Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospects: No. 19, Shane Bieber

Drafted in the fourth round this past summer, right-hander Shane Bieber comes in at number 19 on our 2017 Cleveland Indians top prospect countdown.

Who is Shane Bieber?

Shane Bieber was a star pitcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara before the Cleveland Indians took him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He helped lead the Gauchos to their first-ever College World Series appearance.

After signing for $420,000, the 6-foot-3 right-hander spent the rest of 2016 with the Short-Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Bieber is not a guy that will light up the radar guy. His fastball sits just 90-92 mph, though can have some nice sink to it. In addition to the fastball, he throws a change-up and slider, both good pitches though neither is really a plus one.

Where Bieber truly excels though is his plus-plus control. He walked just 1.14 batters per nine innings in college and improved that to just 0.75 as a pro (albeit in just 24 innings).

His strikeout rate was never that special in college and that didn’t change with the Scrappers after getting drafted. However, combined with this ridiculously low walk rate he produced an insane 10.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio (21 strikeouts, 2 walks) at Mahoning Valley, completely overpowering the young hitters in the New York-Penn League.

Related: Prospect No. 20, Mike Papi

Bieber has a very compact and easy flowing delivery that bodes well for a starter’s workload. The only real negative with Bieber is that he’ll need to not get too control happy and start getting too much of the plate as he moves up and faces stiffer competition. He compares favorably to a couple other Tribe prospects, Adam Plutko and Ryan Merritt, both of whom lack elite stuff but just know how to pitch and get outs.

Where does he go from here?

The Cleveland Indians were very conservative with Bieber due to a heavy workload in college last summer, having pitched 134 innings and working deep into June in the College World Series. He joined the Scrappers after their season began and the Tribe limited his innings to just 24 over nine appearances (eight of them starts).

In 2017, however, the Indians are almost certain to be more aggressive in his first full professional season. He should start the season at Advanced-A Lynchburg and has a chance of moving up to Double-A with a hot start.

Bieber will never be one of the sexiest pitching prospects in the Tribe system. He lacks the stuff of a Triston McKenzie or Brady Aiken. However, the 21-year-old simply knows how to pitch and gets outs. That combined with his ability to eat innings gives him the upside of a number 3 starter in the big leagues.

And unlike some starting pitchers on this list, he’s almost certain to stick in the rotation and has a chance to be a Josh Tomlin-type starter.  He has a realistic chance of cracking the big leagues in 2019 with the end of the 2018 season not entirely out of the question either.