When I look at the Cleveland Indians farm system, there are three guys that stand out to me. The first, as I’ve mentioned, is Double-A second baseman Ernie Clement, and the second is Ryan Broom, a right-handed pitcher who was selected in the 2018 draft. The third guy, however, might be the most impressive of the trio.
In the ninth round of the 2017 draft, the Indians selected James Karinchak, right-handed relief prospect out of Bryant University. Karinchak is a reliever with a plus 12-to-6 breaking ball and a fastball that typically sits between 93 and 96 mph. He also brings a changeup, but realistically it’s no more than an extra pitch and will probably be scrapped altogether now that he’s exclusively pitching out of the bullpen.
His first look in pro-ball wasn’t encouraging, as he posted a 5.79 ERA over 23.1 innings in Short Season. Regardless, the Indians brass showed confidence in him and assigned him to full season A ball to begin the 2018 season. He responded by pitching 11.1 innings of one-run ball, earning himself a promotion to Class A Advanced, where his success continued and he allowed just three earned runs over 27 innings, good for a 1.00 ERA. As the season wound down, he earned a late-season call-up to Double-A Akron where he continued to impress, posting a 2.61 ERA over 10.1 innings.
Based on this performance, prospect analysts began taking note, but were troubled by his control and considered him to be a high-risk relief prospect who had the ceiling of a lockdown late-inning arm, but a more likely outcome of a high-octane taxi guy.
Fast forward to the present day: He began 2019 in Double-A and has since logged five innings of relief without allowing a run. While impressive, five scoreless innings for a reliever in Double-A isn’t necessarily a feat worthy of an entire write-up, so what’s all the hype?
Well, first of all, those five innings have not only been scoreless; he has not allowed a single hit while walking just one batter. Out of 16 batters faced, only one of them has reached base. The real kicker here, however, is that of the 15 guys who were unsuccessful against Karinchak, only one of them put the ball in play!
That’s right, James Karinchak has struck out 14 of the 16 batters he has faced. That’s an 87.5 percent strikeout rate and a 93.3 percent strikeout rate among all outs recorded.
Now, obviously, this level of production is not going to continue, but the fact of the matter is James Karinchak is legit and should be able to help the Indians bullpen by the end of the 2019 season. Make sure you monitor him as the season continues.