Nick Mikolajchak should be next Guardians reliever promoted to Cleveland
Nick Mikolajchak has been a force of nature in the minors. He should be the next reliever called up by the Cleveland Guardians.
It’s not all that often that a reliever gets a ton of attention in the minor leagues. Most of the attention goes to the starting prospects, even when there are dynamic relievers populating the lower circuits of the baseball world.
Looking at the Guardians system – that scenario certainly applies. For a system that can boast the likes of Daniel Espino, Gavin Williams, Logan T. Allen and others, some of the relief corps deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. In terms of up-and-comers in Cleveland’s system, Nick Mikolajchak is a name worthy of recognition, as well as a call-up to the major-league club. When the Guardians need another arm in the bullpen, he should be the first in line to get promoted.
Mikolajchak’s time with the Guardians organization
With one of the more unusual last names in the system, Nick Mikolajchak is one of Cleveland’s most interesting pitching prospects, even if he is only a bullpen arm. The young righty was drafted by Cleveland in the 11th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, hailing from Sam Houston State.
Mikolajchak came to Cleveland’s system with a strong relief profile, rarely starting during his college days but converting 22 saves as a Bearkat. Upon getting his feet wet in Mahoning Valley in 2019, he would post a stellar 0.47 ERA across 19 innings of work. Mikolajchak’s stuff played well for him as a collegiate pitcher, but it seemingly took another step when he made it to Cleveland’s system. His four-seamer gained a few more ticks on the radar gun (now sitting in the mid-to-high 90s), and his slider evolved into a strong secondary weapon. He also features a solid curveball and changeup.
In 2021, following the lost 2020 season, Mikolajchak would be promoted past Lynchburg and Lake County, going directly to Double-A Akron. Skipping two levels being an impressive feat in its own right, he would post a solid ERA of 3.18, while striking out 57 in 39 2/3 innings. He also kept his walks down with only nine allowed, while consistently pounding the zone and inducing bad contact or completely missing bats.
Thus far in 2022, Mikolajchak has pitched to the tune of a microscopic ERA of 0.93 with Triple-A Columbus. He’s seen his walk rate perk up (5.6% to 11.8%) and his strikeout rate drop (35.2% to 22.4%) from last season, but has limited the damage and only allowed a batting average of .134 (to go along with a BABIP of .163). Even when he doesn’t blow batters away or he misses his spots, Mikolajchak’s stuff is hard enough to square up that he provides himself with some insurance when he does put runners on base. On the year, only 14.9% of the contact he allows comes in the form of line drives, with most contact being weak fly balls that either pop up to the infield or float into the outfield.
Is a trip to Cleveland in the near future?
Mikolajchak should be on the short list for a call-up if the Guardians end up in need of relievers. Although Cleveland has gotten valuable contributions from the likes of Eli Morgan, Sam Hentges, and Enyel De Los Santos on the season, having another arm with dynamic stuff is never a bad thing in a major-league bullpen.
Even if some of his statistical totals haven’t carried over from Akron to Columbus as well as others, Mikolajchak has still found ways to game his way out of jams and has the raw stuff to play well in the ‘pen for the Guards. With multiple plus offerings and good life to his stuff, he has the potential to provide Cleveland with another arm that could play well in big spots.
Although there aren’t any immediate openings in the Guardians’ bullpen, the next open slot should belong to Mikolajchak. If he keeps dominating batters in Columbus and is able to clean up his walk rate, there should be nothing holding the youngster back from taking the bump at Progressive Field in the near future.