TCN 2013 Cardinals Prospect #28: Maikel Cleto

Will the fastest-moving player in the system in 2011 regain his career momentum in 2013? FREE article!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

Became a Cardinal: Acquired from Seattle in exchange for Brendan Ryan on December 12, 2010.

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
14 RHR 5/1/1989 6-3 235 R R 2006 FA

Selected 2012 stats

MEM 3 2 5.37 3.16 45 0 2 53.2 51 35 4 22 66 1.02 0.254 0.346
StL 0 0 7.00 6.54 9 0 0 9 13 7 4 2 15 1.00 0.342 0.474

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (27): Cleto is one of the most talented pitchers in the Cardinals system He is also one of the most disappointing. Many (including me) expected big things from Cleto in 2012 but what we got was a player who regressed instead of breaking out.......or did he?

I thought so until I started doing this write up. However, other than his ERA, Cleto was a better pitcher in 2012 than he was in 2011. Significantly better. His FIP was lower. His K rate was higher. His K:BB rate was much better. His ground ball rate was better. And that is comparing his 2011 stats, which included dominating performances in A ball and Double-A as part of those stats.

If one merely compares his Triple-A stats between 2011 and 2012, this past season looks even better yet. Cleto has struggled in 13 major league innings across two seasons (mostly due to giving up a bunch of home runs), but he has struck out major league batters at a rate of around 14 per nine innings.

Cleto still has a chance to prove himself. With a strong Triple-A season in 2013, he will most likely get another shot. If he doesn't perform well, it will probably be his last opportunity in the Cardinals organization.

Message board community (28): Cleto saw his Community ranking plummet from #14 last year to #28 this season, thanks to a deeply disappointing performance in both Memphis (5.37 ERA across 54 innings) and St. Louis (seven runs in just nine innings, despite an incongruous 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio).

The portly Dominican righty can still chuck the old horsehide at near triple-digit velocity, so there's no reason to give up hope...yet. The truly troubling thing about his season, though, is that 2012 was Cleto's first season used exclusively in relief. This shift to bullpen work almost invariably sharpens most hurlers, as they're able to focus on their two best offerings, and dump the rest. Maikel's Triple-A walk rate, however, was exactly the same as pre-2012, at 3.7 per nine IP.

With so many good young right-handed arms in the organization at Double-A and above, Cleto badly needs a big 2013 breakthrough to keep himself relevant within the Cardinals organization. - BobReed

Brian Walton (28): Interestingly, we all almost exactly agree about Cleto's placement for the second consecutive year. The difference is that this time, we are clearly less optimistic as a group.

Let's look back to 2011, Cleto's first season in the organization. Perhaps because he was acquired in return for a major leaguer or maybe because he had to be on the 40-man roster or perhaps it was the allure of his 99 mph fastball, but whatever the reason, Cleto was moved ahead very quickly – maybe too quickly.

Cleto began 2011 in Palm Beach with Shelby Miller, among others. Several months later, he was in St. Louis – only to be bounced back to Memphis. The only pitcher I can recall being moved that aggressively is recent years is Trevor Rosenthal in 2012.

There is still time. After all, it is easy to forget that other than Miller and briefly, Rosenthal, Cleto was the youngest Memphis Redbird in 2012. He was also among the youngest players in the entire Pacific Coast League for the second consecutive year. Yet it is also worth noting that the organization did not invite Cleto back to St. Louis this September as they did in 2011.

Following the regular season, Cleto pitched in the Dominican League. On the positive side, he allowed just one earned run in eight innings and limited hitters to a .133 average during November. However, his strikeout to walk ratio was a concerning 5:5.

His needs for 2013 are the same as in 2012 - improve his off-speed offerings and his control in Memphis. As the season evolves, he will need to earn his way back to St. Louis. It seems clear that this time, Cleto has to be ready. His third option season is almost sure to be exhausted, meaning by spring 2014, it will be time to stick for good or pack his bags.

Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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