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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #64 Louis Head

The 2017 prospect countdown continues with a right-handed pen arm who is older and been in the system for some time, but is someone who is interesting because of his arm strength and consistent performance over the years...

64. Louis Head – Right-handed Pitcher

Born: 04/23/1990 – Height: 6’1” – Weight: 180 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Head was selected by the Indians in the 18th round of the 2012 Draft out of Texas State.  He originally went to Texas Tech his first two years of college, but was cut from the team and transferred to Texas State for his junior year. He finished last season ranked 12th in the Eastern League in appearances (45), 1st in BB/9 for relievers (2.39) and 4th in fewest baserunners per nine innings for relievers (9.98).

Stuff: Head is a mature power-armed reliever who has an interesting mix of pitches from the right side of the mound. His plus four-seam fastball is a good offering as it sits at 92-95 MPH and has flashed 97 MPH. He shows solid average command of his four-seamer and gets a good amount of swing and miss with it because of its good late life through the zone. He actually has both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, though made a change in 2014 to mostly feature the four-seamer which has since helped his velocity play up more consistently and improve his command.  His slider is a solid average offering that is a nice complement to his fastball and flashes wipeout ability with some good break to it. He has made some incremental strides with it throughout his minor league career and really improved the sharpness and command of it since he was drafted. He also has a below average changeup that he shows a feel for but doesn’t use very often. It was recently added back into his repertoire and he will occasionally throw it to left-handers to give them a different look.

Delivery & Intangibles: Head has a very solid, strong frame that gives him a good base to pitch from and show durability. His delivery has come a long way, but it has been simplified and he does a better job of repeating it now after the Indians made a small adjustment to lower his knee lift to not lift it up as high which keeps him compact over the rubber and not get spread out. Probably his best quality is his competitive fire and toughness as he never quits and just keeps going after hitters when he is on the mound. He has the heartbeat that is capable of handling the pressure and adversity that relievers face in late inning high leverage situations. He just brings a tenacious, fearless mindset every time out and is not intimidated by any hitters and will not back down from anything.

Focus: Head has long had some issues with consistently repeating his delivery and harnessing his intensity on the mound, but last season he found a good spot with his delivery and with the way he controlled his emotions on the mound which allowed for him to have a lot of success – especially late in the year.  He has a lot of fire and his effort level can get really high, so the Indians worked with him to control that effort level some to take control of his own energy on the mound and channel it in a constructive way. When he controls his effort level he is much more consistent and it allows him to get to his weapons easier to attack hitters. He has always had the potential to go out and pitch very well, but he would have spells where he would just not be able to locate his stuff as his command would come and go. The Indians want to see him continue that work this season to show more maturity so he can stay within himself as a pitcher, not try to overthrow and let his stuff play for him. If he does that then the Indians believe the improvements he showed with his command last year will firmly take hold and his performance will continue and show much more consistency from outing to outing. That’s the big separator for minor league relievers is the consistency of their stuff and command from outing to outing, which is often a fine line between just being a Double-A or Triple-A arm and getting a Major League opportunity. The Indians would also like to see him continue to work on improving his strength and flexibility in order to help him repeat his delivery better and make him even more durable.

Future: Head is a good story as a pitcher who was cut from his college team but persevered and found a way to get drafted and has since carved out a good professional career to date and established himself as an interesting pen prospect in the upper levels of the minors. He’s worked very hard off the mound to get to where he is today for a player with such little fanfare coming out of college, but that’s just an example of his tenacious and unrelenting attitude he showcases each time a hitter stares him down from the box. The trades of J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller at the deadline last year opened a short-term door for him, and he responded very well by really stepping up his game and pitched his best ball of his career in August and September (11 G, 0.00 ERA, 14.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 17 K). That great finish was great to see, but it was the entire body of work his whole season where he significantly slashed his hit rate (8.1 H/9 in 2015 to 7.4 H/9 in 2016) and walk rate (4.9 BB/9 in 2015 and 2.4 BB/9 in 2016) that really paved the way to a more successful showing and the key to his comeback as a pen prospect. The Indians don’t have a lot of high level relief prospects in the upper levels, so the time is now for him to make a push and put together a great year and answer the opportunity that is available. Yes, he’s an older arm, but he has been a proven performer in the minors with a 2.98 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9 in 217 career appearances at all levels. His Major League future may be questionable, but he’s at least upper level pen depth with the potential as a middle relief arm in the big leagues. Because of so much Major League depth in the pen at Triple-A Columbus to start the year, he should open the season with a return to Double-A Akron, but once an opportunity opens up later in the year he could move to Columbus.

Ranking History: #88 (2016), #41 (2015), #64 (2014)

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