Xzavion Curry Latest Example of Cleveland Guardians Pitching Factory

Stepping up with the starting rotation banged up, Xzavion Curry is the latest example of the success that the Cleveland Guardians pitching factory can produce.
Xzavion Curry of the Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox
Xzavion Curry of the Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox / Jaiden Tripi/GettyImages
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The starting rotation for the Cleveland Guardians is far from perfect right now. The team entered the season without budding star Gavin Williams. Former budding star and now potential ace Triston McKenzie has been banged up for the better part of the last year. And now the team's true ace, Shane Bieber, who had seemingly figured it out once again, is done for the year with Tommy John. Three of the team's projected five starters are not at 100%. Enter Xzavion Curry

Curry may not be the expected hero for Cleveland. Many called on the addition of a veteran, like Lance Lynn, or an inward look at a rising prospect, like Joey Cantillo, once healthy. Either one of those could be options down the road, but right now, the best bet for the Cleveland Guardians is in-house product, Xzavion Curry. Curry won't show up on any top prospects lists. He burned out his rookie status during last season, but the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher could be just what the doctor ordered for the Guardians.

Without a clear indication of where the season will go, intriguing as the start of the season has been, there is a lot of benefit in turning to Curry. Having already burned his rookie status, the notion of wasting time on a prospect isn't as concerning. Additionally, there isn't the price to pay that a veteran could cost. Even better, he's pitching rather well.

From nearly making the Opening Day roster to an impressive season debut in Boston

During Spring Training, Curry nearly landed himself a spot on the roster anyway, but an illness in camp spoiled his momentum with just eight innings of work and pushed him down to Triple-A Columbus for a pair of starts. Luckily, he made the most of the opportunity, posting a 1.29 ERA over seven innings while striking out eight. While the numbers don't jump off the page and are a small sample size, it was enough to get the call up when needed.

That brings us up to April 15, 2024 in Boston. Not Curry's debut, but far from it, with 43 major league appearances entering the day, including 11 starts. But what it could mark is a turning point in Curry's career. After having his run at the Opening Day roster spoiled, Curry was given a chance to showcase his ability early in the season due to the injuries across the Cleveland Guardians rotation, and he made the most of it.

It wasn't a dim spotlight for Xzavion Curry to step into. Jackie Robinson Day. Patriots Day in Boston. One of the biggest days, if not the biggest, in the city, and he's on the bump for Cleveland for the first time this season. He didn't pick up the win, not because of his own doing but because the offense couldn't score until he exited. Curry held the Boston Red Sox scoreless through five innings of work, striking out three and allowing just two hits and one walk. Not too shabby.

From College to Cleveland, Curry has seen his performance on the mound improve

So, why is this an example of the Cleveland Guardians pitching factory? Let's take a look at the road here for Curry. He began at Georgia Tech and was actually a two-way player. He only saw six at-bats but was still listed as a shortstop in addition to a pitcher, and hit .500 with three RBI. On the mound, he was solid but not necessarily dominant. His 18 wins in 41 appearances is rather impressive, but he finished with a 4.53 ERA while striking out 241 batters over 232.2 innings. Again, strong numbers, but they don't exactly jump off the page. That's just not Curry's game.

Even in summer ball during college, he wasn't producing the way you'd expect. In the Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the premier college summer leagues, Curry posted a 10.61 ERA with seven strikeouts over three starts and lasted just 9.1 innings before calling it a summer.

Now, the showcase in college was enough for Curry to get drafted, with Cleveland taking him in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft - the same draft Cleveland took Daniel Espino in the first round and Hunter Gaddis in the fifth round (They also got Will Brennan in the eighth round the same year, but that's not as relevant here). Once Curry arrived in the organization, the tides started turning. In 2021, he blazed through Single-A Lynchburg and High-A Lake County before ending the season in Double-A Akron. He posted a 1.07 ERA over five starts with Lynchburg and a 2.66 ERA over 13 starts with Lake Country while striking out 118 over the 93 innings combined between the two stops, a drastic improvement.

The 2022 season produced similar results for Curry. He began in Double-A Akron, jumped up to Triple-A Columbus, and made his MLB debut in Cleveland that season, posting a respectable 5.79 ERA over two major league starts. Not the best, but not bad. In 2023, his only action came in Cleveland, making 41 appearances with nine starts and finishing with a 4.07 ERA.

That brings us to the final question. What changed when Xzavion Curry joined the Cleveland Guardians organization? Don't get me wrong, he was a respectable pitcher who deserved to be drafted, but something started to click when he came under Cleveland's wing.

In college, Curry averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. A solid mark for any pitcher, especially a starter. However, once he arrived with Cleveland in the minors, that number jumped up to 10.5. A similar story follows his ERA, going from 4.53 in college to 3.57 in the minors. Even his walks allowed improved, albeit by a small margin, going from 2.7 per nine in college to 2.5 in the minors.

This is not the first time Cleveland's pitching factory has produced quality results

The fact of the matter is that whatever Cleveland is doing in terms of pitcher development, it's working. The statistical improvement for Xzavion Curry from college to the minors isn't a fluke. This is just another case in a long line of examples of Cleveland's pitching factory.

Over the last 10 drafts, going back to 2014, Cleveland has drafted and then debuted in a Cleveland uniform 19 pitchers, including Sam Hentges (2014 Draft), Triston McKenzie (2015), Aaron Civale (2016), Shane Bieber (2016), Zach Plesac (2016), Eli Morgan (2017), James Karinchak (2017), Nick Sandlin (2018), Logan Allen (2020), Gavin Williams (2021) and Tanner Bibee (2021). They drafted and moved on from Justus Sheffield (2014 Draft) as well as Julian Merryweather (2014), who both have had solid MLB careers. In 2017, Cleveland also took Spencer Strider in the 35th round, but he opted to go to Clemson instead, becoming a fourth-round pick three years later by the Atlanta Braves.

This isn't the first time this situation has unfolded in Cleveland. The injury bug has bit before, and similar stories were produced. This is how players like Plesac, Civale, and arguably Bibee made their way to the majors, and now Xzavion Curry could be the next in line to earn a spot in the rotation after being a student within the organization.