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Bieber Fever Hits Cleveland!

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An exceptional walk rate brings pitching prospect Shane Bieber to the spotlight

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A headline that surely has some of you asking “What Do You Mean?” But I assure you, we’re talking baseball here and you won’t be “Sorry” you stuck around.

The Cleveland Indians represented the American League last year in the World Series and were a win away (on three separate occasions; as a Rangers fan I don’t feel bad pointing out how close they were) from their first title since 1948.

An A.L. pennant is still the right direction —a feat accomplished missing a pair of talented starting pitchers— but they did have to deal two of their top prospects (Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield) in the process to the New York Yankees.

Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a deal that would have sent him to the Tribe for a package headlined by their top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia. Instead the veteran went to Texas.

Mejia still fronts a system with a lot of young talent, including the graduated Bradley Zimmer as well as one of John Sickels’ favorites: Triston McKenzie.

Shane Bieber is not a name many are familiar with. The last name, though? Unless you were living under a soundproof rock for the past eight years, you know all too well who the Justin one is. But apparently he’s #cool now.

For Shane, Bieber entered the year in the final spot of Sickels’ Top 20 Indians’ prospects and is only elevating his stock with each appearance.

Not much of a flamethrower (his fastest sits around 90 MPH), the 2016 fourth round pick makes up for it by throwing strikes, strikes and more strikes. His Minor League walk rate is an unbelievable .9 opponents per nine innings.

With a home run rate of .3/9 IP, he’s not plagued by the long ball, either. Too many hits has proven his issue, but it’s not hurting him with just 3.19 runs given up per game.

Ranked 15th overall in the Cleveland system by, the 22-year old mixes his fastball with a heavy slider and sinking changeup, a formula that is providing him with extreme success so far in his professional career.

After starting 2017 in Low-A with the Lake County Captains, he blew through the level in five starts. Too many hits (34) in 29 innings were compensated by one walk. One walk. Batters hit .291 against him. Their OBP? .292.

He’s spent a little over a month and a half at High-A Lynchburg, making nine starts and compiling 57 innings with four walks. Unfortunately, he’s surrendered 63 hits but the walk total remains something to keep a close, admiring eye on.

Last Thursday proved to be his best start ever. He went a season-high eight innings —two more outs than his previous best— and allowed just three baserunners...with no walks, of course...while tying a career-best 11 strikeouts.

64 of 86 pitches were thrown for strikes, bringing his strike percentage up to a marvelous 69 percent. The effort earned him the well-deserved Carolina League Pitcher of the Week award.

Drafted in the fourth round in 2016 from UC-Santa Barbara, Bieber has been exceptional this season and has eyes on the system’s top 10 prospects going into 2018. While he may not be “The One,” there will soon be few baseball fans asking “Where Are Your Now?” about Shane Bieber.