24. Aaron Civale – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 06/12/1995 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 215 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Civale was drafted by the Indians in the 3rd round of the 2016 Draft out of Northeastern University (MA) and signed for $625,000. As a junior in college last season he ranked among the top 15 Division-I pitchers in innings (2nd), strikeouts (7th) and ERA (13th). After the season he was named a 2016 Louisville Slugger Third Team All-American and CAA Co-Pitcher of the Year.
Stuff: Civale was a reliever for most of his college career until moving into a starting role last year, but once he made the transition he showed that he could really control the strike zone and could pitch down in the zone very effectively. He features a solid average two-seam fastball that sits at 90-93 MPH and flashes plus as it touched 95 MPH a few times at Short-A Mahoning Valley. The Indians believe he has the arm strength to add more velocity to where the average kicks up a little and he is able to top out at 96-97 MPH once he settles into their system and they can develop him. What really stands out about him is his ability to control the fastball, ability to work it to both halves, the ability to really keep it down in the zone and the good running action it shows where it really gets in on the hands of right-handers. He has a plethora of secondary pitches he throws as he mixes in a cutter, slider, curveball and changeup, but his cutter is his best secondary offering. It is a true plus offering for him with good late break and movement which really complements the movement of his two-seamer well to give him two pitches he can attack every hitter with and get some swing and miss. He shows the ability to spin his average slider and it has the makings of being a plus offering for him. It is hard and tight with good tilt and 10-4 shape to it, and his command of it is coming along. His fringy curveball and developing changeup are both inconsistent offerings that he is working to command better and improve their effectiveness, though he shows a feel for his changeup and it has a chance to be another good offering for him.
Delivery & Intangibles: Civale has a strong build with a simple delivery that is clean and compact that he repeats well. He is a guy who can throw strikes with above-average movement on just about everything he throws to generate some swing and miss and a lot of weak contact on the ground. Another thing the Indians like with him is some of the intangibles he possesses. He is a good makeup guy, shows some pitchability, controls the game well and doesn’t let the game speed up on him no matter what is happening to him. He is also a very confident pitcher who is willing to throw any pitch in any count or situation, and is not afraid to put the ball on the plate. He is a good, fun loving person and good teammate, but when he goes out and hits the mound he really locks in and his ability to focus is very impressive.
Focus: One of the biggest things the Indians are working with Civale on is his transition to a starter’s role and developing the routines and endurance to handle such a role. After drafting and signing him, the Indians inserted him into the Short-A Mahoning Valley rotation last season where he made 13 starts, but was on a restricted pitch count where he only went three innings or 50 pitches max in every outing but one (3.2 innings, 66 pitches on August 12th). This was all by design as the Indians wanted him to start so he could begin to learn how to pitch on a five day routine all while gradually exposing him to the professional environment and carefully monitoring his workload. As the Friday starter for Northeastern last year he pitched on a seven day routine, so part of the adjustment process in the pro ranks is learning to get the arm, body and mind prepared to pitch every five days. The key going forward will be to get him used to a five day routine so the Indians can see how he holds up physically and mentally as a starting pitcher. He is going to need to work to get stronger in order to handle the rigors of a starter. In addition to that, the Indians really want him to work to develop his changeup. It is not a pitch he is very familiar with or used a lot prior to joining the Indians, but they want something to help him attack lefties so he can better flip a lineup and also have another weapon in his arsenal to keep righties honest. The changeup is a work in progress as he is working to get a feel for throwing it and also knowing when to use it and how to use it. They also want to work with him on his pitch sequencing and to pitch off his fastball more. Like a lot of pitchers coming out of college, he has a tendency to rely too much on his secondary offerings so the Indians want him to switch that approach and learn to trust his fastball more and use it to set up his other pitches in order to get the pitch distribution leveled off where he doesn’t feel like he has to spin it all the time.
Future: Civale was the closer for Northeastern during his sophomore campaign and saw his value jump with a strong showing in the pen while pitching in the Cape Cod League over the summer of 2015. He followed that up with a good showing as a starter in college last season and really opened up some eyes on him and improved his stock coming into the draft. The Indians were really intrigued by what they saw and are high on him and think they have a potential Major League starter on their hands. There is no doubt that his fastball-cutter combination could play well as a reliever, but the Indians want to see if they can first develop him as a starter and see where things go from there. He’s new to starting, but they believe he has the body, stuff and mindset to be able to handle the growth process he is going to have to undertake the next few years to stick in the rotation. He made a nice transition to the pros with a very good pro debut at Short-A Mahoning Valley last year, and this season he should move up to Low-A Lake County to start the season, though because he is advanced and older he could move quickly to High-A Lynchburg after that. Whether he is at Lake County or Lynchburg, the Indians should let him pitch out of the rotation all year to continue his development as a starting pitcher with an innings cap of around 130-140 innings.
Ranking History: Unranked