Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Shawn Morimando

Shawn Morimando's impressive minor league campaign last year was rewarded with a brief first taste of big league experience. Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as well for the left-hander in two appearances out of Cleveland's bullpen, but at least now he knows what to expect. The IBI's Jake Dungan speculates on how Morimando can impact the 2017 Indians in the latest Preview Capsule.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Shawn Morimando, LHP

Throws: Left -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-24 season -- Contract: Pre-arbitration (Eligible for arbitration in 2020)

2016 In Review: Things could not have started better for Shawn Morimando last season as he started the year going a perfect 9-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his first 11 starts with the RubberDucks between April and May. During that time, the left-hander also had 23 walks and 47 strikeouts in 66 innings while holding batters to a .192 average. After that early streak, however, Morimando finished out the campaign going 6-5 with a 4.85 ERA in his final 18 appearances, which included two relief outings with the Indians where he was tagged for six runs on nine hits in just 4.2 innings. His final minor league stat line for 2016 was still solid, though, as he ended the season at 15-5 with a 3.25 ERA between Akron and Columbus. In his two temporary call-ups to the majors, there's no doubt he got knocked around, but he was also put into tough situations where the game was already out of hand. Seeing how he fares in a longer big league stint under friendlier circumstances should provide a clearer picture of what he can do at this level.

Versus Right-handers: Morimando's splits have been all over the place since he was drafted by the Indians in 2011. One year, he'll fare better against right-handed hitters and the next he won't. Sometimes his splits are even, as was the case last season where his batting average, slugging percentage and OPS splits were separated by single digits. Versus right-handers, the 24-year-old had a .254/.323/.374 slash line adding up to a .697 OPS whereas lefties posted a .253/.340/.365 slash line with a .705 OPS. This trend would work for him as a starting pitcher as matchups would be less of a concern, but it could be an issue in the bullpen, particularly if Terry Francona and the Tribe would like to use him as a lefty specialist.

Versus Left-handers: Despite the incongruity of Morimando's year-to-year splits over his career, he still has multiple seasons where he has pitched effectively against left-handed hitters. In 2015, southpaws batted just .163 with a .441 OPS. 2012 and 2013 brought about similar results, but there is still no firm pattern in place yet, particularly over the past three seasons which have reaped three completely different matchup trends. Part of that could be the transition from the A-ball ranks to the more advanced levels of Double-A and Triple-A along with fluctuating command and the adjustments to try and correct it. If he can rediscover that dominance he once had against left-handed hitters from earlier in his career, however, his stock with the Indians (considering the current needs on their roster) would rise significantly.

Pitch Mix: Three pitches make up Morimando's arsenal starting with his fastball, which sits in the low 90s. His other two offerings are breaking pitches, more specifically a slider and changeup. Over the years, the southpaw has had bouts with inconsistent command, which have given him a walk rate per nine innings of nearly four and impacted his ability to pitch deep into games. Over his career, Morimando has averaged just over five innings per start. Last season was closer to six innings, but still below the ideal rate for a starting pitcher. The Indians currently still intend to use him as a starter, so a continued correction of that issue will still be in order. On the plus side, he doesn't give up too many hits at 7.9 per nine innings and he can get swings and misses, so the stuff is there. It's just a matter of trusting his pitches and his game plan.

Fantasy Impact: Where and when Morimando will be used is going to be the looming question in 2017. The most likely scenario is a continuation of the plan from last year where he'll be stashed in Triple-A until the Indians need an extra arm due to either injury or a taxed bullpen. He could potentially be in the running for the matchup lefty job in the bullpen out of spring training, but with a crowded field of candidates and some more experienced pitchers ahead of him, that appears to be a long shot at this point. If back in the minors to start the season, the left-hander will likely continue pitching as a starter, but barring catastrophic injury losses in the Tribe rotation, the chances of him starting for the Tribe are slim. For now, Fangraphs sees Morimando appearing in 10 games out of the bullpen and posting a 4.06 ERA.

Summary: Shawn Morimando is, without question, one of the Tribe's top starting pitching prospects at this moment as he ranks 12th on MLB.com's top 30 prospect list for the organization and fourth among starters. The problem is the Indians' rotation is pretty much set in stone for now and the next year or two to come, thus making his path to the majors as a starter a bit cluttered. As the old baseball adage goes, you can never have too much pitching, which the Indians found out the hard way last postseason, but it doesn't mean they won't experiment with his role, especially considering their need for that second lefty in their bullpen. This season should be telling in how they view Morimando long-term as far as how they use him if he makes it back up to Cleveland or whether they change his role in Columbus at some point.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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