Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #5 Rob Kaminsky

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #5 Rob Kaminsky

One of the newest prospects in the system, left-handed pitcher Rob Kaminsky comes in at Number 5 on our 2016 Cleveland Indians Top Prospect countdown.

Who is Rob Kaminsky?

Kaminsky joined the Indians this past summer when he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for Brandon Moss. Kaminsky was the Cardinals No. 3 prospect and was drafted by them in the first round (28th overall) of the 2013 MLB draft out of Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey. The 21-year-old left-hander stands 5’11” and weighs 190 pounds.  He spent all of 2015 at the Advanced-A level, playing at Palm Beach for the Cardinals and Lynchburg for the Indians.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Kaminsky is far from the flashiest pitching prospect in our top ten countdown. His fastball sits just 90-92 typically, although at times he can run it as high as 95. There’s not much special about the pitch, but he does a good job pounding the zone with it. His money pitch coming out of high school was his 12-6 curveball, which showed plus-plus potential. He’s gotten away from it a bit and been more a sinker/slider guy but reports have the Tribe wanting him to get back to his bread-and-butter curve in 2016.

More from Away Back Gone

Kaminsky isn’t the biggest strikeout guy; however, he does have a decent 7.5 K/9 ratio as a professional. Even better is his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.6, which is thanks to a walk rate under three. Where Kaminsky really shines is in his ability to induce groundballs. In his three minor leagues seasons, he has a groundball-to-flyball ratio of 1.73 to 1. In 2015, that number jumped even higher as he induced more than twice as many groundballs to flyballs. It’s that groundball rate that has helped him post a minuscule 2.22 ERA in the minors to this point

In fact, despite being traded, Kaminsky also had the second lowest ERA in the Florida State League at 2.09 this past year (minimum 80 innings).  Unfortunately, Kaminsky was limited by injury (back tightness) after being acquired from the Cardinals and only managed two starts and 9.2 innings with the Lynchburg Hillcats. Getting healthy again and working on that curve will be keys for Kaminsky going forward. He’s also a bit undersized at just 5’11”, which will limit his upside in the eyes of most. However, if he’s able to keep the ball down like he has shown I like his chances going forward. So much so that I ranked him above the likes of Mike Clevinger, Justus Sheffield, and Triston McKenzie (all of which have higher upsides). I still like Kaminsky as a mid-rotation guy going forward though his lack of a plus third pitch at this point could force him to the bullpen down the road…

Where Does He Go From Here?

Kaminsky is one of the more interesting pitchers in the Tribe’s system for me, having thrown less than ten innings with the organization. However, his pedigree prior to joining the club is pretty remarkable. He dominated the Advanced-A Florida State League and appears set to join Double-A. He’ll be just 21 for nearly the entire season, which is pretty remarkable considering only one guy pitched for the Akron Rubberducks in 2015 that was under 23 years of age (Shawn Morimando was 22 last year).

If not for the extreme rotation depth the Tribe is blessed with I’d say there’s a chance Kaminsky could see Triple-A this season if all goes well. While that’s still not completely out of the question, it is a bit of a longshot. 2016 will be a huge year for Kaminsky in terms of development. Double-A is a big step for any prospect and with the work he needs to do on his secondary stuff, we could start to see a clearer picture of if he’s a starter or a reliever going forward.

Next: Indians Top Prospects: #6 Triston McKenzie

Again, though, he’s only 21, so time is definitely on his side. I’ve talked about how young Ryan Merritt has been and Kaminsky actually makes him look a bit old. Kaminsky has fallen in the eyes of some publications (though was a top 75 guy as recently as this summer); however, I’m still a believer in him. The combination of youth, groundballs, and command are a winning combination in my book. It still amazes me that the Indians were able to land a prospect like Kaminsky for Brandon Moss, especially after they gave up Joey Wendle to get Moss…