Carlos Carrasco ... merely average at Columbus.
The Indians have a lot of mid-range pitching prospects in their farm system. The hope is that a few develop their potential and become something more than just average major leaguers. Each of the organization's four full-season clubs (Columbus, Akron, Kinston and Lake County) along with the three short-season teams (Mahoning Valley, Arizona, Dominican) have pitchers with big-league credentials.
Let's start at the lowest level and work our way up the minor-league ladder, just as these pitchers must do.
It is early in the season for the Indians' team in the Dominican Summer League, but Oswell Munoz is off to a rather amazing start when it comes to command. Now in his third year with the club, the 19-year-old (he turns 20 in November) has walked one batter and struck out 46 in 39 2-3 innings!
Signed at age 16 in August 2007, Munoz has always displayed impeccable control. While going 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA over his first two seasons, he walked only nine and fanned 68 over 77 2-3 innings. Such control is particularly impressive when applied to his size. Ordinarily, tall pitchers have difficulty in repeating their deliveries and get wild. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Munoz doesn't seem to have any trouble throwing strikes, however.
Munoz is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in nine games including four starts.
The club's leading starter, Enosil Tejada, is not far behind. He has walked four and fanned 55 over 41 1-3 innings in his first year of pro ball. Tejada is 4-3 with a 2.83 ERA in seven starts.
None of the 23 others who have taken the mound for the DSL Indians have come close to what Munoz and Tejada have accomplished.
Ramon Cespedes, a graduate of the DSL program, has done well early for the Indians' team in the Arizona Rookie League. The right-hander is 2-0 with one save and 1.77 ERA in six relief outings. He's allowed only four hits and three walks over 11 2-3 innings, striking out 15.
Cespedes, 19, was a combined 8-6 with six saves and a 2.22 ERA the past two years in the DSL, giving up only 57 hits in 85 innings.
Alex Kaminsky, a right-hander who went undrafted this year, is 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA at Mahoning Valley. The former Wright State star has given up 22 hits and nine walks over 25 1-3 innings, fanning 18 over five starts.
Owen Dew, drafted in the 21st round from Central Florida, is 1-1 with a 1.15 ERA in three starts for the Scrappers.
Second-year reliever Nick Kirk has a 1.17 ERA and three saves in seven outings for the Scrappers. He has fanned 15 and walked one over 7 2-3 innings. A 19th-round pick out of Northern Iowa a year ago, he went 3-1 with one save and a 4.15 ERA for Mahoning Valley in 2009.
Takafumi Nakamura, 21, is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six relief outings. Cleveland signed the 6-foot-5 right-hander out of a college in Japan and project that with instruction the big guy can add some velocity as his frame fills out.
Lake County has had a lot of good pitching this season, some of which has been promoted to Kinston. Still doing well with the Captains are lefties Matt Packer (7-4, 1.68 ERA, one save) and Francisco Jimenez (6-1, three saves, 3.40 ERA) along with right-handers Antwonie Hubbard (2-0, one save, 2.15 ERA), Nick Sarianides (6-2, 4.30 ERA) and Preston Guilmet (1-1, seven saves, 2.91 ERA).
The Indians still have high hopes for starters Trey Haley (4-4, 5.07 ERA) and Clayton Cook (4-5, 3.62 ERA), believing the young right-handers will eventually develop. Haley still has command issues. He has walked 46 in 71 innings, though that is better than the 65 walks he issued in 77 2-3 innings for the Captains a year ago.
Kinston also has had some impressive pitching -- already passing some of it along to Double-A Akron.
Cory Burns has been sensational in relief at two stops. The right-hander went 12-for-12 in save chances with a 2.30 ERA in 14 games at Lake County. He hasn't missed a beat at Kinston, going 15-for-16 in saves with a 2.70 ERA in 20 outings.
Drafted in the eighth round in 2009 from the University of Arizona, Burns went 3-2 with 11 saves and a 1.93 ERA for Mahoning Valley in his first pro season.
Lefty Chris Jones went 2-2 with one save and 2.86 ERA at Lake County and is 2-1 with two saves and a 1.24 ERA at Kinston.
Lefty T.J. McFarland (9-2, 1.99 ERA) has been Kinston's ace starter. Right-hander Joe Gardner is 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 12 starts since his promotion from Lake County.
Alex White, the Indians' first-round pick in 2009, has been very impressive at Kinston and Akron. The 21-year-old out of the University of North Carolina didn't make his pro debut until this year. In 18 starts, he's 6-7 with a sparkling 2.10 ERA. In 103 innings, he has allowed only 73 hits, walked 35 and struck out 76.
Akron manager Joel Skinner has already used 24 pitchers. None were as good as Bryce Stowell, who did not allow an earned run over 22 1-3 innings.
The Indians drafted Stowell in the 22nd round in 2008 and gave him a $725,000 signing bonus, money usually allocated for an early round pick. The move may be paying off as the right-hander has been sensational across three levels (Kinston-Akron-Columbus) this year.
In 27 games including one start at Akron, he is 2-0 with seven saves and a 0.71 ERA. Stowell's sharp slider has limited opposing batters to 32 hits in 50 2-3 innings with 78 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Right-hander Josh Tomlin (8-3, 2.58 ERA) has been the least heralded but most consistent of Columbus' starters. All Tomlin does is win. He's now 51-23 in his minor-league career since being drafted out of Texas Tech in the 19th round in 2006. He went to the Triple-A All-Star Game this week:Listen to Audio
The Indians still believe Carlos Carrasco (7-4, 4.38 ERA) and Jeanmar Gomez (6-8, 5.70 ERA) have big-league futures, but Tomlin deserves the first call.