18. Shane Bieber – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 05/31/1995 – Height: 6’3” – Weight: 195 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Bieber was selected by the Indians in the 4th round of the 2016 Draft out of the University of Cal-Santa Barbara and signed for $420,000. Last season, he was named All-Big West First Team after he led the Big West in wins, and he is also the third-winningest pitcher in UCSB history.
Stuff: Bieber is not someone who is going to excite you with his stuff when you watch him pitch. He’s a pitchability righty who is an advanced arm with a lot of polish who relies on his ability to command and control his three pitch mix. He doesn’t really project to have a plus offering but has three pitches in his fastball, slider and changeup which all are all fringe average to solid average offerings. His average fastball sits at 88-91 MPH and tops out at 92 MPH, and has a chance for a little more velocity once he gets more involved with a professional strength and conditioning program. He shows some savvy with the way he knows how to use his fastball, and really extends to home plate very well and shows some good late, running life to it. He really commands and locates the fastball extremely well to both sides of the plate and throws a ton of strikes with it as he can jam it in, stick it away from hitters and he can elevate it. He shows a pretty good feel for his average low 80s slider that he locates well and has some upside to it if he can learn how to create a little more snap with it. He is very good at maneuvering it and he can direct it very well, but every now and then it is more direction and location than finish. He mixes in a developing changeup that he shows a good feel for and a chance to be average. He gets some sink and some solid action with it, though it often is too firm.
Delivery & Intangibles: What the Indians love about Bieber beyond his ability to control the zone with his entire arsenal is his clean delivery and good arm action which he repeats well. He is just an advanced arm who shows great efficiency on the mound by throwing tons of strikes and has exceptional command of his entire arsenal. He can manipulate the baseball at will and really has a good understanding of how to change speeds, how to work a hitter and how to leverage the ball consistently down in the zone. Since selecting him in the draft the Indians have really gotten to know him a lot better and one of the things they have been really impressed by is how mentally strong he is and the way he goes after it and competes. He really stays within himself well and doesn’t get discouraged by what is happening behind him or if an inning starts to unravel on him. Those are traits they have really tried to center in on with pitchers of late where they believe that the stuff that comes out of a pitcher’s hand is only as strong as what is coming from inside. They have seen many a recent draft pick with pure stuff fail in the low levels because of lack of desire, drive or mental toughness, so while great stuff is a bonus, they really look at the inner workings of a pitcher - and the characteristics of Bieber are exactly what they are looking for.
Focus: The Indians were very careful with Bieber’s innings last season since he pitched a full college season and went all the way to the College World Series and ended up making 18 starts and a whopping 134.2 innings before signing with the Indians. As a result, last season was less about getting him innings and more about just exposing him to the professional lifestyle, working with him to begin to develop his routines and also give the Indians a chance to see him in action so they get to know him and put together a development plan for the coming season. While he is very polished and should move quickly, he is not a strikeout guy and lacks an out pitch which may limit his effectiveness as he moves into the upper levels of the system. The development of his stuff will be a key going forward, namely his changeup as his third offering. In college he was a little more fastball and breaking ball oriented and didn’t use the changeup a ton because he didn’t need it, but he will need the changeup as a pro in order to flip a lineup a third time as it will broaden his arsenal and give him more options to attack hitters. The Indians really worked on the changeup with him a lot at Short-A Mahoning Valley last year and will continue to do so this season. The Indians would like to see him pitch off his fastball a little more as he tends to use his slider a little too much. They also feel like they can add some strength to him to get the fastball velocity up a little which could lead to a little more velocity.
Future: Bieber had a nice pro debut last season, though he never went more than three innings in any outing. After a large workload at UC Santa Barbara in the spring the Indians wanted to be careful with his usage last season all while getting him some time on the mound to help acclimate him to professional baseball. Even in limited time, he lived up to his reputation as a command specialist with a 0.8 BB/9 and had an exceptional 10.50 K/BB – and not only did he limit the free passes, he limited the hits (.122 BAA) and big hits (0 HR). He has average stuff across the board but he is another guy the Indians are banking on because of his delivery, great command and intangibles – all things that have been a big focus for them in recent drafts. He has the building blocks from a mental and physical standpoint to become a very good pitching prospect for the Indians and really make some big strides this season and the Indians believe there is still some upside in him still that he can tap into. He looks like another potential Adam Plutko in the making and has a chance to be a back of the rotation starter in the big leagues with some ceiling to be a middle rotation arm. His arm is so advanced that he is expected to skip Low-A Lake County and should go right to High-A Lynchburg to start the season.
Ranking History: Unranked