Cleveland Guardians: A deep dive on ascending prospect Hunter Gaddis
We just took a look at some rising arms in the Cleveland Guardians system. Let’s take a deeper dive into another prospect catching positive attention in Double-A Akron: starting pitcher Hunter Gaddis.
Cleveland has a stocked system in terms of potential starting pitchers. Names like Daniel Espino and Gavin Williams have caught plenty of headlines, but others such as Tanner Bibee and Rodney Boone have also put together strong, if somewhat unheralded, starts to their seasons.
Hunter Gaddis is one of the lesser-known names in Cleveland’s minor-league system, currently playing with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. Let’s take a deep dive on the 24-year-old and discuss when he could fit into the future plans of the Guardians.
The Background on Hunter Gaddis
Hunter Gaddis stands 6’6″ and weighs in at 260 pounds, giving him a durable frame and plenty of physical potential to eventually make it as a major-league starter. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2019, and has worked primarily as a starter throughout his collegiate and minor-league careers.
Gaddis played his college ball with Georgia State, where he put together a good composite line primarily as a starter. In 40 starts and seven relief appearances with the Panthers, he covered 266 2/3 innings of work, accumulating a 3.81 ERA.
A big part of Gaddis’ success was owed to his command, while also possessing decent strikeout stuff. He averaged just over two walks per nine innings, while striking out just over a batter an inning across his time with Georgia State.
Over his college and minor-league careers, Gaddis has relied on a four-pitch mix containing a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. He features plus command, in addition to decent velocity generated from his large frame and quick arm action. His four-seamer sits in the low-to-mid 90s, touching into the upper 90s on occasion. His slider has good run and vertical movement, making it good for swings-and-misses. The curve has strong movement and action, and profiles as a potentially good secondary pitch. The changeup is perhaps Gaddis’ strongest secondary weapon, playing well off the fastball from the same arm slot with good downward break.
As stated above, Gaddis was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. Following a short stint with the Arizona rookie team, he would make his proper organizational debut with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (formerly Cleveland’s Low-A Short Season affiliate), collecting six starts and covering just over 15 2/3 innings. He pitched to the tune of a 2.30 ERA, while striking out 27 batters through the end of the 2019 season.
As was the case with so many young players and prospects, Gaddis lost his 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball schedule.
For the duration of the 2021 season, Gaddis would pitch for the High-A Lake County Captains. He didn’t make massive headlines or generate much internal buzz in the organization, but he covered 97 1/3 innings of work with a 4.16 ERA. While his strikeout rate dropped from the lofty 15.5 K/9 he produced in his short Mahoning Valley stint, he still whiffed 127 batters (good for 11.7 K/9). He also kept his walk rate comparatively low, with just 2.6 walks per nine innings.
To start 2022, Gaddis has pitched for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. He has thrown the ball well overall, to the tune of a 3.83 ERA against far stronger competition than he faced in Lake County. Minus two iffy outings where he gave up five and six runs, respectively, Gaddis has done well limiting damage while striking out a boatload of batters. He is currently up to 13.6 K/9, while lowering his walk rate to 2.3 BB/9. In terms of season highlights, Gaddis took a no-hitter six innings, striking out 11, walking one, and making a brilliant defensive play to show off his impressive athleticism for a guy his size.
What Does the Future Hold for Gaddis?
In all likelihood, Gaddis will not see the mound at Progressive Field until 2023 at the very earliest. Assuming he gets promoted to Columbus during or following the 2022 campaign, he could be a reasonable call-up candidate next season if the starting depth in Cleveland is tested.
Where Gaddis has marks in his favor are in his physicality and athleticism. For a guy who is 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he moves extremely well, possesses an athletic delivery, and has a durable frame that has helped him avoid major injuries. As the 2021 season brought to light, you can never have too many starting pitchers on standby in Major League Baseball, and the “spot start due to injury/COVID” route could be a realistic pathway for the righty to find his way to the Guardians.
Although Gaddis has primarily pitched as a starter through the minors and college, he has made appearances as a reliever. Based on similar frames and some similar offerings, an interesting comparison to Gaddis could be someone like Sam Hentges. Hentges set out as a starter when called up to Cleveland and struggled, but has become one of the Guardians best relievers in 2022. Perhaps a similar pathway could emerge for Gaddis where he could fit in as a big-bodied bullpen arm, assuming he tacks on a little more velocity to his fastball as ages into his prime years.
Like we said, it is unlikely Gaddis gets to Cleveland in the immediate future, but his time could come within the next few years. Depending on how some of the Guardians other pitchers pan out or climb the system, we could see him making an impact down the road in either a starting or relief role. Only time will tell, but there is plenty of potential for Hunter Gaddis to someday don a Cleveland Guardians jersey within the confines of Progressive Field.