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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #11 Rob Kaminsky

The 2017 countdown continues with a young lefty who has a wicked curveball and has entered into the big league mix as a yet another depth starting arm in the upper levels with the flexibility to also pitch out of the bullpen if needed....

11. Rob Kaminsky – Left-handed Pitcher

Born: 09/02/1994 – Height: 5’11” – Weight: 190 – Bats: Right – Throws: Left

Facts & Info: Kaminsky was selected by the Cardinals in the 1st round of the 2013 Draft out of St. Joseph Regional School (NJ). He was set to attend and play baseball at the University of North Carolina but the Cardinals pulled him away by signing him to a $1.785 million signing bonus. The Indians acquired him in July 2015 from the Cardinals in exchange for Brandon Moss. As a senior in high school he used his pitching ability to help raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer and collected over $30,000. Last season, he ranked 4th in the Eastern League in ERA (3.28), tied for 3rd in wins (11), 10th in innings pitched (137.0), 2nd in batting average against (.241) and 5th in WHIP (1.24). He was also 7th in the organization in ERA (3.28).

Stuff: Kaminsky is not an arm that impresses with top shelf stuff and doesn’t miss a lot of bats, and instead is more of the complete package as a guy with a solid three pitch mix, good mechanics, gets a lot of groundballs, is able to spin the ball, changes speeds and goes right after hitters. He features a solid average fastball that sits at 88-92 MPH with sold good arm side run and will occasionally flash up to 94-95 MPH when he reaches for extra. He creates some deception in his delivery and hides the ball well which allows his fastball to sneak up on batters, and he commands it well to all parts of the zone and is able to add and subtract from it with ease to keep hitters off balance. His best offering is a plus-plus curveball which is a legitimate Major League offering and one of the top breaking balls in all the minors. It is a hammer with some good, hard velocity in the upper 70s to low 80s with some sharp, biting 12/6 action and very tight spin to it. Where he excels with it is the amount of confidence he has in it to throw it in any count or situation with an excellent feel for commanding it to both sides of the plate and great ability to repeat his arm slot and release point each time he throws it. He really does a nice job of masking it as everything up to the point of release looks exactly like his fastball coming out of his hand. Last season he also added a different variation to his curveball which is almost like a new offspeed pitch and often mistaken as a slider. He grips it just like the curveball but gets more velocity on it up to 83-84 MPH and a little more side to side action to it. He mixes in a fringy changeup that has the potential to be average, but is still a work in progress because it lacks consistency. His feel for it comes and goes, though when he is on with it the changeup shows some good late fade.

Delivery & Intangibles: Kaminsky is a smaller sized pitcher, but what he may lack in height he doesn’t lack in strength as he has a nice compact frame that is strong and well put together. He has a very strong lower half that he uses well along with some good athleticism which allows him to have a very simple, well balanced delivery that he is able to repeat well. He is another pitcher in the system that fits into the Indians recent delivery philosophy with good, clean arm action and throws from a high three-quarter arm slot. He is a very confidence pitcher who displays some advanced pitchability and polish for his age. He is an intense competitor who has a bulldog mentality where he just shows no fear and will relentlessly attack hitters regardless of the situation or how good the hitter may be. The Indians love his maturity and the way he handles himself at his age where he doesn’t let struggles from a given night or stretch of the season impact his development, and just works hard and always gives it his all. He has a great makeup, is very smart and is viewed as a good teammate.

Focus: Kaminsky has had some chronic back issues over the past few seasons which have limited him some in each season, but the Indians believe they have corrected the issue. After acquiring him in July 2015 and seeing him spend the last three weeks of that season on the disabled list with a lower back issue and then going on the disabled list last season for three weeks in May with the same issue, they decided to make a correction to his delivery to take some of the stress off his back. While he was sidelined from May 9th to May 30th they worked on an adjustment to his delivery to alleviate some stress and torque he was putting on his back that was causing him issues – nothing structurally but just tightness and soreness. They worked to get him a little more conventional by keeping his hip back and leading with it to the plate instead of leaking forward early, and that small adjustment freed him up a little bit and he was able to get out in front, get more hand speed in front of the ball and better leverage the ball down in the zone – which led to an overall improvement to all of his stuff across the board and a lot less stress on the back. He still has a tendency to rely on his curveball too much, so the Indians are still working with him to pitch off his fastball more and trust it so that he can better set up the curveball and use it as an out pitch. His changeup will determine his fate as a starter, so he needs to continue to work to develop his command of it to more consistently locate it to the bottom of the zone and gain a little more action to it. The Indians would like to see him develop his in game approach more with his pitch sequencing, gaining a better feel for what hitters are trying to do against him, and slow the game down a little bit and stay within himself a little more.

Future: Kaminsky had about as quiet a good season as you will find in the Indians system as not a lot of people talked about him last year yet he had an excellent first full season with the Indians pitching at Double-A Akron. His season was really a tale of two halves as he went 4-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 15 first half starts (74.0 IP, 71 H, 30 BB, 46 K), but really turned it on after the All Star break going 7-2 with  2.29 ERA in 10 starts (63.0 IP, 51 H, 18 BB, 46 K). His early season back issues were a big reason for his struggles, and once he settled in and was no longer bothered by the back and he started gaining a footing, his confidence soared and his performance did as well. One of the most impressive things in his minor league career to this point is how he manages to really keep the ball in the yard as he has yielded just 10 home runs in 70 career games (67 starts) covering 364.0 innings – good for a magnificent 0.2 HR/9 rate. He’s an extreme ground ball pitcher (career 1.72 GO/AO ratio) so that ability to get a ground ball, keep the ball in the yard and be durable all work in his favor even though he may not miss a lot of bats (career 7.0 K/9). He checked off the boxes for all three things you want to see from a pitching prospect at Double-A: development, durability and performance. By achieving all three it really puts him in a good spot going forward, though with the amount of depth the Indians have, they will probably not be too aggressive with him this coming season. He is expected to return to Double-A Akron to start the year to finish off his development at that level and also wait for an opportunity to crack what should be a very prospect heavy and young rotation at Triple-A Columbus. He is sort of in the same situation that Shawn Morimando was in going into the 2016 season where he had to repeat at Akron to start the year even though he had pitched a year and a half there already and looked ready for the next level, but had to wait until July for that opportunity because of what was ahead of him. In any case, he looks like yet another depth starting pitching option for the Indians and someone who could end up as a solid back of the rotation arm and has the durability, versatility and dominant breaking ball to potentially be a very good option in the bullpen as well.

Ranking History: #8 (2016)

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