53. Michael Peoples – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 09/05/1991 – Height: 6’5” – Weight: 190 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Peoples was selected in the 14th round of the 2012 Draft out of Western Oklahoma State University. Last season, he finished tied for 1st in the Eastern League in wins (12), tied for 2nd in games started (27), tied for 8th in ERA (3.68), 3rd in innings pitched (159.0), 4th in hits allowed (166) and 8th in walks allowed (53). He also ranked 9th in the organization in ERA (3.65) and tied for 2nd in wins (13).
Stuff: Peoples is a groundball pitcher who really focuses on a pitch-to-contact approach to get quick outs via weak contact on pitches he consistently pounds to the lower part of the zone. He has some arm strength and throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball with the two-seamer being the main offering in his arsenal. His two-seamer grades out average velocity-wise as it sits at 87-89 MPH, but is a borderline plus offering because of the way he commands it well to the bottom of the zone and the good sink and angle he creates with it. The Indians made a change in his approach in 2015 to have him heavily feature the two-seamer in order to be more efficient with his pitch count, work quicker and generate a lot of weak contact via groundball outs. His solid average four-seam 90-92 MPH fastball occasionally pops in at 93-95 MPH and is used mostly as a pitch to give his fastball a different look by going outside the zone or elevating in order to change the eye levels of hitters. His offspeed is still a work in progress as his curveball and changeup are both inconsistent offerings that he is working to refine. The changeup is generally considered the better of the two offspeed offerings with a chance to be average.
Delivery & Intangibles: Peoples has a tall, lanky frame with a loose arm that shows little effort in his delivery and some strong mechanics. As a former side-armer he has really gravitated well to a normal three-quarter slot since his last year of college and really does a good job of using his height to get the ball on a good downhill plan so he can leverage the baseball down in the zone. He repeats his delivery well, has some deception in it and mixes his pitches well. He shows a good feel for what he is doing on the mound as he knows when to move the ball in and out of the zone and when to elevate to change what hitters are seeing which in turn helps limit some of the good swings hitters are able to take on him. He has a good demeanor on the mound where he competes well, shows good poise and controls his emotions well when he faces adversity and also brings some intelligence and confidence. He just has that knack for keeping his team in the game even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, which is a sign of a quality pitcher.
Focus: Peoples doesn’t offer up a lot of upside as he pretty much is what he is at this point, but there are still some strides he can make with his delivery, command and stuff which could create an uptick or two to his overall potential. As a pitch-to-contact pitcher who doesn’t have the stuff to put hitters away, he needs to rely heavily on weak contact and getting a good amount of groundballs. In order to make him more successful with that focus, the Indians made a small mechanical adjustment with his delivery last year so he was a little more consistent with it and also leveraged the ball better to the bottom of the zone. He needs to work on the command of his two-seamer and four-seamer to his arm side so that he can be better at locating in to righties and pitching away to lefties. The Indians want him to be a little more aggressive and not try to be so fine, so he needs to trust his stuff more on the plate and staying within what works for him. The lack of a go-to secondary offering is a concern, so the development of his curveball or changeup into a consistent secondary offering is a big key for him – and perhaps the re-introduction of his cutter into his mix may help. While he has been durable over the last three seasons, he did miss over two months in each of the 2012 (sprained rotator cuff) and 2013 seasons (right shoulder strain).
Future: Peoples doesn’t get a lot of attention because he doesn't throw exceptionally hard and his stuff doesn't stand out, but it is hard to ignore the solid numbers he has put up over the last two seasons. He’s proven to be a workhorse as he averaged just under six innings per start (5.9 IP/start) at Double-A Akron last season, which is very high for a pitcher in Double-A or below. He was strong all last season where he put forth a lot of quality outings, chewed up a lot of innings and did a nice job of keeping the ball in the ballpark and on the ground (1.38 GO/AO). He’s someone who has emerged as a starting pitching prospect for the Indians with his steady growth the past few years and has the potential to be an innings eating back of the rotation arm in the big leagues. Due to the amount of depth at the big league and Triple-A level, any opportunity in the big leagues is probably at least a year away. Also, with the amount of starting pitching prospects and veterans expected to open up the season in the Triple-A Columbus rotation, he should return to Akron for the start of the season and then could get an opportunity to move up later in the year.
Ranking History: #60 (2016), #55 (2015), #54 (2014)