13. Adam Plutko – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 10/3/1991 – Height: 6’3” – Weight: 200 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Plutko was selected in the 11th round of the 2013 Draft out of UCLA and signed for $300,000. He was originally selected by the Astros in the 6th round of the 2010 Draft out of high school and turned down a seven-figure signing bonus in order to attend college. He pitched in the rotation at UCLA with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer his freshman year in 2011, and in 2013 extended his school record for postseason wins to seven while pitching UCLA to the National Championship. He had a stress fracture in the back of his shoulder blade that was found when the Indians completed his physical after signing him. It was not a serious injury and did not require surgery, and just prevented him from making his pro debut in his draft year. Last season, he finished 2nd in the organization in strikeouts (130).
Stuff: Plutko features a four pitch mix that he controls well and with his intelligence, elite strike throwing ability and off the charts pitchability and maturity has everything he needs to attack hitters and put up consistent quality outings at the highest level of baseball. While none of his pitches are true plus offerings, they are all effective because of the way he commands them all, mixes them well, can throw them in any count and effectively changes eye levels and speeds. His fastball is a solid average offering that sits at 89-92 MPH and will occasionally peak at 93-94 MPH with some good late life to it, and plays up because of his confidence in it and his ability to command it to all parts of the zone with elite precision. He is not afraid to feature his fastball and is aggressive with it on the plate, and does a good job of locating it and consistently keeping it down in the zone to generate some weak contact and even some swing and miss. He has a good mix of secondary offerings led by a slightly above average changeup which is considered his best offspeed pitch. It flashes plus with the way he commands it well and how it shows some good late break and movement. His slider is an average offering that he commands well with some good tilt, and his fringe average curveball is a nice pitch to give hitters a different look that he shows a feel for command but needs to develop a little better shape to it.
Delivery & Intangibles: Plutko has a low effort delivery with some good mechanics and athleticism that allow him to repeat it very well, and creates some deception as everything looks the same out of his hand. He is a competitor who is very polished where he uses his good baseball intellect and experience to bring his stuff up a level. He really studies hitters and prepares for his outings by reviewing spray charts and scouting reports of hitters so he knows how to pitch away from their strengths and attack their weaknesses. He also has a good feel for adapting his game plan during an outing as he reads the swings of hitters well and knows how to adjust to what they are trying to do to him. He is an example of a pitcher who is a sum of all parts kind of guy which makes him effective on the mound. While the stuff is solid, it is the combination of his elite command, outstanding makeup, unique composure, exceptional pitchability, great toughness and hard work which brings it all together and makes him so effective. With the lack of true plus stuff he is going to have his rough nights when hitters are on him, but that is rare as he does a nice job of maintaining consistency from outing to outing and giving his team a chance to win every night. His stuff is so polished and he has such poise on the mound that he has the capability to dominate games without having to blow pitches by hitters as long as he can locate them. He’s not a high maintenance guy or someone who you have to worry about being prepared for the moment as he just goes about his business in a professional manner. He has the right heartbeat and a tough mental mindset to handle high pressure situations and pitching out of jams with his history as a big game pitcher in college with seven career postseason wins with UCLA and the driving force to their 2013 National Championship run. He just doesn’t beat himself as he limits walks and extra base hits by going right after hitters and getting ahead of them by consistently pounding the bottom of the zone. He is very durable with a work ethic that is off the charts and is someone who does a nice job of not getting caught up in success and manages failure well.
Focus: There is not much left for Plutko to work on this point as he’s near maxed out from a stuff perspective, so it is just about refining things to get a little bit better with his delivery, command and stuff as well as being just a little bit better at reading hitters. He could still use a little more from one of his secondary offerings to help him put hitters away, something he will need as he moves up to the big league level. There are some concerns as to whether his recipe for success will translate to the Major League level because he has little room for error so will need to be on top of his game night in and night out. The key for him to carry his minor league success to the big leagues will be how he maintains his consistency from start to start and if any of his stuff is able to see an uptick once he gets to the big leagues. Last year he spent all of January and February in Goodyear getting ready for the season which allowed him to be stronger deep into games and he showed some added velocity to his fastball and his slider was a little sharper. The Indians want him to continue to try and add more power to his stuff by having more intent with his pitches by using his lower half better and working through his strength and conditioning program. His changeup is a focus for him and is a pitch he made some strides with last season where he is starting to use it more prominently in his outings and is more consistently an above average offering for him. The Indians want him to work on controlling the running game a little better by mixing up his times to home and being quicker out of the stretch.
Future: Plutko had a very strong season in the minors last year where he did well in a return to Double-A Akron to start the season and then transitioned well to Triple-A Columbus – and even earned a very late call to Cleveland where he made his Major League debut the last week of the season. He racked up 161.2 innings in the process, good for almost six innings a start, which is good in the minor leagues considering the smaller pitch counts and how usage is heavily monitored. He’s not a strikeout pitcher by any means but continues to show the ability to get one with a solid 7.2 K/9 last season, and he continues to display the ability to control the zone and limit walks (2.6 BB/9). His numbers last season at the two highest levels of the minors were also right in line with his minor league career numbers to date. Someone like Orel Hershiser didn’t have great stuff, but he had a deep repertoire, knew how to use his stuff, change speeds and the angle of his pitches and was a fierce competitor on the mound – hence his “bulldog” nickname. Josh Tomlin is another pitcher who pitches more with guts and know-how than pure stuff and has carved out a pretty solid career to date. Tomlin and Hershiser represent extreme end points on both end of the spectrum for Plutko, but he has a lot of the same abilities and characteristics of the two and the hope is he falls somewhere in the middle of the two which would make for a pretty good pitcher to have in the middle to backend of a rotation for a long time. He is expected to be part of what is a nice group of starting pitching depth at Triple-A Columbus to start the season with the likes of Mike Clevinger, Rob Kaminsky, Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando all expected to be in the rotation there with him. He is a depth starting option for the Indians this season, though he is a bit further down the pecking order as two to three other arms are above him at the moment.
Ranking History: #12 (2016), #20 (2015), #25 (2014)