Winter Ball Notebook: Top pitching performances
A countdown of the top pitching performances to come from this winter season
It’s been very quiet in winter ball over the past few weeks as the leagues have entered the postseason, and a number of the Indians who were playing have since moved on.
Because of that, the next two Winter Ball Notebooks are going to take a different approach. Instead of recapping some of the week’s top performances (which would really only be Carlos Santana this week), the notebook is going to count down the Indians’ top five pitching and hitting performances from this winter season.
Today, we’ll start with the pitching. So, without further ado, here’s the list:
5. Tyler Sturdevant — Relief pitcher, Surprise Saguaros, Criollos de Caguas
8 G, 0-0, 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 5 H, 1 R/ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0.71 WHIP
Sturdevant was the only Indians player from this past winter season who played in both the Arizona Fall League as well as one of the Caribbean leagues. It turned out to be a good decision for him as he really made a solid impression in his eight appearances. Sturdevant is still somewhat of an intriguing player simply for the fact that he can touch triple digits with his fastball. He missed the entire 2013 season after he underwent right shoulder surgery, so his winter ball performance is especially impressive when you consider that it’s really the first competitive action that he has had since he underwent the surgery. Hopefully his strong winter performance sets him up for success in 2014 because the reality is that age is not on Sturdevant’s side. He is already 28-years-old, so it’s really now or never for him. He will likely open the season at Triple-A Columbus, but he could have a chance to pitch in Cleveland in the near future if he continues to have performances like he had this winter.
4. Toru Murata — Starting pitcher, Caribes de Anzoategui
5 G/GS, 0-0, 22.2 IP, 2.38 ERA, 24 H, 7 R/6 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 1.19 WHIP
Murata has really stepped in nicely and filled the Paolo Espino-role nicely for the Indians. In other words, he’s not necessarily a player with much Major League upside, but he goes out and performs well wherever he goes. That was also the case this past winter as he made five strong starts in the Venezuelan Winter League for Caribes de Anzoategui. Murata is likely to start the season in the rotation at Columbus, and he probably is a long shot to ever even make a start for the Indians. However, keep in mind how frequently injuries happen to a team’s starting rotation. There is always a chance that something catastrophic could happen, and the Tribe may actually need to rely on Murata for a start or two. That might not be the best thing in the world, but it certainly would not be the worst either as Murata could probably capably handle a start here or there. His season in the VWL was not flashy, but it was very typical of what we’ve come to expect from him. Now let’s hope that this winter success carries over into Spring Training and the minors.
3. Bryan Price — Relief pitcher, Bravos de Margarita
15 G/1 GS, 0-1, 19 IP, 1.89 ERA, 8 H, 5 R/4 ER, 6 BB, 19 K, 6 SV/SVO, 0.74 WHIP
Price was outstanding this past season at Double-A Akron and Columbus, and that theme continued during the winter. In 47 combined appearances with the Aeros and Clippers in 2013, Price posted a 2.04 ERA and also struck out 11 batters per nine innings. This winter, he had a similarly strong campaign as he posted a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings and also had a K/9 rate of 9.0. When you consider his 2013 performance combined with what he did in the VWL, it’s clear that Price is on the fast track to Cleveland. Injuries have always held Price back a bit, but he’s been completely healthy for more than a year now and the results have been outstanding. In the past, Price has been able to dial his fastball up to the upper 90s, and his slider has also always been a weapon; it’s been proven to be a true out-pitch for him. He probably has little chance of making the Indians out of Spring Training, but he will be someone to watch as the season progresses. Once a need arises, he will probably be one of the first players recalled from Columbus.
2. Elvis Araujo — Starting pitcher, Aguilas de Zulia
11 G/4 GS, 0-1, 22.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 22 H, 13 R/7 ER, 8 BB, 14 K, 1.32 WHIP
Araujo’s performance was impressive this past winter, especially when you consider that he made just two starts during the 2013 season. He dealt with a variety of injuries, and injuries have unfortunately been a concern for quite sometime with Araujo as he missed the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, when he is not injured, it’s hard to not be impressed with Araujo. He’s a big power left-hander, who has just a beautiful, free delivery with his fastball. In many ways, his delivery is almost a left-handed version of what we routinely see from right-hander Danny Salazar. As you probably would guess, it’s easy to fall in love with it at first glance. Unlike Salazar though, Araujo has not dominated the minors and has not had such a meteoric rise through the system. The aforementioned injuries have taken a toll, and he also has never been able to string together a handful of positive performances. That’s exactly why his winter performance was so exciting because he was consistent for the first time in his career. It’s obviously hard to draw any conclusions from just 22 2/3 innings of work, but this winter was definitely a step in the right direction for Araujo. It will be interesting to see where he starts out this season for the Indians. If his winter success carries over, Araujo could quickly become one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire system.
1. Joseph Colon — Starting pitcher, Cangrejeros de Santurce
7 G/GS, 1-0, 32.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 22 H, 7 R/ER, 8 BB, 22 K, 0.92 WHIP
Everyone is always looking to see what Indians prospect has the best chance to become a solid Major League pitcher, and the truth is that that guy may be Colon. Ever since Salazar graduated to the Major League level, Cody Anderson has received much of the hype, but it’s important to not overlook Colon. In seven starts this winter, Colon was outstanding as he never allowed more than three runs in an outing, and he even only did that on one occasion. Colon is not a power pitcher, and he does not offer the flash of others, but he gets the job done by generating a handful of grounders with his sinker, which is a huge weapon for him. In fact, this winter, he posted a 1.87 GO/AO, and did not allow one home run. When you’re able to get groundballs like that, a team is going to be able to find a use for you, and that will probably be the case for Colon and the Indians. Colon was very strong in High-A Carolina this past season as he posted a 3.13 ERA in 15 starts. He’s on track to start the season in Akron, and his winter performance probably helped ensure that. While it’s true that the Indians do not have many strong starting pitching prospects, Colon’s performances are quickly making him stand out as one of the more impressive ones.
Steve can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know its just the winter leagues, so this is a little OT, but this article reminds me just how thin the tribe's minor league pitching is and what a terrible job the tribe has done drafting pitchers.
When a guy like Colon -- who is just the type I root for, but because he doesn't throw very hard will probably stall out at AA or AAA and likely never make the big leagues -- is mentioned as next in line after Salazar, its pretty bad.
We've had so many high picks from the last 3-4 years (e.g. Dillon Howard, Mitch Brown, Jake Sisco, Kyle Blair, Cole Cook, etc.) who are doing absolutely nothing, and its hard to imagine that any of them are ever going to show up on anyone's top ten list of tribe prospects, most will be lucky to crack the top 25!
At this point, Dylan Baker is the only starter drafted in the last few years, besides Anderson and maybe Colon (Kime doesn't count, as he's has barely started) who seems to be making progress. Ugghhh...
Nice Summary! I wanted an update on winter activities, especially the pitching.