2014 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-handerDanny Salazar won this award and the year before that Corey Kluber won it, so there has been some immediate impact at the Major League level from recent winners. Hopefully that trend continues in the near future for the Indians. As a quick note, pitchers such as Will Roberts, Joseph Colon and a few others just missed the final cut to 11 pitchers for this listing.
To view the Tony Awards history from previous years, go here. Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:
Rookie of the Year: Bobby Bradley
Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Wolters
Biggest Disappointment: Cody Anderson
Biggest Breakthrough: Erik Gonzalez
Comeback Player of the Year: Anthony Gallas
Reliever of the Year: Trevor Frank
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)
Gabriel Arias, RHP
27 G, 14-6, 3.68 ERA, 149.1 IP, 149 H, 75 R (61 ER), 13 HR, 42 BB, 91 K, .261 BAA, 1.28 WHIP
Arias was a minor league free agent signing who split the season between Double-A Akron (12 G, 7-2, 3.13 ERA) and Triple-A Columbus (15 G, 7-4, 4.15 ERA) and did exactly what he was signed to do in the upper levels: eat innings and provide quality outings. He also finished 6th in the organization in ERA and 1st in wins. He is a minor league free agent again who will probably be tough to resign, but the Indians will surely look to bring him back if they can to be a depth option in the upper levels.
Sean Brady, LHP
15 GS, 2-5, 3.18 ERA, 73.2 IP, 74 H, 34 R (26 ER), 4 HR, 29 BB, 46 K, .259 BAA, 1.40 WHIP
Brady did not perform statistically as well as he did in 2013 at rookie level Arizona when he racked up a 1.97 ERA, .205 BAA, 0.94 WHIP and 5.0 K/BB, but he still had a good season nonetheless. One bad outing at Low-A Lake County to end the year (2.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 2 K) really bumped up his overall totals as he went 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 14 starts at Short-A Mahoning Valley. He finished 7th in the NY-Penn League in ERA (2.79), 4th in starts (14), 9th in innings pitched (71.0) and 6th in walks (27).
Mitch Brown, RHP
27 GS, 8-8, 3.31 ERA, 138.2 IP, 113 H, 60 R (51 ER), 6 HR, 55 BB, 127 K, .226 BAA, 1.21 WHIP
Brown had a superb season not just with his performance, but with his development as a pitcher and finding his way back from some tough times in 2013. He finished 12th in the 16-team Midwest League in ERA (3.31), 3rd in games started (27), 5th in innings pitches (138.2), 6th in walks (55), 7th in strikeouts and 10th in WHIP (1.21). He also finished 4th in the organization in ERA and 4th in strikeouts. He got on a roll after the first month of the season going 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA, .210 BAA and 1.09 WHIP over his final 21 starts.
Tyler Cloyd, RHP
27 G, 10-8, 3.89 ERA, 166.2 IP, 181 H, 78 R (72 ER), 26 HR, 31 BB, 118 K, .277 BAA, 1.27 WHIP
Cloyd was another minor league free agent signing in the offseason. He had actually been claimed off waivers last September but was removed from the roster and ended up resigning with the Indians to be a depth starting option for them at Triple-A. His season started out rough as he went 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA and .330 BAA in his first eight starts, but over his final 19 starts went 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA and .257 BAA. He finished 12th in the International League in ERA, 7th in wins, 5th in starts, 2nd in innings pitched, 7th in strikeouts and 6th in WHIP. He ranked 7th in the organization in ERA and 5th in wins, and also threw a complete game nine inning no-hitter on July 30th.
Cameron Hill, RHP
14 G, 1-2, 1.76 ERA, 56.1 IP, 39 H, 11 R/ER, 1 HR, 20 BB, 33 K, .202 BAA, 1.05 WHIP
Hill was a pleasant surprise at Short-A Mahoning Valley this season and is a lower round pick who looks to have some upside. Not only did he perform very well, but the organization plans to continue to develop him as a starter going forward, which shows value. He just barely missed the cut by a few innings to qualify for inclusion in the league leaderboard in the NY-Penn League, but had he qualified he would have ranked 1st in ERA (1.76) and tied for 4th in WHIP (1.05).
Luis Lugo, LHP
27 G, 10-9, 4.92 ERA, 126.1 IP, 124 H, 79 R (69 ER), 16 HR, 40 BB, 146 K, .255 BAA, 1.30 WHIP
Some may wonder how Lugo can be included on this list considering his high ERA, but the ERA is very deceiving and does not show how well he actually pitched this year. In fact, his year was almost as good as last season at Short-A Mahoning Valley when he had a 1.97 ERA. For the advanced metrics fans out there, he had a 3.12 FIP in 2013 and 3.86 FIP this season, so the seasons are more alike than at first glance. The big change was a huge jump in his strikeout rate going from a 5.4 K/9 last season to a 10.4 K/9 this season. He finished 1st in the organization in strikeouts and was 3rd in the Midwest League in strikeouts as well.
Ryan Merritt, LHP
25 GS, 13-3, 2.58 ERA, 160.1 IP, 128 H, 56 R (46 ER), 12 HR, 25 BB, 127 K, .216 BAA, 0.95 WHIP
Merritt had a big year at High-A Carolina and was no doubt one of the top pitchers in the league. He finished 1st in the organization in ERA (min 0.8 IP per team game), 2nd in wins, and tied for 4th in strikeouts. He also finished 3rd in the Carolina League in ERA, 5th in games started, 1st in innings pitched, 4th in strikeouts and 1st in WHIP. He came close to giving the Indians a second consecutive winner (Cody Anderson, 2013) in the Carolina League for Pitcher of the Year but just missed thanks to the great season from Glenn Sparkman with Wilmington (Royals).
Shawn Morimando, LHP
28 GS, 10-9, 3.30 ERA, 152.2 IP, 135 H, 73 R (56 ER), 9 HR, 52 BB, 108 K, .234 BAA, 1.22 WHIP
Morimando is a very promising left-handed starter who not only has been a performer throughout his minor league career, but is someone with good upside because of his youth, athleticism and stuff. He was dynamite at High-A Carolina earlier in the year and went 8-3 with a 2.99 ERA (96.1 IP, 72 H, 7 HR, 35 BB, 70 K) before he was promoted to Double-A Akron in July. Even at 21 years of age and new to the Eastern League, he made a nice transition at Akron going 2-6 with a 3.83 ERA (56.1 IP, 63 H, 2 HR, 17 BB, 38 K).
Thomas Pannone, LHP
11 G, 5-0, 3.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 32 H, 24 R (16 ER), 1 HR, 24 BB, 62 K, .194 BAA, 1.24 WHIP
Pannone is a guy who many profile as a reliever, but is someone the Indians are interested in developing as a starter to see where he takes them. He had a nice bounce back showing after a poor pro debut last season at rookie level Arizona where he went 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA In 14 appearances (16.0 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 20 K). He finished 2nd in the organization in ERA and ranked well in the Arizona League finishing 7th in ERA (3.20), 4th in wins (5), 3rd in strikeouts and 3rd in BAA (.194).
Adam Plutko, RHP
28 GS, 7-10, 4.03 ERA, 149.2 IP, 148 H, 73 R (67 ER), 12 HR, 30 BB, 144 K, .257 BAA, 1.19 WHIP
Plutko is another guy who pitched better than his ERA suggests. At Low-A Lake County to start the season he went 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA in 10 starts, but was more dominant than that as he had a 1.97 FIP, 11.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. He quickly moved on to High-A Carolina in late May and spent the rest of his season there going 4-9 with a 4.08 ERA in 18 starts (4.00 FIP). He logged almost 150 innings in his pro debut, racked up a 4.8 K/BB ratio, and finished 10th in the organization in ERA and 2nd in strikeouts. Not a bad first year showing.
Casey Shane, RHP
12 G, 6-0, 2.35 ERA, 57.1 IP, 46 H, 24 R (15 ER), 1 HR, 16 BB, 45 K, .222 BAA, 1.08 WHIP
This was one of the best performances for any pitcher this season, short season or not. Had he qualified (min 0.8 IP per team game) he would have ranked 1st in the organization in ERA. He had a pretty nice bounce back season from what was a poor pro debut last year when he went 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 6.8 K/9 in 11 games for rookie level Arizona. In a repeat showing at Arizona and 18 years of age this season he went 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 7.8 K/9 there before a late season promotion to Short-A Mahoning Valley (2 GS, 1-0, 0.82 ERA). He finished 5th in the Arizona League in ERA, 4th in BAA (.226) and 7th in WHIP (1.14).
And the Tony Award goes to….Ryan Merritt
For me, there were four pitchers who were probably the most deserving of this award purely from a statistical standpoint. Shane was unbelievably good in his short season showing, Arias was fantastic in his role as a depth starter and Brown started slow but found a groove and was lights out for most of the rest of the season. But to me the one guy who stood out among all the rest with the numbers was Merritt.
Merritt’s consistency was probably what was the most impressive as it is hard to maintain such dominant numbers all season and avoid a stretch of bad play, but that is exactly what he did. His worst month came in July when he put up a 5.01 ERA in six starts, but that was due to two bad starts as the other four were quality outings. He had no worse than a 2.54 ERA any other month. He had five outings all season where he allowed three or more earned runs, and In fact, earned or not, he had just three outings all year where he allowed more than three runs. Wow.
Not only did Merritt perform at a high caliber, but he also really made some strides in his development as well. It is not very often where development and performance go hand in hand, but that was the case this season for him. He once again showed durability and lots of athleticism this season, and on the mound he showed much more consistency with his pitches and his command to take a step forward into the discussion as a potential elite command and control type of pitcher.
Merritt opened the season as a guy the Indians thought could potentially start for them or be a reliever at least, to someone who they no doubt believe can start for them. The question now is what kind of starter he becomes as he could easily end up as a middle rotation, backend rotation or depth starter type depending on where he goes from here. He probably should have been moved up to Double-A Akron at some point in the second half of the season, but the Indians really wanted to focus in on the development of his pitches and some of the intangibles of pitching. He should move on to Double-A next season and is similar to a Josh Tomlin-Aaron Laffey type of prospect right now for the Indians, but has the upside to be more.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
Merritt was a great choice and had a really good year. Next year at AA will be a great test for him and he'd better come in stronger and even better to keep moving up, as he'll be 23 next year...
Brown would be next on my list, because following a terrible start to his career, the giant step forward in his development was HUGEHUGEHUGE for the organization.
Shane's performance was also very important, but he needs to do that over a full season, so I'd say third on my list is Morimando, who after a shaky start, was able to establish himself at AA as a 21-year-old. (nice stat: in 79 innings at single-A he held RH hitters to a .201 avg.)
Anyway, Akron's rotation could be really interesting next year with Anderson, Merritt, Morimando and a mix of Roberts, von Schamann, Colon, etc. depending on who they send to Columbus to start the year. There are no sure-thing, slam dunk prospects right now, but I think the Indians could get some big league quality pitching out of the arms moving up to AA and AAA.