Cleveland Indians: What to expect of Shane Bieber

The Cleveland Indians have called up their top right-handed pitching prospect, but just what should fans expect from Shane Bieber?

Manager Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians announced a couple of days ago that they’d be calling up one of their top pitching prospects, Shane Bieber, to start tonight’s game in Minnesota.

They made it pretty clear that it’s just a one-time thing for now and it’s simply to allow Trevor Bauer an extra day of rest following his 127-pitch outing against the Houston Astros this past weekend.

However, despite this being just a one-start call-up, one can’t help but be excited given how well Bieber has looked in the minor leagues to this point. Depending who you ask, Bieber is a top-five prospect in the Tribe’s system, though I had him just outside. Quite the jump from a borderline top-20 guy the previous year.

Bieber is not the type of prospect that is going to come up blowing guys away with a blazing fastball, but his control is something we haven’t seen from a prospect since Josh Tomlin. Quite frankly, Bieber just doesn’t walk guys. He has three walks in 65.1 innings this season and just 15 in his professional career that started back in 2016 when he was the Tribe’s fourth-round pick.

Unlike Tomlin though, Shane Bieber can rake up some strikeouts thanks to a deep arsenal which consists of a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. His fastball sits in the low-90s but can still be lethal thanks to the plus-plus control.

He can throw all three of his secondary pitches for strikes, which is almost unheard of for a rookie coming into the league these days. His curveball is a true weapon as well and gives him two plus pitches.

Bieber comes to the big leagues riding higher than perhaps any Tribe pitching prospect in recent memory. He began the year in Double-A Akron before getting a promotion after five starts to Triple-A Columbus. He has made just four starts there but has a 1.05 ERA in those four starts, which is even better than his already minuscule 1.16 ERA he posted with the RubberDucks.

Combine the tiny ERA with his insane 61-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year and one can’t help but expect greatness from Bieber in the big leagues…but one shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves.

Bieber is definitely a prospect to be very, very excited about but despite his greatness, I wouldn’t quite put the “superstar” label on his just yet. He still is a guy I’d peg as more of a number-3 guy with number-2 upside at the big league level rather than an “ace.”

That, of course, is still very high praise and puts him alongside guys like Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, which is still great company to be in.

Could Bieber still be an ace in the mold of a Corey Kluber? Absolutely. He has the stuff and control to dream on, think maybe a right-handed Cliff Lee.

However, I would not say that’s what he “will be” or what fans should expect. Lots of guys can appear that good in the minors but the reality is the jump from the minors to the big leagues is huge.

Big league hitters are much better and will adjust. Bieber likely won’t walk guys but could have issues with hits, something that he wasn’t always immune to in the minors.

That said, he’s still only 23 years old (Happy Birthday by the way!) and the future is very bright. I expect a good start from him tonight and to see him back with the big league club later this season. He probably won’t be a mainstay in the rotation until 2019 though he could steal the fifth spot by July.

It may take him a year or two to reach his full potential though so some patience is still required, though perhaps not as much as with other prospects. I expect early success from him but not nearly the type he enjoyed in the minors.

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