Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospects: No. 14, Rob Kaminsky

Once a top 100 prospect in baseball, left-hander Rob Kaminsky falls to number 14 on our Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospect countdown.

Who is Rob Kaminsky?

Rob Kaminsky drops out of our top five, falling nine spots from our 2016 prospect rankings. The 22-year-old left-hander joined the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline in 2015, coming over from the St. Louis Cardinals for Brandon Moss.

Standing just 5-foot-11, he was originally the 28th overall pick in the 2013 draft, taken by the Cardinals out of high school in Montvale, New Jersey. The former top 100 prospect in baseball spent the 2016 season at Double-A Akron where he helped lead them to the Eastern League Championship.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Kaminsky is the third straight pitcher on our countdown who does not light up the radar gun. His fastball sits just 89-91 now, a tick below what he was heading into the 2016 season, but it has some decent movement. His best pitch is his curveball, which has slowly developed into more of a slurve due to its hard bite (think Charles Nagy). He also throws a decent changeup, which gives him three legit pitches to work hitters with.

His control has been good throughout his minor league career though not on the levels of an Adam Plutko or Ryan Merritt. He’s walked eight percent while only striking out 18.7 percent of hitters he’s faced.

Where Kaminsky makes up for lack of strikeouts is his ability to induce groundballs at an elite rate. In his career, he’s got a 1.72 groundball-to-flyball ratio, which helps him get out of jams though he’s managed to limit base runners thanks to a .229 batting average against and 1.19 career WHIP.

One somewhat concerning issue Kaminsky has had recently is some back issues. He spent a couple of weeks on the disabled list this season due to a back issue and missed time in 2015 with lower back tightness as well. Compared to an arm injury it’s nothing serious but something to keep an eye on as it’s come up twice now.

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The injuries have kept him from logging the innings one would hope to see, as he threw just 104 1/3 innings in 2015 and 137 regular season innings this past year. Not bad for a 21-year-old but not the workhorse-like numbers we’ve seen from the other pitchers on our countdown.

The injury this year was also a likely contributor in his early season struggles at Akron. Over his first 15 starts, he posted just a 4.14 ERA and missed several weeks with a back injury, his second in as many years. However, over his final 10 regular season starts he posted a 2.29 ERA and was one of the main reasons the Rubberducks were able to win their division and ultimately the Eastern League Championship.

Where does he go from here?

Despite missing a couple of weeks with a back injury early in the season, Kaminsky put up a very good season at Double-A. He did that while being one of the youngest players on the team at 21 years old. In fact, the only player to pitch for the Rubberducks in 2016 that was younger than Kaminsky was Cortland Cox, who pitched in three games in relief while up from Class-A Lake County (where he spent the rest of the season). Kaminsky was about 3 1/2 years younger than the average player in the Eastern League, which is pretty remarkable.

Given his success one would normally think Kaminsky was destined to start the year up a level; however, as mentioned several times on this countdown, the Tribe’s depth at Triple-A Columbus could stand in the way. Kaminsky would be behind guys like Merritt, Plutko, Mike ClevingerCody Anderson, Carlos Frias, and Shawn Morimando.

However, the injury to Anderson and Carlos Carrasco at the big league level may be enough to sneak Kaminsky into the Clippers’ rotation. More than likely though, Kaminsky falls victim to the numbers game and begins the season back at Double-A as Akron’s ace.

No matter where Kaminsky begins the 2017 season, he almost certainly will get to Columbus at some point this season. The Tribe will certainly tap into its pitching depth, which will create spots in Cleveland and Columbus. Despite the drop in his prospect standing here, I would not even rule out Kaminsky getting to Cleveland at some point in 2017, though 2018 is probably more likely for a few reasons, one being that he still won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the 2017 season.

There are those that still have Kaminsky as one of the top prospects in the system, and he remains one of my favorite pitchers in the system thanks to his youth and second half surge. His drop is more a product of how deep the Tribe system is, and Kaminsky remains one of the most intriguing pitchers to watch in 2017.