With the 2017 season just underway, the Columbus Clippers once again appear to be loaded with talent. There’s a mix of veteran players and young prospects looking to get the call up to the Majors. Here’s a look at ten current or soon-to-be Clippers who should be fun to watch in Columbus this season.
Players on the verge of a call-up to Cleveland
Bradley Zimmer, OF
Zimmer got a taste of Triple-A baseball towards the end of last season, so he’ll begin the season in Columbus with hopes of making it up to the Indians by the end of the summer. While he’s a Clipper, fans will get a chance to see the #21 prospect in the game continue to develop. He’s shown great speed throughout his career (38+ stolen bases in each of his first two professional seasons) and has the potential to add to his mid-teens home run totals. If he’s able to improve on his .250 batting average from a year ago, he could be called up from Columbus sooner than later.
Mike Clevinger, P
Mike Clevinger got some valuable experience in the Major Leagues at the end of 2016, but with everybody healthy in Cleveland to start the 2017 season, he begins this year with the Clippers. Clevinger is likely among the first to get the call back up should the need arise, but for now Clippers fans can enjoy his solid production in the rotation in Columbus. Last year with the Clippers, Clevinger went 11-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 93 innings. With a quality start under his belt already in 2017, it appears to be business as usual for the 26-year old.
Richie Shaffer, 3B/OF
Richie Shaffer has impressive power, but hasn’t been able to translate that to big league success in his brief stints in the Majors so far in his career. Since 2013, his home run totals have been: 11, 19, 30 and 12. With only 122 MLB at bats under his belt, the Clippers are hoping the power comes back this season. With early-season success in Columbus this year, he could get the call up to help the Indians at some point this summer.
Players looking to take another step towards the Major Leagues
Shawn Morimando, P
Morimando is a 24-year-old lefty who got called up straight from Double-A Akron to the Majors last year before getting sent back down to the Clippers for more seasoning. He’s always been among the youngest players at his particular level, but now it’s time to start fixing some of the troubling areas of his game. One in particular throughout his career has been walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been consistently around 2/1, a ratio one might be able to get away with when the strikeout totals are high. He’s only striking out 6.6 hitters per nine innings, so he hasn’t exactly been dominant. He’ll be fun to watch in Columbus this year as he attempts to improve on the numbers he’s put up as a younger pitcher.
Ryan Merritt, P
Right now, Ryan Merritt profiles to be a solid left-handed pitcher. Nothing more and nothing less. He doesn’t strike many batters out but he also doesn’t allow many walks either. Indians fans saw what his calm demeanor meant to the team in the postseason last year, but whether that’s sustainable or not is the question. In order to establish his place in the future plans of the organization, he’ll need to display some skill that he hasn’t to this point in his career; Possibly added velocity, an increased ground ball rate, or a wicked strikeout pitch. Whatever it is, Clippers fans will have a great perspective on Merritt’s ability to continue to develop into a viable big league starter.
Erik Gonzalez, SS
Starting his third season with the Clippers, Erik Gonzalez is at a point where his future role with the Indians organization is up in the air. He has always played quality defense in Columbus, but the concern is whether he hits well enough to be an everyday player in the MLB. Right now he appears to be a utility player at best in the Majors, but if the 25-year-old develops another tool he could be an impact player at the next level. He set a career high in home runs last year with 11. He also added 12 stolen bases and hit .296. Now that’s starting to look like an interesting player. It will be interesting to see if he can build off his 2016 performance and force his way into the conversation as an integral part of the Indians’ future plans.
Players with a chance to make their way up to the Clippers from Akron this summer
Francisco Mejia, C
This may be a long shot as teams are usually conservative with their young catchers, but if Mejia has another season like he did in 2016 he could be in Columbus by the end of the year. He’s just 21-years old, but the talented catcher hit .342 in Class-A last season including a 50-game hitting streak. Considered to be the Indians’ #2 prospect behind Bradley Zimmer, Mejia also has arm strength that is considered well above average by scouts. Francisco Mejia is well on his way to being a future star, and that path could go through Columbus as soon as this season.
Greg Allen, OF
The 24-year-old outfielder appears to be on a similar track as Bradley Zimmer a year ago. Greg Allen has elite speed with 40+ stolen-base potential and a knack for getting on base. Between Class-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron last year, Allen hit .295 with seven homeruns. At only 6-foot, 165 pounds, power doesn’t figure to be a big part of his game, but he profiles to be a top-of-the-order threat in his prime and should get a call up to Columbus at some point this season.
Bobby Bradley, 1B
Despite only being 20-years-old last season, Bobby Bradley slugged 29 home runs with 109 runs batted in. He’s beginning the year in Akron, but could get the call up to Columbus if he keeps up the production. He strikes out a lot, which led to a .235 batting average in 2016, but again, at only 20, there’s room for growth here.
Yu-Cheng Chang, SS
The 21-year-old shortstop from Taiwan put up impressive numbers in the Carolina League in 2016 and will start this season in Double-A Akron. He hit 13 home runs with 11 stolen bases last year and scouts are optimistic there’s more room for growth. He’s got work to do with Francisco Lindor blocking the way to the Majors at the position, so there could be a position change in the cards for Chang. If he continues to develop as talent evaluators expect, he could be wearing a Clippers uniform by year’s end.
There are plenty of storylines for Columbus Clippers fans to follow in 2017 between the young players looking to force their way up to the Major Leagues, the prospects attempting to improve on their games, and the talent that has yet to get the call up to Triple-A, so it should be an entertaining season for fans at Huntintgon Park this year.