Top 25 Indians MiLB Relievers for 2019: AKA the Class of 2018

Top 25 Indians MiLB Relievers for 2019: AKA the Class of 2018

Indians

Top 25 Indians MiLB Relievers for 2019: AKA the Class of 2018

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In continuation with Burning River Baseball’s bi-weekly positional prospect rankings, we have come to the biggest list of them all. Rather than breaking relievers into right and left (because there are many more right than left) and so we don’t leave out anyone important (we are still leaving out a handful of important pitchers), we will run a top 25 rather than the more traditional top ten.

The position is highly variable and there has been huge turnover since last year, largely due to the incredible draft class of 2018. Gone from the 2018 list are Kieran Lovegrove (#4), Luke Eubank (#6), Mitch Brown (#7), Robert Zarate (#8), Leandro Linares (#10), Adoni Kery (#16), Cole Sulser (#17), Nick Pasquale (#18), Billy Strode(#19), Tommy DeJuneas (#20) and Josh Martin (#21), all of whom are no longer with the Indians. Jean Carlos Mejia (#14) has also been removed from contention as he is now a starting pitcher.

Valdez pitches in relief for the 2017 AZL Indians at Goodyear Ballpark. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

25. Luis Valdez – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2018
2015 International Free Agent
SS Mahoning Valley

Siri pitches in relief for the Glendale Desert Dogs during the final game of the 2018 AFL season. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

24. Dalbert Siri – RHP – Age: 23 – 2018 RP Rank: #1
2014 International Free Agent
AA Akron
23. Anderson Polanco – LHP – Age: 26 – 2018 LHSP Rank: #10
2011 International Free Agent
A+ Lynchburg

Akron RubberDucks Pitcher David Spreer vs Richmond Flying Squirrels 27 May 2019. – Russell J Bennett – BuringRiverBaseball

22. David Speer – LHP – Age: 26 – 2018 RP Rank: #9
27th Round, 2014 Draft
AA Akron

Arias pitches in extended spring 2017 while on his way back from suspension. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

21. Skylar Arias – RHP – Age: 21 – 2018 RP Rank: #22
24th Round, 2016 Draft
A Lake County

Marman pitches on rehab assignment with the Indians in extended spring training after missing his first professional season with injury. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

20. Kyle Marman – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2018
13th Round, 2018 Draft
A Lake County

Lingos throws in relief during a 2018 AZL Indians game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

19. Eli Lingos – LHP – Age: 23 – Unranked in 2018
22nd Round 2018 Draft
A Lake County

Ponticelli participates in spring training pitchers fielding practice during 2019 MiLB camp. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

18. Thomas Ponticelli – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2018
12th Round, 2018 Draft
A Lake County

By Joseph Coblitz
In the past, we have only done write ups for the top 15 relievers, but the uniqueness of pitchers 16 through 18 warranted a little more detail.

Ponticelli has been used often in extended appearances over his first two seasons, leaving it up in the air whether his future is as a starter or in the bullpen. While he doesn’t have one of the best fastballs on this list, he has great secondary stuff and does a good job hitting the corners. As he has multiple solid offerings, he may be better suited for a position where he will face a line-up multiple times.

Valladares throws a pitch during a 2019 extended spring training appearance. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

17. Randy Valladares – LHP – Age: 24 – Unranked in 2018
2013 International Free Agent
A+ Lynchburg

By Joseph Coblitz
It has been a long road for Valladares, who originally broke in with the Indians in 2014 in the Arizona League, but hadn’t made it beyond Lake County prior to this season. Even this year he began in extended spring training prior to his call up to Lynchburg. While it has been a slow rise, Valladares has the kind of stuff that can’t be ignored. His nearly knuckle dragging delivery from the left side is incredibly deceptive and he has had no issue racking up K’s over the years. Command remains his primary issue as he not only has had trouble reaching the strike zone at times, but leaving pitches too far up where the low delivery becomes a detriment.

Lynchburg HillCats Pitcher Anthony Gose vs Wilmington Blue Rockes 27 Apr 2019. -Russell J Bennett BurningRiverBaseball

16. Anthony Gose – LHP – Age: 28 – Unranked in 2018
2019 MiLB Free Agent
AA Akron

By Joseph Coblitz
We are breaking one of our normal rules here as only prospects without MLB experience are considered eligible for MiLB rankings, but with with good reason. Gose was formerly an outfielder with the Tigers, but was signed by the Indians last off-season as a pitcher and has now worked his way back up to AA. A lefty with speed, Gose has already seen great success in the upper minors with a 10.6 K/9 through his first 14 appearances. Control is an issue, however, and is something that will need to be addressed before he goes any further. As a bonus, Gose was a terrific fielder when he was a part of the position player lifestyle and will never be a detriment to his team on an infield fly.

Akron RubberDucks Pitcher Ben Krauth vs Richmond Flying Squirrels 26 May 2019. – Russell J Bennett – BuringRiverBaseball

15. Ben Krauth – LHP – Age: 25 – 2018 RP Rank: #3
16th Round, 2016 Draft
AA Akron

By Stacy Hannan
Before this season, Krauth really impressed at each stage in the Tribe’s system. He started this year in Akron, and struggled a bit, posting a 5.54 ERA in 17 appearances before heading to the injured list in early June. He has posted 25 strikeouts in 26 IP, but has also issued 20 walks and 23 hits in that span.

Last season with Lynchburg, Krauth went 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 38 games. Over 68 IP, Krauth struck out 100, walked 25, and gave up 47 hits. In 2017, he went 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA in 23 games with Lake County. In 61.2 IP for the Captains he struck out 72, walked 30, and gave up 47 hits. He was rewarded for his performance with a promotion to Lynchburg to end the season. Over 10 games and 17 IP, Krauth struck out 20, walked 9, and had a 1.59 ERA.

Krauth has found success each step of the way before the beginning of this year with Akron. Once healthy, one hopes his impressive strikeout-to-walk numbers will translate well to AA, and that he will find his way with the Rubberducks.

Ramirez pitches during extended spring training 2019. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

14. Jerson Ramirez – RHP – Age: 20 – Unranked in 2018
2017 International Free Agent
AZL Indians

By Joseph Coblitz
While the college draft picks were the main stories to come out of the 2018 AZL Indians bullpen, don’t look past Ramirez. He has great velocity and had big time strike out numbers in his first season in the US last year (12.1 K/9). He looked just as dominant in extended spring training this year and could be a quick call-up to Mahoning Valley once the 2019 short season gets rolling. As it stands, he is the most talented reliever to get left behind from the 2018 squads.

Lake County Captains Pitcher Manuel Alvarez vs Fort Wayne TinCaps 13 May 2019. -Russell J Bennett BurningRiverBaseball

13. Manuel Alvarez – RHP – Age: 23 – Unranked in 2018
2017 International Free Agent
A Lake County

By Peter Conti
Alvarez leads the Captains as a right handed reliever posting a 4-1 record with a 2.76 ERA and six saves on the season. He’s allowed nineteen batters to reach via walk, and thirty strikeouts in 29 innings overall. Opposing offenses have hit just .213 against Alvarez and he has allowed nine earned runs in that span.

Akron RubberDucks Pitcher Rob Kaminsky vs Harrisburg Senators -21 May 19 – Russell J Bennett – BurnningRiverBaseball

12. Rob Kaminsky  – LHP – Age: 24 – Unranked in 2018
2015 Trade (Brandon Moss to Cardinals)
AA Akron

By Peter Conti
Kaminsky has spent time between the Clippers and the RubberDucks going 2-1 during his time with Akron. With his promotion to the Clipshow, his ERA is astronomically high standing at 16.20 in two game appearances. He had the same amount of walks to strikeouts, 3:3 during that stretch.

Martinez pitches for the Indians during a 2016 Extended Spring Training game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

11. Henry Martinez – RHP – Age: 25 – 2018 RP Rank: 15
2013 International Free Agent
AAA Columbus

By Stacy Hannan
Martinez impressed this spring in camp with the Tribe, and rumors started swirling that he could be setting up Brad Hand at some point this season with his 100 mph fastball. Martinez has had some growing pains with AAA Columbus this season, and the decision to send him to Columbus for this season has proven sound. However, there’s no denying that his stuff is electric, and if he continues to find more consistently, he could help the Tribe’s bullpen in the near future.

Martinez struggled to start the season, but has settled in recently. For the season he sits at 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA in 24 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is solid (26/13), but he has given up 27 hits in 26.2 IP.

Last season, after having quick success with High-A Lynchburg, Martinez was promoted to Akron, where he had a 2.76 ERA, striking out 32 and walking 9 in 32.2 IP. He did give up 30 hits in that span. Martinez finished the season with Columbus. Although his numbers don’t look great (10.64 ERA, 18 hits in 11 IP), he still had 14 strikeouts to only 4 walks in that span.

Martinez needs to continue to develop his slider and change-up to go along with that electric fastball. Doing so should bring about more swings-and-misses, and if he can do that he should land in Cleveland before long.

Araujo pitches during 2019 Indians MiLB spring training practice. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

10. Luis Araujo – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2018
2013 International Free Agent
A Lake County

By Peter Conti
Araujo is winless thus far for Lake County going 0-1 but still has a low ERA of 1.35 in thirteen games. He is one of the top strikeout relievers for the Captains. He has given up fourteen hits but at the same time kept his earned runs total down to just three in twenty innings of relief baseball.

Angulo during 2018 MiLB Indians practice. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

9. Argenis Angulo – RHP – Age: 25 – 2018 RP Rank #5
19th Round, 2014 Draft
AAA Columbus

By Peter Conti
Angulo has split time between Akron and Columbus in 2019 thus far going 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA. He has allowed fifteen hits in thirty-one innings pitching in relief and given up nine total runs, seven of them earned in that span. Angulo’s K to BB ratio so far this season stands at 42:20 holding opponents to a .143 batting average which is a positive sign for the righty as the year progresses.

Pinto winds up during a 2018 AZL Indians game at Goodyear Ballpark. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

8. Aaron Pinto – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2018
24th Round, 2018 Draft
A+ Lynchburg

By Joseph Coblitz
Pinto was incredibly dominant in his first season in the AZL with 30 K’s and just 5 walks in 27.2 innings. Sent straight to Lake County to begin 2019, he continued his success there and has since been boosted to high A. In his first  two seasons he has yet to hit a snag and now carries a 1.47 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 over his first 61.1 innings. He is very quick to the plate and has a consistent delivery that helps his control. Having seen him extensively in his rookie campaign, I can say there is nothing to dislike about Pinto.

Rholl pitches in relief for the Indians during extended spring training 2019. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

7. Kellen Rholl – LHP – Age: 23 – Unranked in 2018
25th Round, 2018 Draft
A Lake County

By Joseph Coblitz
Rholl only joined the Indians last season as a college draft pick out of Angelo State, but made an immediate impact with the AZL Indians by striking out 24 in 20.2 innings with 12 unintentional walks. He brings everything you want out of a reliever with a delivery that makes it difficult for the hitter to see the ball out of his hand (picture a left handed Joe Smith), good velocity and good command. He has repeated his success in extended spring training and low A ball this season and has the make-up to be a Major Leaguer. Considering his age and ability level, Rholl has a good chance of being fast tracked as many others from the 2018 draft have been.

Lynchburg HillCats Pitcher Yapson Gomez vs Wilmington Blue Rockes 26 Apr 2019. -Russell J Bennett BurningRiverBaseball

6. Yapson Gomez – LHP – Age: 25 – Unranked in 2018
2019 MiLB Free Agent
A+ Lynchburg

By David Wood
Gomez was acquired at the winter meetings this off season during the minor league rule 5 draft. He is a left handed reliever who started his career back in 2013 with the Cubs organization. He is already 25 years old and he is currently pitching in Lynchburg for the Indians. He is a little old for the league he is in, but sometimes it takes pitchers longer to develop. So far this season he has made 22 appearances, pitched 35 2/3 innings walked 11 and struck out 35. His ERA is 2.27 and his WHIP is an impressive 0.925. He has pitched very effectively in Lynchburg. Going forward he needs to maintain that level of success as he moves up and faces more difficult competition.

Lynchburg HillCats pitcher Jared Robinson vs Wilmington Blue Rockes 28 Apr 2019. -Russell J Bennett BurningRiverBaseball

5. Jared Robinson – RHP – Age: 24 – 2018 RP Rank: #25
11th Round, 2014 Draft
AA Akron

By Stacy Hannan
Robinson may be considered a late bloomer in comparison to some of his fellow pitchers, but the bloom seems to be legit ever since he converted from starter to reliever during the 2016-2017 seasons. In 2018, his first full year out of the bullpen, Robinson had a 2.65 ERA in 29 games with High-A Lynchburg. In that span he had 56 strikeouts, 21 walks, and gave up 40 hits in 51 IP. This season he posted a 3.09 ERA with Lynchburg, where he had 35 strikeouts, 7 walks, and 23 hits in 23.1 IP. Robinson led the Hillcats with 5 saves before being promoted to AA Akron. So far with Akron he has a 4.50 ERA over three games, striking out five, walking two, and giving up four hits in four IP. Robinson also came up to Columbus for one game this season where he pitched four strong innings out of the bullpen, striking out five, walking one, and not giving up a run.

Robinson is a prospect who could grow into a multi-inning reliever. Although he is prone to give up hits, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is impressive. It will be interesting to see how he progresses in AA as he seems primed to spend the rest of this season with the Rubberducks.

Akron RubberDucks Pitcher Kyle Nelson vs Harrisburg Senators -21 May 19 – Russell J Bennett – BurnningRiverBaseball

4. Kyle Nelson – LHP – Age: 22 – 2018 RP Rank: #13
15th Round, 2017 Draft
AA Akron

By David Wood
Nelson, along with James Karinchak and Nick Sandlin may some day be Cleveland’s version of the Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys” from the early 1990s. Nelson is the left-hander of the group. Since being drafted in 2017 Nelson has been excellent. He is easily the number one lefthanded reliever currently in the Indians farm system.

So far this season Nelson’s numbers have been ridiculous. He started the year in Lynchburg and now is currently pitching in Akron. In 23 appearances he has pitched 27 1/3 innings. Over that time he has allowed only nine hits and walked only four batters. He has struck out 45 batters, with an ERA of 0.33 and a WHIP of 0.476. He has allowed just two runs, of which only one was earned. Based on numbers alone you could argue that Nelson is the top reliever in Cleveland’s system. He has major league, back end bullpen, potential. Although Nelson hasn’t got quite as much hype as Karinchak and Sandlin he is right there with them as far as talent and potential. I would expect Nelson, if he stays healthy, to be pitching effectively in Cleveland sometime this year or next.

Broom warms up prior to 2019 Indians MiLB spring training practice. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

3. Robert Broom – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked  in 2018
10th Round, 2018 Draft
AA Akron

By David Wood
Broom is in his first full year with Cleveland. He, like Nick Sandlin, is a sidearm pitcher. He has been a step behind Sandlin on the depth chart since they were drafted together last year, but has been just as effective as anybody in the Indians farm system over the past year.

Broom has risen quickly through the minor leagues. He started this season in Lynchburg and is now currently pitching in Akron. So far this year he has a record of 1-1 with 2 saves in 20 appearances covering 29 innings. He has allowed only 15 hits and 5 runs, with only 2 being earned runs. He has struck out 39 and has an ERA of 0.62 and a WHIP of 0.862. Broom has been great so far. The only thing left for him to do is show that he can continue to be consistently effective in the upper minor leagues, just as he was in the lower minors. He seems like he is also on the fast track to Cleveland. The Indians bullpen could have many young, interesting additions in the next year or two that will make the pitching staff even better.

Sandlin checks on the runner during a 2019 Indians MiLB spring training practice. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

2. Nick Sandlin – RHP – Age: 22 – Unranked  in 2018
2nd Round, 2018 Draft
AAA Columbus

By David Wood
Sandlin is as good of a prospect as anyone in the Tribe’s farm system. He was drafted just last summer and he is already in AAA, knocking on the major league bullpen door. Sandlin is a sidearm pitcher who knows how to pitch. When he is added to the major league roster he will make the team better.

Sandlin in just over a year has made 45 appearances and pitched 46 2/3 innings. He has gone from rookie ball all the way to AAA over that time span. During this time he has a 2-0 record with 7 saves, an ERA of 2.51 and a WHIP of 1.114. He has struck 68 batters for a strikeout rate of 13.1. He has only walked 15 batters giving him an impressive 4.53 strikeouts/walks ratio. Sandlin has had success at every level he has pitched at since being drafted by the Indians. At this point he is really just continuing to hone his craft while waiting on the front office to call his number. Once he is called, I would expect Sandlin to remain in Cleveland for quite some time.

Karinchak pitches for the Clippers during a 2019 MiLB spring training game against Louisville. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

1. James Karinchak – RHP – Age: 23 – 2018 RP Rank: #2
9th Round, 2017 Draft
AAA Columbus

By Stacy Hannan
Karinchak shot through the Indians’ farm system like a bullet over the past 2+ seasons, dominating his opponents each step of the way. This season he was on the fast track to Cleveland’s bullpen, but a hamstring injury has laid him up on the IL since the middle of May. Before that, Karinchak was simply awesome. In ten games with AA Akron to start the season, he had 24 strikeouts, 2 walks, and 2 hits in 10 IP. He pitched 3 games for AAA Columbus before going on the IL, where he had 8 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 3 hits in 3 IP.

After struggling a bit in starter and relief duties in 10 games with short-season Mahoning Valley in 2017, Karinchak pitched at three different levels of the Indians’ system in 2018. He found success each step along the way. Karinchak started that season in Low-A Lake County, where he racked up a 3-0 record and 0.79 ERA in 7 games. He was quickly promoted to High-A Lynchburg, where he was 1-1, with a 1.00 ERA, posting 45 strikeouts, 17 walks, and 14 hits in 27 IP. He finished the season with Akron, where he posted sixteen strikeouts, 12 walks, 7 hits, and a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 IP.

In short, Karinchak has been lights out at every step of his career. He has not given up an earned run since August, 2018. His fastball sits at 93-96 and he has an impressive 12-6 breaking ball. His injury was ill-timed but thankfully it was not arm or shoulder-related. With any luck he’ll be back on the mound soon and then keep an eye on him. It should not be long before he gets his shot with the Tribe.

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