2017 IBI Top 75 prospects: #34 Thomas Pannone

The 2017 countdown continues with a lefty who came into the organization a few years ago as a project and has since solidified himself as a good starting pitching prospect for the Indians and the versatility to potentially end up a starter or reliever in the big leagues...

34. Thomas Pannone – Left-handed Pitcher

Born: 04/28/1994 – Height: 6’0” – Weight: 195 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left

Facts & Info: Pannone was selected in the 9th round of the 2013 Draft out of the College of Southern Nevada. He was originally drafted in the 33rd round of the 2012 Draft by the Cubs out of high school, but did not sign and played baseball at the University of Miami, FL. He later changed his mind about attending Miami after concerns came about with his playing time as a freshman, so he transferred to junior college at Southern Nevada. Last season, he finished 1st in the organization in ERA (2.57) and 3rd in strikeouts (122).

Stuff: Pannone is a smaller sized pitcher who brings a ton of athleticism to the mound with a solid three pitch mix from the left side. He features a solid average fastball that sits at 88-91 MPH and will flash up to 94 MPH when he reaches back for extra. He’s not someone who is going to blow hitters away, but he has shown improved velocity where he maintains it around 90 MPH and gets it higher than that more often, and more importantly, maintains his velocity and stamina through each outing and over the course of the season. He commands his fastball well and gets some good movement with it and shows some late life through the zone that generates some swing and miss. His best secondary offering is a power curveball that is average but has the potential to be above average as he gains more consistency in commanding it around the zone and shows a little more depth to it. He also throws a straight changeup that is a work in progress because it lacks consistently, but is a pitch he is starting to show more confidence throwing not just to right-handers but left-handers as well.

Delivery & Intangibles: Pannone has a clean delivery that is free and easy and that he repeats well. He has a ton of athleticism which has really helped him make quick adjustments and incorporate some delivery changes to this point in his pro career, and it is that athleticism along with a high aptitude that has the Indians excited about his potential as they believe there is still more in the tank as far as his stuff and pitchability goes. While the stuff may not be great, he shows the ability to get a lot of quick outs and get hitters to swing at his pitches early in the count and generate weak contact. That is a unique trait and shows he has some deception where hitters don’t see the ball well and that he does a nice job of sequencing and locating his pitches – especially with how well he runs his fastball in on right-handers. He is developing a good feel for pitching and shows the ability to move the ball around and change speeds. He has an aggressive approach and does not get frazzled when faced with adversity and does a good job of remaining poised and making a pitch to get out of a jam. He falls in line with the Indians focus on players who have a plus makeup and a strong work ethic.

Focus: The main focus with Pannone is developing his delivery, arsenal and strike throwing ability. He lacks much pitching experience since he did not pitch a lot in high school and pitched just one year in junior college before joining the Indians organization, so he is still learning to pitch and is still a little rough around the edges on the mound. The Indians had him repeat at Low-A Lake County to start last season because they wanted him to get more mound experience to gain a better feel for pitching, refine his command a little bit and learn how to throw with a little better intent. He made some strides in those areas, so when he moved up to High-A Lynchburg they began working on locating better to his glove side since he has a tendency to get across his body a little bit. Shortly after moving up to Lynchburg in July he threw a sensational outing where he threw seven shutout innings and allowed just one hit, but in the next start he had a blister issue crop up which impacted that start, shelved him for almost three weeks and it took him a few starts to get back into the swing of things. The Indians believe that some good came out of the blister issues as the time away from the mound at the end of July and the first half of August allowed him time to work on the side and get his mechanics back in line and take a step forward with his command. He’s really made some strides with his fastball command and the way he controls his secondary stuff and has turned into more of a complete pitcher the last two seasons. Going forward, the Indians want him to continue to work on refining his mechanics so that he can better repeat his delivery and work his fastball to both sides of the plate more consistently. Also, while his curveball and changeup are both promising offerings, neither has really come to the forefront, so they will continue to tweak both offerings and potentially even explore changing up his pitch mix to add a different offspeed pitch that works better with his fastball.

Future: Pannone probably should have opened last season in High-A, but the Indians are not a “normal” operation these days because of the plethora of pitching talent they have throughout their system. Even though he was forced to repeat at the same level he had some success at in 2015, he used it as an opportunity to hone in on some of his deficiencies and improve, and that’s exactly what happened as he made some strides both developmentally and statistically and had a great year. He came into the organization as a very raw, inexperienced arm that required a ton of work upfront on his delivery, command, stuff and just learning the nuances of pitching, but all of that work came together last season and he really stepped forward and solidified himself as a legit pitching prospect in the organization. He won’t break the radar gun, but low 90s lefties are nice to have and there is still some upside to his offspeed stuff. It is questionable as to whether he has the pitches to remain a starter, but there is no doubt he is at least a potential big league arm in the pen. The Indians themselves actually believe his future is in the pen, but will continue to start him in order to facilitate his growth with his pitches, command and feel for the mound and let his versatility and athleticism take him from there. He should open the season with a return to High-A Lynchburg and if he has a strong showing there he could finish the season with a late season promotion to Double-A Akron.

Ranking History: #54 (2016), #56 (2015), #69 (2014)

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