41. Luis Lugo – Left-handed Pitcher
Born: 03/05/1994 – Height: 6’5” – Weight: 200 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left
Facts & Info: Lugo was signed by the Indians in February of 2011 out of Venezuela for $415,000. Even though he is from a Latin American country he learned English at a young age and is now bilingual as he fluently speaks both English and Spanish. Last season he finished 7th in the Carolina League in ERA (4.04), tied for 10th in wins (8), 3rd in games started (26), 5th in innings pitched (136.0), 7th in strikeouts (113) and tied for 6th in WHIP (1.34).
Stuff: Lugo is a physical presence who has a solid four pitch mix that brings a lot of potential and an elite ability to get swing and miss. He features a solid average fastball that sits at 89-92 MPH and flashes 93-94 MPH and is a pitch he is really beginning to trust and have a lot of confidence throwing. As he has matured he is starting to see it average more in the high end range at 91-92 MPH and the Indians still believe there is more velocity he can tap into if he learns to use his body better and also gets stronger. His fastball doesn’t have a lot of movement and is pretty straight, but there is some late life to it where it appears to pick up speed as it crosses the plate and leads to some late swings. He has solid command of his fastball to both sides of the plate, and when he is down in the zone with it he gets a lot of swing and miss. The best pitch in his repertoire is a plus changeup that he shows a good feel for and a ton of confidence to throw in any count or situation. It has some good late fading action and is a true Major League offering for him. While he has mostly been a fastball-changeup guy, he has worked on developing a curveball and slider which are clear third and fourth offerings for him and lack much consistency. The curveball is below average with some slow sweeping action that is very big and soft, though there is some potential for it to be average if he is able to add more power to it and improve the shape of it. The slider is a pitch he added to his arsenal in 2013 and is coming along and shows some swing and miss potential, and may eventually replace the curveball as the only breaking ball he throws.
Delivery & Intangibles: Lugo brings a lot of strength and athleticism with a big, strong frame that has some long limbs. He has a loose arm with a good, clean delivery that has some good rhythm and tempo to it that he repeats well. He really uses his height and wingspan well as it allows him to really get his pitches on a nice downward plane and extend the ball to hitters. He also hides the ball well within his delivery which creates some deception and helps it get on hitters quicker which results in some late swings. He shows a good feel for pitching and has a lot of confidence in himself on the mound. He is very focused with a fearless approach to pitching, and really remains calm and poised where things just don’t speed up on him even when faced with some adversity. He shows a good work ethic, is coachable and has the aptitude to make adjustments quickly.
Focus: The Indians feel Lugo has come a long way with his preparations and the way he works to get better. He used to rely almost purely on his talent alone, but he is starting to realize that he has to put the work in to be able to maximize that talent. There has been a lot of growth and maturity over the past two seasons and he just takes the game a lot more seriously now. Some of the work he has put in has helped him lean himself out a little bit. His body has transformed as a result and there is now a little more athleticism to it which has transferred to the mound as the velocity has spiked a little, his pitches have developed a little more and he is a lot more compact with his delivery which allows him to command his pitches to the bottom of the zone more efficiently. He’s susceptible to home runs when he misses up in the zone so he has to be more consistent to the bottom of it. The Indians are working to clean up his delivery a little more as his front side has a tendency to open up which forces him to lose his direction to the plate and get out of sync with his lower half which results in him getting under the ball and rotational. The Indians really want him to use his lower half better so that he can create more power and explosion which could result in an uptick to his velocity and overall quality to his stuff as well as allow him to maximize his extension and leverage the ball more consistently downhill. The Indians changed his grip on his curveball and slider last year and both pitches showed some improvement as a result, so now it is just a matter of him getting more reps to get the feel and consistency of them in the strike zone.
Future: Lugo has always been one of those pitchers who impresses more subjectively than objectively as the size, stuff and intangibles are great but the results – aside from a nice strikeout rate - have been mediocre at best. There is no doubt that he is an impressive physical specimen, has some good stuff, has the ability to get a strikeout and has a good fastball – all things that are really attractive from the left side. But in a repeat season at High-A Lynchburg last year his performance was stagnant as while it was good, it was almost the same showing he had the previous season. He’s going into his age 23 season now, so the upside with the body and stuff is not there as much anymore, which means it is time to start putting things together and showing some progress and some good end results. He has all of the traits to be a solid innings eating starter, but if the consistency issues continue then at some point very soon the Indians may decide he best path is in the bullpen as his ability to get a strikeout from the left side is something the Indians may look to focus in on. He should get an opportunity to open the season in the rotation at Double-A Akron but a move to the bullpen is not out of the question at some point this season.
Ranking History: #25 (2016), #13 (2015), #12 (2014), #25 (2013)