At 27, Cleveland Indians RHP Mike Clevinger isn’t a prospect. He has exhausted his rookie eligibility and has 174.2 innings under his belt in his brief career; however, it is quite possible that we haven’t seen the best that he can offer, likely becoming the same type of late bloomer that fellow rotation-mate Corey Kluber became for the Tribe.
Clevinger to Become Ace 1c in 2018
The Indians have two of the top arms in baseball in Kluber and RHP Carlos Carrasco, but underneath of Clevinger’s flowing hair is a right arm that is just as capable of dominating – with a few adjustments. In 2017, Clevinger posted a 3.11 ERA and a 10.13 K:9 over his 121.2 innings. He won 12 games and the Indians were 14-7 in his 21 starts. In addition to those glorious (ahem…) wins, Clevinger helped the Tribe lock things down late in the season by compiling a 2.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and .203 BAA from August 1st through the end of the season, even though five of his appearances came out of the bullpen (in which he allowed six of the 12 earned runs that he had in his final 48.1 innings).
In addition to the dominance noted above, another impressive feat was the whopping FOUR stolen bases that he allowed and the 10 caught stealing, which is further documentation to the awesome skills of both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez behind the dish, but an important part of the game for a pitcher – certainly a pitcher like Clevinger, who walked 4.44 batters per nine, as well. The lack of stolen bases, the high strikeout totals, and the .210 BAA over the course of the season led to a 79% strand rate, which was evident in his bit loftier FIP (3.85) and xFIP (4.05) numbers, but he misses enough bats to warrant the sleeper label, even getting love over at RotoGraphs as a possible top 30 fantasy starter.
Unfortunately, the words that I stated and the love from RotoGraphs are the highlights of his predictions, as other, more data-driven predictions aren’t so kind:
- Depth Chart: 8-7, 19 starts, 9.33 K:9, 4.47 ERA, 1.2 fWAR
- Steamer: 7-6, 19 starts, 8.93 K:9, 4.50 ERA, 1.1 fWAR
- ZiPS: 10-10, 31 appearances (26 starts), 9.72 K:9, 4.43 ERA, 1.3 fWAR
- Baseball Prospectus: 6-5, 15 starts, 9.2 K:9, 4.18 ERA, 0.7 WARP
- Baseball Reference:
Fortunately, Clevinger will have an opportunity to prove the databases wrong. There are a lot of things that need to break right for him to become an elite-level arm, especially a drastic change to that walk-rate and better location of his fastball, but there are enough positives to warrant some helium in his future – even as he enters his prime at 27. After all, his rotation spot seems more secure than those of Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar, and he has proven that he can get Major League hitters out. If that isn’t a start, I don’t know what is.