.76 GO/AO in 2013), something that has been his forte for years, but this season he showed a spike in his velocity and overall quality of his stuff. This is a starter to keep an eye on as a sleeper prospect if he can maintain health – something that has been an issue for him his entire career and been the one thing to hold him back.
Caleb Hamrick (RHP)
15 GS, 3-6, 3.20 ERA, 76.0 IP, 73 H, 38 R (27 ER), 9 HR, 23 BB, 47 K, .247 BAA
Hamrick had a nice showing at his first true stop at affiliate ball – rookie level Arizona is often not considered a “true” affiliate because of the lack of fans, media, etc. He got off to a nice start and finished strong, but had some struggles in between, so he needs to work on the consistency of his outings going forward. He was also susceptible to the long ball as he tied for 1st in the league in home runs allowed (9). But overall he showed some power, some durability, and some strength, three things that are very intriguing from a young starting pitching prospect.
Luis Lugo (LHP)
14 GS, 1-5, 2.37 ERA, 64.2 IP, 53 H, 22 R (17 ER), 2 HR, 16 BB, 44 K, .228 BAA
Lugo had another good season and has solidified himself as another good, young starting pitching prospect with lots of projection and aptitude. Had he not been promoted to Low-A Lake County the last few weeks of the season he would have qualified for several NY-Penn League rankings with short season Single-A Mahoning Valley - his 1.97 ERA at Mahoning Valley would rank 2nd in the league, just one point behind the leader. He did rank 1st in the league in balks (4), so it shows he is still inexperienced and is learning his craft; however, he’s set himself up for a potential big year at Lake County in 2014.
Ryan Merritt (LHP)
26 GS, 6-9, 3.52 ERA, 135.1 IP, 149 H, 67 R (53 ER), 11 HR, 19 BB, 97 K, .282 BAA
Merritt reminds me of The Little Engine That Could. Everyone points to his scrawny body and small size at 6-foot and 165 pounds and wonder how he can ever be a starting pitcher, but to his credit he has worked hard to add some weight and muscle to his frame. Most of all, his work on the mound is proving a lot of doubters wrong so far and he’s another solid starting pitching prospect that should move on to High-A Carolina next year to see how he progresses. He ranked 10th in the Midwest League in ERA (3.42), 12th in starts (23), 12th in innings pitched (126.1), 11th in WHIP (1.27) and 2nd in BB/9 (1.35).
Shawn Morimando (LHP)
27 GS, 8-13, 3.73 ERA, 135.0 IP, 115 H, 68 R (56 ER), 8 HR, 76 BB, 102 K, .231 BAA
Morimando had another good season pitching the entire year at High-A Carolina and has established himself as one of the Indians better young pitching prospects. He is raw and still learning his craft, as evidenced by him ranking 2nd in the Carolina League in walks (76), 1st in losses (13) and 1st in balks (3), but he is durable (27 starts, 2nd in league) and he is tough to hit (.231 AVG, 2nd in league). He’s already pretty good, so when he puts it all together on the mound the sky is the limit.
Matt Packer (LHP)
28 G (25 GS), 12-9, 3.27 ERA, 154.0 IP, 172 H, 71 R (56 ER), 8 HR, 44 BB, 119 K, .286 BAA
Packer re-established himself as a depth starting option in the big leagues for the Indians with his fine season at Double-A Akron. He should be in the mix for one of the Triple-A Columbus starting spots to open next season and be a spot starting option in Cleveland. He is athletic and versatile so he can pitch in a number of roles as a swing guy, similar to what former Indians pitcher Aaron Laffey did – a pitcher Packer is often compared to. He finished 3rd in the Eastern League in ERA (3.27), tied for 1st in wins (12), 4th in innings pitched (154.0), 2nd in hits allowed (172), and 13th in strikeouts (119).
Danny Salazar (RHP)
Minors: 21 GS, 6-5, 2.71 ERA, 93.0 IP, 71 H, 31 R (28 ER), 5 HR, 24 BB, 129 K, .211 BAA
Majors: 10 GS, 2-3, 3.12 ERA, 52.0 IP, 44 H, 18 R/ER, 7 HR, 15 BB, 65 K, .226 BAA
A month and seven games started at Double-A Akron. Two months and 10 starts at Triple-A Columbus. That’s all it took for Salazar to race up through the upper levels this season before he made his major league debut on July 11th in Cleveland. It is amazing to think how he went from a guy in Double-A at the start of the year and not really on the major league radar for this season to a guy who by the end of the season was starting a playoff game for the Indians in a win-or-go-home wildcard game at Progressive Field. What a year for the young fireballer.
Cole Sulser (RHP)
15 G (9 GS), 3-2, 1.83 ERA, 54.0 IP, 37 H, 12 R (11 ER), 1 HR, 9 BB, 60 K, .191 BAA
Sulser had an out of nowhere performance at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley that caught the attention of several people in the Indians organization. While it is important to note that stats and how guys perform in the NY-Penn League are often taken with a grain of salt, teams look at the work pitchers put in their side sessions, how coachable they are, their aptitude and then how they carry all of that into the game, and Sulser impressed in that regard. He’s earned an opportunity at a starting spot next year at Low-A Lake County or maybe even High-A Carolina. He finished 9th in the NY-Penn League in strikeouts (60).
And the 2013 Tony Award goes to…..Danny Salazar
Initially, when I was considering the Breakthrough Performance of the Year, I noted that Cody Anderson would probably win the Bob Feller Award as the organization’s top minor league pitcher. Well, that’s before I even realized I forgot to consider Salazar who was still on the major league side of my brain. I think at this point it is a foregone conclusion that Salazar is going to take home a ton of hardware this offseason as in addition to his Tony Award he is going to nab the Feller Award and others.
Salazar raced through the upper levels of the system because of the way he dominated the hitters in the league he was in. He showed remarkable consistency with his fastball velocity and the command of it and his secondary offerings both showed improvement. The fastball can be rather straight, but he compensates for this by routinely changing eye levels with it and it just has such good late life through the zone.
Salazar figures to be in the Indians opening day rotation next year. The kid gloves should almost be all the way off after the Indians coddled him a lot this year in order to protect his arm from overuse after Tommy John surgery two years ago. He still may have some limitations in the early going next year but should be able to haul 175-180 innings if his health holds up and he pitches well. This is key, as it should allow him to more consistently pitch deeper into games, something he was often unable to do all season – especially in Cleveland.
Salazar is a big piece to the Indians future and what a treat it would be if he proves to be the real deal and remains healthy for the next several years. With the cost of starting pitching in free agency and how hard it is to acquire in a trade, it is important for teams to develop their own starters. It remains to be seen if he has the durability and the arsenal to be a front of the rotation arm, but with his fastball and the ability to get swing and miss he should at least be a good middle of the rotation arm. It is also not out of the realm of possibility that he could be the closer next season (a la Trevor Rosenthal) if the Indians somehow resign both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir or bring in someone to replace them.
As a highly regarded prospect in the past, Salazar slipped a little into obscurity because of a few seasons affected by injury, but then he quickly rose back into full view with a strong ending to his 2012 season and then this season just flew through the upper levels of the system like a shooting star. A star he indeed may be as not only was he sensational at Akron and Columbus, but he was equally as impressive and maybe even better in Cleveland.
Up Next: Offensive Player of the Year
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