39. Julian Merryweather – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 10/14/1991 – Height: 6’4” – Weight: 200 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Merryweather was selected by the Indians in the 5th round of the 2014 Draft out of Oklahoma Baptist University (D-II) and signed for $20,000. He was named to the 2014 NAIA Baseball All-America team (first team) and also named to the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series All-Tournament Team for his performance in Lewiston, Idaho. Last season, even though he spent less than half a season at High-A Lynchburg, he finished tied for 10th in the Carolina League in wins (8). He also finished 2nd in the Indians organization in ERA (2.60) and tied for 2nd in wins (13).
Stuff: Merryweather is a mature pitcher with a deep four pitch mix who has a lot of experience on the mound as an amateur and professional. He has a live arm and features a plus fastball that he commands in the zone very well. His fastball has seen the average velocity increase from 90-93 MPH to 91-94 MPH and also seen him flash higher velocity readings going from topping out at 95 MPH prior to 2016 to where he topped out at 97 MPH a few times last season. Even with the harder velocity he still is more of a pitch to contact pitcher who likes to get early contact with his fastball and a good amount of groundballs. He has both a curveball and slider, but the slider was initially dropped from his repertoire early in his pro career so he could work on his fringy curveball to get more consistent with the command and shape of it to make it an average offering. That changed last season when his slider was added back into his repertoire and became his primary secondary offering and has become a solid average pitch for him that he commands well and has some good late break to it. He also mixes in a developing changeup that he shows a good feel for and has a chance to be another average offering for him.
Delivery & Intangibles: Merryweather has a good pitcher’s build with a strong, athletic frame that has some height and some length that allow him to get good extension on the ball. He uses his size well with his good, clean delivery and shows some good balance and direction to the plate. He’s a strike thrower who shows a very advanced feel for pitching, and does a nice job of locating down in the zone and using both sides of the plate. He’s at his best when he uses his size and length to leverage the ball downhill, locate down in the zone and get weak contact. He shows very good poise on the mound and doesn’t let things speed up on him when he is not pitching well or plays are not made behind him. He is very competitive with a strong makeup and a very good work ethic.
Focus: The Indians spent a lot of time in the offseason and early in the spring last year getting Merryweather to use his lower half better in his delivery so he could have more velocity and deception. He wasn’t using his lower half efficiently, so the Indians stiffened his landing leg to create more power which allowed him to leverage the ball and create better angle and tilt on all of his pitches. It also allowed him to gain some command, more velocity, and create better action and deception in his delivery. Once he got into a good spot and more comfortable with his delivery he was able to get over his front side, which allowed his ball to really start exploding through the zone. His secondary stuff also took a step forward because his fastball played up into the mid-90s and starting touching upper 90s. His stuff was so good that he was able to just throw it across the plate at High-A Lynchburg and dominate, but when he got up to Double-A Akron he quickly learned that he can’t get away with pitches up in the zone since the hitters are more advanced, so moving forward he needs to be more consistent working to the bottom of the zone. He made some strides with his changeup last season and is a key pitch he needs to continue to develop so that he can offset what hitters see and disrupt their rhythm and timing. He suffered from a little bit of a tired arm late in the season and got into a little funk with his delivery where he was sort of rushing and trying to force things, so the Indians want him to work to get stronger to be able to handle the workload of starting over a long season.
Future: Merryweather has always been interesting because he commands his fastball and offspeed pitches well, locates his pitches well and has a solid pitch mix, but it was the re-addition of his slider and a spike in his velocity last season which really changed his value and potential. With the rekindled slider in tow and some refined mechanics, it paid big dividends right from the start of the season as he began the season with an 18.1 inning scoreless streak at High-A Lynchburg and helped propel him to a lot of success the rest of the season. His numbers really didn’t change all that much as he his walk rate (2.1 BB/9) actually went up from the previous year at Low-A Lake County (1.5 BB/9) and his strikeout rate went down (7.9 K/9) from what he had at Lake County (8.8 K/9), and he also had a 3.23 FIP at Lake County that went up to a 3.28 FIP at Lynchburg and 3.57 FIP at Akron. But what happened is the slider helped keep hitters off balance and give him a third pitch to attack hitters with and the improved velocity helped all of his stuff play up a little better, which resulted in some much weaker contact. Last season was really the first time he was healthy since joining the organization as he dealt with a nagging patella tendon issue in his right leg that he pitched through his entire time at Short-A Mahoning Valley in his pro debut and at Lake County in 2015 a left oblique strain sidelined him early in the season for a month and he later came down with a staph infection to his shin after being hit by a ball which resulted in him being admitted to the hospital and sidelined him for some time – and even when he returned he wasn’t 100% and it impacted his performance. That being said, his performance at Akron was probably more indicative of the kind of prospect he is as a solid innings eating starter with some potential as a pen arm because of the velocity bump and emergence of a good secondary offering. With his size, build and stuff there is the potential for a middle-to-backend Major League starter, but he is close to maxed out and is close to his ceiling. This is a pivotal season for him to prove he can remain a starter, or he might end up in the bullpen where his higher velocity could play up more in short stints. He should open the season in the Double-A Akron rotation.
Ranking History: #77 (2016), #68 (2015)