Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospects: No. 21, Julian Merryweather

Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

After failing to make our 2016 list, right-hander Julian Merryweather comes in at number 21 on our 2017 Cleveland Indians top prospect countdown.

Who is Julian Merryweather?

After not making our 2016 top prospect list, Julian Merryweather made one of the biggest leaps in 2017. He joined the Cleveland Indians organization back in 2014 when he was drafted in the fifth round of the June draft out of Oklahoma Baptist, a NAIA college.

He’s a 25-year-old California native who stands 6-feet-4 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. The big right-hander began the 2016 season with the Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats before getting promoted mid-season to Double-A Akron, after being a Carolina League All-Star.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Merryweather had a breakout season in 2016. After spending most of 2015 in the bullpen at Class-A Lake County, he moved back to the rotation with the Lynchburg Hillcats and took the Carolina League by storm. He made 11 starts, going 8-2 and posting a ridiculous 1.03 ERA. He wasn’t quite as good after being promoted to Akron but he still posted a solid 3.89 ERA in 13 starts.

Merryweather also struck out nearly a batter an inning at Lynchburg (58 K in 61 IP), thanks in large part to his fastball which Baseball America rated as the best in the Tribe’s system this year. It sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 mph with relative ease.

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He also throws a changeup and curveball, with the changeup taking the biggest step forward this year, becoming a pitch that plays perfectly off that fastball. He has very good control of his pitches as well, walking just two batters per nine innings. He’s also posted an impressive 3.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a pro.

He took a big step forward in 2016 thanks in large part to a delivery tweak that helped simplify things and made it easier to repeat. This, along with the developing change, explains why he was moved back to the rotation and had such great success. He also made a huge innings jump in 2016, throwing 135 innings between Lynchburg and Akron. This after throwing just 70 2/3 innings in 2015, a near 100 percent increase, which can be a bit scary for a young pitcher.

Where does he go from here?

When the 2016 season began, few likely would have guessed he’d have been pitching for the Rubberducks before the end of the year, let along in the rotation. He will return there to begin the 2017 season with an eye on another midseason promotion, this time to Triple-A Columbus.

However, given the depth the Cleveland Indians have there it’s very possible Merryweather will spend most, if not all, of 2017 in Akron. However, the Cody Anderson injury could be an opening for a few different guys at Akron.

Another option with Merryweather could be a move back to the bullpen. There’s no denying how great that fastball is. A move back the bullpen could help it play up even more and he has the potential to be a lockdown backend reliever with a fastball/change combo. However, the Indians will certainly continue to develop him as a starter, at least to begin the 2017 season.

Next: Indians 2017 Top 30 Prospects: No. 22, Luke Wakamatsu

The delivery tweak and changeup progression have put Merryweather in a position to be a big league starter in the relatively near future. He’s still got work to do like any prospect but if he can continue to impress he could be in line for some big league looks as soon as 2018.