Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #25 Luis Lugo

Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #25 Luis Lugo

Thanks to his size and upside, left-handed starting pitcher Luis Lugo ranks as our number 25 Cleveland Indians prospect.

Who is Luis Lugo?

Lugo joined the Cleveland Indians as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in February 2011 out of Venezuela. He’s a tall lefty, standing at 6’5” and weighing in at about 200 pounds. He was Rule 5 Draft eligible this past winter, but he was left unprotected and ultimately went undrafted possibly due to the fact he has yet to throw a pitch above the Advanced-A level.  Lugo, a former top 20 prospect, enjoyed a birthday this past weekend as well, turning 22 on Saturday.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Cleveland Indians treated Lugo with kid gloves for the majority of his first three years in the organization. He never topped 65 innings in any season until 2014 when he threw 126.1 innings. He followed that up with 125.2 innings this past season. Despite some lackluster ERAs the last couple years (4.92 and 4.15), he has posted better fielding-independent numbers (3.86 and 3.81 FIPs).  He’s able to do this thanks to above-average strikeout rates.  In 2014, he was particularly lethal, posting a 10.4 K/9 rate. In fact, his 146 strikeouts in 2014 were the most by an Indians’ minor league left-hander in the last ten seasons. He wasn’t quite as elite this past season but still struck out 21.7% of hitters.

More from Away Back Gone

Lugo uses a three-pitch mix including a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball sits 89-92, which is a bit on the disappointing side for someone of his size. There’s still hope as he grows into his 6’5” frame that he can add some velocity but he’s able to mix in an above-average changeup with a developing curveball that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His ability to command all these pitches is what makes him such an intriguing prospect.

While there is a lot to dream on with Lugo, the fact remains that he’s moved rather slowly through the Tribe’s system. Part of this is due to the Indians taking a cautious approach, but part of it is Lugo not developing quite as quickly as one would have hoped. He doesn’t take full advantage of his size, though perhaps with age that will happen.

Where Does He Go From Here?

Lugo remains one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the Indians system.  His size and repertoire still give him immense upside. The strikeout rate is great but needs to start seeing it produce outs more and his walk rate took a step back in 2015.  That said, unlike the other two pitchers to grace this prospect list so far, Lugo doesn’t appear headed to the bullpen anytime soon.

Next: Indians Top Prospects: #26 Ronny Rodriguez

The question will be, where does Lugo begin the 2016 season?  If the Indians are aggressive he could start in Double-A, which seems like the most likely course of action (though a chance he could repeat Lynchburg).  I won’t go as far as saying this is a make-or-break year for Lugo as he’s a ways from that, but Double-A will be a huge challenge, one he could struggle with without an increase in velocity. There’s still hope that he could develop into a top-to-middle of the rotation starter though. He may have the best combination of size, stuff, and feel for pitching in the entire system. What’s left is for him to take full advantage of it.