Ryan Merritt is starting Game Five of the American League championship series for the Cleveland Indians today against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ryan Merritt has exactly 11 innings of major league experience. Who is this guy?
Merritt made two visit to the Indians regular season roster in 2016, once back in May and then again in September. He performed well in those 11 innings, giving up two runs on six hits with zero walks and six strikeouts. Here's the report we filed on him when he was first promoted:
Merritt is a 24 year old southpaw out of Texas; he posted a 12-7, 3.63 ERA with a 105/22 K/BB ratio in 171 innings in 2015 between Double-A and Triple-A, including a seven-inning no-hitter on July 11th.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book.
Ryan Merritt, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-0 WT: 165 DOB: February 21, 1992
2015: Grade C
Merritt is a stereotyped finesse lefty: fastball at 87-91, average curveball, average change-up, excellent control, low-maintenance mechanics, impressive pitching instincts, good record for durability. A 16th round pick in 2011 from McClelland Community College in Texas, he passed the Double-A test last season and should open 2016 in Triple-A with a chance for some major league time. Merritt’s stuff isn’t quite as good as teammate Shawn Morimando’s, but Merritt has more consistent command. A caution flag is his low strikeout rate, but for some reason I like him more than the numbers say I should. Grade C+.
The pre-season report is still valid for the most part, except Merritt added a cutter in spring training and his strikeout rate has crept upward this year, a good sign. He is too polished for the Triple-A level at this point. Finesse pitchers don't have big margins for error but Merritt has shown the ability to adapt and adjust. This year he posted a 3.70 ERA in 143 innings in Triple-A with a 92/23 K/BB, though he did give up 156 hits.
In the long run his durability and strike-throwing tendencies could make him a viable number four/five starter. Intuitively, I like him a lot as this style of pitcher goes, but the Indians are asking a lot of him tonight. Over at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom gives the skeptical view.
I get that, I really do. But I'm going out on a limb here: my guess is that Merritt is going to have a good game and pitch well enough to keep the Indians in the contest.