Cleveland Indians: 2 disappointments to demote to Triple-A Columbus

James Karinchak #99 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
James Karinchak #99 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Oscar Mercado
Oscar Mercado #35 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

2 disappointments with the Cleveland Indians to demote to Triple-A Columbus

I’ll preface the blog with this: you can make the case for 75% of this roster to be on this list. We all understand what this season has become, what the makeup of the team looks like and what the play of the team has been. An argument could be made to buy a one-way ticket to Columbus for some, and a one-way ticket to Cleveland for others currently playing in central Ohio. So if you think a certain player doesn’t belong on this list, just substitute them with another player from the grab-bag of 40-man fillers to suit your narratives.

This piece’s obvious concurring article is “2 bright spots that should finish out 2021 with Cleveland.”

So the case, then, for the players below to be optioned down hinges on two premises. There’s either no future for them next season or they need the rest of the year to figure out their stuff ahead of 2022. There’s meaningful discussions about the 2022 Guardians getting back on track and once again competing for the playoffs. And with a team chalk-full of question marks, the 2021 Indians can use the next month to try to eliminate some.

With that harsh diatribe out of the way, here’s two disappointments on the Cleveland Indians that should see the rest of the season out in Triple-A:

James Karinchak

Sorry to the fans of the real life “Wild Thing.” He’s not that dominant closer with lights-out stuff that he was a year ago. In fact, he’s straight up flailing. After finishing the month of July with a 7.36 ERA, he lost the closer role to Emmanuel Clase — a more effective reliever with faster pitches and harder offspeeds.

As for Karinchak, he’s blown three saves since the beginning of July and his strikeouts per nine has dropped. Either Karinchak’s stuff has fallen flat or major league hitters have more of a read on it than they used to.

Having a mid-90s fastball with a hammer-curveball is really exciting to watch, that is when the pitcher can locate and keep the hitters guessing. But since the All Star game, that just hasn’t happened.

In 2020, when Karinchak was at his best, he threw his two pitches nearly half the time. Since then, the usage of his curveball has dropped to 32.3%, according to Baseball Savant. The reason behind this is questionable, but the solution seems clear. Send Karinchak down to Columbus.

Let the kid work through his struggles and return his confidence to what it was last season. Emphasize using his pitches to miss bats. His barrel percentage skyrocketed from 2.5% to 9.4% in just one year.

This demotion would allow him to focus on utilizing the curveball more and locating it better (it bleeds too much over the lower-middle part of the plate). The Indians need to know that Karinchak can handle a full major league season with his two pitches, and time in Columbus will certainly help them determine what he really is.

More from Away Back Gone

Oscar Mercado

Yeah, so, 2019 was probably a flash in the pan. It’s unfortunate that Mercado can’t find the success he did two years ago, because that was fun to watch. And while he’s hitting much better than 2020, it’s clear he’s a fringe major league player during his best weeks. The larger issue for Mercado is that he hasn’t separated himself from a clog of 40-man outfielders that the Indians are sure to trim down this offseason.

Despite having a spring speed in the 94th percentile, there’s simply better options moving forward for the Indians’ outfield. No one in Columbus’s outfield is currently on the 40-man roster, but arguments for at least three of them getting a call-up have legitimately surfaced. Maybe the Indians view Mercado’s career .297 OBP as a foundation to a serviceable platoon hitter. But in the transition stage that Cleveland now finds themselves in, I’d rather give the nod toward younger guys with more potential.

Time in Columbus can allow Mercado to get consistent playing time and meaningful innings to find who he is as a hitter. It can give him an opportunity to raise his batted ball rate and attempt to raise his xWOBA to what it was in 2019. I have more optimism with him than players like Daniel Johnson, purely because of his ability to get on base and his speed. Maybe mirror what Billy Hamilton has done to stay on major league rosters. But for now, there’s no point having him in the big leagues.

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