There is a lot to like about Mike Clevinger. He looks a lot like Jacob deGrom when he takes the mound, his long hair flying through the air as he hurls the ball to the plate. He loves the spotlight, as evidenced by last season’s Governor’s Cup performance. When you meet him, he has a care-free attitude, always laughing with a smile on his face, seemingly the happiest 25-year old to be wearing a baseball uniform.
He’s also happens to be an outstanding pitcher.
Clevinger is arguably the best pitching prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, and despite a rough go in his MLB trial this season, he is also the most major league-ready. Now 25 years old and armed with a big league, four-pitch arsenal, Clevinger is dominating the International League.
He was drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Seminole Junior College. Like nearly every young and exciting prospective pitcher, Clevinger succumbed to Tommy John surgery the season after he was drafted. He fought his way back to make a few uninspiring appearances at the end of 2013, but took the mound fully recovered once again in 2014.
Clevinger dominated Low-A that season, going 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA, striking out 27 and walking five in 24 innings. He jumped up to High-A and things caught up to him. He had his pitches back and his velocity appeared to be where it should be; however, his command and control were nowhere to be found.
He was traded to the Indians in August of 2014 and pitched in High-A Carolina for them as well to — unfortunately — the same results. He finished his first full season on the comeback trail with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP while striking out 100 and walking 43 over 100 innings. Clevinger had to cut down his 4.5 walks-per-nine ratio if he was to be considered a top prospect once again.
He was able to settle in once in Cleveland’s organization and after fine-tuning his mechanics with his new pitching instructors, Clevinger has been nothing sort of sensational.
He went on to win the Bob Feller Award in his 2015 Double-A debut, awarded to the Indians’ top pitcher in the minor leagues. He posted a 9-8 record behind a 2.73 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He cut that walk rate in half, walking just 2.28 per nine, while leading the entire farm system in strikeouts with 145 over 158 innings.
He was called up to Triple-A for the Columbus Clippers’ playoff run. Clevinger made two appearances in the playoffs, both coming in series-clinching fifth games. In the spotlight, in the most high-pressured situation of his young career, Clevinger was simply lights-out.
He hurled 15.1 innings without allowing a run. He struck out 17 along the way. The big righty put the cherry on top of his breakout season by going 7.2 shutout innings in the championship-deciding game, bringing the Governor’s Cup back to Columbus. Clevinger showed his moxie and was enamored by the system.
This season, he has continued to mature in Triple A. Heading into this week’s action, he is 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA. He is walking a bit too many, but nothing alarming, as he has posted an 89-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 88 innings, while adding in a 1.19 WHIP.
For more on his big league debut, analysis of his nasty stuff and more projections, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full article by clicking on the link below: