Pull up a stool if you will as I harken back to the summer of 1976. Our story starts on the last day of school at Lee High School, located in the suburbs of beautiful Austin, Texas. The usual activities and festivities are taking place; books are flying, kids are busy making plans as the first parties of the summer begin to take shape, and the annual hazing of incoming freshman has commenced. As over-aged and underdressed 8th grade girls fry like piggies on the hot Texas blacktop, our hero appears. He’s tall, lanky, and to put it plainly, goofy. He has a habit of tucking his long flowing locks behind his ears in the most awkward way possible, while simultaneously trying to pass himself off as cool. Our hero knows two things chilling and dominating Legion ball, and as the saying goes he’s almost out of chill. Let’s call our hero Mitch, but really his name is Mike….Mike Clevinger. What ensues is a night Mitch/Mike Clevinger will never forget, as he goes on a journey of hi-jinx, self discovery, and older women that ends in a most satisfying montage set to the musical stylings of Foghat. What does all this have to do with this week’s Prospect Profile Mike Clevinger? Nothing!!! I just think he resembles a grown up Mitch from Dazed and Confused and it makes me laugh. Plus it’s 4/20, a D&C reference seemed appropriate. Now onto the post!
Mike Clevinger, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 158 IP, 2.73 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Clevinger is your classic story of Cleveland lottery ticket turned upside reclamation project. Seriously, over the past few years between Kluber, Carrasco, and now Clevinger the Indians farm system has become the West Coast Customs of spec arms. Pimping rides and turning jalopies into custom beauties. Someone get MTV on the line, I have an idea and it needs a green light like “Send’em in” Wendall Kim is standing at third base. Can you imagine X to the Z Xzibit sitting outside the locker room of the Akron Rubber Ducks saying phrases like “Yo Dawg, I heard you like strikeouts, so we pimped your fastball”, “Oh and check your best speed offering gave that a boost too” “BTW, Any chance you guys can make me a relevant rapper again? Yeah At the Speed of Life was 20 years ago….Now I’m X-specially sad”.
Now that the random silliness is out of the way let’s talk about why we’re here. Actual baseball. Today’s study, the aforementioned Mike Clevinger, is an up and coming righthander in the Tribe’s system on the cusp of the majors and fantasy relevancy. At 25 the road for Clevinger has been longer than many pitching prospects, full of ups and downs. Originally drafted by the Angels in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Clevinger was relatively well regarded following an impressive showing in JuCo, as well as the previous summer in the famed Cape Cod League.** After throwing 41 average innings for Class A Cedar Rapids in his first full season of pro ball, his season was over, as he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery.
What followed was a season of recovery, and then an up and down 18 starts across two levels of A ball in 2014. Then at the trade deadline, the Angels, looking to sure up their bullpen, traded for a broken down Vinnie Pestano and sent Clevinger the other way. In what could prove to be one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory, the Angels got 11 garbage major league innings from Pestano, and the Indians got a new chassis from which to build.
The Cleveland staff focused their efforts on getting Clevinger back to throwing the way he did in his amateur heyday. With off season tweaks to his mechanics, what ensued was a huge 2015 that saw him burst onto the prospect radar. Making 26 starts for the AA Akron Rubber Ducks, the long haired Prince of Jacksonville dropped science like Galileo dropped the orange, putting up a record of 9-8 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.28 Bb/9, and a .219 batting average against. Following the AA season he was promoted to AAA Columbus where he aided the Clippers championship run with 15 1/3 scoreless innings. Following a strong camp, that included impressing on the mound and babysitting Corey Kluber’s kids, Clevinger headed back to Columbus. Where should a spot open in the big league rotation the 25 year old should be quick to get the call.
As for Clevinger’s skill set, he brings a plus fastball that jumped from the high 80’s in his Angels days, to a mid 90’s offering that can touch 97 following the move to the Indians organization. He mixes the fastball in with a hard slider, that grades the highest of his secondary offerings, as well as a change, and curveball. His control can be spotty, but for the most part he’s a strike thrower. He looks to project as a 3 or 4 starter with some upside. A nice get in deeper dynasty leagues, but not a must have in 12 teamers with shallow minor league rosters.
** quick aside, people always ask me “Ralph, you’re a baseball nut. Growing up in southeastern Massachusetts a mere 20 miles from the Bourne Bridge you must have gone to a lot of Cape Cod League games right?.. NOPE! Sadly the answer is….no. I’ve been to…..ONE! I know, for shame, but here’s the thing, well it’s a couple of things. My father is a man of great passion about his likes and dislikes and chief among them are A) the cape B) baseball C) baseball. Great guy, love him to pieces, he hates baseball. So the idea of me convincing him to go to a place he hates to watch a thing he hates is pretty much preposterous.**