The Cleveland Indians brought rookie right-hander Shawn Armstrong north with them to open 2017 and he looks to take a key role in the bullpen. Let’s see what he has to offer.
Armstrong was drafted in the 18th round by the Indians in 2011 from East Carolina University. He advanced slowly but steadily through the system, reaching Triple-A in 2014 and seeing brief MLB action that year and again in ‘16. He enters 2017 with 19 major league innings on his resume with impressive results, a 2.37 ERA with a 19/7 K/BB.
He ranked 18th on the Indians Top 20 Prospects List before spring training with the following comment:
18) Shawn Armstrong, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, drafted in 18th round in 2011; excellent 2016 season in Triple-A with 1.84 ERA, 72/29 K/BB in 49 innings, just 27 hits; fastball up to 97 along with a hard breaking ball; excellent strikeout rates at all levels (357 Ks in 263 innings) though command can wobble; nothing left to prove in minors, waiting for a clear shot at a job. ETA 2017.
Armstrong was excellent again in spring training, posting a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings with a 10/3 K/BB.
Obviously this guy has nothing left to prove; while the samples are small, they are consistently excellent, overpowering in Triple-A and so far very successful in the majors as well. His fastball tops at 97 and is consistently in the 93-95 range. He has the hard curve as well as a solid cutter. Although his control isn’t perfect, the strikeout rates are not lying about the quality of his stuff. He dominated both left-handed and right-handed hitters in the minors, so he’s not just limited to ROOGY work.
Fantasy-wise he is a source of quality filler innings unless save opportunities arise. That might happen eventually if his control holds up, but likely not this year.